Coronavirus: what is behind the high number of deaths in Italy due to covid-19

Italy became the country with the most deaths due to covid-19 coronavirus outside of China. The European country added until Tuesday, March 10 a total of 631 deaths among the more than 10 000 cases detected on its territory, according to official figures. In China, where the epidemic originated, about 3,100 deaths have been recorded for a total of 80,000 confirmed cases of infection.
Coronavirus: what is behind the high number of deaths in Italy due to covid-19

Italy became the country with the most deaths due to covid-19 coronavirus outside of China.

Italy: -The European country added until Tuesday, March 10 a total of 631 deaths among the more than 10 000 cases detected on its territory, according to official figures.
In China, where the epidemic originated, about 3,100 deaths have been recorded for a total of 80,000 confirmed cases of infection.
The vast majority of deaths in Italy have been reported in the region of Lombardy, in the north of the country, despite the fact that the disease has spread to people in the 20 regions of the nation.
In order to deal with this health crisis and stop the spread of the coronavirus, the government led by Guiseppe Conte decided to impose isolation measures on the entire peninsular territory.
Concern for the coronavirus and extraordinary measures has caused the population to go to supermarkets to stock up.
This means that, by April 3, Italians will not be able to attend public meetings - including weddings, christenings, and funerals - sports events will be suspended and colleges and universities will remain closed.
This provision came after a sharp increase in the number of deaths during the weekend of March 7: from Saturday to Sunday the number of fatalities increased by 57%, with 133 deaths in a single day (something that, up to the moment, he had not registered).
In this way, the death rate in Italy due to the coronavirus became the highest in the world: around 4.5 and 5%, according to data from the Italian government.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in China, the range of fatalities is between 2% and 4%, but outside the Asian country, the rate is reduced to 0.7%.
"There is no more time," said the Italian prime minister, expressing concern about the serious consequences of covid-19 in the European country.
But why in Italy are so many fatal cases being reported? And how do you explain that the death rate is so high in this European country compared to other places in the world?

The more tests, the more cases

The case of Italy has surprised the world.
To explain the high number of deaths, the health authorities of that country have insisted that the majority of cases correspond to older people - between 80 and 90 years - who already suffered from serious health problems.
On the first day of the quarantine, the main tourist spots in the city of Milan were completely empty.
This has led some experts to conclude that the high mortality rate due to coronavirus in Italy is related to the fact that this country has one of the populations with more elderly people in Europe.
According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat), in Italy, there are almost 14 million people over 65, which represents about 22% of the population. The average age, meanwhile, is 45.7 years.
However, the professor of Epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong, Benjamin Cowling, does not share this theory.
"We must be very careful to make comparisons between countries because it has a lot to do with the amount of control and testing being done in those countries, rather than with other factors," he says.
"The number of cases, " he adds, "does not necessarily tell us which country has more infections or tells us what country is doing more tests. How many tests are made, more cases will be found. By the same token, I do not think the main reason for the deaths in Italy is its population of older adults."

Comparison Coronavirus cases in Italy with South Korea

As an example of the above, Cowling compares the situation between Italy and South Korea. In the latter country, there have been around 50 deaths among 7,500 cases detected (well below the 460 deaths in Italy despite the fact that both have a similar number of confirmed infections).
Italian newspapers report the measures announced by Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte.
"South Korea has been monitoring 10,000 people per day and, consequently, many of the people who tested positive had mild symptoms. I don't know how many people are being tested in Italy, but I imagine that it doesn't approach 10 thousand per day," he explains.
"Italy is focusing its tests on people who are already quite sick in the hospital, therefore most of these cases are serious and the risk of death is quite high. But if they were controlling the community in general, even those with mild symptoms, they would find many more cases and the severity would be much lower," he says.
The academic also says that the fact that serious infections correspond to older people is because that is the group that has been tested the most.
"But I am sure there are many young people infected in Italy who have not been diagnosed," he says.

Control deficiency

On the other hand, the academic says one of the problems in Italy has been that they didn’t start to control it on time.
The streets of some Italian cities are being disinfected.
"South Korea is trying to test as many people as possible, including those with mild symptoms, to isolate them and thus not transmit infections to the community. But in the case of Italy, that is no longer possible, it is too late because there are many infections and many of them that are not known, "he says.
"They missed the opportunity," he adds.
While acknowledging that the situation in Italy is "worrisome," Cowling points out that, in the next three weeks, other European countries may face a similar picture.
In terms of the spread of the infection, I believe that in Italy the infection is not much greater than in other European countries. It is simply that Italy was the first, he says.
However, it recognizes that this country has its health system "under pressure", which could be a factor that explains the high mortality rate.
"Hospitals are very busy and there are not enough doctors and nurses. Therefore, it is more difficult to pay attention to each patient. And that will be a problem that will affect many countries, not having enough equipment, medics, and doctors," he says.
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