Italy’s lockdown should have come earlier:ex-official

By Chen Qingqing and Zhang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/12 19:03:40

Italian soldiers with face masks are on duty at Milan Central Railway Station in Milan, Italy, on March 9, 2020. Measures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus will be extended to the entire country in the next hours, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced late on Monday. Photo: Xinhua

Italy, the second hardest-hit country by the COVID-19 in the world, has entered a nationwide lockdown following China's model, but the move should have come earlier, a former senior official of Italy told the Global Times.

The official also said that in face of a global pandemic, individual liberties need to be put aside to save lives, calling Western media's attack on China's lockdown methods "unfair" and an underestimation of the virus. 

The Italian government has been a bit slow probably because they didn't fully understand the gravity of the situation, or didn't have the courage to take dramatic measures, said Michele Geraci, former undersecretary of state at the Italian Ministry of Economic Development. "So I've been telling them that they should look at the Wuhan, Hubei model and try to duplicate it here as much as possible," he said.

Italy on Monday extended a regional lockdown to nationwide. After suspending classes, the government on Wednesday further tightened the measures, ordering all shops to close except for supermarkets, food stores and pharmacies, media reported. 

The country has reported more than 12,000 infections, with a spike of more than 2,300 on Wednesday alone. The death toll has reached 827. 

Maybe there are more (infections) than we think, and it's best to lock down the whole country now for maybe two weeks...Complete stop. And then we can start again, just like China was doing, Geraci said. 

Sebastiano Deppieri, an Italian from Venice, was concerned about the lockdown. Chinese people are used to respecting orders and directives, but in Italy some people thought previous suggestions to avoid contact were "too strict" and went to malls and bars, causing the contagion to be out of control, Deppieri told the Global Times. 

Geraci also highlighted the use of big data, artificial intelligence, and a health code system with different colors to indicate risks like those in China. "People really need to look at those things immediately without wasting our time," he said. 

Some Western media, including the New York Times, have accused China's lockdown and health tracking of violating human rights. Geraci said their attacks on Chinese epidemic control methods are "unfair" and they are wrong in writing those reports. They underestimated the virus, Geraci said. 

It is a war against an invisible enemy, and the measures have nothing to do with the government system or "West versus China," he said. 

"Individual liberties need to be put aside in exchange for the public health. 

I think this is unquestionable," Geraci noted. 

According to Geraci, people are now accepting the new normal of life. Advice of how to spend time circulates online and this is a psychological issue that the whole country needs to adjust to.

Italy was facing an acute shortage of medical supplies including face masks, protective outfits and rescue equipment. Media reported that doctors had to decide which patient to rescue as infected people have largely outnumbered beds and respirators. 

The country had asked for help through the European Union Mechanism of Civil Protection but was turned down by its EU peers, the Guardian reported. 

China has offered to export 1,000 respirators, 2 million masks, 20,000 protective outfits and 50,000 test swabs. An expert team sent by the Chinese Red Cross Society left for Italy on Thursday to help the virus-stricken country control the outbreak. 

As a result of the pandemic, bilateral trade is likely to be badly hit as China and Italy have a relationship which is very much integrated in the whole global supply chain, Geraci said.  

China-Italy trade amounted to about $55 billion in 2019, but it is difficult to estimate the impact considering the indirect economic ties on the supply chain, Geraci said, citing products manufactured in a third country with Italian components and sold to China as an example. 

Newspaper headline: ‘Italy’s lockdown should have come earlier’


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