A peek into battles in Italy

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/26 0:18:40

Chinese medical teams offer hope to fight virus

A man feeds pigeons and seagulls at the border of Italy and The Vatican (Rear), in Rome on Wednesday during the lockdown following the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: AFP

Margherita woke up before midnight to be ready at 1 am for another six hours of exhausting work - trying to save lives. She drove to the hospital, as no one was in the streets of the Italian city of Parma, one of the areas struck hardest by the deadly coronavirus, which is in a total lockdown.

The 28-year-old woman has had five years of experience as a nurse in the UK, but after being assigned to Parma in mid-March, she began to feel it was different.

Upon arriving at the hospital, she received a patient infected by the coronavirus—a man in his 50s, on a stretcher, conscious, but whose face was turning blue. Eyes wide open, swollen veins, he was sweating and cried. With all his strength, he was pushing the oxygen mask to his face trying to say "help," but he was out of breath.

Sedation started, and the doctor behind him prepared for the intubation. Margherita and her colleagues ran to prepare other drugs and pass what was needed. They cut the clothes, attached the monitor. Too many medical staff were trying to keep everybody calm.

Someone went to call his family and tell them that their loved one had been transferred to intensive care. They knew that there was a possibility they would not be able to see him anymore, not even for the last goodbye.

No eating, no drinking, no going to the bathroom for six hours. Sweaty in personal protective equipment (PPE), doctors and nurses hardly saw each other in the eyes. They might find they worked for the whole day with someone they've never seen before.

Things have been going like this for Margherita for 15 days. "Exhausted and alienated," the nurse told the Global Times it was how she felt each day.

In Italy's worst-hit city Bergamo, Lombardy region, military began to help carry the dead away since March 18, as there was no place at the cemeteries, Marco Birolini, a Bergamo resident, told the Global Times.

"I'm in town near the hospital. Ambulances are constantly heard. From the windows, people looked and cried. The tears fell silent, the fathers covered their face with their hands so as not to be seen by the children," said Birolini, noting that almost everyone in this city had lost family members or friends to the virus.

Italy has seen more fatalities than any other country, with at least 6,820 people dying from the infection in a month.

Locals said the health care system of Lombardy, the first Italian region under lockdown, has collapsed. "There are no doctors in Bergamo expected to manage it," Marco said.

Can Dou, 20, just returned to Shanghai from Italy after over 20 hours in the air. The minute he stepped out of the airplane, he said he felt safe and relieved. 

Can, from Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, was a college student in Milan. Living under the shadow of the worsening epidemic situation, he said he was suffering from depression and did not have a choice but to fly back to his motherland.

Many Chinese students stranded in Italy are also suffering from fear. They believe it's the Italian government's negligence at the early stage that gives rise to the avalanche of infections and deaths. 

A Chinese student surnamed Chen in Milan said some Chinese were being discriminated and attacked by locals in the early stage. But the Italian people's attitude shifted suddenly after they saw the outpouring of help from China and the arrival of Chinese doctors and aid materials.

"Now, when I came across Italians in public, I was often greeted by 'xiexie' [thank you in Chinese] from local people," Chen said. 

To help relieve the pressure on Rome, China on Wednesday dispatched a third medical team of 14 members from East China's Fujian Province. 

They will brief Italian doctors about China's experience on virus prevention, and educate Chinese organizations and students there on how to protect themselves from getting infected. 

Xiao Ning, who is part of China's first medical team in Italy, told the Global Times previously that he urged the Italian government to enforce stricter measures. He noted that only about 40 percent of people in public wear masks. 

Xiao told the Global Times that at one Lombardy hospital, he saw doctors and nurses only wearing isolation gowns and masks rather than high-standard protective suits, which are reserved for those treating patients in the ICU.   

Hu Xu from the second Chinese team to Italy, told the Global Times that the Italians demonstrated vast interest in the plasma treatment playbook, "but we did not bring plasma of those who recovered with us this time because we were unaware of their hospitals' situation. We will coach the Italians in plasma treatment," Hu said.  

Ancona-based accordion manufacturer Scandalli on Tuesday received a special email from Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, which was severely hit by the COVID-19. 

In the email, Bob Liu, a college student from Wuhan, said that while being quarantined during the lockdown, he played a vintage Scandalli accordion almost every day. Liu said that Italy's outbreak worries him a lot, and also shared his experience in preventing the virus in Wuhan.

Elisa Lanari, who works for Scandalli, said that she almost cried after reading the email. The factory is preparing some souvenirs as gifts for Liu.

Despite the deteriorating situation, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Saturday the closure of all "non-essential" businesses in the country. 

"There are also cultural problems. Home quarantine is psychologically heavy for the Italian people who love the sun and sea. So many from the less-hit places find all sorts of excuses to go out—be it for a new hairstyle, or to buy the dog food citing their dog needs a certain type of food which they cannot purchase at regular supermarkets," Enrico Cevitta from Parma said. 

Hashtag #Andratuttobene [means everything will be alright] has gone viral in Italy since the outbreak, a reflection of the Italian people's hope for this to recede quickly.


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