Coronavirus: many more deaths in northern Italy? | News and analysis from Europe DW


Like everyone in the town of Nembro in the Italian province of Bergamo, Salvatore Matzola wears a protective mask. Only the tears in his eyes reveal what he has experienced in the last few days. “My father died. We prayed for nine days to help him. But no one came,” said the baker, who also runs a small café in the 11,000-strong city in northern Italy.

Mazzola can’t understand how it’s possible to wait nine days in vain for medical help – until the lungs are irreparably damaged. That’s why he’s angry: “Our health care system has collapsed. The mistake is that they try to help people when it’s too late – when they can’t breathe and their lungs are badly damaged,” he said.

More than 150 doctors died

People’s sadness and anger have grown into distrust of the regional government and its health policy, says Ricardo Munda. He is a GP from Nembro who took over his predecessor’s office after his colleague fell ill in February. The number of doctors who died in Italy at the peak of the pandemic was 165.

“We learned two lessons from the crisis: staff in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors’ offices had to be tested for coronavirus as a matter of priority, and those with positive samples had to be isolated immediately,” Munda said. But this was not done. Or, as three doctors at Pope John XXIII Hospital in Bergamo wrote in an investigative report: “this fact, as well as the complete lack of protective clothing in the beginning, led to many deaths.”

Nobody helped

To better understand what exactly happened to Nembro, the mayor of the village, Claudio Cancelli, and the mathematician Luca Forresty set out to take a closer look at the facts. And they made an unexpected discovery: the dead people in the village in the first months of the year were much more than the statistically registered victims of Kovid-19.

The data were checked at the Sharite clinic in Berlin. Since 2012, an average of ten people a month have died in Nembro. In March this year, ie. At the height of the pandemic in northern Italy, 154 people died in the village, but only 85 of them were diagnosed with the coronavirus. On this basis, scientists conclude that in fact the number of deaths is much higher than the official – and not only in Nembro. Moreover, in nursing homes, many of the deceased were not tested for coronavirus at all.

Bergamo Hospital chief physician Marco Rizzi said the actual number of infected people in the region was “at least three times higher than the official number”. He is convinced that Bergamo should have been helped. In neighboring Lombardy, there were many unoccupied intensive care beds, but apparently the fears of neighbors that this would lead to an epidemic outbreak also played a significant role in them, Rizzi suggests.

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