Big dose of hope for hard-hit Italy region as lockdown lifted

Top News | Mary Ann Benitez 26 May 2020

Life is steadily returning to normal in Lombardy - the hardest-hit region of Italy - after it lifted its lockdown last week.

"Now it's possible to go to work and to go to meet friends and relatives," said Carlo Borghetti, vice president of the Lombardy regional council.

But schools will not open until September and plans are still being laid out on how sports could safely resume.

A Champions League match on February 19 played in Milan, the capital of Lombardy, attended by 40,000 football fans, had contributed to an escalation of cases in the worst-affected province, Bergamo, Borghetti told The Standard.

Borghetti, of the opposition Democratic Party, also said bars and discos were asked last weekend to close early at 9.30pm after crowds of young people went there the previous night.

"There are a lot of people in the streets, in the squares and factories," he said. "So there is wide attention because people are very worried about the coronavirus but a lot of people are [moving] around."

He said Lombardy has made it compulsory for people to wear masks when going out after the national government was able to ramp up production.

Italy was among the first in Europe to ban air travel from China in late January .

But Borghetti said apparently it was already too late when "patient one" was detected on February 21 in Codogno, which lies south of Milan, as the virus might already have entered the popular tourist destination at least a month before.

It took just 16 days after the first patient for a lockdown to be imposed as hospitals were overwhelmed by patients.

Lombardy is not out of the woods yet, with about 100 new cases reported a day, but he said the situation is more hopeful than it was two months ago.

He has urged the regional government to announce where the new cases were occurring.

"Maybe these cases are in hospitals, at homes, or in houses for elderly people," he said, adding from 100 to 250 seniors live in such centers.

Lombardy was able to get a handle on the virus by separating coronavirus patients from non-coronavirus patients in hospitals.

If a second wave comes, he has urged that hospitals that would treat Covid-19 patients only be designated.

He also said specialized teams of doctors and nurses - who go to homes and centers where patients have symptoms to treat them - should continue to do so.

"One month ago I was more worried when we were in the lockdown, because I thought it was very difficult to open again," Borghetti said.

"Now we are in the month of May and factories are open and I see people quite careful and this led me to be more [optimistic] of the future."

So far, a total of 229,858 people in Italy have tested positive for Covid-19 and the official death toll is 32,785.

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