Italian journalist Mattia Ferraresi says many of his fellow citizens were “too selfish to follow suggestions to change our behavior” when it comes to the coronavirus and is warning people in other countries not to follow in their footsteps.
Ferraresi, who usually writes for the Italian newspaper Il Foglio, penned an op-ed for The Boston Globe regarding the country’s struggle with the coronavirus. He said that because Italians didn’t take the warning signs seriously, more people got sick and now their health care system is “on the brink of collapse.”
“An anesthesiologist at a hospital in Bergamo, one of the cities with the most cases of Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, told the [Il Corriere della Sera] that the intensive care unit was already at capacity, and doctors were being forced to start making difficult triage decisions, admitting people who desperately need mechanical ventilation based on age, life expectancy, and other factors. Just like in wartime. The article was inexplicably placed on page 15, while the main headline on the newspaper’s front page relayed the political quarrels over the measures to curb the contagion,” Ferraresi wrote.
He wrote that the manager of one of the most advanced health care systems in Europe said anesthesiologists were “weeping in the hospital hallways because of the choices they are going to have to make.”
The hospital system quickly became overwhelmed across the country, making those difficult decisions prevalent. Ferraresi explained that this was due to a virus that many Italians “failed to take seriously. He warned other countries not to make the same mistake:
We of course couldn’t stop the emergence of a previously unknown and deadly virus. But we could have mitigated the situation we are now in, in which people who could have been saved are dying. I, and too many others, could have taken a simple yet morally loaded action: We could have stayed home.
What has happened in Italy shows that less-than-urgent appeals to the public by the government to slightly change habits regarding social interactions aren’t enough when the terrible outcomes they are designed to prevent are not yet apparent; when they become evident, it’s generally too late to act. I and many other Italians just didn’t see the need to change our routines for a threat we could not see.
He explained that Italy is 10 days ahead of France, Germany, and Spain in the epidemic progression and 13-to 16 days head of the U.K. and U.S.
“That means those countries have the opportunity to take measures that today may look excessive and disproportionate, yet from the future, where I am now, are perfectly rational in order to avoid a health care system collapse,” he wrote.
“The way to avoid or mitigate all this in the United States and elsewhere is to do something similar to what Italy, Denmark, and Finland are doing now, but without wasting the few, messy weeks in which we thought a few local lockdowns, canceling public gatherings, and warmly encouraging working from home would be enough stop the spread of the virus. We now know that wasn’t nearly enough,” he added.