Nearly 8,000 doctors volunteer for Italy’s coronavirus task force

Nearly 8,000 doctors volunteered to help out on the frontlines of Italy's coronavirus crisis, more than 25 times the number the authorities had sought.

Nearly 8,000 doctors volunteer for Italy's coronavirus task force
Doctors at a hospital in Milan, one of the cities hardest hit by Italy's coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Italy's Civil Protection department was aiming to create a task force of 300 doctors from all over Italy to help treat patients in the worst-hit regions of Lombardy and Emilia Romagna.

Within 24 hours of putting out the call, they had received more than 7,900 applications, the department announced. 

READ ALSO: 'Hospitals are overwhelmed': Italian doctors on fighting the coronavirus

“Thanks to all the doctors who joined the operation to support regional health services,” it said in a statement, adding that it would begin assessing the applications right away.

The department had said it was first and foremost seeking anaesthetists, but would welcome applications from doctors in any field.

“This is about creating a rapid response team,” said the head of the Civil Protection, Angelo Borrelli. “The doctors selected will work alongside regional health service staff and volunteers who are already assisting in hospitals treating coronavirus patients.”

A new triage tent at a hospital in Brescia, Lombardy. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Italian hospitals, especially in Lombardy, are under huge strain as the number of cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. According to the latest figures from Sunday, nearly 23,000 people are currently in hospital in Italy with the virus, including 3,000 requiring intensive care.

In at least two regions, Lombardy and Piedmont, all intensive care beds are now occupied by coronavirus patients, while in Liguria and Le Marche the crisis has taken up 92 percent of capacity, according to data collected by researcher Matteo Villa.

On average across Italy, nearly one in two intensive care beds is needed by a COVID-19 patient – though these figures don't reflect the fact that some Italian hospitals have managed to rapidly construct new emergency wards or field units to add capacity.

On Monday another two Italian doctors were confirmed to have died since contracting the virus, making a total of 22 health workers who have lost their lives.

The latest victims were Leonardo Marchi, an infectious disease specialist from Cremona in Lombardy, and Manfredo Squeri, a retired hospital doctor in Parma, Emilia Romagna, who had returned to work to help with the emergency. 

READ ALSO: 'Learn from Italy's mistakes', health expert warns Europe

Around 4,800 medical staff have contracted the virus since the outbreak began, according to data from the Italian Higher Health Institute, representing around 9 percent of the total in Italy.

That figure may be underestimated, warns the GIMBE Foundation, the Italian Group for Evidence-Based Medicine, which wants testing medical professionals to be made a top priority to avoid them unwittingly spreading the virus to other patients.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Italy reports first case of monkeypox

Italy on Thursday reported its first case of monkeypox, joining a number of other European and North American nations in detecting the disease endemic in parts of Africa.

Italy reports first case of monkeypox

Monkeypox was identified in a young adult who had recently returned from the Canary Islands, Rome’s Spallanzani Institute for infectious diseases said.

He is being treated in isolation and is in a reasonable condition, it said in a statement carried by Italian news agencies, adding that two other suspected cases were being investigated.

Alessio D’Amato, health commissioner for the Lazio region that includes Rome, confirmed on social media that it was the country’s first case, adding that the situation was being “constantly monitored”.

Cases of monkeypox have also been detected in Spain and Portugal – where more than 40 possible and verified cases have been reported – as well as Britain, Sweden, the United States and Canada.

The illness has infected thousands of people in parts of Central and Western Africa in recent years, but is rare in Europe and North Africa.

Its symptoms are similar but somewhat milder than smallpox’s: fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, chills, exhaustion, although it also causes the lymph nodes to swell up.

Within one to three days, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body. Although most monkeypox cases aren’t serious, studies have shown that one in ten people who contract the disease in Africa die from it.

The World Health Organization on Tuesday said it was coordinating with UK and European health officials over the new outbreaks.