‘Italy showed the epidemic could be turned around’: WHO

The World Health Organization has paid tribute to Italy's response to the coronavirus pandemic, which it said had showed the world the outbreak could be contained.

'Italy showed the epidemic could be turned around': WHO
Italy has emerged as a positive outlier in Europe after managing to stave off a second Covid-19 crisis. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

In a new video shared on Friday, the WHO presented Italy as a successful case study for tackling Covid-19 – even as the country recorded its highest number of new cases since lockdown ended.

“Italy showed the epidemic's trajectory could be turned around through commitment, coordination and communication across government and communities, a resilient public health system and by following a science-based response,” the UN's health agency said.

It interviewed Italian public health experts about how they activated monitoring systems, sought advice from specialists, and took decisive measures to limit freedom of movement around Italy in the early stages of the pandemic – steps that would later be adopted by other countries around Europe. 

“We had to be icebreakers in finding a path of how to respond and we had to find it fast, because there was no time,” recalled Flavia Riccardi, a researcher at the Italian National Institute of Health's Department of Infectious Diseases. 


As many of its neighbours battle a second wave of infections, Italy has emerged as a positive outlier.

Despite localised outbreaks, it hasn't seen the surge in cases recorded in Spain, France or some other European countries.

Factors credited for its success include the centralised testing-and-tracing system developed by the public health service, robust rules on face masks, and a lockdown that was early, strict and long.

But Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza warned that Italy wasn't out of danger yet, tweeting as he shared the WHO's video: “We still have a long way to go. Let's keep our feet on the ground. We absolutely must not render the sacrifices made up to now useless.”

Italy reported 1,912 new infections on Friday, its highest daily increase since lockdown restrictions were phased out in June. The tally was up from 1,786 the day before, when Italy conducted a record number of swab tests: 108,000 in 24 hours.

Many new cases are mild or asymptomatic, with the vast majority of patients in quarantine at home. Both the number of deaths (20) and the number of people in intensive care (244) fell slightly on Friday. 

Watch the WHO's video about Italy's Covid-19 response below. 


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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.