First, we had China as the epicentre of this allegedly highly contagious virus; we saw it literally sweep through Wuhan, killing it seems, everything in its path. Then attention quickly shifted to Iran as deaths quickly grew from the virus attack, soon after Italy came into the limelight as numbers seem to outpace anything we had seen so far from the Viruses impact in other Countries.
Before long Italy had the highest number of infected and deaths reported in the World, lets take a deeper look at what really is going on.
Failing Health Care System
The Italian healthcare system at one point was regarded as one of the finest in Europe, however over the past decade they have seen a large decline in public dissatisfaction with the services. In the north, public dissatisfaction was just shy of 33%, in the south ratings are as high as 51%.
But as I said, in some respects some of their hospitals are still regarded as some of the best in the World, well that maybe slightly pushing it; but for example Milan Hospital is at number 62 in the top 100 Hospitals Worldwide. Rome is also in the top 100, sitting slightly further down the list at number 88.
The mainstream media have been touting Italy’s healthcare as one of the Worlds best, but this simply is not the case and what the mainstream media fails to mention is the same hospitals failing in this pandemic are the same hospitals struggling just a few years ago during a particularly harsh Influenza season.
So lets go back to winter of 2017/2018 when the Italian healthcare system collapsed during one of the worst influenza outbreaks the Country had seen in over a decade, ViViMilano reports:
The complications of the flu, especially pneumonia, put the reanimations in crisis: 48 cases of seriously ill patients hospitalized from Christmas to today in the intensive care of Policlinico, San Raffaele, San Gerardo of Monza and San Matteo of Pavia, the reference hospitals in Lombardy for the use of the Ecmo, the machine that replaces the lungs.
The problems overlap: difficulties in welcoming new patients, postponement of scheduled surgical interventions and suspended reservations for the bedside of the resuscitations destined to welcome the sick after the operations
Just 48 serious cases of influenza put their healthcare system in the Lombardy region under serious strain, pushing Doctors to ask for help from the Department of Health.
So where do you think the most over run and under prepared region was for the Coronavirus? Yep, you guessed it, the Lombardy region. The same hospitals which struggled with just 48 serious cases of influenza are the worst affected by the current Coronavirus pandemic.
NBC News reports:
The huge number of infections has overwhelmed hospitals in the wealthy region of Lombardy, where both cities are, even as officials went to great lengths to prepare facilities by converting some wards into makeshift intensive care units and adding extra beds wherever possible.
An Ageing Population
Italians typically live longer than most other nations in the World, actually to be exact they rank 5th in the World for life expectancy, which currently sits at 83.4
With life expectancy so high, there will obviously be a large number of people over the age of 65. According to The New York Times almost a quarter of the population are over 65, the same age range that is most at risk to COVID19 .
Live Science reports:
The overall mortality rate is always going to depend on the demographics of a population, said Aubree Gordon, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan. In this case, the reported mortality rate is not “age standardized,” which is a way to adjust for the underlying demographics of a population, she said.
Given Italy’s older population, “you would expect their mortality rate to be higher on average, all else being held equal,” compared with a country with a younger population, Gordon told Live Science.
Will the Real Cause of Death Please Stand Up
Another major factor influencing Italy’s shocking numbers regarding coronavirus deaths is how they are reporting the cause of death.
Prof Walter Ricciardi, scientific advisor to Italy’s minister of health stated:
“The way in which we code deaths in our country is very generous in the sense that all the people who die in hospitals with the coronavirus are deemed to be dying of the coronavirus.”
So regardless of whether COVID19 was the actual cause of death or not, if someone died in an Italian hospital over the past few weeks from a pre-existing illness they would have been reported as a coronavirus death.
Prof Ricciardi went on to say:
“On re-evaluation by the National Institute of Health, only 12 per cent of death certificates have shown a direct causality from coronavirus, while 88 per cent of patients who have died have at least one pre-morbidity – many had two or three,”
Pollution at Crisis Levels
Italy is a beautiful country, filled with history and architecture that simply takes your breath away, but something else which has been building in Italy for sometime may also leave you breathless, pollution.
A report back in 2018 showed that air quality levels in Italy were now at red alert. As early back as 2011, officials reported that pollution was reaching crisis levels. It is believed that particle pollution now accounts for 9% of all deaths for Italians over the age of 30.
The worst affected area in the recent coronavirus outbreak was Northern Italy, and it will come as no surprise that it is Northern Italy that has the worst levels of air pollution recorded.
The Local reports:
Almost all of the worst affected cities are in northern Italy. Frosinone, south of Rome and an emerging centre of industry, falls outside Italy’s traditional “industrial triangle” in the north-west, as does Macerata in Campania and the Sicilian town of Enna.
Turin, Milan and Naples are the worst cities in the EU for dangerous particulate pollution, while Italy has the bloc’s highest number of premature deaths from nitrogen dioxide fumes spewed out by diesel vehicles, according to the European Environment Agency.
So it’s clear the Italian health services have been under immense strain
during the coronavirus, it also seems appears at least from the media
reports that fatalities this season are above average.
But the question is, how much higher and is the reaction being applied proportionate?
Euromomo dedicates their time to collating such information around Europe, mortality rates are plotted year after year for major Countries within Europe. Below is the full plots for various Countries, including Italy:
You’ll notice many countries are actually having a lower than average mortality rate this season, Italy however is higher than usual, lets take a closer look:
You can see that back in 2016 Italy had a much high mortality rate peaking on week 52, then easing off as the new year comes in. Again towards the end of 2017 and into 2018 during Italy’s Influenza outbreak which we mentioned earlier, there was a far higher mortality rate.
But did we see the unprecedented reaction from Governments back then? No, in fact nothing happened – it was just deemed a particularly bad year for seasonal viral infections.
Italy is by far the worst example on the list, but still Italy’s mortality rate this year is not its worst in recent history – if you look at Countries like the UK which is currently on full lockdown they are currently going through a below average rate of mortality:
Nothing we see anywhere in the World seems to justify the reaction being taken by Governments, mortality rates don’t appear to be abnormal for this time of year, the mortality rate of the COVID19 virus itself doesn’t appear to be significantly higher than other seasonal viral infections.
So the big question we all need to be asking is why, why this over-reaction, are we missing a vital piece of the puzzle? Is this a Global Conspiracy to cover something up, or is it being used as a Trojan Horse?
There are a dozen theories out there to this current crisis, and you can understand why – None of it makes any logical sense.