Milan braces economic slowdown after spike in coronavirus cases
UNTV News • February 27, 2020 • 240
Milan, capital city of northern Italy’s Lombardy region is seeing a drastic economic slowdown, after a spike of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the region, raising anxiety about a broader slowdown.
A total of 400 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Italy, up by 26 from the official tally released at noon, Civil Protection chief and Extraordinary Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency Angelo Borrelli told a televised press conference on Wednesday.
The number includes the deaths, which remained unchanged at 12, and the three recovered, Borrelli said.
Among the confirmed cases, 258 are in Lombardy, and another 71 are in the Veneto region with Venice as its regional capital, 47 in Emilia Romagna, and 11 in Liguria.
While the government has ordered a lockdown of 11 communities and the cancellation of all schools and public events in five northern regions, many big businesses have chosen to implement a “work smart” policy, telling employees to work from home.
Milan is no ghost town, but it has clearly slowed down, as the usually bustling main train station is quiet, public transit is empty, and taxis sit idle. Even Milan’s Fashion industry, has been hit.
Carlo Capasa, Chairman of the Italian Chamber of Fashion, said the virus affected sales in China and now is threatening Italy.
“Well, the effect is quite strong because in China, as you know, for many days, most of the department stores they were deserted, so the business has been dropping dramatically. Now we are afraid that the retail in Italy could suffer a little bit. Between what Chinese buy in China and what Chinese customers shop here, it goes around 30 percent, it’s a big market,” said Capasa.
Italy’s tourism industry has also felt the pinch.
Milan is clearly not void of tourists, but the number saw a decrease. In 2019, tourism brought a profit of 40 billion euros to Italy, 13 percent of its gross domestic product.
Italy’s northern regions and in particular the regions of Lombardy and Veneto where the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases have been discovered are among the richest, the most dynamic and the most export-intensive in a country with a public debt three times its GDP.
The Bank of Italy has estimated a 0.2-percent loss of GDP growth due to COVID-19.
However, Marco Bettin, Chief Operating Officer at the Italy China Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting the annual 40-billion-euro bilateral cooperation, said it’s too early to quantify the economic impact.
“Up to now we don’t have heavy consequences on the supply chain because most of the supply has been made before the Chinese New Year. So now we are experienced–. It is very hard to say, because the situation is still ongoing,” said Bettin.
While masks have been sold out for days and hand sanitizer has doubled in price, pictures circulating of panic buying and empty shelves across the city have been exaggerated, at least for now.
Residents appear far from panicked, but there is growing anxiety as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the country.
Italy will extend anti-coronavirus lockdown restrictions imposed last month to April 13, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Wednesday (April 1).
“We must not confuse the first positive signals that we are seeing in these hours with an ‘all clear’ signal,” Speranza told the upper house Senate.
After days of steep rises in cases, data this week has suggested the pace of growth in the number of total cases in Italy is slowing, with new infections coming in at 4,053 on Tuesday (March 31). Deaths have remained largely steady at over 800 a day.
Italy was the first Western country to introduce the restrictions and has tightened them week by week, banning all but core activities.
In an effort to make the lockdown more bearable for families, the government said on Tuesday (March 31) that parents would be allowed to take their children out for short walks around the block, although parks will remain closed.
In the morning some Rome residents took advantage of the sunny day and jogged in the stunning Piazza Navona and some parents were spotted holding their children in the streets near the River Tiber.
But Attilio Fontana, governor of Lombardy region, the epicentre of Italy’s contagion, opposed the decision made by Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and said the government’s move will not be applied in his region.
Help has finally arrived at the Circolo hospital in Varese, on the frontline dealing with enormous numbers of patients in the area hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak. And it has come in the form of six robots.
The child-size machines, with large blinking eyes, work in some of the most infectious wards. One of them has been named Tommy after the son of the head of the intensive care unit.
“Using my abilities medical staff can be in touch with the patients without direct contact,” Tommy the robot explained.
The northern region of Lombardy, centred on the financial capital Milan, has accounted for 43% of Italy’s known coronavirus cases and 59% of deaths. Varese lies sixty kilometres (37 miles) north of Milan and the Circolo hospital has been under attack from the virus for weeks.
“The idea was born when we thought about the risk of infection and we saw the situation of isolation of our patients,” explained the Director of High Intensity Medicine at the hospital, Francesco Dentali.
“To avoid the risk of infection without increasing the risk for the patient we thought the robot could be a good idea to take care of our patient,” he said.
“The risk of infection is high also with protection so all the staff, doctors and nurses are happy because robots can help in avoiding the risk of infection,” Dentali said.
Robots enter rooms where coronavirus patients are being treated and remain inside the infectious wards. They are being used in a number of ways to augment the work of the doctors and nurses and help in several important areas; namely to reduce some of the work load from exhausted medical teams and most importantly cut down the number of times there is direct contact with the patients. This also reduces the number of times staff have to put on and take off protective clothing, saving time and equipment but more importantly cutting down the risk of contamination.
“The other advantage for the patient and medical staff is also from the point of view of the organisation of the hospital. It allows us to use less protective clothing like masks and overalls which at this time are in scarce supply,” Gianni Bonelli Director of Varese Circolo hospital said.
The robots can relay back vital information from patients taken from machines reading vital statistics. Medical staff can also communicate with patients via the robots and vice versa. Medical staff say the robots allow patients to be more closely monitored, more time is spent monitoring their recovery and highlight quickly any problems that crop up.
The Italian national federation of doctors, surgeons and orthodontists said last week that 46 of their colleagues had died so far, many of them family doctors in northern towns and cities. Circolo hospital hopes their robots can cut down that risk.
The Circolo hospital is the main hospital in a regional area of responsibility that includes a further 6 hospitals and works with some 5,000 staff. The safety of their medical teams is of paramount importance.
So far in Lombardy, at least two hospitals became vehicles of contamination, with patients infecting medical staff who then spread the disease as they travelled around their communities before a stringent lockdown was imposed.
At a national level, 4,268 health workers – or 0.4 percent of the total – had contracted the virus as of March 20, according to the National Health Institute.
Apart from the safety issue, the hospital hopes coronavirus patients will be left less alone.
“You have to explain to the patients what is the aim and the function of the robot. The first reaction is not positive especially for old patients but if you explain to the patients what is your aim the patient is happy because he or she can speak with the doctor,” Dentali said. (Reuters)
(Production: Alex Fraser, Cristiano Corvino, Eleanor Biles)
A 13-year-old boy in London who tested positive for coronavirus has died, a hospital said on Tuesday (March 31).
“Sadly, a 13-year old boy who tested positive for COVID-19 has passed away, and our thoughts and condolences are with the family at this time,” King’s College Hospital said in a statement.
“The death has been referred to the coroner and no further comment will be made.”
The number of deaths from coronavirus in the United Kingdom rose by 27% as the UK government said 1,789 people have died in hospitals as of 1600 GMT on Monday, an increase of 381 from Sunday, the largest rise in absolute terms yet. (Reuters)
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