When, at the end of February, Lombardy and Veneto recorded Italy’s first local cases of transmission of coronavirus, the two regions quickly erected road blocks, establishing Europe’s first lockdown and a precedent for the rest of the continent. Since then the fortunes of the two wealthy neighbours, which have some of the best-resourced health systems in Europe, have diverged. Struck by a human catastrophe unseen in Europe outside of war, with military trucks taking away corpses from the city of Bergamo, Lombardy has a death rate of 17.6 per cent. Nearby Veneto’s stands at 5.6 per cent. While virologists caution that the percentage death rate is closely tied to the level of testing, they also attribute the gap to other factors, such as Veneto’s reluctance to hospitalise compared with its neighbour. “Veneto has a very low mortality compared to the rest of Italy,” said Professor Andrea Crisanti, a leading virologist from the University of Padua, in charge of a mass testing programme across Veneto. “This shows that our approach has worked well so far.” As of Saturday Lombardy, which has a population of 10m people, accounts for 8,656, or 56.3 per cent, of Italy’s total declared deaths from the virus of 15,362. Meanwhile Veneto, which has a population of 4.9m, has suffered 607 official deaths out of 10,824 diagnosed cases. Higher levels of testing and tracing in Veneto is the most widely cited explanation for why the region has managed to control its outbreak more effectively than its neighbours. Editor’s note The Financial Times is making key coronavirus coverage free to read to help everyone stay informed. Find the latest here. Luca Zaia, governor of Veneto, was the first regional head in Italy to devise a widespread testing programme that involves drive-through swabs done in cars as well as tests in medical centres. This went beyond World Health Organization guidance, which advises to test and trace suspected cases. On the advice of the region’s scientists, Veneto has to date conducted 133,289 tests as of Saturday, the second-highest in Italy after the 141,877 of Lombardy in spite of having half of its population. Yet experts say testing is not the only reason for the lower death rate. Venetian doctors also cite the region’s expertise in infectious disease, something they trace back to its pioneering history dealing with viruses arriving in its port from the east. The word quarantine derives from quarantena, the Venetian word for “40 days”, or the amount of time ships arriving from plague-ridden destinations were isolated. For Giorgio Palù, one of Europe’s leading virologists, and scientific adviser to the governor of Veneto, a critical factor has been the number of diagnosed patients taken into hospital.

Tratto da https://www.ft.com/content/9c75d47f-49ee-4613-add1-a692b97d95d3

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