Italian newspapers have today voiced fears of a ‘nervous breakdown’ amid panic over coronavirus as they remarked that ‘we are now the Chinese’.
Newspaper La Stampa proclaimed ‘the gravest health emergency in the history of the Republic’ today as the paper’s editor warned of ‘uncertainty harming the nation’.
Many media outlets have asked why Italy, rather than other European nations, has become the centre of the West’s first major outbreak.
Others have warned against excessive panic over the virus, calling on people to ‘tame’ their fear of the illness.
Italy has confirmed 370 cases so far with 12 people dead and neighbouring countries scrambling to stop the virus spiralling across Europe.
Italian newspapers have today voiced fears of a ‘nervous breakdown’ amid panic over the coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy (translated screen grab of La Repubblica shown)
People wearing masks walk in front of the closed Duomo cathedral as they cross a mostly deserted square in Milan
Italy’s second-largest newspaper La Repubblica ran a story today with the headline: ‘Italy at the time of the virus, from the hunt for patient zero to fake news: Ours is a country in nervous breakdown’.
Authorities have yet to identify the source of the outbreak, which surfaced last week when an Italian man in his late 30s became critically ill in Codogno.
The newspaper Corriere della Sera was one of many to ask why Italy of all countries had become the centre of the virus scare in Europe.
‘Is prevention from other EU countries better than ours?’, a Corriere headline wondered today.
Comparing Italy’s predicament to China, which has also been shunned by wary neighbours, an article in business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore began: ‘We are now the Chinese’.
One article in Il Giornale suggested that Italy had tested more thoroughly than other nations in a process which was bound to lead to more cases being confirmed.
‘We searched, the others didn’t,’ an expert was quoted as saying.
Italy’s crisis was also attributed to bad luck, with the outbreak beginning in a hospital full of vulnerable patients.
The newspaper Il Messagero voiced concern over the impact on tourism to Italy, with several countries issuing warnings about travelling there.
Fearing a ‘tourism KO’, the newspaper said that up to 500,000 foreign visitors might stay away from Italy because of virus fears.
Many media outlets have asked why Italy, rather than other European nations, has become the centre of the West’s first major outbreak, while others have warned against excessive panic (screen grabs from English editions and translated editions shown)
Other articles urged Italians not to panic over the crisis.
An opinion piece by Mario Ajello in Il Messagero declared that ‘catastrophism is the first enemy of a great country’.
Another comment piece in La Stampa said that ‘fear does more harm than coronavirus’.
In a separate opinion piece in La Stampa, one writer warned against ‘collective psychosis’ as he colourfully compared the panic to a dystopian opera by Bertolt Brecht which ends with the burning of a city.
The writer, Andrea Malaguti, also queried some of the Italian government’s measures, asking why football matches had been cancelled but basketball games were going ahead.
He also cast doubt on why the University of Bologna had chosen to shut its doors – firstly at all, when the city has no cases, and secondly for six days, when the estimated incubation period is two weeks.
An Italian sanitation worker sanitises a public water bus in Venice today with authorities struggling to contain the outbreak in northern Italy
Italian authorities said today that the number of confirmed cases had risen to 374, an increase of 52.
Twelve people have now died in the world’s largest outbreak outside China, Japan and South Korea.
All of those who have died so far in Italy were either elderly or had pre-existing medical conditions.
Italy’s European neighbours have pledged to keep borders open despite the new coronavirus spreading down the country to Tuscany and Sicily.
Health ministers from Italy’s neighbours – meeting in Rome along with the EU’s health commissioner – said closing frontiers would be a ‘disproportionate and ineffective’ measure.
‘We’re talking about a virus that doesn’t respect borders,’ said Italy’s health mMinister Roberto Speranza.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has blamed poor management in a hospital in the country’s north for the outbreak.
Some 50,000 people are living in quarantine in northern Italy with police and the military manning checkpoints outside 11 towns to enforce the lockdown.