Dr. Daniele Macchini, a doctor treating COVID-19 patients in a hospital located in the epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, has detailed the distressing conditions he’s witnessing and his deep concern about the spread of the virus.
In a now-viral Facebook post, Macchini sought to convey the situation in Bergamo, a city near Milan in northern Italy. He likened the outbreak to a “war” and a “tsunami that has overwhelmed us.” The 16 million people in the northern region of the country were the first to be locked down on Sunday before a nationwide lockdown on the country’s 60 million residents was enforced Tuesday in an effort to slow the spread.
Dr. Silvia Stringhini, an epidemiologist and researcher at Geneva University’s Institute of Global Health, translated Macchini’s post from Italian to English in a Twitter thread, saying that she wanted to “fight this sense of security outside of the epicenters, as if nothing was going to happen ‘here.’”
“The media in Europe are reassuring, politicians are reassuring, while there’s little to be reassured of,” the epidemiologist wrote.
“After much thought about whether and what to write about what is happening to us, I felt that silence was not responsible,” Macchini’s translated post begins.
“I will therefore try to convey to people far from our reality what we are living in Bergamo in these days of Covid-19 pandemic. I understand the need not to create panic, but when the message of the dangerousness of what is happening does not reach people I shudder,” the post continues.
Macchini recounted the past week, as the emptied-out hospital wards were met with an onslaught of COVID-19 patients. “The war has literally exploded and battles are uninterrupted day and night,” he said, via the translation.
There were more than 9,500 COVID-19 cases confirmed and 631 dead from the virus in Italy on Tuesday, according to the country’s Department of Civil Protection agency website.
Macchini also described the struggle for health care providers, including the exhaustion and emotional pain suffered by doctors and nurses as they lost lives.
“There are no more shifts, no more hours. Social life is suspended for us. We no longer see our families for fear of infecting them,” he said.
He concluded by asking that people consider the impact of their actions on others. While 80% of those infected will not need hospital care and many may feel well enough to go about their normal lives, spreading the virus may lead to a severe or fatal case in older individuals or those with preexisting medical conditions.
“So be patient, you can’t go to the theatre, museums or the gym,” Macchini wrote. “Try to have pity on the myriad of old people you could exterminate.”
Calling on readers to spread the word and do their part in securing the safety of more vulnerable people, Macchini finished his post by criticizing what he described as a “war on panic” ― apparently alluding to advice from authorities and politicians understating the severity of the outbreak ― by pondering if it meant people were not taking the situation seriously enough.
“Is panic really worse than neglect and carelessness during an epidemic of this sort?” he wrote.
Many schools and universities have closed, and numerous events, including international music festivals, major sporting events, political rallies and large public gatherings in general have been canceled or even banned over coronavirus concerns.