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Italy’s Department of Civil Protection said the death toll from the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) rose to 2,503 on March 17, an increase of 16% with a total of 31,506 cases reported. The Mediterranean country reported an increase of 345 deaths in a span of 24 hours.
A daily influx of new patients suspected of having the coronavirus is placing pressure on the emergency rooms, according to healthcare workers. “We see new patients arriving daily. Our emergency room had 30 people queueing yesterday, waiting to see if they were positive,” a 50-year-old nurse who works in the northern Italian region of Lombardy told Al Jazeera.
So far, more than 16,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in Lombardy alone.
Hospitals in Italy facing shortages
As the cases in Italy rise by the hundreds on a daily basis, hospital workers have converted unused rooms to operating theaters, wards and waiting rooms. According to a doctor in a hospital in Brescia, a northern Italian city of 200,000 people, a tented field hospital has been set up outside the vicinity to accommodate new virus patients.
Healthcare professionals are concerned that if the spread of the virus is not contained soon, the situation will put intense pressure on hospital capacity. “What is really shocking – something we had not been able to forecast and brought us to our knees – is the quickness the epidemic spreads. If the spreading of this epidemic is not put under control, it will bring all hospitals to their knees,” Dr. Sergio Cattaneo, head of anesthesiology and intensive care at the public hospital in Brescia, told the Associated Press.
Italy has recorded more deaths and cases outside of China, becoming the European coronavirus epicenter.
Grandparent love met with lockdown
Italy has one of the world’s oldest populations, where 23% of its inhabitants are over the age of 65. Some believe that the country’s demographic, together with intermingling between the older and younger generations, could be a possible reason for the rapid surge of new coronavirus cases. The country’s young reportedly tend to mingle more often with their elderly loved ones.
Bars, shops and restaurants in Italy have been closed to comply with the national lockdown orders. Until April 3, social gatherings – including weddings, funerals, socializing in cafés, gym visits and school sessions – are banned.
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