A patient waves to her relative as she is taken to the first aid area at Cardarelli Hospital in Naples, Italy on Friday, November 13, 2020. Italian government and health officials analyzed data to determine if the Campania region is in trouble. which includes Naples should be declared as a red zone. (AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia)
The regions of Italy, which include the cities of Naples and Florence, were declared coronavirus red zones on Friday. This is the latest signal of the poor state of Italian hospitals, which are grappling with an increase in new admissions.
National Health Institute director Gianni Rezza said the stricter measures were justified by a “worrying increase in hospital stays” as Italy’s new confirmed case rate hit 650 per 100,000 people. Confirmed cases hit a daily pandemic high of nearly 41,000 and 550 people died from the virus within 24 hours, bringing the country’s known death toll to 44,139. Italy reported more than 1.1 in total. Millions of virus cases.
The hospitals in Naples made headlines this week when a viral video showed an elderly man lying dead on the floor of a bathroom in the emergency room. The video, captured with a smartphone at Antonio Cardarelli Hospital, also shows a seemingly overcrowded emergency area, where patients lie close together on stretchers and are left without medical assistance.
Unlike the more affluent northern regions, the medical system in southern Italy is more fragile. Many southerners have traditionally traveled north for non-routine medical care. The system in Campania, the region where Naples is located, emerged last December from a decade under state control aimed at eliminating waste and improving supplies. Union officials note that 16,000 healthcare workers have been cut over the ten year period.
A woman stands in front of her crib shop on San Gregorio Armeno street in Naples in the Campania region of Italy on Friday November 13, 2020. The regions of Campania and Tuscany were designated as a red zone on Friday, indicating the dire condition of a hospitals struggling with an increase in new admissions. (AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia)
“The difficult situation is understandable. Unfortunately the number of employees is below the requirements of this area”, said Alfredo Garzi, union representative of the CGIL. “They are trying to deal with what is available to them.”
The south of Italy was largely spared during the deadly virus epidemic that exploded in the north of the country in March and April. However, the virus spread across the country during a remarkably relaxed summer of crowded Italian beaches, restaurants, and nightclubs.
The situation has worsened in the Campania region, where hospital admissions rose from 421 on October 1 to 2,153 on Friday and there are currently 183 people in intensive care, up from 38 six weeks ago.
“We are exposed to high levels of stress, we work non-stop and we no longer look at work hours,” said Giuseppe Visone, doctor in the first aid department at Antonio Cardarelli Hospital and representative of the CGIL union. “The good thing about this hospital is that they never turned patients away.”
A paramedic transports a patient outside the first aid area of the Cardarelli Hospital in Naples, Italy, on Friday, November 13, 2020. Italian government and health officials analyzed data to determine whether the severely ailing region of Campania, which includes Naples, should be declared a red zone. (AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia)
The Italian government uses a three-tier, color-coded system to set different restrictions on infection control, with red being the least restrictive, orange being the medium and yellow being the most severe. Regions designated as red zones are subject to partial closures under which only grocery stores, pharmacies, newsagents, and other businesses deemed necessary are allowed to remain open.
On Sunday, Campania and the central region of Tuscany will join five more regions of the red zone and autonomous provinces, including the Italian virus epicenter Lombardy and the southern region of Calabria, where the health system is currently under state control.
Naples Mayor Luigi de Magistris expressed relief that Campania had been designated a red zone and told The Associated Press that the health system was under massive pressure and on the verge of collapse.
The statuette of the three wise men with face masks will be on display in a nativity scene shop on San Gregorio Armeno street in Naples, Campania region (Italy) on Friday 13 November 2020. The regions of Campania and Tuscany were designated as a red zone on Friday, this signals the dire condition of a hospital that is struggling with a flood of new admissions. (AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia)
People wait outside the first aid area of the Cardarelli Hospital in Naples, Italy on Friday November 13, 2020. Italian government and health officials analyzed data to determine whether the severely stricken region of Campania, which includes Naples, should be declared a red zone. (AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia)
A bartender carries a table inside as he closes the Nilo Bar in Naples, in the Campania region of Italy, on Friday 13 November 2020. The regions of Campania and Tuscany were designated as a red zone on Friday, indicating the poor condition of a hospital struggling with a spate of new admissions. (AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia)
A statue of football star Cristiano Ronaldo with a face mask is on display in a nativity scene shop on San Gregorio Armeno street in Naples, Italy, on Friday November 13th, 2020. The regions of Campania and Tuscany were designated as a red zone on Friday. This signals the dire condition of a hospital that is struggling with a flood of new admissions. (AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia)
Campania regional governor Vincenzo de Luca said the action did not come soon enough.
“We wanted to close everything in October for a whole month … which would have made a quiet Christmas possible,” de Luca said in a Facebook video. “This government decision made us lose two precious months of seeing a dramatic increase in hospital stays and deaths.”
But even regions in the top-level yellow zones, which have a 10 p.m. curfew but allow indoor dinner before 6 p.m., struggle to get the message across to avoid gatherings. The Veneto region has banned citizens from traveling outside their city limits on the usual weekend walks in city centers, mountains and lakes that weekend.
Opposing the new regulation would mean “that you are not respectful or show solidarity with those who work in hospitals,” said Veneto Governor Luca Zaia.
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