Italy's Director Of Emergency Response Has A Message For Americans During Coronavirus Crisis: 'Stay Home'

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A man walks past a billboard raising awareness to the measures taken by the Italian government to fight against the spread of the COVID-19. (Carlo Hermann/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks past a billboard raising awareness to the measures taken by the Italian government to fight against the spread of the COVID-19. (Carlo Hermann/AFP/Getty Images)

Italy, the country with the highest death toll from the coronavirus, has reached more than 12,000 deaths.

The country has been on lockdown for three weeks to try to prevent the spread of the virus.

Luigi D'Angelo, director of Italy's Civil Protection Department who manages the country’s emergency response, says the situation is getting better because of the government’s strict lockdown measures. He says these measures have been “respected” by most citizens.

Right now, he says Italy is focusing on keeping people out of hospitals unless they absolutely need to be there. In order to prevent contamination throughout hospitals, doctors have been traveling around to meet patients at their homes, he says.

As the U.S. begins to grapple with similar serious coronavirus concerns, D'Angelo reminds Americans that the real difference lies within each person’s actions.

“If we stay home, if we respect social distance, then we can come through and we can work out from this situation,” he says.

Interview Highlights

On how much longer he believes restrictions on movement in Italy with continue

“So far, the restrictions should end by the 3rd of April. But our scientists and all the technicians are advising the government in participating in these restrictions. So we think that probably they will last till the end of April.”

On whether the country’s hospitals have been getting any relief

“That has been the main problem that we had since the beginning. And unfortunately, the virus attacked us in the hospital, and [doctors and nurses] have been contaminated. But so far, all the measures have been taken. And now that our preventive measures for surveillance, so the people before entering the hospital, they pass through a triage. So what we suffered at the beginning and the lessons learned that we have gained from this bad experience is to prevent the diffusion, first of all, within the hospital. So now we have adopted adequate measures for taking care of the hospitals. But first of all, we have reinforced the basis — health assistance. [People] are not requested to go to the hospital, but they have to call their doctor and the doctor can go home and visit them so just to prevent that they go the hospitals.”

On why Italy is keeping people out of the hospitals unless they absolutely have to be there

“At the end of the story, this is a war and our soldiers are now doctors and nurses. And we have to do our best to protect them and to prevent them from being contaminated.”

On the number of supplies

“It has been our main concern since the beginning. It has been our limit in responding to this emergency because unfortunately, we had the lack of ... face masks, ventilators, respirators. But now we have improved. Fortunately, China, as it started to provide goods and we are getting more and more masks, ventilators and other stuff. So today we can provide our doctors and nurses with an adequate number of materials.”

On why he thinks the outbreak in Italy has been much worse than other European countries thus far

“We are still investigating, probably what we thought that was too far from us in China immediately came. Probably, the virus came even before because we have been attacked by the end of January, early February. And it started spreading so much and so far and so wide in our territory, especially in the north, that we only received the effect a few weeks later. And of course, a lot of things that already happened.”

Ciku Theuri and Francesca Paris produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Peter O'DowdSerena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on April 1, 2020.


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Jeremy Hobson Former Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.



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