By Álvaro Caballero
Rome, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- The head of infectious diseases at Sacco hospital in Milan has warned medical facilities in the area are struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic gripping Italy.
Massimo Galli, who isolated the coronavirus genome in the Italian strain, said in an interview with Efe that the situation was dire.
He said there has been a spike in cases because those arriving at hospitals “became infected before the confinement measures took effect”.
Galli also warned that many people have been confined “at home with the infected and are also contagious” and called for testing to be extended.
He said he was concerned about the situation in the province of Milan, which has seen 634 new cases in one day.
“Until now our hospitals were full of people from outside Milan, but more and more people are coming from the city, it is overwhelming,” he added.
He said hospitals have tried to cope by “increasing beds and converting other departments, but other diseases have not gone on strike”.
Galli said that by increasing capacity “to the limit and even beyond” they had managed to cope with the situation, but if the rate of infection continues “it could lead to a serious crisis”.
The construction of a field hospital at the Milan Fair complex with extra resuscitation facilities would help ease the strain, as these have been the most overwhelmed by the outbreak.
He warned other countries to take action before getting to the same critical situation as Italy and added that “it all depends on how long the virus has been circulating unnoticed in the country”.
It is believed Covid-19 had been circulating for four weeks in Italy before the first case of local transmission was registered in Codogno on 18 February.
Galli said the disease spread to the country from a small outbreak in Munich, Germany, after a businesswoman from Shanghai infected people at a work meeting.
He added that it could have reached neighbouring Spain, the second-worst affected country in Europe, “by direct importation from China, from Italy or from the Munich outbreak” as spreaders could have been asymptomatic.
“Now we know that you can have the infection in incubation without fever or anything and be highly contagious,” he continued.
“Everyone, including me, thought that we had managed to avoid the worst with the cancellation of flights between Italy and China,” he said.
Galli said Spanish authorities should be able to implement sufficient measures in time to avoid the same fate as Italy.
Italy is currently seeing the most coronavirus deaths in the world, 3,405 more than in China, which has been the worst affected since the outbreak originated in the Hubei province in December.
The number of known infections in Italy has surpassed 33,190, with 19,884 of those reported in the Lombardy region, of which Milan is the capital.
There have been more than 3,200 confirmed cases in the province of Milan, the third-worst hit area in the country, after Bergamo and Brescia, which each have more than 4,000 known infections. EFE-EPA