Lombardy, in the eye of the storm

By Virginia Hebrero

Rome, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- The coronavirus is unrelenting in Italy, where the death toll has crept toward 3,000 and threatens to overtake China, and the news coming out of Lombardy, the epicenter of the country, paints an apocalyptic picture.

“Ambulances are coming and going continuously and when they arrive to pick someone up, they tell the family to say goodbye because they might never see the person again,” Sonia, a Spaniard living in Lombardy, told Efe.

From her town of Bagnatica, home to 4,000 people and just 10 kilometres away from the city of Bergamo, this Spanish teacher is a witness to the daily drama playing out in northern Italy. She remains in her house with her two children amid a lockdown.

“Last week my neighbour died, an older woman but she was well. I’m in quarantine because I was speaking to her a few days before. A couple, too. The uncle and aunt of a friend died a day apart. The mother-in-law of another friend is in hospital, like many older people, retired,” she said, reeling off case after case.

“It’s like a film all of this. They only come to pick people up when they’re really serious because until then they tell you to stay at home. When they take them, they don’t say which hospital they’re going to because even they don’t know.

“They die completely alone.”

Lombardy, the capital of which is Milan, is home to almost half the positive Covid-19 cases in all of Italy, some 12,000 of 28,000, according to the latest information from the Civil Protection department.

More than that, the region also accounts for two-thirds of the death toll, 1,959 out of a total 2,978. Of the 475 people who died in the last 24 hours, 319 were in Lombardy.

The province of Bergamo has taken the brunt of the outbreak in Lombardy.

Sonia was one of many who watched in astonishment as images shared on social media showed military trucks carrying dozens of coffins through the city.

At least 60 caskets on a convoy of 30 trucks, destined for crematoriums in other provinces, given the one in Bergamo has been overloaded.

According to the local newspaper, L’Eco di Bergamo, the waiting list for cremation in Bergamo is backlogged by a week.

A few days ago, this same newspaper had to dedicate 10 pages to obituaries.

While the Italian media sphere is flooded with reports on the coronavirus, some, like that, leave a mark.

Lombardy press on Wednesday reported on the death of Codogno doctor Marcello Natali, 57, who became infected by the virus while caring for his patients.

Codogno, in the province of Lodi, was the first focus of the epidemic in mid-February. It was placed in the early red zone, which encompassed 11 towns and 55,000 people.

Natali was the provincial secretary of family doctors, had no previous health issues and worked until the last moment, according to his colleagues.

On 11 March, he began with a fever, cough, and breathing difficulties.

Since 23 February, he had worked frantically in his area, visiting dozens of people a day, including at home, his colleague Dr. Martina Scarabelli said.

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