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Italy has begun easing important restrictions following a two-month shutdown of the coronavirus. 4.4 million Italians are able to return to work, and some restrictions on movement have been removed in the first European country to impose a lockdown during the pandemic. (May 4)

AP Domestic

ROME – Italy and the United States are a study in contrasts when it comes to the way they confronted the pandemic.

Italy was the first country to be hit hard after the virus spread outside China’s borders, and after some early mistakes, the country took decisive action. Italy’s national lockdown was the first in Europe in peacetime, and it was stricter and lasted longer than in other countries. Rules were strictly enforced by the police with the power to impose fines.

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Managers followed the same mask and guidelines for social distance as everyone else when Italian factories began manufacturing fans, masks and other protective equipment. Each time a cluster of cases arose, the area was quickly quarantined and the sick were cared for by a free public health system.

Most importantly, the Italians overwhelmingly followed the rules.

“In Italy, we may have a reputation for being a nation of disorganized offenders, but the truth is that people tend to follow the advice of their doctors,” said Giovanni Sebastiani, a researcher and member of Italy’s National Research Council. “Our lockdown was long, we only reopened in measured phases, and almost everyone did what they had to do.”

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Italy, a country of 60 million, was the first in the world with 200,000 official coronavirus cases (April 28) and the first to record 30,000 deaths (May 7). But at the end of May, the daily infection rate dropped from more than 5,000 to the low triple digits – and for the most part it stayed there until last month.

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Now, as is the case in most European countries, COVID-19 infections are rising again in Italy, and the country peaked at 10,000 new infections on Friday, breaking its daily highest level of positive testing. The World Health Organization has warned that the virus is rapidly spiraling out of control in Europe and that the region has reached a turning point to contain another wave of coronavirus.

In recent days, daily infection rates have risen to more than 14,000 in Spain, almost 20,000 in the UK and almost 30,000 in France – all well above their peaks since the spring. The United States has averaged between 50,000-60,000 cases a day since early October, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The United States has had about 8 million cases and more than 217,000 deaths.

Earlier this month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel – Germany’s largest European country with the most success in curbing the spread of the virus – warned its compatriots against taking a holiday in high – risk parts of Europe. But she said there was no problem for them to travel to Italy, where she said the government “has acted with great caution.”

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‘See in disbelief’

Meanwhile, Italians shook their heads over US news reports The politicization of masking, the uneven use and enforcement of coronavirus rules from state to state, violation of health guidelines at beaches, parks and political gatherings and the way President Donald Trump handled his own case COVID-19 by downplaying the severity of the disease was far too many Italians difficult to understand.

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“Italians have always looked up to the United States, but what is happening now makes us look in disbelief,” said Flavio Chiapponi, a political scientist at the University of Pavia in northern Italy. “In the early days of the pandemic, we learned our lessons through trial and error, which is why it hit us so hard.

“We hoped other countries would learn from what we went through, but that did not happen in many countries, including the United States,” Chiapponi said.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has promised that the country will not face another national lockdown.

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“We are much more prepared now than in March and April,” said Giorgio Palu, Professor Emeritus of Microbiology at the University of Padua and former President of the European Virology Society. “Hospitals are prepared, and testing is far more widespread. We understand what we are dealing with. ”

Many in Italy believe that inadequate testing in the early weeks resulted in a massive undercount of cases, meaning rates in March and April would dwarf current rates.

This week, the government introduced new restrictions on social events at home, restaurants, school activities and even weddings. Earlier this month, it adopted a decree requiring the use of masks, even outside and when it is far from others. The coronavirus state of emergency, first introduced on January 31, has now been extended until a one-year anniversary, giving authorities the power to quickly lock neighborhoods or cities when justified.

‘We have to keep it up’

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People living in Turin, Italy were seen dancing and singing together to Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” to make the most of life at home.

USA TODAY

The vast majority of Italians are OK with mask-wearing, according to a study published over the summer by Imperial College London. This survey showed that around 85% of Italians said they were “very” or “completely” willing to take a mask if advised to do so, the highest proportion among the European countries surveyed.

As the rate of infection increased, beginning in September, coffee shops and squares were full of news. But cautiously optimistic residents said they did not lose faith in the government.

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Neighbors in Bella, Italy get creative to enjoy one dish with another during social distance.

USA TODAY

“I want the country’s management to send a clear, united and consistent message about coronavirus as opposed to the situation at home,” said Molly Gage, a mother of two originally from Pittsburgh but based in Rome for 13 years. . “In Italy, the pandemic is treated as a public health issue, which is what it is. It’s hard for everyone, but one thing that makes it a little easier is knowing that everything that can be done here is being done. ”

Alessandra Bernero, an office worker who had been ill with COVID-19 for four weeks in March and April, had a similar view.

“When I wake up, the first thing I do is look at my phone for the latest information on infections and deaths and hospitalizations,” she said. “I was more relaxed a few months ago than I am now, but I know we are paying attention and taking the problem seriously. We have to keep it up until the virus disappears or there is a vaccine. ”

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They are known as “the invisible”, Italy’s undocumented African migrants who, even before the outbreak of coronavirus, put Italy in crisis, hardly scraped off as day laborers, prostitutes, freelance hairdressers and seasonal farm hands. (May 1)

AP Domestic

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