Italy Confronts Rising COVID Cases
But Is It Confronting Reality?
On November 24, Italy announced new measures in response to an ongoing wave of COVID-19 cases, following the path of Austria and Germany in grappling with ongoing pandemic by targeting the non-inoculated portion of the population.
Italy on Wednesday tightened the screws on people unwilling to take an anti-COVID vaccine, sharply restricting access to an array of services and making vaccines mandatory for a wider group of public sector workers.
Italy acted as much of Europe is increasing restrictions to try to grapple with a new wave of the pandemic.
While Prime Minister Mario Draghi has so far refrained from the apocalyptic rhetoric of countries like The Netherlands, he nevertheless has made it clear harsher measures are still on the table so long as the pandemic endures.
"We want to be very prudent to try to safeguard what Italians have achieved in the last year," Draghi said, stressing the need to avoid a full-blown lockdown against the coronavirus that in 2020 caused Italy's steepest post-war recession.
By The Numbers, A Real Outbreak
There is no denying that Italy, like much of the rest of Europe, is facing rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
Italy's cases began rising mid-October, at the same time as the uptick in cases in Germany.
Intriguingly, at the beginning of the outbreak, Italy's cases relative to the population were actually lower than in Sweden, currently the poster child in Europe for effective COVID-19 response.
However, while the rise in cases is concurrent with Germany, the magnitude of the rise is a fraction of Germany's. On that measure at least, Italy's situation is considerably better than Germany's.
While Italy's hospitalizations are also rising, they are also far better than in Hungary, and only somewhat worse than Sweden.
When it comes to COVID-19 deaths, Italy is doing much better than both Hungary and Germany, and only somewhat worse than Sweden.
While Italy is experiencing a rise in COVID-19, the extent to which Draghi is reacting to the state of the pandemic elsewhere in Europe is a worthy question. Italy is no Sweden, but neither is Italy that far removed from Sweden's results, and when grappling with matters of public health the magnitude of the situation is at least as important as the trend.
Near The Peak?
What both the media and Mario Draghi are ignoring--as are too the governments of Hungary and Germany--is the recent declines in the effective reproduction rate across Europe.
The reproduction rate is a measure of how many new infections arise from each existing infection. It serves as a leading indicator of disease spread, and when the reproduction rate trends down, the pace of infection slows. Once the reproduction rate falls below 1, new cases should shortly decline. In Italy, Hungary, and Germany, the reproduction rate has been trending down for some time. A slowing pace of infection suggests the peak of the outbreak is drawing close.
Inoculations Are Not Working
The fly in the ointment for Italy, however, is that targeting the non-inoculated fails to acknowledge that, with over 72% of the population inoculated against COVID-19, Italy has one of the better inoculation rates in Europe.
Italy is well above the average for Europe, and ahead even of Sweden.
That cases continue to rise even in the highly inoculated parts of Europe underscores the failure of the inoculations in halting the community spread of COVID-19. That countries with similar inoculation rates have dissimilar infection rates demonstrates the functional irrelevancy of the inoculations in mitigating COVID-19, a point I have made repeatedly and which has been confirmed by observational research.
Pursuing The Path Of Failure
Italy was one of the first countries outside of China to attempt draconian lockdown last year as a mitigation to COVID-19. As in China, that effort was an abysmal and demonstrable failure--the economic damage done was not offset at all by a halting of the virus. With the latest measures announced by Draghi, Italy seems set on repeating the failure of last year (a pathway of failure that appears to be the consensus strategy among Western nations).
Until Italy acknowledges the failure of both its lockdown and inoculation policies, its efforts to confront COVID-19 will continue to be marred by its dogged refusal to confront reality.