An Italian health official has said the coronavirus is losing its lethal punch.
As of Monday morning, Italy is sixth in the world in COVID-19 cases, at 233,197, according to Johns Hopkins. It ranks third in the world in deaths at 33,475.
“In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy,” Alberto Zangrillo, the head of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, told Reuters.
The Lombardy region, in which Milan is located, has born the brunt of Italy’s battle with the virus.
“The swabs that were performed over the last 10 days showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago,” Zangrillo said.
Cases have also fallen from a peak of 6,600 on March 21 to 333 Sunday.
Italy is on the brink of relaxing the lockdown restrictions it imposed to address the virus.
Zangrillo downplayed fears of a second wave of the virus.
“We’ve got to get back to being a normal country,” he said. “Someone has to take responsibility for terrorizing the country.”
A government official pushed back against Zangrillo.
“Pending scientific evidence to support the thesis that the virus has disappeared … I would invite those who say they are sure of it not to confuse Italians,” Sandra Zampa, a health ministry undersecretary, said in a statement.
“We should instead invite Italians to maintain the maximum caution, maintain physical distancing, avoid large groups, to frequently wash their hands and to wear masks,” she said.
Dr. Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization also said new spikes are a real danger.
“When we speak about a second wave classically what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later. And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months’ time,” Ryan said told Reuters.
“But we need also to be cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time. We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now it is going to keep going down and we are get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave,” he added.
Another Italian doctor, however, seconded Zangrillo’s conclusion.
“The strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today,” Matteo Bassetti, the head of the infectious diseases clinic at Genoa’s San Martino Hospital, said.
“It is clear that today the COVID-19 disease is different,” Bassetti said.
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