Saturday, March 21, 2020

Coronavirus for Non-Italians. Aka, "your government is not taking this seriously enough".

Number of cases per million inhabitants in various EU countries, compared to the level (10/million) China enacted its block, to date the most effective strategy to fight the infection. With 21.6 cases/million inhabitants, for instance, France is recommending people to... wash their hands.

Guest Post by Luigi Fiora

Let's start with some data.

1) Italy is the world's 9th largest economy (not for much longer).

2) It has a completely free and subsidized public healthcare deemed the second-best in the world by the World Health Organization's ranking of health systems in terms of performance. This is relevant, as people can afford to seek best-available treatment regardless of their social status/economic well-being (winking at you USA, your poor can't afford to be sick).

3) Having one of the twenty highest spending per capita in healthcare, our healthcare system and personnel are top-notch, if chronically underfunded and currently overwhelmed by the very high number of infected patients.

4) Italy has one of the highest rates of homeownership in the world, at roughly 75%. US and UK are below 60, Germany below 50. This means people can mostly stay at home without incurring extreme costs while seeing their income limited by their inability to work. Aka: it is bad here, it will be worse elsewhere. for the poorest particularly.

5) Italians have one of the highest savings rate in the world (8% of the yearly income, estimated at some 4.300 billion Euros) due to an overall skepticism in banks and economic fluctuations. While bad for economic growth in normal times, this means median Italian families can afford to consume resources while not working/producing. Again, other countries will have it worse, with high proportions of the population unable to stop working even if ill/quarantined, or risk starvation.

6) Places with low home ownership, no public healthcare, low savings and/or overall poor economic performance/infrastructures will be hit very fucking hard. Oversaturated hospital means more people will die by no being able to get needed care in time than die of the virus. Italian hospitals are already selecting who gets to be treated and who does not base on their likelihood to survive and estimated time they will need care for. People in desperate situations, who may have been saved in ordinary periods are ALREADY dying.

7) For once, I agree with my government's decision to shut down everything no matter the economic costs. The Chinese did that, and their infection rate is plummeting as more and more people recover. See the graph at the beginning of this post.


the virus already is a pandemic, due to it being undetected when asymptomatic, yet still able to spread. many governments are halting testing to avoid spreading panic. Shutting down and quarantining the majority of the population, avoiding interpersonal contacts as much as necessary is the only way to avoid hospital overfilling and uncontrolled panic.

This is IMPERATIVE: it takes 14 days for the effects of a block to take place. If France were to enact one today (they won't) (*), thousands of people will still go to the hospital and hundreds will die, having been infected in the past days. Quarantine is having a significant economic impact on Italy. For many countries not as lucky as us it will be crippling, and harder to enact as people cannot afford not working.

So my question to all of you who read this tedious post is: Why is YOUR government not shutting down everything?

We should do more.

(*) Note: this post was published on March 10, when France had not yet implemented a national block against the infection. 


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)