Italy Witnesses Relentless Rise In COVID-19 Deaths | WGLT

Italy Witnesses Relentless Rise In COVID-19 Deaths

Mar 23, 2020
Originally published on March 23, 2020 8:51 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The number of deaths in Italy is still rising. The whole country is on lockdown but does not yet see the effects since it may take a couple of weeks for infected people to get sick. And so more than 1,400 people died in Italy from coronavirus over the weekend. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports that even cemeteries are overwhelmed.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: This video shows large army trucks moving through the town of Bergamo in the dark of night. They're carrying coffins that have been piling up, unburied in the city cemetery, to other towns. Bergamo's crematorium, even working nonstop, can't handle more than 25 bodies a day. Bergamo has a population of 120,000. Obits in the local daily used to take up a page; now they fill at least 10. The numbers of deaths are unimaginable, says Francesco Alleva, spokesman for the town mayor. But he stresses the city is handling them with dignity.

FRANCESCO ALLEVA: (Speaking Italian).

POGGIOLI: "Brother Mario, an 80-year-old Capuchin friar," says Alleva, "blesses each coffin before it's loaded on a truck. Even in this emergency, we want to show respect for the deceased and for the religious beliefs of the living." The situation in Bergamo hospitals is dire. Images broadcast on Italian TV show medical staff wearing hazmat suits, scrambling in waiting rooms turned into ICUs, while patients are gasping for air. In desperation, Stefano Fagiuoli, head of the medicine department of Papa Giovanni Hospital, turned to social media.

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STEFANO FAGIUOLI: Our health personnel, nurses and physicians are working around the clock, countless hours, to fight this incredible situation. We do not know how long this pandemia will last.

POGGIOLI: Fagiuoli said the hospital urgently needs medical staff, ventilators and protective equipment.

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FAGIUOLI: So if you can, please help us. And if you are a health personnel, you are more than welcome to join us in fighting the coronavirus.

POGGIOLI: A major TV channel posted a video diary of an unidentified doctor at Treviglio Hospital, also in Bergamo. Speaking emotionally, the doctor says a 47-year-old man with severe breathing problems was brought in last night.

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UNIDENTIFIED PHYSICIAN: (Speaking in Italian).

POGGIOLI: "My father-in-law just died of this virus, the man told me. It's my turn, so doc, my life is in your hands. I made a pledge to that man," the doctor adds, "I'm not sure I can keep."

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

(SOUNDBITE OF OAKTREE FEAT. PIETER NOOTEN'S "ENCOUNTER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.