Round table at the Italian Chamber of Representatives on coronavirus: doubts, facts and fake news
Government representatives of Italy and the People’s Republic of China, physicians, scientists, researchers and civil society groups came together to share knowledge and data about the COVID-19 outbreak and to unite forces against misinformation, fake news and discrimination yesterday at the Italian House of Representatives in Rome.
Addressing the audience during the opening remarks, China's Minister Counsellor to Italy Zheng Xuan, emphasised that 99% of the people that have tested positive for the virus are in China, showing the high level of commitment by the Government of the PRC to isolate the illness and limit its spread. She further stated that even though there are about 77,000 people that have tested positive for the virus in China, the cure rate is over 35% with many more patients on the way to recovery. Indeed, 25 provinces in China have reported that there are not new cases of the virus and the mortality rate is now stable at about 3%.
Zheng took advantage of her address at the House of Representatives to thank the Government of Italy and the staff at the Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases for all the care and attention given to the couple of Chinese tourists that were hospitalised there the last week of January. She made a special appeal for “science to prevail over panic, facts to prevail over fake news, and international cooperation to prevail over discrimination.” She mentioned how in Italy there have been some cases of discrimination; but she also underlined that the Government of the People’s Republic of China sees these episodes as isolated and not a true representation of the widely generalised attitude of support and collaboration of the Government of Italy and the Italian population to work together with the Government of the PRC to fight the disease. Zheng concluded her address by stating that China is determined to combat the epidemic and to enhance international cooperation efforts with its partners to avoid the spread of the disease.
This year China and Italy are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations and 2020 was chosen by the two Governments as the year of Culture and Tourism with celebratory events taking place in Rome in January with the participation of high-level Government representatives from both countries.
Massimiliano Boggetti, President of the Industrial Association of Medical Devices Producers (Confindustria Dispositivi Medici) started his speech by declaring how Confindustria is responding to the crisis and is engaged in efforts to keep prices aligned with the prices of the devices prior to the crisis. Mr Boggetti also stated that the association is continuously monitoring the supply chain of medical devices and that despite the alarming headlines mentioning outrageous prices on Amazon for hand sanitizers and masks, the association is making sure that hospitals and other health providers can access devices at unaltered prices. Mr Progetti’s insisted that tests are taking place to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-viral medicines and that the recovery rate of patients is quite encouraging.
Prof. Matteo Bassetti, Director of the Center for Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the Hospital Policlinic San Martino (IRCSS) in Genoa called his colleagues and the audience to focus on data and to give context to the spread of the virus highlighting that countries like Italy are much likely to be prepared to handle the crisis and respond appropriately to the medical needs of their citizens. In fact, while the mortality rate in China is about 3%, the mortality rate in countries like Italy is forecasted to be around 0.4-0.8% and the illness is expected to be confined to the cluster. Bassetti explained that even though there are still no treatments officially approved to cure COVID-19, there are treatments that are being successfully implemented to cure the virus based on the experience and lessons learned from the outbreaks of SARS and MERS-CoV. According to him, it is also quite plausible that in other countries the meticulous measures to identify new cases of COVID-19 that are being enforced by Italian authorities are not being implemented in other countries, and that cases of COVID-19 are being treated as seasonal flu.
Italian Senator Paola Binetti of the Committee on Hygiene and Health stated that there is a will in the Government to leave aside any differences of opinion among the parties to implement measures and take action, giving priority to the health and wellbeing of Italian citizens.
At the time this article was written, there were over 200 people in Italy that had tested positive for COVID-19 and 7 people had died as a result of complications after being infected by the virus. In Italy, the authorities are taking emergency measures to test and identify all possible cases. Participants at the round table called for the general public to contribute to the dissemination of knowledge, a rational behavior and sense of civil duty and to avoid spreading fake news and over-reactions.
Attorney Dong Lifang, president of the Silk Council, asked the public to join efforts to fight discrimination against the Chinese population in Italy and to continue working together to combat the illness and to contribute to the Government’s efforts to identify, treat and cure people affected by the COVID-19. The Italian Minister of Health has established a dedicated emergency line 1500 for people who suspect they have been affected by the virus to call and ask for a Real Time PCR to be provided at home. People are also being asked to avoid going to emergency rooms and to have the test delivered to their homes in order to avoid the spread of the disease