Italy's president, pope mark year anniversary of first nation's COVID-19 case

By Sommer Brokaw and Allen Cone
Italian President Sergio Mattarella marked the one-year anniversary of the first Italian COVID-19 cases by announcing a National Day to honor health care workers. File Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI
Italian President Sergio Mattarella marked the one-year anniversary of the first Italian COVID-19 cases by announcing a National Day to honor health care workers. File Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Italy's President Sergio Mattarella and Pope France marked the one-year anniversary of the first Italian COVID-19 case by honoring health workers.

The first Italian COVID-19 case was identified in Lombardy on Feb. 20, 2020 in a 38-year-old man, a research article shows. Two tourists from China had tested positive in Rome on Jan. 30. A few days after the first Italian tested positive, additional cases popped up in the surrounding area, and soon other cases, mostly in the northern area. Areas in Lombardy and Veneto went into lockdown first and by March 8 lockdowns began nationwide.


Mattarella announced the creation of a National Day to honor "health, social welfare and volunteer personnel," in a message Saturday to the President of the National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists, Filippo Anelli.


The National Day honors workers who "still find themselves, at the forefront in facing the pandemic emergency which, just over a year after its appearance, still afflicts us," the message read. "From the very beginning of the spread of the virus, health personnel have proved to be up to such a far-reaching threat, making the best efforts, with all the tools at their disposal, in order to prevent the epidemic from precipitating into an irreversible catastrophe."

At least 326 doctors and 81 nurses and have died, according to professional associations in the sector.

Mattarella expressed "heartfelt" condolences to their relatives in his message.

The day of the announcement was the same day a year ago that anesthetist Annalisa Malara, on duty at the Codogno hospital, forced the procedure to make it possible to diagnose the first Italian case of COVID-19, the daily Italian newspaper il Fatto Quotidiano reported. Malara, along with doctor, Laura Ricevuti, have been credited with sounding the alarm, after seeing symptoms, and carrying out the first COVID-19 test to diagnose an Italian patient, even though the patient had never been to China.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis paid his respects to doctors, nurses and other health care personnel who have died of COVID-19 while performing their "generous" and "heroic" work in a letter addressed to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia regarding memorial service for health care workers, Vatican News reported.


Paglia heads the Pontifical Academy for Life, which organized the memorial service, coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the first Italian COVID-19 case.

"The example of so many of our brothers and sisters, who have risked their lives to the point of losing them, inspires deep gratitude in all of us, and is a cause for reflection," the pope wrote. "In the presence of such self-giving, the whole of society is challenged to bear ever greater witness to love of neighbor and care for others, especially the weakest."

Overall, Italy has had over 2.7 million cases and 95,486 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins global tracker of cases and deaths.

Italy reported an increase of 251 deaths and 14,931 cases Saturday.

Britain is fifth in the world for most deaths among 10 European nations in the top 10. Britain is fifth with 120,365 with 445 more deaths and 10,406 cases. France is seventh at 84,147, including 183 more deaths and 22,371 cases followed by Russian in eighth at 82,876 with 480 more deaths and 12,953 cases, Germany in ninth at 68,180 with 62 more deaths and 1,828 cases and Spain in 10th with 67,101 deaths with no data reported.


More than 199 million have received doses of COVID-19 vaccine across 87 countries, according to Bloomberg's COVID-19 vaccine tracker.

So far, only 3.4% of the Italian population has gotten one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and only 2.2% have gotten two doses required for full protection, according to the tracker.

The global rate is 6.5 million doses per day on average, and at that rate, it will take nearly five years to cover 75% of the world's population with a two-dose vaccine, Bloomberg noted.

In Germany, patience is growing thin amid the country's second wave, The New York Times reported, citing Steffen Bockhahn, a health minister in Rostock, a port city in Germany, whose phone kept ringing after the country changed its guidance on who could receive vaccines.

"No, I'm sorry, but we are not allowed to vaccinate anyone in Category 2 yet, only those nurses or caregivers are who are in the first priority group," he told a caller. "You have to wait."

During the first wave, the country's death and infection rates were among the lowest in the European Union, and the population generally abided by the restrictions at first, but as the lockdown stretched on, there were complaints and some protests.


Germany has prolonged its second lockdown twice with fears of the British COVID-19 variant spreading in the country.

Under the lockdown, which Chancellor Angela Markel decided on along with regional leaders, bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms will remain closed until at least March 7.

There have been at least 2.3 million COVID-19 cases from COVID-19 in Germany.

Only 3.7% of the German population has gotten one dose of the vaccine and 2% have gotten two doses, according to Bloomberg's COVID-19 vaccine tracker.

In Britain, 25% of the population have received a first dose, but only 0.9% has received a second dose, the same tracker shows.

Britain decided late last year to delay the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine in, and since then some other European countries have followed suit.

A Pew Research Center poll released earlier this month showed that more Germans believe their country is doing a good job handling the pandemic than Britons or Americans, but the approval rating dropped 11 percentage points between June and December.

In Mexico, 0.8% of the population has had one dose, and 0.2% has had a second dose, according to Bloomberg's tracker.

Also, in Mexico, the Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell Ramirez, revealed in a tweet Saturday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.


"I started with symptoms last night, fortunately they are mild," Ramirez tweeted. "I will be working from home, pending the vaccination strategy."

Mexico received the first 200,000 doses Saturday of Coronavac vaccine made by China's Sinovac, a Foreign Ministry, according to a Foreign Ministry tweet, Bloomberg reported.

Mexico has over 2 million cases and 179,797 deaths, which is third in the world, including 832 Satutday.

Brazil is second in the world with 246,006 deaths and third with more than 10 million cases, including 1,051 fatalities and 57,455 infections Saturday.

In Argentina, where 0.6% of the population has received a second does, and 0.9% a first dose, according to the COVID-19 tracker, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez has fired his health minister over a scandal involving government allies receiving preferential treatment in COVID-19 vaccinations, according to Bloomberg' report.

Argentina has over 2 million COVID-19 cases and 51,000 COVID-19 deaths, which ranks 13th.

Israel has vaccinated the greatest percentage of its population, according to the COVID-19 tracker, with 47% of the population receiving a first dose and 31.8% receiving a second dose.

Israel has over 744,000 COVID-19 cases and 5,526 deaths from the disease, according to the global tracker.


Worldwide, COVID-19 has infected more than 111.6 million people and killed nearly 2.5 million.

India is second in the world in deaths at 156,212 and nearly 11 million cases though data have been declining. On Saturday, there were 101 new deaths and 13,993.

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