APR 30 – Dear Director,
the approach of “phase 2” fills me with concern. The behaviors of the Italians have so far been moderately virtuous, but we have witnessed numerous exceptions from those who, perhaps, considered themselves immune or, worse, from those who only wanted to mock the authorities and the surrounding area.
Much, however, has been determined by continuous but unclear information, from which we have known every day the number of dead and healed, but we do not know on the national territory how many are infected and in particular, how many are asymptomatic positives.
A small example comes from the “runners”, who evidently feel above everything, because they run without wearing a mask. It can be argued that it is not easy to breathe with the mask but on the other hand, how many droplets are sprayed around and at what distance from those who run and sweat? The “I run alone” justification does not apply, because people meet every few meters and the spread of aerosols can become deleterious.
A second example, this more current in anticipation of the return to work of many, the underground and other public transport. Today I was told by a person who took the subway, that there were no controls and that the cars were well loaded. What will happen after May 4th?
Our behaviors will be those that determine whether there will be a second wave of contagions or not. But counting on the self-control of 60 million Italians makes me very worried. This virus can be very dangerous, as evidenced by the huge number of deaths due to it.
The problem always comes down to the same point: how do you know if a person is contagious? My friend Prof. Walter Ricciardi some time ago said that masks (at least surgical ones) are not useful for healthy people because they do not protect enough, but they are useful for the sick to avoid dispersing viruses into the environment. However, if we all wore masks, each of us would protect his neighbour, who would return protection. Thus, we all would be protected. But do we know how many asymptomatics can transmit the virus?
Our country (but not the only one) is going through a period of great difficulty, including economic, and there are many pressures towards reopening to allow the economy to recover. But an opening without protection would be collective suicide and the cost would be unbearable. So, probably the just time has arrived in which the State should invest huge resources to check all citizens, at least with the search for antibodies, and then do the swab and PCR only to those who resulted positive, to confirm the presence or not of the virus. Although antibody tests do not give the certainty of healing, they indicate who has had contact with the virus; thus we would track the healthy and the sick, dedicating the necessary care and isolation to the latter until their recovery, but freeing others from fear and excessive restrictions.
One could say: how much does it cost? An antibody test is performed at a variable figure between 40 and 60 euros, and would therefore require a total expenditure of around 2,500 million euros, but on a large scale, it could be calmed down, as well as the masks. Tests could also be arranged by various employers because it is in their best interest to have healthy and fearless workers. How much are we currently spending on running after a devastating pandemic? How much did the equipment cost and, above all, how much did the countless deaths cost?
It is time for someone to make a far-reaching decision, without which the pandemic will not stop, resulting in pain and poverty.
Prof. Roberto Verna
Full Professor of Clinical Pathology
University of Rome La Sapienza
President and Representative to the WHO of the World Association of Societies of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
President, World Pathology Foundation
Past President, National College of University Professors of Clinical Pathology
Read the Italian original article here