Coronavirus: Italy vs UK

Though Italian, I live in the UK (probably not for much longer, but that’s a news for another time). And here in the UK everybody is talking about the great number of cases in Italy.

Italy, on the other hand, has been claiming all along that the rise in number of cases went hand in hand with the increased number of tests kicked off by the first cases in Northern Italy. Essentially, they started uncovering even mild or completely symptomless cases because of the extensive testing (the most extensive in Europe, for all I know).

On the other hand, having lived in the UK long enough to know how the locals think and behave, I was and still am sure that there are many more cases of coronavirus around in the UK than the ones accounted for. The average Briton doesn’t go to the doctor for a “simple flu”. If they have “mild symptoms” (their definition of mild is not even the same as the definition of mild an Italian would provide) of anything, they throw some paracetamol down their throat, and that’s it. Job done.

Now that the number of cases is rising in the UK too (36 as I write this), it turns out Italy had been right all along:

Most cases of most viruses will go uncounted because people tend not to visit the doctor with mild symptoms. According to research by Imperial College, it’s because different countries are better or worse at spotting the milder, harder to count cases.

Clearly, Italy is better at this task, for two reasons:
  • The SSN (Italian “NHS”) is proactive, not reactive
  • Italians are very (overly, sometimes) health-aware, which means they would contact doctors even with mild symptoms.

The high count of cases, many of which are actually symptom-less, proves that.

What’s worse is that though they keep saying Ā«The NHS are well prepared for the coronavirusĀ», they just unveiled the plan: they will do absolutely nothing other than isolate people and provide some help to those with breathing difficulties. The rest will be left up to the immune system. The usual excuse the NHS use so they don’t have to spend money on people.

Italy, on the other hand, has administered various antivirals, and one successful healing is reported to have been due to administration of an antiviral originally developed for the Ebola virus.

After all, it shouldn’t surprise that an institution willing to be judge over the death and life of children, should even care about people dying of COVID19.