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———————————————————————————————————-With that data, we should have closed both Veneto and Lombardy, immediately,” Crisanti said. But decision-makers, he said, “didn’t perceive the extent of the problem.”
The question of whether more more restrictions on movement should have been instituted sooner has been hotly debated in Italy, with many politicians noting that such decisions were extremely difficult given that the measures come with a heavy economic and social cost and infringe on freedoms. There is even a criminal investigation into whether officials waited too long to lock down two towns in Lombardy.
Shutting down Vo proved remarkably effective in stopping the transmission. When Crisanti conducted the second round of testing on March 7, no new cases were detected.
Crisanti said that the findings — which were published by the journal Nature in June but known to Italian officials immediately — made clear that isolation and mass testing were the best way to contain the virus before vaccines.
While Crisanti succeeded in persuading the Veneto region to increase testing, it wasn’t until March 9 — 17 days after the virus had been simultaneously detected in two Italian regions, with cases multiplying and a mass exodus toward the south under way — that then-Premier Giuseppe Conte ordered the entire country on a near-total lockdown that would last seven weeks.
By the end of May, as cases began to recede in Italy, more than 232,684 people had been infected, mostly in the north, and 33,415 had died.
Scientists still don’t know how the virus arrived in Vo.
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Though struck at the same time, Veneto fared much better than Lombardy, which became the epicenter of both of Italy’s surges. It has half the population and its industry is more spread out, but experts have also credited its health system, which enables close contact among family doctors, district administrators and hospital officials and which is less reliant on private facilities. Another key element in its virus fight was the testing system created by Crisanti.