US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — On March 10, Italy was the first European country to introduce restrictions on the movement of citizens in the northern provinces of the country. After 2 days, this regimen was distributed throughout the country. Following it, other countries of Western Europe began to introduce such measures of “lockdown” (lockdown).
The first patients infected with coronavirus detected in Italy as early as January 31 were two Chinese citizens. As of March 18, the number of people infected in the country amounted to 35,713 people (about half of the number infected in China), and the number of deaths was 2,978 people (almost the same as in China). And these statistics are growing at an alarming rate. Some experts believe that in the week of March 23, the number of infected people will increase by 50%, and the deaths by 20%. At the same time, they indicate that the Italian healthcare system has been virtually destroyed.
320,000 Chinese are permanently resident in Italy (2018). In 2019, 3,200,000 Chinese tourists visited Italy. These numbers are less than the corresponding figures for Japanese citizens in Italy. But they are growing rapidly.
Sino-Italian relations are developing rapidly against the background of the project “One belt – one way”
In March 2019, President of China Xi Jinping visited Italy at the head of a delegation of 200 accompanying. Following the visit, Italy officially joined the One Belt – One Way project and outlined a program to modernize four of its ports together with China. Already in April of the same year, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang visited Italy, who held detailed negotiations and participated in the official opening of the Italian “daughter” of the Chinese State Transport and Construction Corporation, which launched these programs.
The two Italian ports included are Genoa and Palermo, located in the western part of the country. They are important links in the Mediterranean, linking Italy with French Marseille, Spanish Barcelona and Egyptian Alexandria.
The other two are Ravenna and Trieste located in eastern Italy. Of these, the Adriatic Sea Routes run to Istanbul, Cyprus and Beirut. Ravenna is connected by rail with the north of Italy – Milan, Bologna and Parma. Trieste has a railway exit to central Europe.
All these ports are famous tourist destinations, which are visited by more and more Chinese citizens. Trieste is especially popular among the Chinese, from where the famous Marco Polo cruise ship, where many tourists from the Middle Kingdom travel, goes to Mediterranean cruises.
Between Genoa and Ravenna on the west coast of Italy in Tuscany is the second largest city in this province, Prato. It is known that out of 200,000 of its population, about 25% or 40,000 are Chinese. However, only about 15,000 of them came to the country with permission. The rest live here illegally. The vast majority come from Zhejiang and work in the textile industry. Here is the highest concentration of Chinese in all of Western Europe. In this region there are about a thousand firms and companies owned by the Chinese or closely related to Chinese capital.
Italy is widely known for its tourist centers – these are Rome, Florence, Venice and others. However, the north of the country with a center in Milan is also a powerful industrial region with developed textile, footwear, furniture and other industries (and Prato is included in it). Italy is the center of world fashion. It historically played the role of a bridge in the trade of the West with the East, the starting point of which was in Istanbul. And now the transit role of Italy is great.
Currently, thousands of Chinese workers have arrived from China to participate in construction work in three ports – Genoa, Palermo and Trieste. Already, there are about five thousand people. Many of them were transferred to Italy from African countries – Sudan and others.
It is natural that these people actively communicate with the local Chinese population. In addition, once a quarter or half a year they receive vacations, during which they will necessarily return to their homeland. Thus, the flow of people plying between Italy and China is very significant.
According to some estimates, more than 100,000 Chinese are illegally resident in Italy. It is known that among them there are many people belonging to Chinese criminal groups (triads) who are not inferior in cruelty to the Italian mafia. Recently, this has become a headache for the Italian police. Chinatowns appear in the country. A threat to public safety is being created.
In these conditions, the Italian and Chinese police authorities have intensified bilateral cooperation since 2016. Mutual visits and exchange of information are carried out. Things got to the point that joint parades of the Chinese and Italian police were held in Rome and Beijing.
In 2017, Paolo Gentiloni visited Beijing.
Thus, in Italy there is a large and active Chinese colony, and the exchange of people between this country and China is constantly increasing. It is only natural, therefore, that with the spread of coronavirus in China, it could easily infiltrate Italy.
A country that must not forget the lessons of the medieval epidemics of “black death”
CNN showed critical footage from Italy, where after restrictions on the movement of the population were imposed, people did not put on masks, gathered and chatted on cafe terraces and moved freely around cities and rural areas. The Italians had no fear in the face of the coronavirus. It was especially difficult to restrain the free behavior of uninhibited Italian youth.
In Italy, the same thing happens as in the USA. In conditions when the central and local authorities are in constant confrontation, young people feel this sharply. As soon as educational institutions close, it begins to gather in cafes, bars and restaurants. Many go to the coast and have picnics there. What can you do, these are countries of democracy. It is not easy to limit human freedom in something.
In addition, in Italy there are many medium and small enterprises engaged in the manufacture of clothing. Many people work for them. Small trade is very developed here. Everywhere there are many small cafes and shops. But the sanitary and epidemiological situation in the country leaves much to be desired. In this, Italy lags far behind Japan. Moreover, this situation has not changed much since the Middle Ages.
In the fourteenth century, a pandemic of plague (“black death”) spread throughout Europe. It is believed that the plague also originated in China, and reached Europe through trade routes through the Black Sea. Then, according to some estimates, about 80 million people died from this terrible disease in the world, and about 30 million in Europe. Some historians believe that the plague virus came to Europe through the Middle East, but recent studies suggest that it went through the Caspian Sea to Cafu (now Feodosia) on the Black Sea and further to Europe. The plague came to the Middle East and Africa already from the same Kafa.
In Italy, the plague epidemic began quite quickly, as the country was the first European country on trade routes from East to West. The immediate endpoint for the plague to enter Italy was Istanbul (then Constantinople).
Here you can take a look at the history of one of the most prosperous cities of medieval Italy – Florence, for which a lot of valuable historical evidence has been preserved. It was a famous city-state in which the Medici dynasty known in history ruled.
About 100,000 people lived in the city at that time, and another 300,000 lived in the towns and villages surrounding it, where the population was mainly engaged in agriculture and crafts. The then social composition of the city was divided into feudal lords and knights, priests and commoners in a ratio of 1: 1: 45. The plague mowed down all these social strata equally.
From historical sources it is known that by April 1348, a few weeks after the outbreak of the epidemic, 60-80 people per day died in the state. The ruler of the city-state forbade people to contact among themselves and to touch the sick and their things, and also ordered to bury the dead in the ground as soon as possible. He also banned all communications with neighboring Pisa and Genoa. Something like a modern “lockdown”.
However, there still remained some pathways of infection. For example, church services and patient contacts with family members and medical staff. In villages, dogs, cows and other domestic animals became the carriers of the virus.
As a result, by June 1348, 100 people were dying in Florence per day, and by August 400. In the end, 60,000 people died in the city, and its population decreased by more than half.
Since among the much larger stratum of peasants and artisans the number of deaths was correspondingly higher, a shortage of food and goods immediately appeared in the city. After the death of the Duke of Medici, a new leader in the city-state was not immediately found. Dissatisfied peasants and artisans revolted. There are impostors claiming the throne. Due to the death of the majority of priests, the power of the church has weakened.
Chaos reigned in the streets.
Many of the working men then died. There were women and children. The birth rate in the city has fallen dramatically. Subsequently, plague epidemics occurred here another 14 times, and even in 1500 the population of Florence did not fully recover.
During the epidemics in Florence, a special Council for Public Health Oversight was created consisting of a suzerain and senior priests. The Council gave itself the right to impose restrictions on the movement of people, subject visitors to strict medical supervision and made decisions on the construction of new hospitals.
In the future, this city-state expanded and became in Italy an important center of trade. An important prerequisite for this was the policy of the ruler to attract wealthy merchants to his side.
Thus, even in medieval Florence, measures were taken that are urgently needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus epidemic in modern Italy. This is the restriction of contacts between people, strict medical control over visitors and the construction of new infectious diseases hospitals.
Compare the distribution conditions of plague and coronavirus in Western Europe
If you look at the statistics of the distribution of coronavirus in the world, then China, Italy and Iran are followed by Spain (13716 infected, 558 dead), France (9143 – 264), and Germany after 7th place in Korea (8198 – 24). Thus, in the top twenty countries with the highest prevalence of coronavirus COVID – 2019, there are thirteen European countries.
As mentioned above, four Italian ports are connected by sea with all of Western Europe. Italy is characterized by large human flows between it and other EU countries by sea, air and land. If you recall the nearby Marseilles, in which once lived two cardinals at once and which was the religious center of the south of France, then the epidemic of plague here, like in Florence, very quickly mowed half of the city’s population. Or recall Barcelona, the Catholic center of Spain, connected with the whole country by specially constructed roads. During the plague epidemics, all the priests who lived in here died.
Compared to Italy, which imposed restrictions on the movement of citizens only two days after the detection of a coronavirus outbreak in the northern part of the country, other Western European states acted faster and more decisively. They realized that if you do not defend yourself against the virus, then it will be impossible to stop it. But historical memory in Europe speaks of this. Historical evidence from Florence warns of this: forget about the events of the past and neglect the historical experience of fighting epidemics.
History teaches us that the epidemics that began in Italy are spreading rapidly throughout Europe. The plague pandemic that began in 1347 in Italy was already discovered in France and Spain in the next 1348. And in the same year she penetrated into England.
The need for quick action against the coronavirus is caused by one more circumstance. The spread of epidemics in connection with the development of modern infrastructure has increased compared to the Middle Ages many hundreds and thousands of times. After all, one of the main reasons for the appearance of the plague in Italy was Italian merchants who fled from Feodosia because of fear of the plague, not knowing that their way home (about 18 days) coincides with the latent period of the disease (2-3 weeks).
Of course, there are fundamental differences between plague and coronavirus, primarily in terms of mortality. As you know, the death rate from the plague was up to 80%. With the manifestation of symptoms similar to the symptoms of the current coronavirus, it reached 99%. Also, in 99% of cases, those whose blood entered the virus with microscopic particles of blood of animals contained in food died.
Today, when vehicles have become incomparably higher than medieval ones, and the latent period of the coronavirus COVID – 2019 is two weeks, the likelihood of its wide distribution has become immeasurably higher. At the same time, mortality from it is growing. In Italy, it has already exceeded 8%.
It seems that not only in Italy, but also in other European countries, for example, in France, Germany and Great Britain, which have active ties with China, the spread of the virus that enters them in various ways from China is possible.
There is one more important circumstance. It is associated with the movement of large numbers of immigrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa to Western Europe.
For example, based on the assumption that some migrants on the Turkish-Greek border may be carriers of the coronavirus, then they can infect camp staff to contain them, and then the virus can spread throughout Europe. But today already huge masses of refugees have accumulated in these camps.
We must not forget about this side of the migration problem, which is now becoming very painful for the leadership of each of the West European countries.
In recent days, the number of coronavirus infected in the USA has been growing rapidly. But this is more likely due to the fact that in America they simply began to do more tests for the COVID virus – 2019. And there are countries in which the number of detected cases of coronavirus infection is suspiciously small. Apparently, this is due to the fact that there is no way to carry out expensive virus tests. It is from such countries that refugees arrive in Western Europe. Here all the troubles are superimposed on one another.
This is why the World Health Organization has declared Western Europe “the center of the coronavirus pandemic.”
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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.