COVID-19: why is the balance sheet so heavy in Italy?


 The world record for deaths linked to the coronavirus held by Italy , the first European focus of the pandemic, is explained by several factors, according to scientists: average high age in the country, health organization, method of counting infected people and deceased.

An elderly population 

The coronavirus, the most serious form of which concerns the elderly or those suffering from other pathologies, therefore logically kills more patients in Italy, the country with the oldest population in the world after Japan.  

According to the official bulletin on Thursday, Italy has 47,000 cases and 4,000 deaths, the fatality rate of the coronavirus (number of patients deceased compared to the total number of infected) standing at 8.6%.

“There is considerably higher mortality in countries with older populations compared to younger countries,” says demographer and public health professor Jennifer Downd.

In her work published on the World Economic Forum website on Wednesday, the Oxford University researcher notes a “powerful interaction between demography and mortality for the Covid-19”.    

She argues that measures of social distancing aimed at slowing down the transmission of the virus should take into account “both the composition of the population by age, local and national contexts as well as social ties between generations”.    

To fight the pandemic, she therefore suggests making sure that “the virus does not come into contact with the elderly, for whom it can quite easily prove to be fatal”.    

However, in Italy the “extended family is one of the pillars of society where the grandparents pick up their grandchildren from school, keep them, perhaps do their children’s shopping from 30 to 40 years old. , dangerously exposing yourself to contagion, ”she analyzes.    

Touched before the others 

Variable without any real scientific basis, the fact that Italy was hit very early by the pandemic (just after China) is however taken into account by the experts. 

“When asked why Italy, I answer that there is no particular reason,” said Professor Yascha Mounk of the American university Johns Hopkins on the Canadian channel CBC.


“The only difference is that the contagion arrived there ten days earlier than in Germany, the United States, Canada and if these countries do not react quickly and decisively, they will become what Italy is today, ”he says.    

Some experts also consider that the country was taken “by surprise”, without having time to prepare, unlike its neighbors. Hospital services were therefore quickly saturated and doctors had to start choosing who to treat, as several of them in Lombardy have testified in the media.    

Pressure on the sanitary system 

Specialists keep repeating: the rapid increase in the lethality of COVID-19 observed in Italy, particularly in Lombardy, the focal point of the pandemic on the peninsula, is the consequence of the unprecedented number of patients simultaneously needing treatment. charge in intensive care, which is more for an average duration of several weeks.    

In such critical conditions, priority is given to patients who have a greater chance of survival, which means that the quality of care decreases, even as the Lombard health system is judged to be performing.    

Different counting mode

According to experts, the fatality rate in Italy is also explained by the screening policy which, according to the government, must be carried out “only on symptomatic people”. A choice that excludes from statistics people who are potentially positive, but who have little or no symptoms.

This is not the case in countries which, like Germany or South Korea, have opted for a broad screening which has made it possible to detect many infected people, when they showed almost no symptoms. As a result, the death rate dropped as the number of mild cases was counted.     

In addition, Italy has chosen to include in the total number of deaths both patients who died from COVID-19 and those who were positive for the coronavirus but died from another pathology, a policy which is not necessarily that of other countries.    


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