Italian mayor claims the true death toll from COVID-19 likely to be much higher

Italian mayor claims the true death toll from COVID-19 likely to be much higher
By Mark Armstrong with AP
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The mayor of Bergamo in northern Italy claims the true number of victims of COVID-19 is likely to be much higher than the official figure.


The Italian army has once more been called on to help transport the dead from hospitals in the northern town of Bergamo to crematoriums in nearby towns and cities.

Local funeral homes are overwhelmed by the number of fatalities from Covid-19. The military vehicles bearing the coffins are a chilling testament to the death toll resulting from the virus, and the town's mayor thinks the numbers may have been underestimated.

"There is a very wide gap, which is confirmed by the concrete experience of so many families who have elderly people who are dying either at home or in hospices," explained Giorgio Gori.

"There is a noticeable number of people who are dying due to the virus. I say this because the main cause of death is pneumonia, and some are unaccounted for, and not are registered as victims of the virus, because nobody tested these elderly people either before or after their death."

According to the mayor's office, 400 people died in Bergamo and neighbouring towns last week - that's four times the number who died the same week the previous year - yet only 91 of them had tested positive for the virus.

Call for 'red zones'

People on the front lines of the virus fight, including hospital officials, funeral operators, city administrators and union leaders, told The Associated Press that Bergamo’s crisis might have been prevented had their individual requests to create a red zone around the area as early as 23 February been heeded.

Instead, strict containment measures were extended to Bergamo only on 8 March, two weeks later, without ever isolating two valley towns where the outbreak was first recorded.

In order to contain the contagion, Gori is further asking both the Lombardy region and the national government to shut down more non-essential factories so to further limit the movement of the employees.

The mayor is also issuing tougher measures to limit and public gathering and recently banned the use of slot machines inside tobacconist shops and ordered to shut down the local public Wi-Fi spots where internet users congregate to use the free connection.

In addition, authorities are supporting an initiative to call more doctors to come and help their colleagues in the local hospitals.

Bergamo's main hospital has been stretched due to a large number of patients, with both medical workers and the intensive care department struggling to cope.

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