Thursday, April 15

Caught between freedom and health, Sardinia’s COVID-19 dilemma


Italy is returning to the lockdown this Easter as it struggles to contain the third wave of COVID-19. Sardinia, an Italian island, has also had this restriction imposed, despite being one of the only regions in the country that keeps the virus at bay.

Like many other European countries, Italy has a color system that reflects the level of risk of the virus. If a region is red, it is in the highest risk category and therefore has the most restrictions. White is the lowest risk level with the most relaxed restrictions.

For a few weeks, Sardinia was in the unique position of being in a COVID ‘white’ safe zone. This is due in part to their isolation, small population, and extensive detection campaign. While the rest of Europe began to close, Sardinia was opening up. This is now changing.

Stefania is a Carloforte resident, she tells us what it means to be in a low-risk white zone. It’s a relief because “they can finally move freely around the region.” Marisa, another local, says it means “being more outdoors, taking longer walks, meeting people, stopping and talking to them.”

Sardinia has managed to keep the number of COVID-19 cases below 50 per 100,000 residents for almost a month. Some Italian regions on high alert may have more than 500 cases per 100,000.

Keep people informed

However, restrictions can change very quickly and that is why the Mayor of Carloforte makes weekly speeches to inform the population of what is happening. its Facebook lives They have become a must-see for all the inhabitants of the area.

It is the mayor of Carloforte who prepares the locals for the sad news that Sardinia will now be in an orange risk zone. This means that bars and restaurants will close and residents will not be able to leave their cities. He tells us that being a white zone is not a goal that is achieved by chance, “it is something that we work hard to achieve and we must try to keep it that way. The way forward is to respect regional directives.”

For residents like Marisa and Stefania it is a change for the worse. They do not understand why the decision was made so abruptly. “The cases we see on television are far from our reality. We really have fewer cases,” adds Stefania.

Carloforte residents were able to enjoy one last weekend before having to deal with the new restrictions. They went out to bars and enjoyed the terraces of the restaurants of people like Cristiano. He is puzzled by the decision to put Sardinia in a higher risk category. “Bills keep coming in, you have to pay the rent, so we don’t really know how to proceed,” he tells us. But for him, the biggest problem is not finances, it is the way the risk system works. With an infection rate of 0.8%, you don’t understand why the island is moving into an orange zone.

The color status of each Italian region is reassessed every week and depends on how the pandemic evolves. Perhaps Sardinia will return to its safer state soon.

According to the internationally renowned virologist Andrea Crisanti, this risk system strategy has “proven to be totally ineffective.” He believes that after the first Italian blockade, they lost “the opportunity to establish a control and monitoring system based on automatic closings and restrictions every time a cluster arose.” Initial optimism that the emergency had stopped was coupled with “a series of mistakes, repeated over time.”

Challenging decisions

More than once, government decisions have sparked controversy among regional authorities. Sardinia is the last. His local administration has chosen not to comment on Rome’s decision, but the mayor of Sardinia’s main city, Cagliari, on the island’s southern tip, decided to speak. He tells us that Sardinia deserves to remain in a lower risk area “because of 21 factors used by the government to assess the level of risk, 20 were below the level of risk.” According to him, only one had increased slightly, the R number.

A tourist destination

Sardinia desperately needs tourists, but not the virus they could spread. Before last summer, the region was nearly COVID-free, but its tourist areas became conglomerates in August. People fear this will happen again.

In Olbia, Sardinia’s main tourist port in the north, any passenger arriving without a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination certificate is tested on the spot. However, Alberto Fozzi, who works for the Civil Protection Agency, believes that when thousands of tourists arrive during the summer months, a “comprehensive review” like this will not be possible.

However, this may not be a problem. According to Crisanti, the number of cases is now too high, especially compared to the months after the close of last year, so travel may not be possible.

He suggests that the best course of action are “three complementary strategies: vaccination, distancing, and the development of surveillance and tracking systems supported by IT and PCR testing.” Things, he says, are not fully capable of doing at the moment.

Vaccinate, the game changer

Everyone seems to agree that the best way forward is vaccination. Europe is diving into it, although many countries are experiencing delays due to vaccine shortages. Sardinia is at the bottom of the number of hits administered. However, at the brand new Olbia vaccination center, the authorities are trying to speed up the process.

Marco Cilliano, a specialist in contagious diseases, tells us that they are “almost in line with the program, despite the great challenges. There are difficulties in contracting, in computing, in supplying doses and in stock for the latter. dose. We need to maintain around 30%, which means that we have used 70% of the vaccines received. “

Despite initial problems, vaccination implementation is improving around the world. The idea of ​​a passport for vaccines is also gaining support. The EU Commission is expected to launch it in June. Advocates say it could boost economies, dating back to saving lives.

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