Turkey proves to be a valuable and key partner for Italy in this crisis: Ambassador

Turkey proves to be a valuable and key partner for Italy in this crisis: Ambassador

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Turkey proves to be a valuable and key partner for Italy in this crisis: Ambassador

Municipal police officers stand guard by a deserted Trevi Fountain on April 1, 2020, in Rome during the country's lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (AFP Photo)

Italy’s Ambassador to Ankara Massimo Gaiani has expressed gratitude for Turkey’s support amid the novel coronavirus that is devastating his country, as Turkey delivered medical aid to the Mediterranean country this week.

The ambassador pointed at the fact that Italy has yet to reach its peak COVID-19 outbreak and the next few weeks will be crucial for containing the spread.

When was the first case detected in your country? What is the current situation?

After the first COVID-19 local cases were detected in Italy in early March (mainly in northern Italy), the government immediately adopted restrictive measures, declaring several municipalities as red zones to avoid the spread of the virus, followed by the closure of all schools, universities, non-essential business activities in all the Italian territory up to the lockdown of the country. In one month, the people affected by the virus jumped from a few cases to 77,635 with 12,498 fatalities (as of March 31).

Recently, the Italian authorities have reported a slight decrease, -4 percent compared to the previous week, and since March 23 the daily percentage increase has constantly stayed in the single digits and hospitals have reported a decrease in the pressure on our emergency units, while by the end of March 15,729 people have managed to recover.

Most of the people tested positive are currently in self-quarantine in their houses. We have not reached our peak yet, but numbers give us hope that we might get there soon and that our measures are working. This, of course, does not mean Italy is going to let its guard down anytime soon.

What are the measures your government has taken so far? What is the main approach your government has adopted?

There have certainly been many attempts at explaining the discrepancy between COVID-19’s mortality in Italy and in other countries, but we still cannot provide a certain explanation of the shocking widespread of the virus in our country. Probably we will not have a final answer until we can analyze the full picture of the trend of the virus in all other affected countries.

We have a large elderly population, but this is just one of the factors influencing the numbers. Another uncertain aspect is related to testing, as tests are usually carried out only on most severe cases, which means that the numbers of infected are probably higher than we can attest to. It must be underlined that Italy was the first heavily affected European country and we had no hesitation in implementing extraordinary measures early on in an effort to contain the outbreak.

We were praised by the WHO and were taken as an example for the kind of bold measure that other European countries have eventually applied. It is not possible to predict when Italy will finally overcome this pandemic, I think next weeks will be crucial, if the curve of cases will further decrease, we could have passed the worst phase of the emergency.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of your approach? When do you think this outbreak would be totally defeated in your country?

The Spallanzani Institute for Infectious Disease in Rome isolated the DNA sequence of the virus in early February and immediately made it available for the international scientific community. Our centers of excellence are also involved in national and international clinical trials, experimenting on a variety of treatment protocols.

The Spallanzani and the research institute Toscana Life Sciences are at the moment involved in a research on monoclonal antibodies. The Neapolitan Pascale Institute of Research has already found one such antibody, the anti-inflammatory Tocilizumab, normally used against rheumatoid arthritis, to be effective in relieving the damages caused by the coronavirus infections, leading to several recoveries.

We are also taking big step forwards in the diagnostic fields, as the Italian company DiaSorin has devised a new molecular test that can diagnose the virus in one hour instead of six and will soon be ready for distribution on the national and international market.

Do you have any kind of cooperation with Turkey as part of struggle against COVID-19?

We are highly grateful for the solidarity we have been shown time and time again by the Turkish people and institutions. We have received several private donations, and many Turkish healthcare professionals have declared their readiness to come to Italy to lend a hand to our doctors.

A Turkish military cargo plane transferred much-needed health equipment to our country while, as another most tangible demonstration of solidarity, and a shipload of medical supplies via the Turkish Red Crescent has reached Italy last week. Also, in this time of crisis, Turkey is proving to be a valuable and key partner for Italy.

Is your government in cooperation with other nations in fighting the coronavirus?

This task will not be merely health-related, as the virus is already affecting our economies, social system and the entire structure of our society.

To global threats, we must respond with a global coordinated plan of action that must encompass all sectors and peoples affected by this crisis. We will need the entire international community to display transparency, solidarity, collaboration and plenty of imagination to conceive and shape a post-COVID world.