An image of a military convoy said to be carrying coffins outside an Italian hospital where coronavirus patients are being treated has drawn attention to the devastating impact of coronavirus in northern Italy.
The image of trucks outside a hospital in the northern city of Bergamo, one of the Italian cities hit hardest by coronavirus, was widely shared on social media last night.
Italian journalists and bloggers on Twitter said that the convoy was carrying coffins to transport coronavirus casualties from the hospital to outside the city, where the morgues are full and the crematorium is overwhelmed.
A #Bergamo hanno dovuto chiamare l'esercito per caricare camion e camion di bare da destinare a crematori fuori regione. Prima di lamentarvi della proroga del #lockdown riguardatevi sto video in loop.#coronavirusitalia pic.twitter.com/ofR1raGVTb— Alessandro Zanoni (@AlexZan87) March 19, 2020
Sixty-one bodies were transported to cremation sites in 12 Italian towns, Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported. The victims’ remains will be brought back to Bergamo.
Inundated by the number of dead, the burial waiting list is long, and coffins were piling up at hospital and cemetery morgues.
In Italy, 2,941 have died and more than 31,500 have been infected as of Thursday. In Bergamo alone, 93 have died and 4,305 have been infected.
The outbreak shows no sign of abating. Yesterday alone, Italy recorded 475 new deaths. In recent days, Bergamo’s daily newspaper has been filled with obituaries; on March 13, the obituary section spanned 10 pages. Weeks earlier, it was one to two pages.
Demand is too high for funerals, and many have been unable to pay their final respects. Additionally, an emergency national law issued last week banned civil and religious ceremonies, including funerals. Priests have been allowed to say a prayer at burials, but only families are allowed at the burials. Otherwise, cemeteries have been blocked off to the public to limit the virus’s ability to spread.
An aging population
Italy, the second hardest hit country after China where the virus originated, is currently on nationwide lockdown. Italy’s aging population has made it susceptible to a higher mortality rate from coronavirus, as it is more deadly in those over 60.
Northern Italy was put on lockdown on March 8 because of coronavirus, and that same day, Italy’s death toll jumped by more than 50 percent in one day to 366 from 233. The death rate in Lombardy in the country’s north has been double the global rates.
At 5 percent, Italy has seen more deaths than any of the other coronavirus hard-hit countries. The global rate stands somewhere around 3.5 percent, according to the World Health Organization. Some estimates say the mortality rate is 1-2 percent. In Lombardy, 6 percent of those who have contracted the virus have died. The death rate is debated though as many cases go unreported.
Data show that the virus is more likely to be lethal to the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. The death rate for those above 80 years old is 14.8 percent. For those in the 70-79 age bracket, it’s 8 percent. In the 40-49 age group, the rate is just 0.4 percent. Men are also more likely to die from the virus.
In Italy, 58 percent of patients were over 80 years old, and 31 percent were in their 70s, according to data from Italy’s National Institute of Health. Behind only Japan that has recorded 38 deaths and over 1,600 cases, Italy has the oldest population in the world.
In 2008, nearly 20 percent of Lombardy’s population was over 65, according to the Organization for Economic and Cooperation data.