The COVID-19 second wave in Italy

Posted on 9 October 2020 by Paolo Bernardi

You may call it “second wave”, “deuxième vague” or “seconda ondata”: we’re right in the middle of it. SARS-CoV-2 is spreading again at a seemingly alarming rate (currently, worldwide, 1 million new cases are detected almost every 3 days). In Italy, after the first horrifying encounter with COVID-19, we are growing worried by the day, as the number of detected infections seems to grow steadily. Even though we are still behind countries such as France or Spain, the first experience taught us that, most likely, we’re only some days away from these scenarios.

However, a quick look at the numbers highlights that the Italian situation in the last spring was rather different:

While the number of positive cases is rising sharply, the ratio between positivities and hospitalizations is still far from the shocking numbers of March. This may mean a couple of things:

  1. the virus is less dangerous;
  2. in the last spring the number of detected positive cases was only a fraction of the real virus spread.

The first option, however, doesn’t seem satisfactory: what would be the reason behind a less dangerous virus? Genetic mutations? Circulation mostly among younger (and stronger) people? I certainly didn’t catch on any news about significant genetic mutations (it would be big news) and, on the other hand, if the lower hospitalization rate is due to the lower age of infection then it would be only a matter of time before older people are attacked again en masse, given the current infection speed. Instead, it seems more likely that the number of positive cases detected in the past spring was only a fraction of the real cases1. If this is true, we may still have time to avoid a second major disaster, but it will certainly take a strong, persistent and coordinated effort of governments, administrations and citizens.

  1. I’ve explored the topic here, in Italian. ↩︎

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