COVID-19 Patient in Italy: ‘We Have Cut Back on Healthcare, Now We Are Helpless Against Virus’

© REUTERS / REMO CASILLICleaners sanitise documents inside the archives of Rome's Anagrafe, the city's Registration Office, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreads, in Rome, Italy, March 27, 2020.
Cleaners sanitise documents inside the archives of Rome's Anagrafe, the city's Registration Office, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreads, in Rome, Italy, March 27, 2020. - Sputnik International
Italy's death toll from coronavirus has exceeded that of China. The situation could get even worse in the next few days as the peak infection will probably only come in two weeks.

An Italian man tested positive for Covid-19, writer Gianni Bandiera, author of the books “How to marry a Russian woman ... and live happily ever after" and “Beautiful, clever and ... Russian” has told his story to Sputnik.

Sputnik: How and where do you think you got infected? Have you been in the “red zone”? How do you feel right now?

Gianni Bandiera: Fortunately, I woke up today without a fever. But yesterday I felt very sick psychologically as well.

I work at the hospital in Parma, so I could likely have been exposed there. I used to work in the lab that does bacteriological swab testing. But the problem was not with the tests because I didn't do them myself. The problem was that there were four of us in a small room...

Sputnik: How did you find out about coronavirus? Did you have symptoms? Did you consult your doctor?

Gianni Bandiera: On the evening of 8 March, I started coughing. I thought it was my usual allergy and I wasn't really worried. But at night I woke up with a fever. I immediately called the lab and the ambulance to know what to do. I had my swab tests taken – my colleagues were worried about me – and on 10 March I was told that the test was positive. I understand that this was an exception because it doesn't usually work that way. If you have coronavirus with fever, but you don't have pneumonia and respiratory problems, you don't get swab tested. Now they say they want to swab test everyone...

However, one thing must be said: in Italy, we have cut back healthcare for many years and now that the “war” has broken out, we no longer have any weapons against this virus.

They want everyone to take the swab testing but there is not enough staff or labs. When the government says that we should hire new staff, in my opinion, they do not understand that the knowledge of doctors and biologists is not acquired in a day because these people work in laboratories where specific research is done. My colleagues work from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and one person does the tests. They are not ready for such an emergency because Parma is the hub for the whole area between Parma, Piacenza, and Reggio Emilia.

Sputnik: After you were diagnosed with coronavirus, were you offered the chance to go to the hospital? Are your colleagues under quarantine?

Gianni Bandiera: As I said, I only took the swab test because I am a lab worker. I am staying at home: they put people in the hospital who have lung problems. I think all those who have a dry cough and fever are actually suffering from coronavirus because there is no other virus around today. But if you have a fever and a cough, you don't have to go to the clinic or see a doctor so you don't infect others. For example, nobody came to see me except for one nurse dressed as a Martian; she took the tests and left. A couple of days earlier, if a lab or hospital worker got infected with coronavirus, the other colleagues were quarantined. Now, this rule applies to everyone except the medical staff.

Why? Because there are too many doctors who have contracted the disease, and if they go home too, there will be no one left in the hospitals to treat the patients.

Sputnik: Does any doctor see you or call on you to do the checkup?

Gianni Bandiera: I am getting a call from the sanitary inspection service to find out about my condition. They should call me every day but they don't. They have opened a psychological support line because we are locked up alone with a high fever. 

It's a terrible disease that can be compared to the Spanish flu that broke out 100 years ago. Compared to that virus we haven't made much progress, the only success will be the creation of a vaccine. The coronavirus has shown us all what is a world without vaccines. I hope that when it is created, vaccination against the coronavirus will be mandatory.

Sputnik: What kind of medication were you prescribed?

Gianni Bandiera: I take Tachipirina (1 g of paracetamol – ed. note Sputnik) every 8 hours regardless of temperature, antibiotics for 3 days, and vitamin C which is nowhere to be found. Moreover, I have to rest and sleep a lot. I also bought a saturometer to measure blood oxygen levels.

Sputnik: Does your family support you in this situation?

Gianni Bandiera: Yes, my brother brings me groceries. All my friends call me but I am the one who shut myself off because I had no energy and I was low in morale. But last night I decided to fight, to be positive and not get angry anymore.

Sputnik: Do you manage to distract yourself by doing anything? Do you read books, listen to music?

Gianni Bandiera: I can't do it. I noticed that a lot of people, even those who do not have a temperature, and who usually read a lot, now read very little because the brain doesn’t work.

Sputnik: What are the doctors' forecasts in your case?

Gianni Bandiera: It is impossible to forecast, it is a new disease. Yesterday, the health service told me that some people have a fever for 20 days. It's a very bad fever. I didn't have it for 40 hours and then it came back again. So I don't want to mislead you.

Sputnik: What lesson should we learn from this?

Gianni Bandiera: I'm an eco-lover. I hope this emergency will teach us a lesson. Vaccination must be mandatory. The planet is resisting - we cannot go against the ecosystem and not face the consequences. Ironically, the most contaminated areas of the planet are the most affected. Yes, there is a virus in the south too but not as much as in the north. How could that happen?

Sputnik: What will you do first once you get well?

Gianni Bandiera: I am definitely throwing a big party!

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