The province of Pavia in the Lombardy region has had 2,133 cases so far, according to the Health Ministry’s statistics. The population of Ferrera Erbognone, which located 28 miles from Milan, is about 1,200 persons.
The mayor of the town, Giovanni Fassina, has asked all families to voluntarily book by April 2 appointments in the laboratory in the nearby commune of Sannazzaro de' Burgundi for blood tests that will be subsequently studied by Mondino Institute of Pavia, La Nuova Ferrara newspaper wrote on Tuesday.
"The research project was approved and financed by the Municipality of Ferrera, since we asked to do it. Now we are waiting for the final approval from the Region [Lombardy]," Fassina said, as quoted by the newspaper.
He suggested that the lack of cases could be explained by residents' vigorous adherence to precautionary measures rather than genetics.
"Our ‘zero cases’ mystery is not due to genetics, I believe. We are like everyone else. Contamination has been avoided because the population has been loyal in respecting the precautions taken. They understood the need to be rigorous. We have an elderly population and a high average age, so there is certainly a high vulnerability," he said.
The province of Ferrara, which is in northern Emilia Romagna region — where more than 14,000 cases have been confirmed so far — has also recorded a remarkably low number of COVID-19 patients for being in the middle of a hotspot — only 320, according to the Health Ministry.
Sergio Venturi, commissioner of the Emilia Romagna region for the emergency, expressed the view that this might be linked to the fact that the province is a malaria risk area or that a specific genetic disease is common there.
"Obviously there will be some reason, either because it was a malaria zone, or because there is thalassemia. There is still no answer to these questions. What is certain is that the case must be studied because it can also be useful for other citizens," Venturi said, as quoted by Il Messaggero.
At the moment there are 77,635 people who have tested positive for the virus in Italy, according to the Civil Protection Department, and the death toll is at 12,428.