Over the weekend, a top medical official in Italy said the novel coronavirus — the illness that locked down much of the U.S. for three months — is losing its potency and is no longer nearly as lethal as it once was.
“In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy,” said Alberto Zangrillo, head of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, according to Reuters.
He went on to say the swabs collected over the last 10 days “showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago.”
Matteo Bassetti, head of the infectious diseases clinic at the San Martino hospital, said, “The strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today.”
This is good news, as early on in the pandemic, Italy quickly became a deadly epicenter for the new virus. To date, more than 33,000 Italians have died of COVID-19 — the third highest death toll around the globe.
There has, though, been some push back against Zangrillo’s assertion.
According to Sky News, the president of the scientific group advising the Italian government said he was “baffled” by the claim.
Zangrillo is, nevertheless, confident authorities overreacted to the virus. He also believes some of his colleagues have been too alarmist in their belief the virus could come roaring back in a second wave in the fall.
“We’ve got to get back to being a normal country,” he said. “Someone has to take responsibility for terrorizing the country. … I say this well aware of the tragedy for those patients who didn’t make it, but we cannot continue to give all the attention to self-proclaimed professors rather than actual virologists and hospital workers.”
He went on to say he is “prepared to put my name” on the statement that the coronavirus “clinically no longer exists,” noting other epidemics — such as the SARS and MERS outbreaks — “petered out by themselves.”
“We’ve got to be wary, yes, but not kill ourselves unnecessarily,” he concluded.
Currently, there are 435 people in intensive care in Italy, 6,387 people in the hospital, and 32,253 isolated at home with coronavirus-like symptoms.