Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A paramedic leaves a tent set up by the Italian Civil Protection Department outside the emergency ward of the Piacenza hospital, in Northern Italy, on Feb. 27, 2020.

Claudio Furlan/The Associated Press

Italian prosecutors have opened an investigation into a hospital’s treatment of an early COVID-19 carrier in an effort to determine whether the delay in his treatment triggered a surge in potentially deadly infections that could have been prevented.

The 38-year-old patient, known only as “Mattia” in the local media, is thought to be the first Italian COVID-19 case in Lombardy, the wealthy northern region at the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe. The investigation is focusing on the hospital procedures – or lack thereof – that prevented him for several days in mid-February from being placed in strict isolation.

The rise in Italian cases, and the virus’s transmission by Italians to other parts of Europe, has rattled health authorities and investors across the continent, triggering yet another warning from the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He said Thursday that governments that fail to act aggressively to contain the disease through detection and quarantine could be making a “fatal mistake.”

Story continues below advertisement

By Thursday, Italy had confirmed 650 cases, up from about 400 Wednesday, and 17 deaths. Last Friday, it had only three confirmed cases. New cases have been reported in Switzerland, Estonia, Denmark, Germany and Britain. South Korea reported 505 new cases on Thursday, its largest daily increase, raising the number to 1,766. Japan, with more than 200, is closing all public schools on Monday for several weeks. Meanwhile, Iran reported 26 deaths as of Thursday – the highest death toll outside China.

Rattled by the possibility that neighbouring countries will suspend Europe’s Schengen passport-free travel zone and close their borders with Italy, senior Italian government ministers tried to play down the crisis. Speaking to international reporters in Rome, Foreign Affairs Minister Luigi Di Maio said the 11 towns under quarantine in northern Italy represent just 0.05 per cent of Italian territory and that health authorities were being vigilant. “It’s an important message to countries blocking flights or discouraging travel,” he said.

The Mattia super-spreader case has obsessed Italians, who are still not sure who carried the virus into Lombardy, from which it spread. Mattia has been identified as paziente uno – Patient No. 1 – and is from Castiglione D’Adda, one of several small towns in the COVID-19 hot spot just south of Milan.

According to numerous reports in the Italian media, Mattia complained of feeling unwell on Feb. 14 and was given a flu shot by his local doctor (in most COVID-19 cases, victims have a fever and a dry cough). Two days later, he went to emergency in a hospital in nearby Codogno, where he was again released. On Feb. 18, he made a repeat visit, where once again he was discharged without being tested for the virus, apparently because he had no known links to China.

His third visit to the hospital was on Feb. 19, when he had breathing difficulties. By then, his wife remembered that Mattia may have met with a friend who had recently visited China. But for unknown reasons, Mattia was not tested for the virus until the next day, by which time he had come into contact with a dozen or more people, including a running partner, hospital workers and bar clients, all of whom have tested positive for the virus, as has his pregnant wife.

Earlier in the week, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is under enormous international pressure to ensure the outbreak is contained, criticized the Codogno hospital’s mishandling of the Mattia case, although he did not go into details. He said the hospital’s dealings with him were not "completely proper according to the protocols that are recommended for these cases” and that “this surely contributed to the spread.”

Mattia remains in hospital, where he is reportedly in serious condition.

Story continues below advertisement

Italian stock markets continued their plunge as the number of coronavirus cases rose and as businesses and the tourism industry trickled out news of vanishing clients and cancellations. The main Milan stock index fell 3.4 per cent Thursday. In London, the FTSE-100 index fell 3 per cent. Wall Street also plunged, putting U.S. shares on track to enter “correction” territory, defined as a 10-per-cent fall from recent highs. Oil has dropped more than 10 per cent since Monday, marking its worst weekly performance since 2016.

Some countries are putting restrictions on foreign visitors as the virus gallops around the world – it is now in 47 countries, according to the WHO.

Israel, which has just one confirmed case, has banned foreigners arriving from Italy. On Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry said it would suspend the entry of foreigners for pilgrimage and tourism purposes. The country has no confirmed cases. France, with 18 confirmed cases and two deaths, has urged its citizens to avoid the virus hot spots, including Northern Italy.

While the Italian government is resisting shutting down schools and transportation beyond northern Italy, the history of viral diseases suggests widespread shutdowns can slow their spread, as they have in China, where the outbreak began in December.

“[Shutdowns] do not eradicate the epidemic but reduce the number of cases for a while,” said Jerome Adda, dean of research at Milan’s Bocconi University. “The cost of the measures is high, and my research shows that a virus would have to be two to three times more deadly than a common flu to justify them. And the coronavirus is about 20 times more deadly, so these measures are indeed justified.”

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you manage your health, your finances and your family life as Canada reopens.
Visit the hub

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies