Italians, their country locked down with the world’s second-highest number of COVID-19 infections after China, are sounding a dire warning for other countries about what could be in store for them if they don’t take the pandemic seriously.
Italy’s coronavirus infections have surpassed 24,000. Over the weekend, the country reported 368 deaths in 24 hours ― a toll that exceeded China’s highest single-day number at the height of its outbreak, according to The New York Times.
Humbled by the experience of showing the world what not to do, quarantined Italians, including health care workers, are sharing what they’ve learned, admonishing people to take the virus seriously and to heed advice not to gather.
“In Italy we waited too long, these countries should really start implementing aggressive containment measures now,” Italian researcher Silvia Merler wrote on Twitter last week. She posted a “lag tracker” graphic showing COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and other countries are now following the trajectory of the outbreak in Italy 13 to 16 days earlier.
📊 France, Spain and Germany are about 9 to 10 days behind Italy in #COVID19 progression; the UK and the US follow at 13 to 16 days. In Italy we waited too long, these countries should really start implementing aggressive containment measures now. pic.twitter.com/xL7jUczpmY
— Silvia Merler (@SMerler) March 10, 2020
Dr. Marco Vergano, an anesthetist at San Giovanni Bosco hospital in Turin, told HuffPost via email that it’s “evident” to him that “acting like a community, rather than personally feeling violated in individual freedom will be more difficult for Americans than for Europeans.”
Americans, Vergano said, “should stop believing that COVID-19 is a ‘bad flu’” and “stop circulating low quality information and ‘fake news.’”
The U.S. “should abandon woefully incompetent political leaders, that in an unprecedented emergency like this can lead the country to a catastrophe,” Vergano advised. “They should not panic; but in case restrictive measures are difficult to enforce without panic, well... then a bit of ‘fruitful panic’ may be useful!” He said Americans should take “advantage of the few weeks between Italy and US.”
Macchini warned people to away from “the theater, museums or gym” and to have “mercy on that myriad of older people you could exterminate.”
“Please, listen to us, try to leave the house only to indispensable things,” he added.
Roberta Re, a nurse at Piacenza hospital in Emilia-Romagna, told The Guardian that working to help people recover from the coronavirus is akin to “a world war.”
“But it’s a war that isn’t fightable with traditional arms ― as we don’t yet know who the enemy is and so it’s difficult to fight,” Re said. “The only weapon we do have to avoid things getting even worse is to stay at home and to respect the rules, to do what they did in China, as this is paying off.”
Giacomo Grasselli, a senior Italian health official working in Lombardy, likened the coronavirus escalation to “a bomb that exploded.”
“Everything happens very quickly, if one had told me that in two weeks we would have created 500 new ICU beds … I would have said ‘OK you’re crazy,’” Grasselli told the United Kingdom’s Channel 4.
“Everyone must understand” what he said is “very, very important for every country,” namely “to behave in some way in order to avoid the spread of the disease.”
Many Americans appear to be ignoring the message. Despite warnings to avoid public spaces and crowds, many people over the weekend continued gathering at restaurants, bars and other places as they normally would in a world without a pandemic.
On Baltimore’s historic Fort Avenue, “every bar and restaurant is packed,” a Baltimore Sun reporter tweeted on Friday. In New York City on Saturday night, people waited in a long line to crowd into a bar.
Waiting on line to get into a packed Second Avenue bar...
Millennial Darwinism. pic.twitter.com/XDnI8JBpRL
— Mark B. Spiegel (@markbspiegel) March 15, 2020
In Washington, D.C., dozens of people waited outside a Shake Shack on Saturday.
Here’s that line I took from across the street. It was really bad - that bar is tiny and should not have been open and packed today pic.twitter.com/zZsOBFdbCb
— Anjali Kumar, Ph.D. ️ (@anjalikumar6) March 15, 2020
And in Florida, crowds at Disney World looked typically congested.
— WDW News Today (@WDWNT) March 16, 2020
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday released new advice that goes along with some of what the Italians are saying, suggesting that gatherings of more than 50 people should be canceled or postponed for at least eight weeks. Some states and local governments imposed their own rules, closing schools, restaurants and bars.
Whether the measures will help curb the coronavirus is yet to be seen. But perhaps it’s time to hunker down and listen to the Italians.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.