Interview: Italian expert stresses global cooperation as COVID-19 toll in Europe nears 1 mln

(Xinhua) 08:25, April 08, 2021

ROME, April 7 (Xinhua) -- As Europe inches towards the grim milestone of one million deaths from the coronavirus, one of Italy's top infectious disease specialists said it was important to keep the pandemic's global reach in mind.

"No country will be completely secure against the virus until it is eliminated everywhere," said Massimo Galli, the director of the Institute for Biomedical Science at Sacco Hospital in Milan, in an interview with Xinhua.

"There is no such thing as a long-term solution in just one country. It has to be confronted everywhere and the world is still doing too little in the poorest countries."

While being asked about what he sees as the biggest pandemic-related challenge for European governments, Galli stressed the importance of international cooperation, particularly in terms of sharing information and continuing with economic and technological support.

He said the need to develop, produce and distribute vaccines is the central factor governments should be focusing on.

"We aren't going to permanently move beyond this pandemic until enough people are vaccinated and anything countries can do to collaborate to make that happen faster should be done," he said.

While talking about the current COVID-19 situation in Europe, Galli said the high mortality rate in the region in general and Italy in specific should not distract from the global nature of the virus.

Though global mortality figures from the pandemic are inexact, it is clear the death toll in Europe is far above global averages. According to World Health Organization data, as of Wednesday, Europe has recorded just over 990,000 official coronavirus deaths or nearly 35 percent of the global total of 2.87 million deaths. That is from a continent with just 10.2 percent of the world's total population, according to the data firm Statista.

Galli said there were multiple factors leading to the continent's high mortality rate, including the fact that the pandemic reached Europe in large numbers first after expanding beyond Asia. That meant European doctors had to deal with equipment shortages while figuring out best practices and the most effective therapies. That also meant that the virus spread in Europe for longer before effective therapies were available or before vaccines started to be distributed.

"We've discovered the virus was circulating unchecked in Europe for at least a month before governments were aware of it," he said.

Galli also opined that Europe may have reopened its economies prematurely in the summer of 2020 when infection rates and mortality rates dropped dramatically.

But he said the biggest factor behind Europe's high coronavirus death rate has been the average age of Europe's population. According to World Population Review, 19 of the 20 countries in the world -- excluding microstates -- with the highest median age are in Europe (Japan is the lone exception).

"We know the virus is far more lethal for the elderly and Europe simply has more elderly people" as a percentage of the overall population, Galli said. "This is especially true here in Italy, but it is the case across Europe." 

(Web editor: Shi Xi, Liang Jun)


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