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There are a few learning points from Italy’s experience. If your country adopts them earlier than Italy did, it could save lives.

  • Quarantines have to be implemented first and communicated later. Otherwise, upon communication, people rush to their cars / trains / planes and flee, potentially carrying the virus to uninfected areas of the country.
  • The same applies to closing universities. Students will migrate back to their hometowns. The tradeoff between preventing spread in-university and in-country has to be carefully weighted.
  • Pharmaceutical informators (those people employed by pharma companies who go from doctor to doctor presenting them new drugs and treatments) have to be temporarily stopped. In Cosenza, Italy, 60 doctors covering 70000 patients are now in quarantine because they have been visited by a pharmaceutical informator who later tested positive to the virus.
  • Hospitals will need blood, but people will be reluctant to donate for fear of getting infected. Encourage blood donations as much as possible now, before people are too scared.
  • Suspend unnecessary surgeries, to free up hospital beds for the coronavirus patients.
  • Build separate entries and triage tents, possibly drive-through ones, so that coronavirus patients do not get to infect half of the hospital and healthcare staff. Ideally, you’d want to separate coronavirus hospitals from all-other-purposes ones.
  • Unless your country is beating Italy’s timeline (as per above), it will need extra hospital beds, face masks, gloves and ventilators. Begin procuring or building them now.
  • In Italy we’re readapting cruise ships to hospitals. Yes, that’s how much we need beds. Prepare in advance.
  • You need to protect your doctors. In Lombardy, 10% of doctors are in isolation (because they’re sick, or as a preventive measure). Prepare.
  • Prisons will be a problem. You want to limit visitors, because if one carries the virus in, it will spread like fire. In Italy, the day we banned visitors, we had riots. 12 inmates died, all from overdose from sacking the infirmary.
  • Events are one of the major causes of community spreading. You will want to adopt Singapore’s approach on this. First, ban all events with more than 50 participants. Second, for smaller events, require that organizers check the temperature of all participants and take their contacts (to facilitate tracking in case one results positive over the next days). Third, require that participants are seated at least one meter away from each other. Fourth: what am I saying, events are too risky, they should be banned altogether, like in Italy. Yesterday 9 Spanish students in Italy got fined because they met at one’s house for drinks.
  • Whatever you do, ban buffets. They’re the super-spreader event.

Some of these measures might seem overkill, but they are necessary. They either are voluntary today, or they will become necessary in ten days from now.

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