There are questions that for days had monopolized the public debate and bounced from bulletin board to bulletin board, from chat to chat, from talk show to talk show. Why has the government “done nothing” in the months between the end of the lockdown and the second wave? Why all this slowness in making incisive decisions to contain the growth of infections? Why does a government that has moved with extreme caution in recent months now seem to be adopting a reductionist approach to the gravity of the situation? How do they not realize that mandatory masks and night curfews cannot be enough to stop Covid-19? How is it possible not to realize that the contagion curve can only grow?
More than legitimate questions, given the brutal evidence of the numbers, which however remained substantially without answers from central institutions (but not only). Which, essentially, have been waiting for weeks (we will leave out the spin given to the newspapers on “imminent decisions”, or rather “in 10 days”, or “after 27”).
As there we have been repeating for weeks, there is no alternative scenario to the one that sees the exponential growth of infections, the unsustainable pressure on the health system, the reaching of the critical threshold in intensive care and the increase in the number of deaths. The growth rates of the main indicators of the pandemic are well beyond the warning level and we are already in what the ISS calls phase 3, or “Regional Rt systematically and significantly between 1 and 1.5 with the possibility of only modestly limiting the transmission potential of SARS-CoV-2 with ordinary and extraordinary containment / mitigation measures: in these situations, we may not be able to keep trace of all outbreaks, including school outbreaks, leading to an overload of care services over a period of 2 or maximum months” (SOURCE). In addition to the ISS reports, then, there are the opinions of authoritative scholars, the guidelines of international organizations and other states grappling with the second wave, but also the appeals of the scientific community. In short, we are precisely in the scenario in which, excluding some imbecile or some irreducible, “everyone knows” what is happening and how much the delay in making drastic decisions is costing in terms of human lives.
So what was the government waiting for? Why did he keep “doing nothing” for days?
The answer is far from obvious, provided that you don’t want to settle for some good phrases for talk shows or for a post on social media. Thinking that a band of incompetents gathers in Chigi capable of not distinguishing an exponential from a logistics, or of not understanding that it makes no sense to increase the beds without affecting the number of infections, is an indication of great intellectual dishonesty and certainly it does not help to reconstruct what is happening. Just as it would be shortsighted not to consider the fact that the second hand took not only our government by surprise, but those of the whole of Europe (not to mention the disastrous management across the Atlantic). The very structure of Western society would seem to make it difficult to interrupt the dynamics of transmission of the virus (this chart is rather explanatory), which we know only to a small extent. This does not at all mean that Italian institutions are exempt from any responsibility, it is clear, but if we do not inscribe what is happening in the broadest possible framework, we risk adopting a partial and potentially erroneous point of view. Also because the Italian government had the opportunity to “look” at what was already happening in Spain and especially France: a sort of time window that could have guided the choices and limited the damage.
Wasted time, with little or no impact measures, and with very questionable choices. We could have done more and better, there is no doubt. You could reset the system when there was still time to do it. Regulatory chaos could be avoided and the responsibility for unpopular choices had to be avoided solely on the shoulders of the Regions for mere political calculation. More effective and functional monitoring and data management systems had to be put in place. And above all we had to speak the language of truth with the citizens, to whom the “care of the other” was delegated in an almost total way, while at the same time it was possible to return to workplaces, take packed buses and lead a normal life, including parties, dinners and holidays. To then blame them for the sudden rise in the contagion curve.
The new Dpcm arrives with guilty delay, therefore, but goes in the right direction (even if Conte continues to keep the point on the opening of schools: a stubbornness that risks costing us dearly and that seems to respond more to internal balances to the majority or to ideological illusions than to impeccable logical-scientific criteria).
From a political point of view, Conte files the “do not panic” line, which not even a week ago had even been confirmed on live television by Franco Locatelli, president of CSS. It is the total failure of the strategy to use soft measures focusing almost exclusively on the empowerment of citizens, but it is also a definitive awareness of the fact that the monitoring systems that should have led to selective, scalable and proportionate measures to keep under I control the second wave. After the general summer relaxation, what European citizens are paying, in short, is the attempt to keep the spread of the virus low exclusively through the use of social distancing practices, the reduction of social opportunities and the adoption of timid protocols safety in the workplace and on public transport. Failure to adequately prepare the phase of “living with the virus”, deluding oneself and deluding citizens that one could lead a normal life and shielding themselves from minimal improvements in terms of the response of the health system, was the biggest mistake, that the Conte government shares with other European partners.
Net of delays and inefficiencies (someone among the government, ministers, commissioners and regions should sooner or later give us some explanations on choices and dysfunctions unworthy of a modern country), it is, however, an error resulting from the need / desire to balance “health and economy”, as Conte found himself almost forced to admit in the previous press conference. The first lockdown left a deep wound not only in the economic and productive fabric, but also in the state coffers, and is “not replicable” in this sense as well. In recent weeks, the pressure from production environments, social partners, lobbies, interest groups and so on has been enormous, so much so that many councilors of Palazzo Chigi have described a gloomy picture, a real social bomb about to explode. The adoption of gradual measures, however, proved to be a total failure: the contagion curve has not undergone substantial changes, the pressure on health systems has reached record levels (so much so that the very possibility of tracing contacts in a systemic way has jumped) , the uncertainty among citizens has grown.
The virus, in short, has wiped out calculations and reasoning of this type and has re-proposed the usual question: aiming at a balance between health and economy means taking into account tens of thousands of deaths. We can turn around as much as we want, but we always arrive at the same point: if we want to protect the health of citizens, protect the weakest and limit the loss of human life, we must bend the curve of infections, throttle the circulation of the virus and safeguard the seal. of the health system. Doing this by leading a normal life is simply not possible. What will be the economic impact of these restrictions and the others that will inevitably follow we do not know. But we know what it would have meant to do nothing and keep betting against an exponential: tens of thousands of deaths, the collapse of the health system and the overall collapse of the economic system. I would say that, after all, we never had a real choice.