The global case tally for COVID-19 continues to inch higher, now at 6.19 million on Monday, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. As the virus rages in South America and India, infections in the US and Europe continue to wane.
On Monday morning, there were 232,997 confirmed cases and 33,415 virus-related deaths in Italy, according to official government data. There is good news; the pandemic curve is mostly flattening in the European country after months of strict social distancing and lockdowns. Though, the trade-off was a collapse in the country's economy.
Recently, the EU Commission published new guidelines on how to "reboot" the continent's tourism industry in 2020 and beyond. The new guidelines state: "principle of non-discrimination," member states should "allow travel from all areas, regions or countries in the EU with similar epidemiological conditions." While we noted some member states had a conflict with reopening and allowing cross-border activity, it appears Italy is now prepared to reopen its travel and tourism industry.
Ahead of Italian officials reopening the country's resort towns and beaches, a top Italian doctor was quoted Sunday by Reuters as saying the deadly virus is "losing its potency" and has become much less lethal.
"In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy," said Alberto Zangrillo, head of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, which was one of the hardest-hit areas during Italy's COVID-19 outbreak.
"The swabs that were performed over the last ten days showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago," Zangrillo said.
Zangrillo's comments come as new infections and fatalities declined in May, and the country is easing restrictions ahead of the summer season, a move that could potentially restart the crashed economy.
He said many experts were "alarmist" about the prospect of a second coronavirus wave, and government officials need to take into account the new reality of a less potent virus.
"We've got to get back to being a normal country," he said.
Zangrillo triggered disbelief among health officials who said it was too early to say the virus has been completely eradicated.
"Pending scientific evidence to support the thesis that the virus has disappeared, I would invite those who say they are sure of it not to confuse Italians," Sandra Zampa, an undersecretary at the health ministry, said in a statement.
Franco Locatelli, president of the Superior Health Council, said he was absolutely "baffled" by Zangrillo's comments:
"It's enough to look at the number of new positive cases confirmed every day to see the persistent circulation in Italy of the new coronavirus," Locatelli said.
In a bid to thwart a second wave, Italy launched a contact-tracing app on Monday in 20% of the country, with more of the country to come online in the coming weeks.
It wasn't just Zangrillo who said the virus has weakened; a second doctor told ANSA news agency:
"The strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today," said Matteo Bassetti, head of the infectious diseases clinic at the San Martino hospital in the city of Genoa.
"It is clear that today the COVID-19 disease is different."
And for those returning to Italian beaches, you might want to read our recent piece titled "Italian Beachtowns Plan "Plexiglass Cages" To Enforce Safe-Sunbathing This Summer" to get a view of what beaches could look like in a post-corona world.