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Commentary: What the Italians learnt from the COVID-19 outbreak

Several articles have described how Chinese health professionals dealt with the the COVID-19 pandemic but, until now, little has been known about the Italian experience.

As of 7 April 2020, Italy has had the highest number of deaths (16,525) in Europe with 132,547 people testing positive for the virus, which is slightly less than Spain (135,032).

Italy has one of the most well-developed healthcare systems in the world yet the system seemed to have been unprepared to manage the sheer volume of cases produced by COVID-19. This was despite the country declaring a state of national emergency on 31 January 2020, limiting public gatherings that impacted on schools, conferences and sports events. Due to the number of cases, there was an international shortage of personal protection equipment leading to infection among frontline doctors and nurses who became infected and thus quarantined.

This article provides a comprehensive overview of the Italian COVID-19 outbreak, which the authors hope will be of value to other healthcare systems. It offers information on the clinical presentations, protocols and the strategic planning required to deal with the increased workload generated by the pandemic.