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Death at home: the unseen toll of Italy's coronavirus crisis

Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Duration: 02:19s - Published
Death at home: the unseen toll of Italy's coronavirus crisis

Death at home: the unseen toll of Italy's coronavirus crisis

Health officials are warning that Italy's death toll from COVID-19 is much higher than the official statistics suggest, as many are dying at home and aren't included in the tally.

Joe Davies reports.

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Death at home: the unseen toll of Italy's coronavirus crisis

The sight of so many coffins in one room is a grim one.

Well over 15,000 of them have officially been required in Italy, where COVID-19 has devastated human life on a scale not seen anywhere else.

But there's a warning: the death toll could be much higher.

The official statistics measure only hospital deaths.

Many are dying at home, sometimes alone.

In Italy's northern province of Bergamo, the real death toll could be more than double the official tally of 2,060, according to a recent study of death records.

Riccardo Munda is a doctor in Selvino.

(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) DOCTOR, RICCARDO MUNDA, SAYING:"Most vulnerable patients must be examined at home otherwise you cannot save them because most of these patients might suffer from senile dementia and they are unable to report their symptoms so you must go to their homes to try to find out the possible symptoms of the disease." The global fight to save lives is focussing on boosting the supply of hospital ventilators.

But some doctors say a lack of primary health care is proving just as costly, because medics can't or won't make home visits, in line with a worldwide tactic of switching to remotely delivered medical advice.

And while hospital workers have been given priority in the distribution of personal protective equipment, some family doctors say they've been left without and unable to protect themselves.

(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) DOCTOR, RICCARDO MUNDA, SAYING: "This is the point...we must not wait until people need intensive care.

People must be visited by primary care doctors, family doctors, and emergency medical services.

We should have more professional figures of this type but they must be equipped with adequate protection measures." In Seriate, the loss of life has been so great they've had to use military trucks to carry the coffins.

The daily death toll in Italy appears to have reached its peak and is now falling.

But the true scale of this tragedy won't be known until we know how many suffered and perished in their own home.




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