Italians have marked one year since their country experienced its first known Covid-19 death, with wreath-laying ceremonies, tree plantings and church services.
Towns in Italy’s north were the first to be hard-hit by the pandemic and put under lockdown, and residents paid tribute to the dead.
Italy, with some 95,500 confirmed virus dead, has Europe’s second-highest pandemic toll after Britain. Experts say the virus also killed many others who were never tested.
While the first wave of infections largely engulfed Lombardy and other northern regions, a second surge starting in the autumn of 2020 has raced throughout the country.
The number of new coronavirus infections has remained stubbornly high despite a raft of restrictions on travel between regions, and in some cases between towns.
In addition, gyms, cinemas and theatres have been closed and restaurants and bars must close early in the evening. Nationwide there is a 10pm to 5am curfew in place.
So far, Italy has confirmed 2.8 million cases.
It was at a hospital in the Lombard town of Codogno where a doctor recognised what would go down in medical history as the first known Covid-19 case in the West, in a patient with no links to the outbreak in Asia, where coronavirus infections initially emerged.
The diagnosis was made on the evening of February 20 2020, in a 38-year-old otherwise healthy, athletic man.
Near the Red Cross office in Codogno on Sunday, Lombardy’s governor and the town mayor attended a ceremony to unveil a monument to Covid-19 victims.
The memorial consists of three steel pillars, representing resilience, community and starting over. A wreath was laid, and townspeople stood in silence to honour the dead.
The Codogno hospital patient survived, after being transferred to another hospital and spending weeks on a respirator.
But it was in the north-eastern town of Vo, in the neighbouring Veneto region, where Italy’s first known Covid-19 death was registered on February 21, 2020.
In Vo’s memorial ceremony, officials planted a tree. A plaque has been installed, quoting a line from the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo. The inscription reads: “A man never dies if there is someone who remembers him.”
Italy’s first known fatality from Covid-19 was a 77-year-old Vo man, a retired roofer who liked to play cards.
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