“Solidarity, the new virus which I hope will infect all Europe” is what Gino Strada, founder of Emergency, said he hoped for during an interview with Diego Bianchi on the program  “Propaganda Live” for the Italian TV Channel La7.

“I believe that we really are in an unprecedented emergency and I think that no one could have imagined such a situation – said Gino Strada in the video interview for La7 about the management of the Covid-19 health emergency. Many errors have been made, even in Italy. Perhaps now is the moment not only to remedy those errors by giving each person the responsibility s/he has, but also to take hold of the situation in order to envision a different world, a fairer world, a world which is more of a community. Yet, I see that these days there are still people who think only of their own political backyard, who are intent on carving out their own corner of celebrity no matter the cost, and this is something which I find incredible. In the face of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of deaths, this is really sad.

When asked by Diego Bianchi if any political errors had been made, the founder of Emergency replied:

“As a doctor, I think that the first error was not so much that of underestimating the problem, since objectively it was completely unexpected, but rather that of not protecting hospitals adequately.” Hospitals are places where citizens expect to be cured, places where you go to get over an illness. If a hospital is infected, it is no longer able to look after the ill. On the contrary, it becomes a pabulum concerned with the development and spread of the illness. In such a case, our hospital will not be able to deal with Corona virus patients, but nor will it be in a position to handle other patients. It will, for example, no longer help cardiopathic or diabetic patients who, given the impelling risk, are among those in special need. This is precisely what happened, as we have seen, in the management of the health emergency in places like Alzano Lombardo, as well as in other areas of Lombardy. We mustn’t forget that about half of the deaths caused by Covid-19 in Italy were in Lombardy, and the number of dead in Italy make up about 25% of Corona virus victims in the whole world. We cannot therefore be exempt from examining how health care has been managed in Lombardy in the last twenty or so years. Indeed, the same people who have managed it up until now are today trying to appear as saviours who have the situation under control. Yet those very people have in these last years devastated the Italian national health service, let alone the Lombard one. Patients have been left to die in nursing homes, left to die without proper care, without pity, left to themselves without anyone to look after them and, I believe, that this is primarily a moral as well as a legal crime.

Later during the interview, Gino Strada talked about the commitment of NGOs in helping out in this moment of crisis. In particular, he reported on the activities of Emergency in the Intensive Care Unit of the newly constructed hospital in Bergamo, right at the very center of the major infection focus in Italy today.

“The newly inaugurated ICU has been operative for some days despite a number of difficulties, including bureaucratic ones. One of the things which I have understood in this emergency is that it is easier to open a heart surgery unit in Sudan than to set up a hospital bed in Italy”. Gino Strada stressed these difficulties in his reply to the spokesman, adding that in Italy they are partly bureaucratic but largely political, a fact which, as a doctor and as an Italian citizen, he found most upsetting. “However, despite all this, there is much top class cooperation between us and our colleagues from the hospital in Bergamo: we work together very well and, as Emergency, we are also doing other things such as distributing food and medicine to people who are unable to provide for themselves. I think that basically we are simply giving a hand, as are many others in Italy in this very moment. I like the many, not the few who incessantly shout against anything and everything, who dissent a priori merely in order to defend their own interests and to protect their own back yard. The likes of those who, for example, propose laws and regulations which negate the past responsibility of hospital managers. Especially in Lombardy I see…, I see its hospitals politically allotted to such an extent that even the Camorra would find it difficult to be more exact and capillary. Well this is how it is… but I do hope that when we come out of this situation at least the citizens will open their eyes and see beyond the political propaganda which, in this moment, is really nauseating.”

The interview on Propaganda Life comes to an end with one final question in which Gino Strada is asked his opinion not only about the quarantine – currently prolonged week by week – but also about the future. Of great interest for the Italian population, Strada is asked if he sees reasons for optimism in a later, post-quarantine phase, or not.

I am very optimistic, very optimistic because, in spite of the polemics, I can see that a sense of solidarity has grown enormously in Italy. I hope that this solidarity is the new virus which will infect all Europe, and I am optimistic because I believe that there are things which will make us realize that we are all in the same boat, that we are all one community, that there is no sense in excluding anyone, on the contrary, that it makes sense to include everyone. To go through and pull out of this tragedy all together is definitely possible, it depends on us and on how we behave. I think that we are on the right track regardless of the heavy restrictions – not to go out, to avoid socializing – which objectively weigh down on all of us. Yet, I believe that the idea that such behavior is of help to everyone and that it is necessary for the common good, is now being recognized. This thing of thinking about everyone rather than only thinking about oneself, gives me some hope for the future.”

Traslation from italian by Vera Bianco