Italy: Codogno covid-free for first time since February 2020

No positive covid-19 cases over the last 24 hours in Italy’s one-time coronavirus epicenter Codogno.

Codogno had declared itself ‘covid-free’ for the first time since 20 February 2020, when the small town in the northern Italian region of Lombardy became the epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak.

Based on the daily update from local health agency ATS, the news was announced last night by Codogno mayor Francesco Passerini who described it as a “dream we have been waiting for almost 16 months.”

“It had never happened since 20 February last year” – said Passerini – “We had been monitoring the situation for several days, waiting to reach this milestone which is a further step towards normality that we miss a lot.”

Codogno made international news on 21 February 2020 when its hospital announced the first official case of covid-19 in Europe with the emergency hospitalization of ‘Patient 1’ Mattia Maestri.*

Mayor Passerini explained last night that “for the first time we arrived at zero positives in the town in the late afternoon. We called the last person on the positive list, and he told us that he has already completed the quarantine and that he has already undergone three swabs that gave negative results.”

Passerini recalled that, after ‘Patient 1,’ there were “peaks of almost 700 people sick at the same time” in Codogno, which would become Europe’s first “zona Rossa” or red zone be locked down in February 2020.

Codogno would become a symbol of Italy’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The country’s president Sergio Mattarella traveled to the town on the Festa della Repubblica last year to show his solidarity and pay homage to the victims.

Reaching the new ‘covid-free’ milestone was gradual, with the recent closure of Codogno’s covid emergency ward, then no more new infections, before culminating at the end of all active cases on the evening of 15 June.

“It seemed one of those impossible goals” – added the mayor – “but we have finally arrived. We hope to always stay at zero. Now we look ahead and take back our lives but in a safe way.”

Italy’s Patient 1

Mattia Maestri, a 38-year-old Unilever manager, was hospitalized on 20 February 2020 after testing positive for covid-19, becoming the first confirmed case of domestic transmission of the virus in Italy.

(Despite going down in history as ‘Paziente 1,‘ it was later discovered that the virus had already circulated for months.)

When Maestri presented with a high fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, doctors broke protocol by performing a coronavirus test on him.

Codogno was locked down in February 2020. Photo La Repubblica.

Until then, covid screening was only carried out on people who had been in China, where the virus was raging in Wuhan.

The doctors’ suspicions proved right, triggering a national emergency, with Codogno coming under the glare of the international media overnight.

The Italian government locked down Codogno and nine other nearby towns in Lombardy and Vo’ Euganeo, in the Veneto region, where Italy’s first official coronavirus death was recorded the same day.

Since then, Italy has registered more than 127,000 deaths linked to covid-19, the second-highest toll in Europe after the UK and the eighth-highest in the world.

Image: Codogno covid ward closes. Photo: Il Giorno Lodi