The worsening toll of COVID-19 in Italy has prompted the government to allow medical school graduates to bypass final exams and begin working immediately. The new graduates, entering service eight or so months ahead of schedule, will be assigned to senior homes and the clinics of general practitioners, Reuters reports. They'll replace experienced physicians who can then help staff hospitals. "This means immediately releasing into the National Health System the energy of about 10,000 doctors, which is fundamental to dealing with the shortage that our country is suffering," the nation's university minister said.
Hospitals are overwhelmed in the hardest-hit areas. "Lombardy is on the point of collapse," a local party official said. "All the intensive care beds and respirators are being used." In an exhibition center, for example, hundreds of intensive care beds are being set up, but there aren't enough respirators and medical personnel. The death toll in Italy from the disease has hit 2,503. "This is a war," said the head of infectious medicine at one of the largest hospitals in Lombardy, per the New York Times. The region has needed 1,135 intensive care beds in the past three weeks but has only 800, and doctors are having to make wartime-like triage decisions. Italy's largest cities have been spared the worst of the pandemic so far, but confirmed cases in Milan have now reached 964. (Read more coronavirus stories.)