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How One Italian Town Managed to Stop All New Infections

Vo Euganeo took extreme measures, including isolating and testing every single resident
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2020 10:50 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Italian town of Vo Euganeo, near Venice, was at the center of Italy's coronavirus outbreak—one of the first clusters in the country appeared there, and per the Straits Times, it was the site of Italy's first death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. But the town took extreme measures to contain the outbreak right at the start—and so far, they're working. The town immediately went on a two-week lockdown, isolating all of its 3,300 residents and testing them all. It found that about 3% of the population—more than officials expected—was positive, RFI reports. But more than half of them were asymptomatic, per Reuters. After two weeks of isolation they tested again; there was a 90% drop in the rate of positive results. As of Friday, the town hasn't seen any new infections at all, Sky News reports. More on this development:

  • What does it mean? An infectious disease expert at Imperial College London who was involved in the experiment explains how it could apply to the wider population: "It is clear that you cannot test all Italians—but you can test people close to those who are asymptomatic. We must use asymptomatic cases as an alarm bell to widen our action."

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  • 'Test, test, test.' The experiment echoes the message from WHO's director-general this week: "We have a simple message to all countries—test, test, test," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "All countries should be able to test all suspected cases. They cannot fight this pandemic blindfolded."
  • Iceland follows suit: BuzzFeed reports that Iceland has decided to aggressively test, including asymptomatic people. So far the country is testing at a rate of 10,405 per million people living there; South Korea, whose testing strategy has also been hailed, is testing at a rate of about 5,203 per million. Ultimately, all of the country's 364,000 people can get tested.
  • Iceland's results: So far, Iceland is seeing similar statistics as Vo Euganeo in that a low proportion of the population has tested positive, and about half of those who did had no symptoms. The other half reported mild symptoms similar to a cold.
  • Takeaway from Iceland: While BuzzFeed acknowledges mass testing isn't feasible in countries much larger than Iceland, "the testing has provided evidence revealing that a significant portion of those who catch the disease do so with no or mild symptoms—and confirmed multiple pieces of research that have shown that asymptomatic individuals contribute to the transmission of the disease in great numbers."
  • Meanwhile, in the rest of the world: The virus is present in every single European country now; on Tuesday it also hit all 50 US states. But in Wuhan, where the first cases broke out, there have been two consecutive days now with just one new case reported per day, ABC News reports. There are now more than 200,000 confirmed cases across the globe and more than 8,000 have died.
  • But one person doesn't have it: Texas authorities arrested a man who falsely claimed on social media to have tested positive for COVID-19, Fox News reports. He has been charged with a misdemeanor count of making a false report.
(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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