Europe Doesn't Quite Get US Response to Virus

Italy reconsiders its envy of the American model
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 9, 2020 9:45 AM CDT
Europe Doesn't Quite Get US Response to Virus
A man wears a mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as he walks near the Eiffel Tower in Paris in April.   (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

The US failure to contain the spread of the coronavirus has been met with astonishment and alarm in Europe, as the world's most powerful country edges closer to a global record of 5 million confirmed infections. Perhaps nowhere outside the US is America's bungled virus response viewed with more consternation than in Italy, which was the epicenter of Europe's epidemic, the AP reports. Italians were unprepared when the outbreak exploded in February, and the country still has one of the world’s highest official death tolls at 35,000. But after a strict nationwide, 10-week lockdown, vigilant tracing of new clusters and general acceptance of mask mandates and social distancing, Italy has become a model of virus containment. "We Italians always saw America as a model," said a newspaper columnist. "But with this virus we've discovered a country that is very fragile, with bad infrastructure and a public health system that is nonexistent."

Much of the incredulity in Europe stems from the fact that America had the benefit of time, European experience, and medical know-how to treat the virus that the continent itself didn't have when the first COVID-19 patients started filling intensive care units. Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza hasn't shied away from criticizing the US, officially condemning as "wrong" Washington's decision to withhold funding from the World Health Organization and expressing amazement at President Trump’s virus response. After Trump finally donned a mask last month, Speranza told La7 television: “I'm not surprised by Trump's behavior now; I'm profoundly surprised by his behavior before." A woman walking along Lake Bracciano, north of Rome, wondered about Americans. "Don't they care about their health?" she asked. "They need to take our precautions. ... They need a real lockdown."

(More coronavirus stories.)

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