Rome: Codogno has 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 epicentre of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak.
The news, based on the daily update from local health agency ATS, was announced last night by Codogno mayor Francesco Passerini who described it as a “dream we have been waiting for for almost 16 months.”
“It has 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 hospitalisation 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, to be locked down in February 2020.
Codogno would become a symbol of Italy’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, with the country’s president Sergio Mattarella choosing to travel 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 in 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.”
Mattia Maestri, a 38-year-old Unilever manager, was hospitalised 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 been already been circulating for months.
When Maestri presented with a high fever, cough and difficulty breathing, doctors broke protocol by performing a coronavirus test on him.
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 as well as 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.