News Analysis: "A marathon, not a sprint" -- Italy's anti-virus rules depend on personal responsibility

ROME, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- Italian government health restrictions to confront the second wave of the coronavirus rely on increased levels of personal responsibility, health officials and experts said.

Coronavirus infection rates in Italy are consistently on the rise, surpassing peak levels from the first wave of the pandemic in spring. Data on mortality and the number of patients in intensive-care units are also climbing, though they have yet to reach their highest levels from the spring.

But government officials say they are "working day and night" to avoid a national lockdown like the one applied in March. Instead, officials are using a complex system that categorizes the country's regions into "red," "orange" and "yellow" categories depending on the strength of the pandemic in that region. Travel is restricted to and from regions with the most serious outbreaks, with policies within regions decided in part by local health officials.

"The government is trying to strike the right balance between health needs and what will allow the economy to function as well as what a population that is tired of the restrictions will support," Filippo Anelli, president of Italy's National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists, best known as FNOMCeO, said in an interview.

Anelli said data from the Ministry of Health show Italy is still short of another peak for coronavirus infections and other related indicators.

"If we only take into account the health aspects, we should probably do another national lockdown," he said. "But that is not feasible. We have to do what we can do to slow the spread and make sure hospitals are ready."

Fabrizio Pregliasco, a researcher at the Department of Biomedical Sciences for Health at the University of Milan, agreed with Anelli about the unsustainability of a new national lockdown under current circumstances. He said "every contact right now is a risk," adding that people have to be responsible for their own actions.

"When a parent takes a young child to the beach, the parent watches out to make sure the child doesn't go too far into the water," Pregliasco told Xinhua. "The problem is that as soon as the parent turns away, some children will run into the water."

He said that is where personal responsibility becomes part of the equation.

"The government can't control every action everyone does," Pregliasco said. "In 'yellow' regions, restaurants can be open for lunch but not dinner, for example. Does that mean a person can't get infected at lunch? Of course not, though the risks are lower when there aren't as many crowds and as much going on. But ultimately, we all know what we should and shouldn't do."

The government has said it would announce its next update on coronavirus restrictions on Dec. 3. But Pregliasco said people should not wait until then.

"It's up to us to make restrictions sustainable," he said. "This is going to keep going for a long while. We should remember this is a marathon, not a sprint."

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