Italy Wears its Covid Scars Like a Badge of Honour

Genoa, one of the Italian playgrounds of the super-rich is a city of lap dog lovers. There is no shortage of dogs, or dog turds. But there does seem to be a shortage of poop bags and it was not uncommon on my morning run along the Corso Italia this week to see a face-masked dog walker allowing his dog to leave another infectious deposit of poo, walk away and leave it steaming in the middle of the promenade.

I have just returned from Italy where the proclaimed lifting of Covid restrictions refers only to the paperwork associated with entering and leaving the country. Masks are still very much in evidence and a great deal of this is self-imposed. If not actually wearing a mask, nearly everyone has a mask around their wrist, like a talisman of which they just cannot let go. Normality will only ever be regained when the metaphorical masks are lifted from the minds of the Italian people.

My regular visits to Italy have allowed me to observe over time the reaction of the country to the emergence of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Italy was quick off the mark in the early days of the global panic and, indeed, amongst the first to panic. I returned to the U.K. from Wuhan late in 2019 to discover I had left an epidemic behind me. While we only began hearing about the coronavirus early in 2020 it had already been making its way through the sick and vulnerable in Wuhan since at least November 2019, certainly coinciding with my five weeks in the city in November and December 2019. I had travelled on crowded trains and taxis, eaten in crowded restaurants and taught in packed lecture rooms with impunity. My initial reaction, and one which has not attenuated, was that this was just another virus, it would kill a few old folks like me and some of the more clinically vulnerable amongst us and leave the vast majority alive and unscathed. And that is exactly what happened.

Europe is Forcing Ukrainian Refugees to Be Vaccinated

According to a speech made by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on March 9th, Ukrainian refugees arriving in Italy will be forced to “either agree to have a swab every 48 hours or agree to be vaccinated“ against the coronavirus. A transcript of the speech has been published by the Italian daily Il Tempo. Some Italians have complained that Italian citizens have not been given the swab option, saying that the country’s citizens either get vaccinated or are suspended from work without a salary.

In Iceland, where all Covid-related restrictions have been abandoned, both internally and at the border, the refugees are still required to be tested for COVID-19 infection, according to the General Manager of the Primary Care of the Capital Area. As other travellers are not subject to this requirement, this is clear discrimination against Ukrainian refugees. While no plans of forced vaccination have yet been confirmed nor denied, according to the General Manager, “an emphasis is put on vaccinating them”.

As it has already become clear the vaccination does not protect against the Omicron variant now prevalent, and that the protection against infection may even be negative, there is no medical justification for forcing refugees to get vaccinated, as in Italy, or for cajoling them into it, as seems to be the intention in Iceland.

Only 35% of the Ukrainian population are vaccinated against COVID-19. Scepticism towards the vaccines is high in Ukraine and in August 2021, 56% of the population said they would not get vaccinated against the disease. Being forced to leave your war-torn homeland is bad enough. Being forced or pushed to accept a useless medication you do not trust when you finally arrive at your destination could hardly be described as kind hospitality, or free consent.

Thorsteinn Siglaugsson is an economist who lives in Iceland. Find him on his blog.

What Really Happened at the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

At this two-year point in the pandemic, I’ve been revisiting what happened at the start to get a clearer idea of how things unfolded and whether what happened then can tell us anything useful about the virus. Here’s what we know.

In the last week of December 2019, a doctor in Wuhan noticed unusual pneumonia in six patients who all tested positive for a new coronavirus. We can surmise that to have hospitalised six unconnected people (not all linked to the Huanan market), the new virus must have been circulating in Wuhan for some weeks. Internal reporting of this cluster led to the first public message of a suspected pneumonia outbreak, with precautions advised, from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on December 31st. At this point there were just 27 identified cases in hospital, seven of them serious – which wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary for winter.

Despite this inauspicious start, Hubei province went on (according to official data) to have a deadly outbreak, though one that was notably slower burning and milder than later Covid outbreaks elsewhere. It totalled around 4,500 deaths out of a population of 57 million people, making it around a tenth as deadly as the first wave in the U.K., and peaked at 143 reported daily deaths on February 19th (suggesting the infection peak was late January). This doesn’t seem a particularly high death toll for a winter respiratory virus.

Notably, this initial deadly outbreak was very localised. Hubei was locked down on January 23rd, but prior to that the virus circulated freely for weeks, while millions of people left the province ahead of the lockdown. Despite this, no other province in China suffered a deadly outbreak (see below). While we might be inclined to question China’s official data, it fits with what happened in neighbouring countries – no other country in the region suffered a deadly outbreak of the new virus. South Korea’s outbreak peaked at six reported daily deaths on March 30th, Japan’s (which was the worst in the region) at 24 on May 1st.

Infecting Yourself With Omicron: The Unvaccinated Rebel in Italy

There follows a guest post by a Daily Sceptic reader based in Italy, who wishes to remain anonymous, on the devastating impact of vaccine passports and the lengths the unvaccinated will go to to get the infection that gains them an exemption.

Sometimes they meet with the positivo in a flat. Sometimes they go further and share water bottles, embraces and masks. The aim is simple. To infect yourself with omicron. In December and January I increasingly ran into unvaccinated Italian friends actively looking to get Covid. This has barely been covered in Italy’s newspapers, but it involves hundreds of thousands of Italians and it is part of the explanation for rising numbers here.

Why would you get ill on purpose? If you ask the self-infectors you will be offered various evasions: deliberately spreading Covid is a crime. However, the simple answer is a perverse mechanism introduced by vaccine passports. Passports are given to those: i) who have been vaccinated; and to ii) those who have had Covid. If you can register a hit with a certified test, you avoid government passport restrictions for six months.

In September 2021 this did not matter so much. Only restaurants and some meetings were off-limits to those without vaccinations. Even in these cases it was possible to get a temporary ‘passport’ with a test. Then the Government extended its writ across different areas of the economy, not least the teaching professions and healthcare. Next the simple loophole of a test was threaded tighter. Then rules on planes were extended to busses and trains… The screw has slowly been turned.

The Government presented in early January 2022, a new raft of laws to hem the unvaccinated in still further. The unvaccinated will no longer, from February, be able to go in a shop save for certain ‘essentials’ without a passport. Hairdressers and beauty saloons, banks and post offices have also been decreed off-limits. The above rules applied to all residents older than twelve. The unvaccinated over fifty were liable, meanwhile, to ill-defined spot fines.

Most Covid Patients Discharged from ICU Make a Good Recovery, Study Finds

Mounting evidence suggests that long Covid is not the great danger it was initially claimed to be. Research by the ONS indicates that, 12 weeks after infection, the percentage of people still reporting symptoms is only 2.5 points higher than the background rate.

What’s more, several studies have found little or no difference in rates of long Covid between those who were seropositive and those who were seronegative. One French study found that believing you’d had Covid was a better predictor of long Covid symptoms than actually testing positive for Covid antibodies; the only exception being anosmia.

This suggests that many, perhaps most, cases of long Covid are psychosomatic. Thanks to all the media attention on long Covid, people may have been inclined to exaggerate their symptoms; to report things they normally wouldn’t have done.

Fortunately, the vast majority of people who catch Covid get only mild symptoms; at worst, they’re bed-ridden for a few days with a nasty cold. However, a small percentage do end up in hospital, or even the ICU. And most of these individuals experience debilitating symptoms for the rest of their lives – right? 

Apparently not, finds a new Italian study. Alberto Zangrillo and colleagues identified all the Covid patients admitted to their hospital in Milan during the first wave, who’d spent at least one day on a ventilator. Of these 116 patients, 53% survived. The authors followed up 56 of the 61 survivors one year later, and asked them to complete a questionnaire.

Note: none of the survivors died during the intervening year; 5 simply refused to answer the questionnaire. Among those who did answer, the average age was 56 and 89% were male. 

So what did the researchers find? The great majority of patients reported good quality of life. 82% had no difficulty walking; 95% had no difficulty washing or dressing; and fully 84% had no difficulties with their usual activities.

Non-trivial fractions did report some pain/discomfort and feelings of anxiety/depression. However, these patients were in the minority. Overall, 61% reported no pain or discomfort; and 64% had no feelings of anxiety or depression.

And note: some of the patients who did report these things may have experienced them before they got Covid. We can’t be sure the fractions reporting no symptoms would be 100%, or even close to 100%, in the absence of a pandemic. For example, 52% of patients in the sample had at least one pre-existing health condition.

36 out of 56 patients were given a chest CT scan, to assess the extent of lung damage. Only 4 had signs of pulmonary fibrosis (severe lung damage). Though it should be noted that other studies have reported higher rates of lung damage at one year follow-up. 

Zangrillo and colleagues’ findings should be encouraging to those who’re recovering from severe Covid. One year after admission to the ICU, only a minority of patients had symptoms serious enough to affect their day to day life.

Of course, there’s much that can and should be done to prevent people landing in the ICU, such as voluntary vaccination and precision shielding. But it’s reassuring to know that many of those who do wind up there, and are subsequently discharged, can expect to make good overall recoveries.    

Scottish Fertility Clinic Bans Unvaccinated Women From Using Services as Italy Announces Mandatory Vaccination for Over-50s

A top Scottish fertility clinic has withdrawn its services for unvaccinated women, leaving many people upset and leading to calls for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to address the fact that it may not be limited to just one clinic. EuroWeekly News has more.

Glasgow Royal Fertility Clinic said that “it has been nationally agreed that fertility treatment for unvaccinated women will be deferred with immediate effect.”

Citing Dr Gregor Smith, Chief Medical Officer for the Scottish Government, the update published just before Christmas said that “pregnant women should now be considered as a clinical risk group and part of priority group six within the vaccination programme”.

According to data published in the Scottish Intensive Care Society Report on October 13th, of 89 Covid positive pregnant women who were admitted to critical care between December 2020 and the end of September 2021; 88 were unvaccinated, one was partially vaccinated, and none were fully vaccinated.

The clinic said that said data, from unknown dates, also showed that “98% of pregnant women in ICU with COVID-19 were unvaccinated” and that “all the women who have died during pregnancy or up to six weeks after birth, 88% of them were unvaccinated.”

This has led the clinic, which is located in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, to withdraw its services to unvaccinated women and the “clinic will review this decision during February 2022 or earlier if appropriate.”

“Older women who have their treatment deferred will have the deferral time added back on to their fertility journey to ensure that they do not lose out on eligibility for treatment due to their age,” the clinic said.

Note that the ICU data above doesn’t take into account the proportion of pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant who were vaccinated at the time.

What happened to liberal societies not coercing experimental medical treatment?

The news comes as Italy announces that Covid vaccination will become mandatory for all over-50s from next month in an effort to tackle surging infections. The Telegraph has more.

Unvaccinated Sports Stars Now Unable to Play in Italy

Italy has introduced a mandatory vaccination requirement for all outdoor sports competitors, with those entering the country to play in international tournaments also subjected to the same rules. This would mean that any unjabbed English rugby player will be excluded from the squad, which is due to play Italy in the Six Nations on February 13th. MailOnline has more.

Italy has joined France in making vaccination compulsory for anyone wanting to play outdoor team sports, meaning Premier League players will need to be jabbed in order to move to Serie A this January. 

The Italian Government met this week to implement urgent changes to its Covid restrictions, with every sportsperson in the country, from the professional game to the amateur divisions, needing a ‘Green Pass’ in order to take part.

The ‘Green Pass’ is given out 15 days after a person has been vaccinated for the first time, with the Covid passport-style document also needed to enter swimming pools, festivals, religious buildings, hotels and public transport.

It is unlikely to affect Italy’s top football division as it was revealed earlier this month that 98% of all Serie A footballers are double-jabbed in a league that has been unaffected by the Omicron variant so far.

It is not known how many Liverpool players are vaccinated, though the Premier League did reveal that 16% of top-flight footballers are yet to receive their first dose of the vaccine. 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has been fully supportive of players getting vaccinated and claimed earlier this month that the club would not be signing any new players who have not had both doses. 

“I think it (being vaccinated) will be influential, definitely, in who clubs sign,” said the Liverpool manager. “If a player is not vaccinated at all, he is a constant threat for all of us.

“He doesn’t want to be a threat, it’s not that he thinks ‘I don’t care about the others’ but he is.”

Meanwhile, the England rugby team go to Italy on February 13th for their Six Nations clash, so any players who are not jabbed will be banned from playing. 

The new restrictions, which will begin on January 6 when Serie A resumes after its winter break, also affect the fans, who will need a ‘Green Pass’ in order to enter stadia at any level. 

Those sports stars who are double-jabbed will also be exempt from any quarantine rules, but are advised to wear a mask for up to a week after their arrival. 

Worth reading in full.

Reaping the Whirlwind

We’re publishing an original essay today by Dr. Freddie Attenborough, a former academic and longtime contributor. This one, originally published on his Substack newsletter, is a corker. His question is this: Given the influential and widely-known work of Antonia Gramsci, which emphasis the importance of securing the consent of the masses to their exploitation by rapacious capitalits via soft cultural power, why have the Italian authorities done something – started to locking down the unvaccinated – that will almost certainly result in the alienation of vast swathes of the Italian population? Here is an extract:

It’s fair to say that Gramsci’s work – or at least, Gramsci’s style of thinking about the machinations of power – has proven enormously influential. In a sense, much of what now passes for social and political criticism is little more than a collective attempt to map the consequences of this form of cultural power to and for contemporary societies. We see the kernel of Gramsci’s idea, that same problematisation of culture, in Theodore Adorno’s work on the “culture industry”, Louis Althusser’s concept of “ideological state apparatuses”, Michel Foucault’s studies of “governmentality”, and Giles Deleuze’s thesis on “control societies”. In each case, we find the same conclusion, that to successfully govern complex, massified modern societies is not to thrash citizens to within an inch of their lives (the state riskily showing its hand), but, rather, to mould and shape those citizens into people who won’t ever need to be thrashed (the state remaining safely in the shadows).

It’s an idea that makes perfect sense, helping to explain a good deal about the way we live and, in particular, why it is that modern bureaucratic, rule-driven states have such unlikely, yet always intense, relationships with expressive, imagination-driven culture. Just stop and think for a moment about the gargantuan amount the Italian Government must surely spend each year on identifying, mentoring, supporting, funding, promoting, co-opting, subsidising, regulating, censoring and banning certain types of culture on the basis that each such cultural form might – or of course might not – help inculcate certain values, behaviours, habits, mores and beliefs within the hearts and minds of Italian citizens. Given everything you know about the type of person who tends to go into politics, the type of oddbod who ends up wheedling his way into positions of power, does it strike you as at all likely that that type of person would be doing any of this culture-work, going to all of this trouble, offering to help the creative and cultural industries, purely from the goodness of his proto-authoritarian little heart?

But now, of course, the Italian authorities have come up with their new ‘super green pass’. What exactly does it achieve? Effectively, to tell a goodish chunk of the Italian population – men, women, impressionable-and-as-yet-not-fully-socialised-children – to do what they want, fend for themselves, cry, and starve, because they’re filthy, they’re scum, and, frankly, they’re not wanted as active participants within mainstream state-sponsored Italian culture.

In light of what we know about Gramsci’s work, let’s just think about that for a moment, shall we? Disenfranchising people from their own national culture… alienating them from their friends, family and wider peer group… isolating them from society in general… and then telling them to go away and do whatever they want. Hmm.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I expect Mario Draghi or any of his technocractic, federal European fanatical ministers to sit around all day in oak-panelled seminar rooms sporting tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbows, puffing on tobacco pipes and debating the finer points of post-structural philosophy’s uneasy relationship with Hegelian dialectics. It’s just that you’d like to think that someone, somewhere in the Italian government, might at some point during the design-phase of these green passes have queried whether a century’s worth of scholarly endeavour, in which the crucial role that inclusive, accessible, citizen-wide cultures have to play in stabilising advanced capitalist societies gets stressed repeatedly, should have been dismissed quite so casually as seems to have been the case.

Let’s not unfairly single out the Italian authorities, though. Their mistakes will no doubt soon be repeated by others – in Austria, for instance, or maybe in Germany or Greece or Australia or… well, everywhere in the end, one imagines. But if that is indeed the case, then in the years to come I fear for our relationship with those whom the authorities around the world are now starting to excommunicate from the sacraments and services of state-sanctioned, mainstream society. It is one of the more quixotic whims of the smug vaccinated classes to imagine that those whom they wish exiled from society, will simply lie down and cry themselves to death before the bin men come to take away their filthy, disease-ridden bodies and everyone can go back to living happily ever after. One suspects, very much to the contrary, that when the ex-communication happens, these people will know all too well what to do about it. New cultures will undoubtedly emerge; new forms of being, new ways of life… and, at the same time, of course, new forms of hatred.

This is very much worth reading in full.

And don’t forget to subscribe to Freddie’s Substack newsletter here.

Italy Tightens Restrictions on the Unvaccinated with ‘Super Green Pass’

From today, all Italians will need to abide by the country’s ‘super green pass’ law, which means that only those who are double jabbed or have recently recovered from Covid are allowed to enter a wide variety of public places, such as restaurants and theatres. Unlike the old ‘green pass’ system, the ‘super green pass’ does not allow for the unvaccinated to provide proof of a negative Covid test, further hindering their right to participate in public life. MailOnline has the story.

Italy has brought in tougher restrictions for unvaccinated people as the holidays draw near, excluding them from indoor restaurants, theatres and museums to reduce the spread of Covid and encourage the unvaccinated to get their jabs.

Only those who have the ‘super green pass’, which requires Italians to be double jabbed rather than providing a negative Covid test result, will be able to fully participate in public life from Monday.

Italian police will be checking will be checking whether those visiting indoor restaurants, bars, concerts, sports events, theatres and public events, have the ‘super’ green health pass until January 15th.

The restrictions follow a steady rise of Covid cases in Italy for the past six weeks, with 15,021 infections recorded on Sunday, and a concern about the new Omicron variant which is believed to be more transmissible than the Delta strain. 

Elsewhere in Europe, leaders have rushed in a raft of new lockdown measures and travel bans amid panic over rising cases and the arrival of the Omicron variant. 

Germany has announced it will lock down its unvaccinated citizens and ban them from most public spaces in the run-up to Christmas, while those in France will have to show proof of vaccination to maintain a valid Covid pass which allows them into public venues.  

Italy’s vaccination rate is higher than many of its neighbours, at 85% of the eligible population aged 12 years-old and older and 77% of the total population. But people in their 30s, 40s and 50s have proved the most reluctant to get vaccinated, with nearly 3.5 million still not having received their first doses.

They are also the same age group that is now being hardest hit by the virus, according to Silvio Brusaferro, head of Italy’s National Health Institute.

Worth reading in full.

Italian Man Attempts to Fool Vaccine Mandate by Wearing Fake Arm

On Monday, the Italian Government will introduce a ‘super green pass’ system, where those wishing to enter a wide variety of public places must provide proof that they have been vaccinated (or have recently recovered from Covid), replacing the ‘green pass’ policy which permits the unvaccinated into these spaces if they produce a negative Covid test. The incoming law is believed to be the reason for why a middle aged Italian man wished to acquire a Covid vaccination certificate but not receive the injection, placing a fake silicone mould on his arm as a disguise. However, a nurse noticed the trick, and reported the man to the police. BBC News has more.

An Italian man who wanted a Covid vaccination certificate without getting the jab turned up for his vaccine with a fake arm, officials say.

The man, in his 50s, arrived for his shot with a silicone mould covering his real arm, hoping it would go unnoticed.

But a nurse was not fooled and the man has now been reported to the police.

The nurse told local media that when she had rolled up his sleeve, she found the skin “rubbery and cold” and the pigment “too light”.

After being discovered, the man tried to persuade the nurse to turn a blind eye, la Repubblica reported. But instead she reported him to the police for fraud.

Local police are now investigating the incident in Biella, north-west Italy, and local officials have criticised the man’s actions.

“The case borders on the ridiculous, if it were not for the fact we are talking about a gesture of enormous gravity,” the head of the Piedmont regional Government, Albert Cirio, said in a statement on Facebook.

He said the ploy was “unacceptable faced with the sacrifice that our entire community has paid during the pandemic, in terms of human lives, the social and economic cost”.

La Repubblica suggests the incident may not have been a one-off, pointing to a message on social media that may have been written by the man.

The Twitter post quoted by the paper featured a silicone male chest half-body suit, complete with fake arms and neck, that was on sale on Amazon for €488 (£416).

“If I go with this, will they notice? Maybe beneath the silicone I’ll even put on some extra clothes to avoid the needle reaching my real arm,” the Twitter user reportedly wrote.

The incident comes ahead of a tightening of the rules in Italy for those who have not been vaccinated.

Since August, Italians have needed a Covid ‘green pass’ showing proof of vaccination, a negative test or recovery from the virus to access train stations, cinemas, restaurants, gyms and swimming pools.

But from Monday, these activities will be restricted to those with a ‘super green pass’, which is only available to those who have been vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid.

Worth reading in full.