Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera 28 Sep 2020

The Italian Doctor: Fighting COVID-19, isolation and uncertainty


To cope with the onslaught of coronavirus cases, Italy rushed 10,000 resident doctors into service during the first wave of the global pandemic. Dr Alessandro Galli, 31, is one of them.

The young Italian resident volunteered to serve on the front lines of the coronavirus epicentre in Europe, a daunting task.

At the renowned Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, Galli joins other physicians looking after COVID-19 patients in critical condition in the intensive care unit. His daily encounters with death and isolation force him to question his actions and the need for control and balance during this time of unprecedented uncertainty.


Un giovane medico specializzando in Anestesia e Rianimazione si offre volontario per prestare servizio in prima linea nell'epicentro del coronavirus in Europa. Per far fronte alla brutalità della prima ondata di casi di coronavirus, l'Italia ha messo in servizio 10.000 medici specializzandi. Il dott.

Dr Alessandro Galli, 31 anni, è uno di loro. Presso l'Ospedale Papa Giovanni XXIII di Bergamo, uno dei più colpiti dalla pandemia, il Dr Galli si unisce ad altri medici che si occupano di pazienti COVID-19 ricoverati in terapia intensiva in condizioni critiche. L'incontro quotidiano con l'isolamento e la morte lo costringono a mettere in discussione le sue azioni e il bisogno di controllo ed equilibrio, in un momento di incertezza senza precedenti.

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said there is "light at the end of the tunnel" adding that there are "several" COVID-19 vaccines "now in final phase 3 trials."

Speaking to reporters in Geneva today (30 Oct), Dr Tedros said if the vaccines are proven safe and effective, "they will be rolled out through the ACT Accelerator's vaccine arm - the COVAX Facility, which is now supported by 186 countries."

The Director-General said, "Over the past few months, I have heard firsthand from people who face mid to long-term effects of COVID-19 infection. What's really concerning is the vast spectrum of symptoms that fluctuate over time, often overlap, and can affect any system in the body. From fatigue, a cough and shortness of breath, to inflammation and injury of major organs - including the lungs and heart. And even neurological and psychologic effects. Although we're still learning about the virus, what's clear is that this is not just a virus that kills people. To a significant number of people, this virus poses a range of serious long-term effects. While people do recover, it can be slow - sometimes weeks or months - and it is not always a linear route to recovery."

Dr Tedros With global cases continuing to rise and some countries going in the wrong direction, the Emergency Committee on COVID-19 made a series of recommendations for WHO and Member States to act on. He said, "The take home message is that it's important for governments and citizens to keep focused on breaking the chains of transmission. Governments should focus on tackling the virus and avoid politicization. No matter where they are in terms of the outbreak, they should keep investing in the health system and workforce and improving testing, tracing and treatment of all cases."

Dr Janet Diaz, Head of Clinical Care at WHO's Health Emergencies Programme said, "We now know that early recognition of patients is necessary in order to apply the right isolation, which we know to stop transmission, but also to apply rapid diagnostic testing and rapid care for patients. We know the symptoms now, just not the typical symptoms, but we also know atypical symptoms of patients so we can recognize them, even when they come in with atypical symptoms. For severity of disease, we knew about pneumonia, we knew about ARDS and patients requiring invasive ventilation. But now we also know about other complications, such as stroke, cardiac disease and other causes of thrombosis so we can apply treatments for those conditions. And now, as Maria (Van Kerkhove) had already mentioned, we do have one life-saving treatment, and this is for patients with severe or critical COVID. So, the use of corticosteroids, which reduces mortality."

Diaz said the lesson from the first peak was that "when the hospitals got full, the care got complicated." She said the world needs to remember that lesson and to stop transmission, stop patients from getting sick or getting very sick so that the health system can stay functioning and care for all patients.

Executive Director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme Dr Mike Ryan said individual countries should not be judged as some were caught behind the curve and other dealt with the disease early without the knowledge available now. He added, "In that sense, the real judgments don't come in the first wave of any epidemic because nobody has all the information. The question is right now -- we have seen this wave pass over the earth, we have seen approaching 50 million people infected, confirmed, we're seeing over a million deaths. The question is: are we willing to apply the learning? Many people have paid a heavy price. Have we learned? Yes, we have. That's not the problem or the challenge. The question is, can we apply the learning? And, can we do that now as numbers rise again in the Northern hemisphere?"
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