Italy Marks Anniversary of 1st Confirmed Locally Transmitted COVID-19 Infections in West

  • VOA News

    February 22, 2021 08:29

    It was one year ago that Italy became the first country outside Asia to confirm locally transmitted coronavirus infections.

    Last year on Feb. 20, Italy confirmed its first COVID-19 infection -- in a 38-year-old man from Codogno. Hours later, a 77-year-old roofer from Vo, in the Veneto region died, becoming the first known fatality from a locally transmitted case in the West. Since then, the virus has circled the globe, infecting more than 111 million people and killing more than 2.4 million.

    Pope Francis and Italian President Sergio Mattarella marked the anniversary Saturday by establishing the National Day of Health Care Personnel, an annual day to honor doctors, nurses and other medical providers.

    Francis described the health care workers' dedication as "a vaccine against individualism and selfishness" that "demonstrates the most authentic desire that dwells in the heart of man -- be near to those who have the most need and give of oneself for them."

    Mattarella said the heroic efforts of the medical workers helped "to avoid the epidemic's precipitating into an irreversible catastrophe."

    As nations struggle to vaccinate their populations against the coronavirus-caused disease, New York City finds its vaccine supply down to fewer than 1,000 doses. "Delayed shipments have put our entire vaccination effort at a standstill," Avery Cohen, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio posted on Twitter Saturday. 

    Laura Ricevuti, the medical doctor who diagnosed the first case of COVID-19 in an Italian patient with Dr. Malara, looks through the window at Codogno Hospital on Feb. 11, 2021. /Reuters

    The grim news is a result of the snowstorms across the U.S. that have crippled the transport of goods, including 6 million vaccine doses. The wintry weather conditions have also caused power outages at some 2,000 inoculation sites. 

    Israelis who have received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine saw their risk of illness from the coronavirus drop 98.5 percent and their risk of hospitalization drop 98.9 percent , the country's Health Ministry said Saturday.

    The ministry's findings come from data collected Feb. 13 from a pool of about 1.7 million people who had received both shots by Jan. 30, meaning their bodies had time to build up antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19.

    Nearly half of Israel's 9.3 million people have been inoculated, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that 95 percent of adults older than 50 should be vaccinated in the next two weeks.

    Mexico's deputy health minister says he has tested positive for COVID-19. Mexico reported 7,785 new COVID-19 cases Saturday. Germany announced 7,600.

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