“Here, on February 19, 2020, we received Mattia, ‘patient number one.’
He was brought in at night, and the next day his condition worsened – he had a high fever, cough, shortness of breath and had to breathe. However, there was no improvement and the doctors decided to transfer the patient to the intensive care unit. At the same time, they wonder how a trained 38-year-old athlete can fall into such a serious condition. The usual tests do not give an explanation and in the end only one more test remains to be done.
“We hadn’t tested it for coronavirus alone,” said Dr. Laura Richevuti, who was on shift at the time. According to the instructions of the Ministry of Health, this type of test should be done on patients with fever and lung problems who have returned from China.
However, Matthias had not been to China and it took some time for the doctors to follow the instructions. The sample was taken and sent to Milan. “At 9 pm, they called us from there and told us that it was a case of coronavirus,” explains the medical director of the Philippines.
“It sounded amazing”
So suddenly the illusion that the coronavirus only affects China and a few other countries is shattered. The pandemic reached Europe via Lombardy. The mayor of Codonjo, Francesco Paserini, was immediately informed. He initially decided he was worried about a train crash. He then learned that the first case of coronavirus had been reported at Codonjo Hospital. “It sounded incredible to me,” the mayor said, given that we are in the Po River Valley, away from airports and international transport arteries, Deutsche Welle reported.
After a series of talks with medics and other experts, the mayor decided to close the city. “It was clear that something was wrong. Because after the first patient, the disease was found in ten others. Closing the city seemed to me the only way to protect people here and save lives.”
On the morning of 21 February, Europe already has its first red zone. In Codonjo, no one is allowed to leave the house, schools and shops are closed, public life is frozen. A day later, the government in Rome decided to send troops to blockade Codonjo and surrounding municipalities.
Media from all over the world suddenly became interested in Codonjo – everyone was talking about the city. But for many who live in the middle of the red zone, it is not yet clear what is happening.
“I remember the constant howls of ambulances – that was the main sound in those days. When it became clear that they were carrying people who had not fought the disease, the fear grew.”
The source of the infection remains unknown
At that time, no one in Europe outside of Codonjo knew what life was like in a lockdown. People in the 16,000-strong city have to get masks, but they quickly run out in pharmacies – they also have to be used non-medically.
Volunteers set out to provide food for those in need. “We went to the border of the red zone to take the delivered food to take to the people,” said Lorenzo Nicolini, one of the volunteers.
Meanwhile, patient number one was transferred to a larger clinic in Pavia – and was rescued. At Codonjo Hospital, 70 percent of staff tested positive for coronavirus. Those who have not yet become infected work to the best of their ability.
Dr. Laura Richevuti, who was anxious in diagnosing the first patient, was knighted for her services to the republic by the Italian president. Together with her colleague Annaliza Malara, who took the test.
To this day, it remains unclear where Mattia became infected. The search for the zero patient remains fruitless. The pandemic apparently spread unnoticed for a long time – before the doctors from Codonjo decided to do the test despite the instructions.
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