According to the head of Milan’s San Raffaele Hospital, COVID-19 is nowhere near as potent as it was a couple of months ago and now ‘no longer clinically exists’ in Italy.
Dr Alberto Zangrillo has said the new Coronavirus is becoming far less lethal, with new patients displaying far milder symptoms than those who were testing positive a few weeks ago.
Between March and May, the amount of virus present during swab tests decreased significantly, a study conducted at the San Raffaele Hospital found.
“The swabs that were performed over the last 10 days showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago,” Dr Zangrillo told RAI television.
Two hundred patients have been analysed over the last 10 days at the hospital in the Lombardy region of Italy, the worst affected area of the country during the current pandemic. Director of the Microbiology and Virology Laboratory at San Raffaele, Massimo Clemente, added that the virus has ‘enormously weakened’.
The statements are echoed by Matteo Bassetti, head of the infectious diseases clinic at the San Martino hospital in Genoa.
“The strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today”, said Bassetti.
Zangrillo was the longtime physician of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and has criticised some experts for being too alarmist regarding the potential of a second wave of virus spiking in Italy, which is the third heaviest afflicted country in the world, registering 33,415 deaths since February.
“I say this well aware of the tragedy for those patients who didn’t make it, but we cannot continue to give all the attention to self-proclaimed professors rather than actual virologists and hospital workers.
“In a clinical sense, the virus no longer exists. I am prepared to put my name to that statement. We’ve got to get back to being a normal country because the statistics show we have every capability of doing that.
“We’ve got to be wary, yes, but not kill ourselves unnecessarily. Our wards are emptying out”, added Zangrillo.
However, these views are not shared by everyone, with undersecretary to the health ministry, Sandra Zampa, describing the claim as “the wrong message, which risks creating confusion among Italians”.
Franco Locatelli, the president of the National Health Council which advises the government, said he could only express “great surprise and absolute bafflement” at Zangrillo’s quotes.
“You just need to look at the number of new positive cases confirmed every day to see the persistent circulation of the virus in Italy,” he said, according to the ANSA news agency.
If Zangrillo’s study is proved to be true, however, and similar results start to be reported across the world, it could mark a landmark moment in the battle against the deadly virus, which has so far claimed the lives of 372,000 people worldwide.