“Lombardy is on the point of collapse. All the intensive care beds and respirators are being used,” said Matteo Salvini, head of the League party which governs the wealthy region.
A potentially dangerous development is the rise in cases in the province of Milan, up by 343 in the last 24 hours to 2326. The 17 per cent rise compares with a much smaller increase of 11 per cent in Lombardy as a whole.
The epidemic has so far taken a relatively light toll on Italy’s main cities, but there are now 964 confirmed cases in the densely populated financial capital which numbers 1.4 million residents.
Lombardy’s health chief said it was vital that the Milanese strictly observe all the curbs on movement laid down by the government “to prevent the contagion growing much more strongly in a very populous area like Milan”.
University Minister Gaetano Manfredi said the government would let this year’s medicine graduates start work some eight or nine months ahead of schedule and waive the mandatory exams they normally sit before qualifying.
“This means immediately releasing into the National Health System the energy of about 10,000 doctors, which is fundamental to dealing with the shortage that our country is suffering,” he said in a statement.
The graduates will be sent to work in general practitioners’ clinics and at old peoples’ homes, freeing up more experienced colleagues who will be sent to the rapidly filling hospitals.
In other coronavirus related news:
Over three weeks, 1135 people have needed intensive care in Lombardy, the northern region hardest hit. The region has only 800 intensive care beds, according to Giacomo Grasselli, head of the intensive care unit at Milan’s Policlinico hospital.
Authorities have been working to set up hundreds of intensive care beds in a specially created facility in the Fiera Milano exhibition centre, but are still waiting for sufficient respirators and qualified personnel.
Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Tuesday he would donate €10 million euros ($18 million) to help equip the new centre, joining a growing list of wealthy Italians offering funds.