A 47-year-old paramedic has died after contracting COVID-19, becoming one of Italy’s youngest victims.
Diego Bianco, who worked for 118 – the Italian emergency ambulance service – passed away yesterday at his house in Montello, northern Italy, where he lived with his wife and their eight-year-old son, authorities confirmed yesterday morning.
The paramedic from Bergamo – a city about 30 miles from Milan – worked at the 118 operations centre Papa Giovanni XXIII in Bergamo.
On Saturday, March 7, he suddenly had a high temperature of 39 degrees Celsius and on Thursday he was tested for COVID-19.
The facility where he worked was closed and sanitised earlier this week after other rescuers experienced coronavirus symptoms and remained at home.
The dad-of-one died in the night between Friday and Saturday even before the swab results confirmed he had the virus – and doctors later told his distraught wife he had tested positive for COVID-19 – according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
A few hours before passing away, he reportedly told his wife: “You can go to sleep, my dear. I just need to find a comfortable position to fall asleep.”
His concerned wife, Maruska Capoferri, asked him: “Why, do you think you are going to die?”
After Diego replied “no”, she went to another room – but when she went to check on him two hours later, he had difficulties breathing and then a heart attack, L’Eco Di Bergamo reports.
His colleagues said he “died within a day and a half, despite being healthy” because “if you work as a rescuer, you are in good health and constantly monitored”.
One of his fellow paramedics, Davide Brescancin, explained: “The thing that worries us the most is the carelessness with which rescue workers are abandoned to their destiny.”
Davide said rescuers, who are constantly exposed to the virus, are not safe.
He called for stricter measures to protect workers and patients, according to Il Giornale .
He added: “We don’t know where Diego contracted the virus, we are all wondering the same. Maybe he was not infected at work, yet there are some factories that intend to reopen tomorrow pending medical supplies.
“But the fast and terrible end of Diego could happen to many of us (unfortunately many others have already died) if we do not immediately close everything, establish a quarantine income and stop all types of production.”
Riccardo Germani, a spokesman for the health union Adl Cobas Lombardia, said: “Diego was a trained worker, a rescuer who has always used personal protective equipment, was not elderly and did not have any other diseases.
“He was one of the 700 health workers, doctors, nurses and rescuers who have already been infected.”
Before working as a paramedic, Diego was an ambulance driver at a care home in Bergamo – where his father had previously worked.
A colleague of him said he was “always calm, even during emergencies” and added he was very experienced.
The health union asked for extraordinary measures to be introduced to protect all rescuers and health workers, Italian newspaper La Stampa reports.
The spokesman added: “We ask all private clinics to make beds available for people who have contracted COVID-19.”
The youngest person to die from coronavirus in Italy was a 38-year-old disabled man who developed breathing problems and had a high temperature.
Italy has seen a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, with over 21,000 confirmed this morning and 1,441 deaths, according to La Repubblica .
As contagions continue, 1,966 people have recovered and 1,518 are currently in intensive care.
The Italian Government has introduced tough measures to try to stop the spread of the virus, effectively putting the whole country in lockdown and asking everyone to stay at home unless absolutely necessary – which means it is possible to go out for work, health reasons or family emergencies.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the measures are designed to protect the most vulnerable – and anyone leaving their house needs to provide a self-certification form to show authorities if stopped.
He said: “We’re having an important growth in infection… and of deaths.
“We all must give something up for the good of Italy. We have to do it now.
“This is why I decided to adopt even more strong and severe measures to contain the advance… and protect the health of all citizens.”