Italy will rush 10,000 medical students into service, waiving their qualifying exams as the nation struggles to handle the COVID-19 outbreak, which has left 2,503 dead amid an unprecedented lockdown.
Italy is the worst affected nation outside of China, with a total of 31,506 confirmed cases according to currently available data from Johns Hopkins University. Iran has the third-highest number of confirmed cases at 17,361.
Hospitals in northern Italy, where the pandemic got its first toehold in Europe, have been pushed to the breaking point, as cases rise across the rest of the country, putting pressure on the national health system.
To fill the shortfall, this year’s medical graduates will be rushed into practice eight to nine months early, with University Minister Gaetano Manfredi saying the government will waive their mandatory qualifying exams.
“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,” Manfredi said in a statement.
Those graduates will be sent to general practitioners’ clinics and at retirement homes, leaving the more experienced doctors to handle the rapidly filling hospitals.
The death toll in Italy has tripled during the imposition of a strict lockdown that came less than a week ago as the nation sought to contain the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus as the CCP virus, because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.
Outside of China, Europe has become a secondary epicenter of the virus in the last week, with Spain, Germany, and France picking up more than 30,000 confirmed cases total.
The number of new daily cases in Italy has been fairly stagnant in the last four days, sparking hopes that the restrictions may be bearing fruit.
“Let’s hope it is the start of a trend reversal. I am saying it in a whisper, this could be the start of a trend reversal,” said Attilio Fontana, the governor of Lombardy, which is Italy’s worst affected region.
“I do not know if the measures will be extended beyond April 3. We will make a decision based on the numbers and events. I cannot rule it out. We will see in the coming days,” said Infrastructure Minister Paola De Micheli.
The average age of those killed by the virus is 80.3, with the majority diagnosed with underlying health conditions, Silvio Brusaferro, the president of Italy’s Higher Institute of Health, said last week.
The viral pathogen, SARS-CoV-2, is stable on surfaces for hours and can survive for up to three days on some, according to a recent study.
It concludes people may pick up the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects.
Tom Ozimek and Reuters contributed to this report.