Vo ‘is a small Italian town in the province of Padua, 50 kilometers from Venice, known mainly for its fine wines. A year ago, it was the scene of the first coronavirus death in Italy: Adriano Trevisan died on February 21, at the age of 77, after ten days of hospitalization.
The news had been talking for weeks about the virus that had emerged in Wuhan, China. A few days earlier, a Chinese tourist had died in France from the disease. But the death of the first European citizen confirmed the worst fear: the coronavirus was spreading across the continent. What was happening in Italy was anticipation of what would be seen in many other places around the world: lockdowns, closures, testing for the general population.
But Vo ‘was an unusual case: in an isolated town of 3,000 inhabitants, it was possible to test the entire population, leading to unprecedented research into the disease.
Hours before Trevisan’s death, the first coronavirus infection was confirmed in a 38-year-old patient in Codogno, Lombardy. People who had contact with these two patients were quickly tested and, in a short time, cases increased, especially in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto – the latter, where Vo ‘is located.
In an attempt to contain the spread of the virus in the country, the Italian government isolated Vo ‘and Codogno on February 22: the municipalities were declared red zones. Checkpoints were set up at the various Vo ‘entrances – no one could enter or leave, and businesses and businesses deemed non-essential were closed.
“After the detection of the first case, the Veneto region decided to test all the inhabitants of Vo ‘. This has generated a unique epidemiological situation. We wondered if a second screening could be done ten days later to measure the effect of the control measures taken. »Explains epidemiologist Andrea Crisanti, team leader at the University of Padua, which carried out the tests in collaboration with Imperial College London. “It was the first screening of an entire population in the world. It was very important because we were able to analyze the entire population without confounding factors ”.
Many of the observations made during this time have proven to be helpful in managing the virus around the world. A first part of the results of this research was revealed in an article published by the scientific journal Nature in June 2020.
“We have shown that in a situation where an entire community is tested, or a group of relationships is tested and all positives are isolated, transmission of the virus is virtually blocked. We have also shown that asymptomatic individuals contribute an important measure of viral transmission. was a fundamental study to understand the dynamics of the transmission of the virus and some aspects which then proved to be fundamental to implement control measures, ”explains Crisanti.
The effectiveness of the measures adopted quickly in Vo ‘, based on the follow-up of contacts and the isolation of confirmed cases, although asymptomatic, was the basis of the model then adopted by the Veneto region. And it has helped limit coronavirus infections and deaths, especially in the first wave of the pandemic.
Vo ‘, in particular, has so far recorded a very low number of coronavirus deaths: there were only five, three in the first wave of the pandemic, according to Mayor Giuliano Martini.
The second death that struck the small community is that of Renato Turetta, on March 10. He was 67 years old and frequented one of the many bars in town where he played cards and met friends – among them Trevisan and Mario Dalbetto, who had the disease and recovered.
Shortly after the diagnosis, Turetta was admitted and was completely isolated even from her family. “Every day, the chief doctor in Padua called me to tell me how he was doing,” explains his wife, Cristina Tosetto. Turetta was intubated and died after three weeks in the ICU.
According to her, neither the doctors nor the nurses knew how to behave in the face of the disease. “They kept their clothes and personal belongings in the hospital to burn everything.”
Cristina says the mairdo did not have a proper funeral. “It was just me, my daughter, the priest and Renato’s sister. Only us. Here at the cemetery, not at the church.”
Religious temples had been closed due to restrictions in the red zone.
Turetta’s body was buried in the cemetery of Cortelà, one of the four villages of Vo ‘, and received a tribute from his companions in the army. “He was a former Alpine, and the Alpine troops organized a small party in the square, asking for permission because meetings were not allowed,” says the girl, Manuela Turetta.
The fear of the early days, however, made Vo ‘an important example in managing the infection. “In the first few months, we were considered contagious. I remember that wines sent from a local cellar were returned to the sender. They thought the bottles contained the virus,” explains the mayor of the city.
“But after those first difficult times, the community felt even more united and prevention was taken seriously.”
The city reported six new cases last week and the data is steadily declining. In neighboring towns, at least 50 or 60 people are infected.
According to the mayor, the highest number recorded by the city was 19 cases. “We are continuing to publish our data. All of this has helped change the negative image Vo ‘had at the start of the pandemic.”