Coronavirus in Italy; A Perspective from Francesco Grillone of Water Polo Italy

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Pro Recco, Italy's most successful water polo club, cancelled a March 3 match against Ferencvaros due to coronavirus concerns. Photo Courtesy: Pro Recco

The postponement last week of the Women’s Olympic Water Polo Qualifier—scheduled for March 8 – 15 in Trieste, Italy, but now postponed to May 17-24—continued a pattern of athletic event disruption by the novel coronavirus, which has infected 90,000 people world-wide, and claimed 3,000 lives.

[FINA Postpones Women’s Water Polo Olympic Qualifier In Coronavirus Emergency]

The situation in Italy has become critical, particularly in the north, which has Europe’s  largest concentration of coronavirus cases. On Sunday Giovani Toti, president of the Liguria region, issued updated emergency containment and management measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Located on the Mediterranean coast, Liguria is 145 kilometers southwest of Milan, which has been hit hardest by the coronavirus health crisis.

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Photo Courtesy: Luca Bruno

According to an ordinance released by Toti on March 1, all schools in Liguria will remain closed to outfit themselves with necessary hygiene and health prevention tools required by the regulations. This is in concert with a general ban on large public assembly, including closure of cinemas and theaters.

These actions are in sync with general preventative efforts by regional governments in Northern Italy, actions that have included cancellation of sporting events throughout the region.

Francesco Grillone, a water polo commentator who oversees the website WaterPoloItaly.com, has a report from his part of Northern Italy. He is based in Genoa, where the Pro Recco men’ water polo club recently canceled a high-profile LEN Champions League match in Budapest between Recco and Ferencvaros, reigning LEN champions.

Following are some of Grillone’s observations about the current situation in Italy—and why it may be some time before life in Europe returns to normal.

– From your view point what is the current situation in Italy?

COVID-19 is a virus of an influenza form undoubtedly more bloody than in past years. But it’s always about influence. The concern, in my humble opinion, derives only from the fact that the virus had never appeared in this form, therefore the vaccine that is administered every year for the flu has had little effect. Having said that, I also believe that the problem is affecting only those patients who already suffer from an important disease and therefore, unfortunately for them, the virus can prove to be fatal.

In other cases it is evident that it heals. In Italy, there are about 1500 people infected. And 34 dead. But people are beginning to recover: 90 have already been discharged.

I can’t understand what is going on in Italy. Either our politicians have gone mad, or want to overshadow something that would damage their profile with the nation. Above all Matteo Salvini, with his fellow [Northern] League players, are behaving in a very non-civilized way.

[How coronavirus became a propaganda tool for Matteo Salvini and Italy’s far-right]

– How has sport in Italy been affected?

Pure madness. Football first stops, then is played behind closed doors, then not played, then again behind closed doors. In my city, Genoa, they closed everything for two days, then some swimming pools reopened, now it seems that from Wednesday (March 4) the schools reopen, and it starts as if nothing had happened.

You speak of Olympics, of international events. I think asking questions now is useless: IOC, FINA and LEN don’t know how they should and could do either. There is a great chaos of declarations, of incomprehensible situations in all the governance of sport, from world to local.

[Tokyo Olympic Games: Cancellation D-Day Late May Over “New War” Coronavirus, Says Dick Pound]

Today it is impossible to make predictions and above all to be certain of making appropriate statements. We must wait at least in late March to understand what will happen.