CODOGNO, Italy: Sunday marked one year since Italy experienced its first known COVID-19 death, a 77-year-old retired roofer from the northeastern town of Vo, in the neighboring Veneto region.
Italians across the country commemorated the event with wreath-laying ceremonies, tree plantings and church services.
In northern Italy, whose towns were the first to be hit hard by the pandemic and put under lockdown, residents paid tribute to the dead.
In Codogno, Lombardy's governor and the town mayor attended a ceremony near the Red Cross office on Sunday to unveil a monument dedicated to Covid-19 victims. The memorial consists of three steel pillars, representing resilience, community and starting over. A wreath was laid and the townspeople stood in silence to honor the dead.
"Panic, total panic, was how one of Codogno's 15,000 residents, Rosaria Sanna, described what she felt at the start. "And a year later, I am still scared because it is not over yet," she added, as quoted by Associated Press.
Some of her fellow townspeople lit candles during the Sunday morning Masses at Codogno's St. Blaise Church.
Italy, with some 95,500 confirmed Covid-19 fatalities, is the second most affected country in Europe, after Britain. Experts say the virus also killed many who were never tested.
While the first wave of infections largely engulfed Lombardy and other northern regions, a second surge, starting in the fall of 2020, spread throughout the country. The number of new coronavirus infections has remained staggeringly high, despite the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. nationwide curfew and restrictions on travel between regions, and in some cases, between towns. In addition, gyms, cinemas and theaters have been closed, while restaurants and bars have been forced to shut early in the evening.
So far, Italy has 2.8 million confirmed cases.
Of these, in the hospital at the Lombard town of Codogno, a doctor recognized what would go down in medical history as the first known Covid-19 patient in the West with no links to the outbreak in Asia, where the coronavirus infections initially emerged. The diagnosis was made on the evening of Feb. 20, 2020, of a 38-year-old otherwise healthy, athletic man.
The Codogno hospital patient survived after being transferred to another hospital and spending weeks on a respirator, while it was in Vo that Italy's first known COVID-19 death was registered on Feb. 21, 2020.
At the memorial ceremony in Vo, officials planted a tree. A plaque has also been installed, quoting a line from the Italian poet Ugo Foscolo, whose works are widely studied by the nation's schoolchildren. The inscription reads: "A man never dies if there is someone who remembers him."
(File photo. Credit: Alberto Giuliani | Wikimedia Commons)