Rome (CNN): Soldiers are being drafted in to help enforce the lockdown in Italy after the total number of deaths from Covid-19 in the European nation surpassed the toll in China, previously the deadliest center of the coronavirus outbreak.
Desperate scenes have unfolded in the north of the country, particularly the hard-hit Lombardy region where infections first exploded last month, as hospitals struggle to treat thousands of cases.
And Chinese medical experts helping Italy deal with the crisis have said the restrictions imposed in Lombardy are “not strict enough.”
The government has now agreed that the military can be used to help enforce the lockdown, the president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, told a news conference on Friday.
“(The request to use the army) has been accepted… and 114 soldiers will be on the ground throughout Lombardy… it is still too little, but it is positive,” Fontana said. “Unfortunately we are not seeing a change of trend in the numbers, which are rising.”
The soldiers had until now been deployed in the region to ensure general security in the streets.
More than 3,400 people have now died from the disease in Italy, the Italian Civil Protection Agency said. The number of deaths in China currently stands at 3,242, according to the World Health Organization.
Daniela Confalonieri, an Italian nurse in Milan, the region’s capital, said the situation was so dire that the dead were no longer being counted.
“We’re working in a state of very high stress and tension,” Confalonieri told Reuters. “Unfortunately we can’t contain the situation in Lombardy, there’s a high level of contagion and we’re not even counting the dead any more.
“Look at the news that’s coming out of Italy and take note of what the situation really is like. It’s unimaginable.”
A hospital doctor in Bergamo, another Lombardy city, told CNN it had been hit so hard by the coronavirus that it is now sending patients who need intensive care to other parts of the country.
“Bergamo is sending ICU patients to other regions because we ran out (of space),” Dr. Stefano Magnone told CNN on Friday, adding that intensive care units in hospitals in nearby Brescia were also full. Brescia is the second-worst affected province, according to the Italian Civil Protection Department.