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'We are not to blame each other': Italian Ambassador says authorities there did everything to contain virus

Italian authorities have put the country into lockdown with more than 9,000 confirmed cases.

Empty streets in Venice as the country goes into lockdown.
Empty streets in Venice as the country goes into lockdown.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

THE ITALIAN AMBASSADOR to Ireland has insisted Italy is not to blame for the pace at which the coronavirus has spread across Europe as the country goes into lockdown five weeks after it confirmed its first case. 

In an interview with TheJournal.ie where he spoke about a number of issues including the economic impact of the outbreak as well as Ireland’s response to Covid-19, Ambassador Paolo Serpi said Italian authorities have been proactive in trying to contain the virus from the minute the first case was confirmed. 

He said there was no way his country could have done more to contain the spread of the virus in a territory with over 60 million people. 

“I think we are not to blame each other, we are human beings and this is a disease and it is something that comes from somewhere but we don’t know where. But the important thing is to adapt our lives and adopt all the necessary measures to fight the disease,” he said. 

“Frankly speaking, I don’t know how we could have been faster than we have been. We are speaking about a country of 60 million people and on 3 January we had three cases and then the situation exploded.” 

“We had measures going on since the end of January to control the coming of people from China, and from entering and exiting the country by plane. We immediately started measures one by one,” he added. 

Italy has the highest number of confirmed cases, reaching 9,172 yesterday with more than 460 coronavirus-related deaths, prompting the lockdown in Northern parts, where the outbreak occured, to be extended to the entire country until 3 April. 

Schools and universities have been closed and airlines including Ryanair and Aer Lingus announced they would be suspending flights to, from and within the country from Friday.

France and Spain have the second and third highest number of confirmed cases at 1,412 and 1,204 respectively, according to latest figures from the European Centre for Disease Control

In the Republic of Ireland, there are 24 confirmed cases with a further 16 in Northern Ireland – that number is expected to rise in the coming days. 

Of the confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland, 12 are directly linked with travel to Northern Italy, which has recorded the second-highest coronavirus toll globally.

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, has updated its advice, advising Irish citizens not travel to Italy.

The ambassador suggested that Ireland’s geographical location as an island in the west of Europe would insulate the country from an “explosion” similar to that witnessed in Italy. 

“I hope for Ireland that [a lockdown] will not be necessary and I think the geographical position of Ireland, and it’s not densely populated, will help to avoid such drastic measures that we had to take but you never know. 

“I think we did what we had to do and we certainly hope that Ireland is not to repeat the same actions but I think what you are doing is very well done in terms of early warnings and first measures like avoiding mass gatherings.”


Italy is home to some of the biggest industries in Europe including textiles, wine and motor vehicles. But as the world deals with the economic shock and fallout following the spread of Covid-19, the Italian ambassador said Italy and its industries are very much “alive”. 

“Certainly in the last few days there have been problems of various kinds, for people leaving or people experiencing problems in aspects of social life but we have tried not to interrupt production because it is vital not only for us but Italy is the second biggest manufacturer in Europe. 

“So it would be for us, and for our European partners, a big problem if production stopped. We are trying our utmost not to interrupt and the industry is working, and production is ongoing, and the country is alive.”

Yesterday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned Italians to stay home and seek permission for essential travel. 

Ambassador Serpi said the Italian community in Ireland are aware of the limitations around travelling to their home country for the foreseeable future. 

He said the measures restricting travel in and out of the country until 3 April could be extended but that decision will be made in two to three weeks time. 

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“It has been a drastic decision in order to control the disease and it is costly in terms of economic terms and in social terms but it is a necessary response,” he said. 

“The people working here know this and if it is not absolutely necessary they will not go to Italy. This is also for me and my family. This is a moment and if there is a working reason to move, you move, otherwise you stay at home and don’t move.”

He added: “This experience has shown us that we are very modern and we are very sophisticated and while our scientific discoveries are sophisticated, at the end of the day we are still dependent on nature and we have to combat these disease.”

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