Monday, March 30, 2020 | ePaper

COVID-19 The Price of Luxury

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Farazi Azmal Hossain :
 As the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to grow, nowhere in Europe has been more affected than Italy, and in particular northern Italy.
With Italy witnessing one of the worst episodes of coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed lives of 4,825 people so far while the total number of cases rose to 53,578, doubts are high that whether the presence of greater number of Chinese workers in the country's elite leather good factories might have triggered the enormous amount of carnage carried out by the virus. Incidentally, China's Wuhan is suspected to be the origin of the coronavirus pandemic which has now touched nearly all corners of the globe, killing people and even hitting hard the economic markets across the world.
The increasing casualties in Italy due to coronavirus outbreak has put  forward questions like -was the outbreak accidental or a planned one? While the world is looking for a plausible explanation, a Special report titled "Coronavirus:The Price of Luxury; Fashion's "Made in Italy" tag is connected to a Chinese disease" by Robert Stacy Mccain, mentioned that "....more and more Chinese investors bought into textile and leather-good factories in northern Italy, and they brought over Chinese labourers to work in those factories. By 2010, there were reportedly 60,000 Chinese in Prato, an industrial suburb of Florence." He went on to write that "After the coronavirus scare sent Italy into a nationwide lockdown earlier this month, several U.S news organizations decided to address the question, 'Why Italy?'
Most of their answers had to do with demographics and aging, with Italy having a much larger proportion of senior citizens than other countries. Many Italians in northern Italy have sold their leather goods and textile companies to China.  Italy then allowed 100,000 Chinese workers from Wuhan and Wenzhou to move to Italy to work in these factories, with direct flights between Wuhan and northern Italy.  This continued post outbreak, so it is near coincidence that northern Italy is now Europe's hotspot for Covid-19?
None of them, however, made mention of the tens of thousands of Chinese labourers working in clothing plants in northern Italy, where their Covid-19 outbreak was first detected in February........ The size, location and timing of Italy's coronavirus outbreak all suggest that the disease was imported to the country directly from China.
The first two cases reported in Italy were Chinese tourists who arrived in Rome in late January. Three weeks later, however, a 38-year old man in the northern province of Lombardy showed up at a hospital with respiratory problems but had to wait 36 hours before he was tested for coronavirus, during which time "he had contact with hospital staff and visiting friends and family. That Feb 19 incident raises obvious  question: How did a man in Lombardy get this virus? Why northern Italy and not somewhere else?"  "......Importing workers to manufacture 'Made in Italy' fashion made luxury items cheaper.  Now the full price is being paid, and it's turning out to be painfully expensive", he added.
Lombardy and Tuscany were the two regions that saw the most Chinese investment. "Today, Italy is experiencing the worst coronavirus outbreak outside China, and Lombardy is the hardest-hit region in the country", the report said. The murky reality is that the EU turned a blind eye to vast number of illegal Chinese immigrants working in Italian factories, with Chinese mafia behind operation
Researchers have reported that about 80 percent of those infected with the Wuhan virus have only mild symptoms, and some have no symptoms at all. Yet these "stealth" cases may be a major factor in transmission of the disease.
None of the reports from Italy indicates how many coronavirus patients there are Chinese. But, by early March, the Italian outbreak was so widespread that the direction of transmission was already going in the other direction, as Chinese people returning from Italy brought the disease back to China with them.
So clearly, the needle of suspicion is towards China which is suspected of exporting the disease to Italy.

(Farazi Azmal Hossain, senior journalist and columnist)

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