Interview. ‘We must succeed in restarting the mechanism of economic, commercial and social life without underestimating the critical situation in terms of health.’

MEP Majorino: ‘On the issue of health, Europe is showing its weakness’

In Lombardy, 53% of those infected with coronavirus and 68% of those in intensive care are over 65 years old. Here, as everywhere else, the elderly have more to fear from the coronavirus. As a result, the Lega’s Regional Councilor for Welfare, Giulio Gallera, admonished them on the Rai 3 TV station: “Don’t go and play bingo or cards, stay home!” 

However, the former Councilor for social policies in Milan, Pierfrancesco Majorino (PD), today a member of the European Parliament, has some objections to this approach. We spoke with him this week.

“The appeal is understandable, since the more contacts are limited, the more limited the contagion is. Furthermore, I agree with the measures taken: the alarm is real. However, frail and vulnerable people don’t need a call to stay at home. They need an intervention at home, so they aren’t left alone these days.

“I am expecting the Region to put together a home care plan: if we bring together the administrators of social cooperatives, home care workers, social guardians, volunteers and general practitioners, we can build an institutional structure to help people who are left alone, which would be much more effective than calls to stay at home.”

Lombardy, which has been hit hard by the virus, also has some communication problems. The image of President Fontana with the face mask has been seen around the world. Or is there more to say about that image?

It’s been turned into a spectacle, it was a slip-up. But the problem is a political one. There has always been an internal conflict within the Lega. In the first week of the emergency, Presidents Fontana and Zaia had a proper institutional attitude, but Salvini poured fuel on the fire. They had to be the ones to ask Salvini to tone it down, and ask him for more unity.

And instead, Fontana waved his mask around and Zaia talked about the Chinese supposedly eating live mice. Is that the final nail in the coffin for the notion of the “moderate Lega”?

These events speak for themselves. I hope that by now, the idea that the Lega represents is being questioned: namely, the idea that the solution to our problems lies in closing ourselves off in our own territory, or in our own nation. Instead, we need global answers, and an integration of policies.
There are two lessons we can learn from what is happening these days: the system of regionalization of healthcare without national—or, better still, European—coordination is very weak, because the virus doesn’t care about the areas of competence of the institutions. Secondly, the belief that Italian healthcare can be cut, or inadequately funded, has been thrown into crisis. 

Today, we are discovering that the national system is made up of extraordinary doctors and nurses, but that it is underfunded compared to England, Germany and France. In recent years, we have weakened it and we haven’t invested enough, we have considered an investment that would help us save money as a mere cost. Today, we are forced to take measures that are causing economic damage. In recent years, we have had a right wing that was adamantly against investing, and a weak and subordinate left.

These days, two models for the Lombardy region have been put in clear contrast: that of Fontana, with his mask, and that of Mayor Sala, calling for a Milan that “must not stop,” whatever happens.

Finding the right measures has been difficult for everyone. I’ll say it again, I agree with the isolation orders. But Sala has certainly tried, with a more sober spirit, to communicate the message that, no matter what, we will go on—the virus must not stop us. In Italy, we have gone all the way from panic to underestimation. We must succeed in restarting the mechanism of economic, commercial and social life without underestimating the critical situation in terms of health. Now, this is the most difficult phase. We know that the cities cannot stop, but we still don’t have enough data to conclude that the most acute phase has passed.

The virus doesn’t respect borders, and once again, Europe has had a disorganized response.

The absence of integrated policies is now at a surreal level. We haven’t even managed to agree on how to carry out fever controls at airports. On the issue of health, Europe is showing all its weakness. We need a radical change of pace. We hope to achieve some results in this regard soon.

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