COVID-19: Mass testing helped Italian town cut cases to zero

Vo in north Italy was home to country’s first death. Testing and quarantine helped control the spread

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 24 March 2020

As the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases grew exponentially in Italy—at least 63,000 infected and more than 6,000 dead as on March 23, 2020 — a small Italian town emerged as an outlier.

The town in north Italy, Vo Euganeo, reported an array of positive cases and was home to country’s first death on February 21, according to media reports. 

A month down the lane, the town of 3,000-odd people is doing surprisingly well—it hasn’t reported a single case since March 13 and all infected people have recovered, according to reports.

So what did Vo do to contain the spread?

On March 6, the town’s officials along with University of Padua and Red Cross tested all residents, including those who did not have symptoms. This allowed the government to quarantine people before they showed signs of infection and stop the spread.

Every resident who tested positive was put under home quarantine. Patients were even discouraged to visit hospitals to prevent them from spreading the disease there. In the first round of mass testing, about 89 people tested positive.

After two weeks of quarantine, the researchers carried out another round of mass testing. The results were pleasantly surprising—rate of COVID-19 infection had dropped to 0.41 per cent from 3 per cent.

The study established that most infected cases were asymptomatic—they did not show any symptoms of infection. According to researchers, this established an important principle—testing of all citizens, whether or not they exhibit symptoms.

According to reports, the town achieved 100 per cent recovery rate for those previously infected. It did not record any further cases of transmission.

Officials believe two aggressive tactics—testing and isolation—were undertaken by the officials at the right time and that helped curb the spread.

Luca Zaia, president of Veneto reinforced the position that widespread testing was vital. “An asymptomatic carrier can infect 10 people. Swabs can save lives,” media reports quoted him as saying.

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