TAIPEI (CNA) — Italy was the first country in Europe to be battered by the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and Davide Giglio, Italy’s representative to Taiwan, is hoping his country will be the first to emerge from the crisis.
“Having been hit the first in Europe, Italy now hopes to be among the first, if not outright the first, to ride this storm out,” Giglio told CNA in a recent interview.
“The COVID-19 epidemic has been raging in Northern Italy, particularly in Lombardy, which is the economic heart of the country,” he said.
“It is a region with strong business interactions worldwide, hence the reason the contagion appeared there first.”
According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures, Italy has reported 41,035 confirmed cases of the virus, the most in Europe and the second most globally after China, the origin of the outbreak, which has roughly 81,300 cases to date.
On Thursday, Italy also became the country with the highest number of confirmed deaths in the world, totaling 3,405, according to statistics released by its Civil Protection Department.
Since March 9, the entire country has been on a lockdown, just two weeks after Lombardy became the first administrative region in Italy to be sealed off, and despite reports of how dire the situation is, Giglio believes it is improving.
“Remarkable progress has been made there [Lombardy] in containing [the disease] thanks to unprecedented measures taken by the Italian government, which has put the country into a lockdown,” Giglio said.
The people of Italy “have shown amazing cohesiveness, discipline, empathy, in some case even good humor when dealing with the limitations to their traditional way of life that have been imposed by the authorities,” he said.
“Italy has become a model as the same measures taken there have been later adopted also by other important European countries,” he added. “We are a uniquely resilient nation. I am confident that Italy will overcome even this challenge.”
The Italian representative wanted to counter a perception in Taiwan’s media that Italy is a “vector” of contagion, saying that his country is in fact a victim.
“Characterizing Italy and the Italians as vectors of the contagion is untrue and insensitive. This emergency is not of Italy’s making,” he said. “COVID-19 landed at Italy’s doorstep as it has at Taiwan’s and both sides have been doing their best to deal with the situation.”
Another misconception, he said, is possible skepticism over the safety of Italian products, which, he stressed, cannot serve as a possible vehicle of contagion.
On a broader scale, while acknowledging that people-to-people mobility in Italy and Taiwan has been affected by the outbreak since January, Giglio said “it is unreasonable to make unnecessary obstacles to the displacement of goods and to the regular development of bilateral trade.”
His comments came after the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) announced on Feb. 19 that Taiwan would prohibit imports of live pigs and pork products from Italy, effective the next day.
The move followed an assessment of a growing African swine fever (ASF) epidemic seen in Sardinia.
During the interview, Giglio said he was appealing to Taiwan’s government to reconsider some recent unilateral decisions that have negatively affected the export of Italian products to Taiwan, particularly in the food sector.
Touching on the topic of his office’s recent campaign dubbed “Italy-Taiwan: Healthy Together,” the Italian representative said the activity is focused on promoting bilateral exchanges of know-how and experiences in the health sector, citing the ongoing university exchanges between Italian and Taiwanese medical teams as an example.
“The COVID-19 emergency is a global challenge. Nations worldwide are in this all together. There cannot be individual salvation. The slogan ‘Italy-Taiwan: healthy, together’ put forward by my office highlights this awareness,” said Giglio, who took up his post as Italy’s de facto ambassador to Taipei in January 2019.