As the country that has suffered the highest number of deaths from the coronavirus epidemic, Italy is frequently used to compare the situation of other countries. Yet Italian statistics experts believe the available figures throughout the world are insufficient to use as a basis for comparison.
Of the 101,739 people in Italy who contracted coronavirus, 11,591 people died, indicating that the country has a death rate of the virus is 11.3 pct. According to the figures from the Word Heath Organization (WHO), the average death rate of the rate worldwide is 4.7 percent.
Matteo Villa, a researcher with the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (Ispi), says that while Turkey is one of the countries that asks its itself if it will become Italy, comparing the two countries is like comparing apples and oranges as the progression curve of the virus is not shaping out the same way in every country, and that some are faster than others.
Speaking to the BBC's Turkish service, Villa emphasized that the difference between death rates in different countries is a result of the different testing strategies that countries are using, and that case numbers and death rates are related to the number of tests that are taken by people who are symptom-free or display few symptoms.
Lorenzo Pregliasco, one of the founders of the prominent Italian research and polling firm YouTrend, pointed out that one should consider the number of tests being conducted and the respective situation of the different countries’ healthcare systems.
“Figures from different countries can be compared, but two factors need to be taken into consideration. The first is that the number of cases is affected by the different testing strategies. Because some countries conducted more comprehensive testing, higher numbers of cases are being revealed, and since some are doing less testing, less cases are coming out. The second is that different countries and even different regions within countries can, in time, have different curves of progression. For example, in Italy there was a major difference between the northern and southern regions of the country,” Pregliasco said.
Another major factor is the pressure that a given country's healthcare system is under, and according to Pregliasco, if the pressure on the healthcare systems in certain regions of Italy continues, it could lead to their collapse and increase the death rate. During the first days of Italy's pandemic, those who were suspicious that they might have the virus were being tested. However, in the ensuing days, only people with symptoms of the virus were being tested. According to Villa, the change in this testing strategy resulted in a surge in the death rate.
“The apparent death toll in Italy is not the real one. It shows that there are high numbers of cases that we have not been able to identify. We don't know about nine of the ten cases in Italy,” Villa said.
Villa added that due to the fact that the number of cases is much higher than officially reported, the death rate is significantly lower, with the actual figure being around 1.1 percent. According to Pregliasco, the death rate is calculated based on the total number of cases, but the official number is much lower than the realistic figures.
In a statement last week from Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy's Civil Protection Agency, a government unit, Borrelli said that it is believed that the actual number of cases in Italy is ten times as higher than those that have been officially reported.The brotherhood of the coronavirus: Italy and Turkey