Northern Italy & Wuhan: Partners for Better or Worse
Italy has been devastated by the coronavirus.
With an aging population that is 7-8 years older on average than the United States and a 2nd tier healthcare system that possesses 1/3 of Germany's ICU beds, Italy was not anywhere near prepared to deal with this pandemic.
The spread in Italy has been fierce and unrelenting. The Atlantic Magazine writes of Italy's policy with regard to the coronavirus, “Those who are too old to have a high likelihood of recovery, or who have too low a number of ‘life-years’ left even if they should survive, would be left to die.”
Why has Italy suffered so catastrophically from this virus that originated out of Wuhan, China?
South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan are all much closer to China, yet have not suffered anywhere near the total cases or number of fatalities that have befallen Italy. Singapore hasn't had a single fatality yet.
The answer lies in the connection between northern Italy and Wuhan, China. Two very seemingly distant geographies are actually extremely tied together.
Italy was the first country to offer direct flights from Europe to China 50 years ago and was also the first G-7 country to embrace China's Belt and Road Initiative.
Northern Italy has a very prosperous fashion and apparel industry. Many of the most famous brands around the world from Gucci to Prada originated in the region. As China has offered cheaper manufacturing for their apparel factories, more and more Italian fashion houses have outsourced work to China, and specifically to Wuhan.
Italy created direct flights from Wuhan and allowed over 100,000 citizens from China to move to Italy and work in their factories. In addition, as the Chinese became increasingly wealthy over the last two decades, more and more Chinese citizens moved to northern Italy to reside and many Chinese purchased Italian firms.
Today there are now more than 300,000 Chinese nationals living in Italy, according to Fortune Magazine, and over 90% of them work in Italy's garment industry.
With Italy having the second oldest population in the world, many fear the worst is yet to come.