– Allison Brennan
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Lessons learned, how COVID-19 consumed Italy
People buy fruit and vegetables at a shop in Naples, Monday, April 27, 2020. Region Campania allowed cafes and pizzerias to reopen for delivery Monday, as Italy it is starting to ease its lockdown after a long precautionary closure due to the coronavirus outbreak. Andrew Medichini / AP
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“Italy’s problem is the EU turned a blind eye to their relationship with China.”
Italy is a story that parallels America’s industrial Midwest a few decades ago. As China ascended as an export power, joblessness and despair grew in America’s manufacturing heartland. This self- destruction festered after decades of liberalized trade polices, over-unionization and government regulation. This was the recipe for business and investors to export labor to China, and import their products back into the U.S. These cheap prices pleased consumers, but killed U.S. manufacturing.
For years, Italians had received a steady diet of negative agitprop about Chinese products. They had been convinced cheap imports from China were inferior knock-offs of “made in Italy” products. Beyond national pride, consumers were told their jobs were at stake if they did not buy everything that was “made in Italy.” But that changed rapidly in 2014, when, Matteo Renzi, the leader of the Partito Democratico (Italian Communist party), was questionably elected Italy’s new prime minister.
Shortly after he took office, banks started failing, unemployment spiked, and the VAT tax rose from 18% to 22%. There was economic chaos in Italy. Italian business owners were desperate for cash and Renzi romanced the Chinese fiscal invasion of Italy. They started buying everything that wasn’t tied down! And this was done in violation of the EU Trade Pacts with the U.S. and U.K. Neither President Barack Obama nor Prime Minister David Cameron of the U.K. said a word as they watched Chinese investors rape and pillage the nation of Italy.
"You might not see the evil, but you can see its handiwork.”
By the time Renzi left office in 2016, China owned over 300 companies and 27% of Italy’s industry. The Bank of China owned five major banks that funneled Italy’s wealth to China. Today according to Bloomberg, they own Telecom Italy’s largest communication network and major utilities ENI and ENEL. They are the majority owner of Fiat-Chrysler, Prysmian, Terna, and of Pirelli tires. But it was purchasing Italy’s world famous fashion industry factories that topped their pizzas with chow mien.
For centuries, Prato, the medieval city outside of Florence, produced the world’s finest fabrics. But Prato, feeling the economic pinch, needed an influx of capital, and China waltzed in and bought up every major Northern Italian garment maker. They now own Miss Sixty, Pinco Pallino, Roberta di Camerino, Sergio Tacchini, and the Mariella Burani brands. And that’s what brought thousands of legal and illegal Chinese immigrants, from Wuhan and Wenzhou, China to work in Prato factories.
Over night, northern Italy’s textile hub was transformed into the low-end garment producing capital of the world. Today, the city is home to the largest concentration of Chinese in Europe. In the heart of Tuscany, Florence the laborers work round the clock in garment factories making clothes, shoes and accessories with materials imported from China – sold to low-end retailers all around the globe.
“The Chinese have blurred the line between 'Made in China' and 'Made in Italy.'”
– Andrea Frattani
By now, thousands of Chinese had migrated into Italy illegally and quietly vanished into the shadows of Milano and other cities of Lombardy. Others came to steal technology and shuttle it to China. It was not until Matteo Salvini, representing the Lega Nord party, a conservative party from the north, that the sweatshops and the illegal entry and departure of Chinese were stopped. Salvini closed Italy’s ports to immigrants and started deporting illegal immigrants. And that was his demise. The communists swiftly impeached Salvini to cut their losses, and compromised to support the unproven Giuseppe Conte.
In January 2020, the first two cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Rome by travelers from China. Three weeks later, in the northern province of Lombardy, a garment factory worker showed up at a hospital with respiratory problems. He was not tested for coronavirus for 36 hours. During that time, he visited with friends and family.” The Feb 19 incident raises obvious questions: Why wasn’t this a red flag for Lombardy physicians? They knew two Chinese tourists had been diagnosed in Rome? Could it be they were influenced by mafia garment bosses to keep a lid on this? Or was it stupidity?
Since it is customary for the Chinese to travel back to China for the Lunar New Year celebrations which fell on Jan. 24, and the incubation period for coronavirus is about two weeks, this is more than a red flag. With the multitudes of Chinese factory laborers in northern Italy traveling to China in late January (mostly to Wuhan and Wenzhou) and returning to Italy, it is not rocket science to conclude many of them returned to Italy without symptoms. But they were infected with the virus in early or mid February.
“Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.”
– Robert A. Heinlein
By mid-February, a multitude of coronavirus cases were being reported in Lombardy from factory workers that lived in segregated Chinese neighborhoods. By the end of February new cases were being recorded throughout the region. This vast number of virus patients seriously overloaded the Lombardy hospitals and medical clinics. Their state medical system was collapsing because it was caring for the thousands of illegal immigrants brought in to work in Prato’s garment factories. Italian medical officials finally admitted there were no doubts, and reluctantly revealed this virus came from China.
This virus spread so rapidly because of travel to and from China, and lack of testing and isolation. Additionally, the Italian socialized medical system was vastly under-funded since they have no clue how many illegal immigrants were/are in the country. When COVID-19 hit, it broke a broken system. It was so widespread, tourists and businessmen returning to China from Italy were bringing it back to China.
“There is a virtuous cycle to transparency and a very vicious cycle of obfuscation.”
– Jeff Weiner
Specialist Dr. Marizio Pecconi, said, “Our low investment in public healthcare led to our downfall.” Although no reports indicate how many virus patients are Chinese, Lombardy, Italy’s worst-affected area, has the largest concentration of Chinese in Europe. World Health Organization figures as of the end of March recorded the death rate at 11%. While in China, the second hardest hit nation, it was 4%. Israel who has the toughest immigration laws in the world, has the lowest death rate at only 0.35%.
America must learn from Italy’s experience, especially during an election and a Census year. Any candidate that pitches Medicare for All, socialized medicine, student loan forgiveness, or expanding social entitlement programs, gun control, or relaxing immigration laws, run far away from them! We pay for these with our taxes and our liberty. It’s also vital to know how many people live in America, legally and illegally, so we have the medical facilities to treat everyone if another crisis breaks out. Immigrants, both legal and illegal, can infect anyone, and then everyone can infect everyone else.
Italy lost control of their nation one bad law and one bad election at a time. Let’s all hope we never forget that.
“This should hopefully be a warning to Americans while they work to rid themselves of the China Virus, they should just as vehemently endeavor to rid their government of every politician that circumvents the Constitution and ignores their laws … plain and simple.”
– Giacomino Nicolazzo
By William Haupt III | Contributing Columnist William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, author, and citizen legislator in California for over 40 years. He got his start working to approve California Proposition 13.