“In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy,” Alberto Zangrillo, head of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, told RAI television, according to the New York Post. “The swabs that were performed over the last 10 days showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago.”
In other words, the disease has weakened in Italy, according to Zangrillo.
Another doctor, Matteo Bassetti, the head of the infectious diseases clinic at the San Martino hospital in Genoa, echoed Zangrillo.
“The strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today,” Bassetti told the national ANSA news agency, as reported by the New York Post. “It is clear that today the COVID-19 disease is different.”
The doctors’ comments sparked controversy and ultimately prompted government health officials to remind citizens to continue to take important precautions to prevent a COVID-19 infection.
“Pending scientific evidence to support the thesis that the virus has disappeared … I would invite those who say they are sure of it not to confuse Italians. We should instead invite Italians to maintain the maximum caution, maintain physical distancing, avoid large groups, to frequently wash their hands and to wear masks,” Sandra Zampa, an undersecretary at the health ministry, said in a statement, according to the outlet.
Italy, which saw a steady decline in new COVID-19 cases and fatalities last month, has eased lockdown restrictions in recent weeks and became the first European country to fully open its international borders on Wednesday, dropping the 14-day quarantine requirement for visitors.
However, the country falls only behind the United States and the United Kingdom when it comes to overall coronavirus-related deaths. As of this writing, the country has reported 33,530 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Fox News’s Danielle Wallace and the Associated Press contributed to this report.