Pope Francis: Do Not Sing ‘Victory’ over Coronavirus

In greeting pilgrims and tourists in Saint Peter’s Square, the pope told the small crowd that their presence in the square “is a sign that in Italy the acute phase of the epidemic is over.”

“But be careful, do not sing ‘Victory!’ yet, do not celebrate victory too soon!” Francis warned. “It remains necessary to follow the rules in force carefully, because they are rules that help us to prevent the virus from gaining ground.”

“Thanks to God we are coming out of it stronger, but always with the prescriptions given to us by the authorities,” said the pontiff, who has never been seen wearing a mask or gloves.

In recent days, Italian authorities have expressed their anger with at least one health expert who proclaimed that the virus has been vanquished.

A week ago, Dr. Alberto Zangrillo, the head of intensive care at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan — the epicenter of the coronavirus in Italy — told media that Italy has beaten the coronavirus and it is counterproductive to keep attention focused on it.

A new study conducted at his hospital shows that, “in reality, from the clinical point of view, the virus no longer exists,” Zangrillo said during a debate on the RAI 3 national television network.

Professor Zangrillo said that “swabs performed over the last 10 days showed a viral load that was absolutely infinitesimal in quantitative terms compared to the ones carried out on patients a month or two ago.”

The doctor stated that the conclusions of the study are corroborated by research at Milan’s Vita-Salute San Raffaele University as well as by Italian virologist Dr. Guido Silvestri, chair of pathology at Emory University in Atlanta, who has declared that the retreat of COVID-19 “continues undaunted.”

Zangrillo urged officials to stop focusing attention on the coronavirus, which looks “ridiculous” from the perspective of clinical virology.

Italian officials, who have gone to great lengths to encourage caution and to insist on ongoing measures such as wearing masks and social distancing, reacted swiftly to Dr. Zangrillo’s comments.

“I can only express great surprise and absolute puzzlement over the statements made by Professor Zangrillo,” said Franco Locatelli, the head of Italy’s supreme health council. “Just look at the number of new cases confirmed every day for evidence of the persistent circulation of the virus in Italy.”

In point of fact, however, new cases of coronavirus in Italy have plummeted in recent weeks. As of Sunday evening, there are only 35,262 active cases in the entire nation out of a population of 60 million, down from over 100,000 just a month ago. In the last 24-hour-period there were just 197 new cases discovered in the whole country, despite aggressive testing, and deaths with coronavirus have come to a virtual standstill at just over 33,000.

Globally, 403,267 people have died with the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, putting it roughly in the range of worldwide deaths from the 2008-2009 swine flu, estimated at between 151,700 and 575,400 people. An average of more than 450,000 people die each year worldwide just from the seasonal flu, in spite of the existence of flu shots.

Other epidemics have been many times more lethal than COVID-19. The Spanish flu of 1918-1919, for instance, killed some 50 million people around the globe, or more than 100 times as many as have died with coronavirus.