When coronavirus infection landed in Italy, in January 2020, it first took home in a rural countryside area of Northern Italy, in Lombardy, near the Po river. No-one noticed it. Patient zero was pretty young and strong, so he kept on running his own social life, infecting many people nearby. Some of them got couch & fever during the next days, but all of those symptoms were considered as normal, typical of a flue arising during the “Merla Days” – the coldest period of the year. Who should ever bring the far Chinese infection into this niche provincial area? Everyone could imagine that Milan, Rome or other capitals in Europe with massive links to the oriental economy would have been the first European cities to experience a coronavirus impact.

Common sense, at least until the night of the 20th of February, when a positive swab result notice was highlighted to the General Director of Codogno Hospital, and suddenly bounced back and forth between regional directorate, the ministry of health, the clinicians at the emergency rooms.

Patient 1 had been admitted just the day before at the hospital, but he had also accessed earlier the same Emergency Department, refusing a preventive hospitalization for a light pneumonia, unconsciously infecting many patients, nurses and doctors. His severe clinical condition found the day after in a strong young man of 38 years made his attending physician suspicious: “no response to therapy meant for us to seek for the unknown and prepare for the worst”. So, she entered the investigation mindset, overcome the protocol, and required a swab to be processed for coronavirus infection.

From there on, numbers & facts of coronavirus infection began to flood newspapers and telecasts in Italy & all over the world. A real tragedy but also an opportunity to address relevant societal changes?

The ones that I had already imagined at Lombardy region headquarters, in June 2019, listening to the words of the Estonian Innovation Guru Taavi Kotka, that sounded like this: “You need big pain to achieve big change, but in Italy you live so pretty well, why should you be willing to change?”. States of difficulty may trigger the way to change. Will Coronavirus outbreak promote simple & life-saving digital disruptive innovation?

Photo Credit:  Po River near Codogno, heart of Coronavirus Infection in Italy by Luca Augello