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«aprile 2024»



24 marzo 2020

Claudio Lucifora*

In these days of COVID-19 emergency, everyone's attention is directed towards the health emergency and the statistics of the infected, the healed and the deceased. Contagion containment measures have blocked the movement of people; schools of all levels have been closed, and the pace of economic activity has progressively slowed down to a halt across the country. In these weeks of forced confinement at home, families, students, workers and the elderly have been able to understand and touch the importance of some key sectors of the economy that perhaps too often we have taken for granted.

First of all, the health system, an efficient and universal health care system that is envied by the whole world and that in these days is severely tested by the spread of an epidemic that seems unstoppable. A health system that in normal times, despite the continuous cuts in funding, guarantees assistance to one of the longest-lived populations in the world.

Secondly, school and university. Many parents, having to manage the time of their children and to help them in carrying out the tasks assigned remotely, have perhaps re-evaluated the importance of the school, of the education that our children receive. School and teachers, on whom for decades surely not enough has been invested as evidenced by the Invalsi test statistics and international comparisons on student learning. University and research, which represent the passport for the entry into the labour market of the young ruling classes of the future, and who in recent decades have abandoned our country en masse to go to work abroad. For example, we found that the biologist who isolated the Spallanzani virus in Rome is a precarious worker, as are many other team researchers who are frantically trying to develop a vaccine these days that will allow us to protect ourselves from the effects of the virus in the future.                  However, in this crisis, unlike other economic and financial crises, something unusual happened in our country. The experts were questioned, listened to and public health policies were set up following their directives. Not only virologists, epidemiologists, biologists and doctors, but also mathematicians, physicists and statisticians have patiently explained and repeated the mechanisms of contagion, the mathematical model of the spread of the epidemics, the pitfalls of mortality statistics and, except for an initial moment of unseemly reaction, everyone stopped to listen. Experts were put in charge of crisis units; politicians listened and translated the recommendations into measures. None of the experts sold false promises about the seriousness of the situation, nor certainties as to when this emergency will end and the infamous peak of contagion will be overcome. Above all, everyone was informed, constantly and exhaustively about the numbers, spread and concentration of the infection, trying to explain the urgency and the need to proceed with the restrictive measures of individual freedoms. All or almost all understood and adapted.                This is a new phenomenon for our country, where experts are often mocked publicly and invited to collect votes before speaking. The dissemination of information from a single source and the care taken in explaining how to interpret the data have also contributed to spreading the feeling that everything is being done and have helped to contain the collective anxiety that is overcoming everyone. With some regret we could conclude that only in extreme circumstances, when our very existence is put at risk, it is possible to do what would seem absolutely normal in a country to ensure efficient management of emergencies and problems. We cannot say that the problems and emergencies have been lacking in recent decades, but never has been understood as well as now the need for composure and accuracy in problem management, in the allocation of skills, all in compliance with the division of roles and accountability.         It is important that when we leave behind the statistics of the health emergency and start analysing to ones of companies that have closed their doors, lost jobs, the increase in unemployed and the growth of poverty, we will remember all this and face the economic emergency with the same lucidity, use of forces and skills as it is being done these days in the fight against the "Coronavirus". It is important that from the phase of income support and job protection on which the Government is rightly engaged now, we move on to a new phase of relaunching the economic and social challenges that have been in existence for decades. Perhaps the relaunch could start precisely from the sectors of health and education, whose importance and value, provided that it was needed, we have sadly learned to appreciate in recent weeks.

* CNEL Councillor and Professor at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart