March 12, 2020 / 3:00 PM / 21 days ago

'Italy has abandoned us': Brother trapped with sister's body in coronavirus shutdown

NAPLES, Italy (Reuters) - The brother of a woman who died at home after contracting coronavirus had to issue a desperate appeal on social media to persuade Italian authorities to come and collect her body.

Luca Franzese speaks following the death of his sister Teresa Franzese, who died at home after contracting coronavirus and whose body was not picked up by undertakers and the local hospital due to uncertainty before the results of a test for the disease was known, in Naples, Italy, March 8, 2020 in this picture obtained from social media. Mandatory credit Luca Franzese/via REUTERS

Teresa Franzese, 47, lived with her family in the southern city of Naples and started to show the symptoms of coronavirus last week. Her health deteriorated rapidly and she died on Saturday before the results of a test for the disease was known.

Given the uncertainty, undertakers and even the local hospital refused to pick up the body.

“My sister is dead, in bed. I don’t know what to do. I can’t give her the funeral she deserves because the institutions have abandoned me,” her brother Luca Franzese said in a video posted on Facebook.

Franzese, a personal fitness trainer, showed her body laid behind him. “We are ruined. Italy has abandoned us. Let’s stay strong together. Please share this video everywhere,” he said, struggling to hold back his emotions.

Finally, after waiting 36 hours, undertakers wearing protective clothing arrived and took the body directly to a local cemetery where she was interred without ceremony.

Her family had to stay in quarantine at home because of fears they might also have the disease.

Italy has shut down almost all its shops except food stores and pharmacies in Europe’s toughest lockdown as virus deaths in the country rose to 827 with more than 12,000 cases of the illness confirmed.

Franzese said his sister suffered from epilepsy. As her condition worsened he said he insisted that she be tested for coronavirus. “To keep her alive I tried to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Nobody gave a damn,” he said.

Results finally showed that Teresa Franzese had been suffering from coronavirus. Subsequent tests showed that two other family members had the illness, though not Luca Franzese, said Le Iene tv show, which interviewed him.

Only one person is reported to have died so far in the Campania region, which is centred on Naples, and Franzese said the authorities had decided she had died of epilepsy.

“How can they know this if a postmortem was not carried out?” he said in a post on his Facebook page.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; editing by Andrew Heavens

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