March 17, 2020 / 9:44 PM / 21 days ago

Reporting on the tragedy of coronavirus from the Italian epicentre

A new Reuters special report from the Lombardy region of Italy, devastated by the coronavirus outbreak, includes first-hand accounts from doctors, patients and relatives of the victims on their traumatic experiences coping with scenes of death and destruction at the epicentre of the Italian outbreak. The report, by Reuters journalists Emilio Parodi and Silvia Aloisi Milan and Pamela Barbaglia in London, takes readers inside the hospitals of Italy, where doctors are grappling with an outbreak that has killed more than 2,000 people.

Cemetery workers and funeral agency workers in protective masks transport a coffin of a person who died from coronavirus disease (COVID-19), into a cemetery in Bergamo, Italy March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Pamela, who is herself from Milan, describes how difficult – and personal – the story was for her to report.

“We wanted to give a sense of the scale of the deaths, the chaos in the hospitals, the trauma for both doctors and patients, so it was important to speak with them,” Pamela says.

Pamela explains how the story came about: “I was due to go to Milan last week. But they were shutting the airports in the north of the country, turning them into military airports to transfer patients across regions and equipment.”

Getting to Milan airport, therefore, wasn’t easy. Pamela continues: “Milan Airport was being used by the government, so my only options were to go through Paris/Geneva/Zurich. But I would have been exposed to the virus, plus there were restrictions in place. So I stayed in London and worked on the story from here with my Reuters colleagues Emilio Parodi and Silvia Aloisi.”

Pamela’s role as M&A Editor for EMEA at Reuters means she usually speaks to bankers and financial people, who tend to be reluctant to share information and only spend a few minutes on the phone.

This time, however, she found doctors and family members naturally had a lot to say: “They wanted to share their experience. It was really tough to listen to, an emotional rollercoaster. These were doctors on the frontline as well as people who had lost someone, who couldn’t say goodbye to their relatives, or even get to the cemeteries.”

As the death toll in Italy kept rising, Pamela, Emilio and Silvia moved quickly and began exchanging notes on their reporting during the weekend, sharing materials with Reuters’ Global Managing Editor Alessandra Galloni who pushed them to go the extra mile to gather critical information.

“We were speaking to relatives who had only just lost their loved ones and were shocked. But doctors were crucial to us to provide balance to the story. These doctors are working fifteen hours a day, sometimes more, and they don’t have much time to talk to journalists,” Pamela says. “They wanted to explain the disease and to explain the options they had for old people. The main message we heard time and again was ‘Intensive care is not the way to treat this disease.’ One out of two patients in intensive care with COVID-19 is likely to die.”

The experience of working on this story has been an emotional one for Pamela and the team.

Pamela concludes: “It was almost unbelievable to hear that Italy was on its knees. I was there, in January, and everything was great. I couldn’t believe what has happened since. But it was important to tell the story. Hundreds of Italians are dying every day. The Reuters newsroom is committed to reporting this tragedy as it hits more countries around the world.”

[Reuters PR Blog Post]

Media contact:

joel.ivory-harte @ thomsonreuters.com

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