Since the early 1990s, every Italian regional government has autonomously planned and organized the healthcare services in its territory. The autonomy enjoyed by Italian regions means that some consider it no longer appropriate to talk of a single national health service, but rather of a federation of twenty different regional systems. As a result, significant differences are emerging between one region and another, and the gap between the north and the south of the country is particularly worrying.
Italy now faces a serious crisis due to the spread of coronavirus throughout the rest of the country- the peninsula. As the problem is handled differently by each region, it is difficult to produce accurate data on the number of tests carried out. This also means that common directives on prevention aren’t disseminated.
In Italy, tests are only carried out when people have serious symptoms, however symptoms of COVID-19 are only present in some cases. As a result, it is clear that data reported by the Italian Civil Protection is not reliable and that a precise percentage of the lethality, can only be identified at the end of the pandemic.
As Francesco Costa- deputy editor at ‘Il Post’ (an online Italian online newspaper) points out – there is a lack of uniformity in testing from region to region. The current divided governmental context is characterized by a strong level of regional autonomy. Regional governments can express themselves on a level equivalent to the national government which has resulted in the adoption of contradictory policies across the country. Some regions have introduced policies that completely contradict the central directives. All of this has complicated the management of the problem, complicating the scientific evidence and feeding selfish sentiment.
The differences in responses across regions, began on the 9th of March, when the national government called the official lockdown of Italy. On Thursday, March 19 the governor of the region Sicily Musumeci, decided to ban outdoor activities and ordered the closure of grocery stores on Sunday. This undermined the national government directives, which had restricted outdoor activity but explicitly stated that supermarkets should not close on Sundays. Across Italy, the regulations and policies differ from region to region.
This position according to the governor himself, stems from the increase in the number of cases in Sicily, and the local government want to minimise escalation of the crisis.
In order to stop further perpetuation of this crisis, further decisions should be taken at a national level by the government. The coronavirus has revealed that the current system of regional autonomy is insane, and a new model of intergovernmental relations must not be delayed.