Riccardo F, Ajelli M, Andrianou XD, Bella A, Del Manso M, Fabiani M, Bellino S, Boros S, Urdiales AM, Marziano V, Rota MC, Filia A, D'Ancona F, Siddu A, Punzo O, Trentini F, Guzzetta G, Poletti P, Stefanelli P, Castrucci MR, Ciervo A, Di Benedetto C, Tallon M, Piccioli A, Brusaferro S, Rezza G, Merler S, Pezzotti P, COVID-19 working group
Euro Surveill 25 (49) - [2020-12-00; online 2020-12-12]
BackgroundOn 20 February 2020, a locally acquired coronavirus disease (COVID-19) case was detected in Lombardy, Italy. This was the first signal of ongoing transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in the country. The number of cases in Italy increased rapidly and the country became the first in Europe to experience a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.AimOur aim was to describe the epidemiology and transmission dynamics of the first COVID-19 cases in Italy amid ongoing control measures.MethodsWe analysed all RT-PCR-confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to the national integrated surveillance system until 31 March 2020. We provide a descriptive epidemiological summary and estimate the basic and net reproductive numbers by region.ResultsOf the 98,716 cases of COVID-19 analysed, 9,512 were healthcare workers. Of the 10,943 reported COVID-19-associated deaths (crude case fatality ratio: 11.1%) 49.5% occurred in cases older than 80 years. Male sex and age were independent risk factors for COVID-19 death. Estimates of R 0 varied between 2.50 (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.18-2.83) in Tuscany and 3.00 (95% CI: 2.68-3.33) in Lazio. The net reproduction number Rt in northern regions started decreasing immediately after the first detection.ConclusionThe COVID-19 outbreak in Italy showed a clustering onset similar to the one in Wuhan, China. R0 at 2.96 in Lombardy combined with delayed detection explains the high case load and rapid geographical spread. Overall, Rt in Italian regions showed early signs of decrease, with large diversity in incidence, supporting the importance of combined non-pharmacological control measures.