Video of dead man in hospital lavatory highlights Covid crisis in Italy's south

The health crisis in Italy's third largest city Naples is out of control, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Thursday, after a video was posted on social media showing a corpse sprawled in a hospital lavatory.

The unidentified man was a suspected coronavirus sufferer who had been waiting for a test in a packed, squalid hospital emergency room, which was also shown in the amateur video.

Health officials said they were investigating the death, but Di Maio said this was just the latest shocking incident he had heard about in recent days from his native Campania region, which is centred on the Mediterranean port city.

"The situation in Naples and in many areas of Campania is out of control. The central government needs to intervene because there is no time left," Di Maio said.

Officials said Campania reflected a wider health calamity playing out across much of Italy's south, which emerged largely unscathed from the initial wave of Covid-19 that mainly battered the north. But it is being hammered by the second wave.

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Workers shovel soil over a coffin during a funeral ceremony for a person who died of COVID-19, in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. Greece is on lockdown until Dec. 7 but government officials say it is too early to say when schools and businesses will reopen due to continued pressure on the state-run health service, with intensive care wards near capacity in parts of the country. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Russian medical worker, right, administers a shot of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. Thousands of doctors, teachers and others in high-risk groups have signed up for COVID-19 vaccinations in Moscow starting Saturday, a precursor to a sweeping Russia-wide immunization effort. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
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People holds mannequin heads with wigs, at a commemoration for a 24 years old hairdresser Alysson, who committed suicide after her newly opened hair salon had to close due to the coronavirus lockdown on December 2, 2020 in Charleroi. (Photo by VIRGINIE LEFOUR / BELGA / AFP) / Belgium OUT (Photo by VIRGINIE LEFOUR/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)
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Ultra Orthodox Jews react during a mass funeral for Rabbi Aharon David Hadash, the spiritual leader of Jerusalem's Mir Yeshiva, one of the largest Jewish seminary in Israel, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Jerusalem December 3, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 29: Police units inspect Istiklal Street as the partial weekend curfew begins in Istanbul, Turkey on November 29, 2020. Turkey has imposed a partial weekend curfew, from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time to stem the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by Esra Bilgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Full moon is seen over Gaza City, on November 29, 2020. (Photo by Sameh Rahmi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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A soccer fan wears a face mask to curb the COVID-19 spread, with the portrait of soccer legend Diego Armando Maradona, at the popular "Quartieri Spagnoli", in Naples, Italy, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Maradona died Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 in Buenos Aires. (AP Photo/Salvatore Laporta)
A chairlift is illuminated besides snow makers as the sun sets near Bressanone in northern Italian province of South Tyrol, Italy, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. In South Tyrol the preparations begin for the restart after the second lockdown. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Salt Lake County Health Department public health nurse Lee Cherie Booth administers coronavirus tests dressed as a turkey outside the Salt Lake County Health Department Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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A cheerleader wearing a face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus performs during the Game 4 of the Korean Series, the Korea Baseball Organization's championship round, between Doosan Bears and NC Dinos at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Fans wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus cheer during the Game 4 of the Korean Series, the Korea Baseball Organization's championship round, between Doosan Bears and NC Dinos at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
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A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus walks along the restaurant area of Omoide Yokocho alleyway in Shinjuku district of Tokyo on November 19, 2020. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)
MOSCOW REGION, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 19, 2020: People wear protective masks at Sheremetyevo International Airport amid COVID-19 pandemic. Vladimir Gerdo/TASS (Photo by Vladimir Gerdo\TASS via Getty Images)
A medical worker, gives to a woman her results, after the Rapid test for COVID-19, in Yeri, municipality of Nicosia, Cyprus on Nov. 19, 2020. (Photo by George Christophorou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Health workers take part in a protest to demand the government to comply with their requests for medical supplies and materials amid the new coronavirus pandemic, as well as better conditions for those infected with COVID-19, in Asuncion, on November 19, 2020. (Photo by NORBERTO DUARTE / AFP) (Photo by NORBERTO DUARTE/AFP via Getty Images)
Cheerleaders wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the coronavirus perform during Game 1 of the Korean Series, the Korea Baseball Organization's championship round, between Doosan Bears and NC Dinos at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. South Korea says it will tighten social distancing rules in the greater Seoul area and some parts of eastern Gangwon province to try to suppress a coronavirus resurgence there. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Ukrainian small business workers argue with riot police at a protest rally against the weekend quarantine amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well as against additional fiscal costs, in front of the parliament building in Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. Ukrainian government has ruled to introduce a weekend quarantine, allowing to work only food stores, pharmacies, public transport and gas stations in an attempt to fight against raising cases of COVID-19 in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A worker, wearing a full protective equipment, disinfects the casket of someone who died of coronavirus COVID-19 at the Fontaine funeral home in Charleroi, Belgium, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, Belgium has reported more than 535,000 confirmed virus cases and more than 14,400 deaths linked to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
Protesters from the communist party-affiliated PAME union run away to avoid tear gas thrown by riot police during clashes in central Athens, on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. Thousands of police officers have been deployed in Athens and the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki to prevent gatherings usually held to mark the anniversary of the 1973 crushing of a student uprising against the military junta then ruling Greece. The government has banned the marches this year, citing public health concerns as the country struggles to contain a resurgence of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A man wearing a face mask walks past Moldovan special police officers to a polling station during the second round of Moldova's presidential election in the town of Varnita at Moldova - Transnistrian border on November 15, 2020, amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images)
Catholic worshippers pray in front of a banner reading 'Public worship, public freedom' as they take part in a rally in Strasbourg, eastern France on November 15, 2020, held to protest against a ban on the celebration of masses due to coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions. (Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP via Getty Images)
KHAKASSIA, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 15, 2020: A serviceman wears a face mask in a mobile hospital deployed by the Russian Defence Ministry for COVID-19 patients with a capacity of 100 beds and based at Lebed Social Health Centre in the town of Chernogorsk. Alexander Kolbasov/TASS (Photo by Alexander Kolbasov\TASS via Getty Images)
A couple wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, dance in an empty Old Town in Vilnius, Lithuania, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The entire country has been put under a three-week nationwide lockdown from 7 November to 29 November, putting restrictions on social life and economic activities in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
A medical staffer wearing a protective suit waits at a triage check point that was set to ease the pressure on hospital emergency wards, following the surge of COVID-19 case numbers, at the Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. The Health Ministry said the country added nearly 33,000 new positives in the last 24 hours to bring the pandemic total to 1,028,424. Italy’s death toll surged 623 -- the highest single-day total since April 6 -- to reach 42,953, the second-highest in Europe after Britain, with 623 virus dead in the last 24 hours. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
A man gives alms to a beggar at the Ramblas of Barcelona, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020 as Spain continue with new measures against the COVID-19. Catalonia decided to extend for another 10 days the closure of bars and restaurants except for to-go orders. Theaters, cinemas, sports centers and large shopping centers will also remain closed until Nov. 23. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A health worker takes a nasal swab sample at a COVID-19 testing center in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. India’s tally of confirmed cases, currently the second largest in the world behind the United States, has exceeded 8.6 million. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
A medical staff member wearing a protective equipment, prepares to test people at a Covid-19 drive-in screening test facility in Zagreb, Croatia, on November 12, 2020, as the largest number of people infected with the coronavirus pandemic has been recorded in Croatia. - In Europe, which has suffered more than 317,525 deaths from nearly 13,330,000 infections, many countries are struggling with a surging second wave. (Photo by Denis LOVROVIC / AFP) (Photo by DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images)
A baker posing while he's at work all night to bake fresh bread during the COVID-19 pandemic, on November 12, 2020 in Molfetta (Photo by Davide Pischettola/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A demonstrator wearing a hangman's rope during the demonstration of bars, restaurants and local commerce workers on November 12, 2020 in Granada, Spain. Bars, restaurants and hotel workers protest because the Andalusian Government adopted new measures to stop the second wave of coronavirus infections in Granada (Spain) such as the closure of all non-essential commercial activity for two weeks and 24 hours a day. (Photo by Álex Cámara/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
12 November 2020, Brandenburg, Himmelpfort: Santa Claus arrived in Himmelpfort on an electric bicycle from the German Post Office and rang a bell. Until Christmas Eve he will answer the children's letters from Germany and all over the world again with the support of his 20 hard-working helpers. However, due to the continuing danger of corona infection, there will unfortunately be no publicly accessible Christmas post office this year and Santa Claus and his angels cannot be visited in the Christmas village. Photo: Bernd Settnik/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Bernd Settnik/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Supporters of Peru's former President Martin Vizcarra are stopped by police from marching to Congress where lawmakers voted the previous night to remove Vizcarra from office, in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. Congress voted to oust Vizcarra over his handling of the new coronavirus pandemic and unproven allegations of corruption years ago. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Heavy machinery is used by members of Danish health authorities, assisted by members of the Danish Armed Forces in disposing of dead mink in a military area near Holstebro, Denmark, Monday, Nov. 9 2020. Danish mink will be buried in mass graves on military land as the country's incinerators and rendering plants struggle to keep up, the Danish environmental and health authorities announced. Denmark will cull about 17 million mink after a mutated form of coronavirus that can spread to humans was found on mink farms. (Morten Stricker/Ritzau Scanpix via AP)
A security guard in protective suit and face shield gestures to a visitor at the entrance of the Indian Museum, that reopened for public Tuesday after nearly eight months due to the coronavirus pandemic in Kolkata, India, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)
Luis Antonio de Castro, 60, who said he survived COVID-19, cries as he shares his story in an interview during his outpatient physical therapy at the Movement and Life Institute in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. A volunteer medical team from the institute gives free physical rehabilitation to poor COVID-19 survivors in favelas, many suffering long-term effects from the disease even though they have recovered from the infection. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
Temporary workers wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the coronavirus shout during a rally to demand better working conditions in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 10 , 2020. The sign on headband read "Elimination of temporary workers. " (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A nun wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, prays during a Mass and Beatification Ceremony for Joan Roig i Diggle in the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
A volunteer serves food and drinks to a homeless man in Milan, Italy, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. As the Italian government placed four regions, including hard-hit Lombardy, into effective lockdown for two weeks because infections and hospital saturation levels were rising fast, canteens and shelters for homeless people had to be shut down, leaving them with nowhere to get a meal. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
A boy is tested for coronavirus as mass testing began, in Arena Nord in Frederikshavn, Northern Jutland, Denmark, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. Seven North Jutland municipalities have been put into lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus until Dec. 3, 2020. (Claus Bjoern Larsen /Scanpix 2020 via AP)
Passengers queue for a flight to Gran Canaria at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Communist party supporters gather on the 103rd anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution to lay flowers at the Vladimir Lenin Mausoleum on Red Square decorated with World War II style giant anti-tank traps used to prevent the advance of Nazi forces on the capital in 1941, in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Santa Klaus (Sinterklaas) arrives at the Scheepvaartmuseum, in Amsterdam, on November 15, 2020, during an event kept secret to the public to prevent large crowds due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Koen van Weel / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT (Photo by KOEN VAN WEEL/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)
A Russian TVRain channel journalist tries to give an interview as police officers wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus detain a Russian nationalist, during an unsanctioned action to mark National Unity Day in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. The Moscow authorities banned their traditional "Russian March" in Moscow celebrating People's Unity Day due to the coronavirus epidemic. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
A Kashmiri health worker takes a nasal swab sample to test for COVID-19 in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan)
Twin Palestinian girls wearing protective face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic walk back home from their UN school in Gaza City on November 3, 2020. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP) (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images)
Illustration picture shows nursing students taking tests at the winter proof corona virus testing facility on the Spoor Oost site in Antwerp, Tuesday 03 November 2020. Belgium is in a second lockdown as hospitalisations of COVID-19 patients reach record highs. BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM (Photo by DIRK WAEM/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
A municipal worker wearing protective equipment sprays disinfectant on a sidewalk in Moscow on November 3, 2020, amid the ongoing coronavirus disease pandemic. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP) (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)
An Embera indigenous man is seen on a boat before taking tourists on a tour along the Gatun river, at the Embera Quera indigenous zone, in Gatun, Colon province, Panama, on November 01, 2020. - This is the first tour of its kind after a seven-month confinement to fight the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Luis ACOSTA / AFP) (Photo by LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Images)
LILLE, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 01: View of the deserted main square of Lille during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on November 01, 2020 in Lille, France. France has imposed another national lockdown for a minimum of four weeks as the number of coronavirus cases soars during the second wave. Businesses which were defined in the spring as non-essential, including bars, restaurants, museums will be closed. (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)
Misak indigenous people wear face masks to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Guambia, rural area of Silvia, Cauca department, Colombia, on October 31, 2020, amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / AFP) (Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 30: People wearing face masks are seen out as Spanish government extended the state of alarm until 9th of May after declaring it on Oct 25 to contain the second wave of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic following another record surge in cases, in Madrid, Spain on October 30, 2020. (Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
BOLOGNA, ITALY - OCTOBER 29: Medical staff work in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the Maggiore Hospital that was built specifically for the pandemic, on October 29, 2020 in Bologna, Italy. Admissions have increased in recent weeks due to the increase in the number of coronavirus infections. As Covid-19 contagions rise in Italy and the Government impose a new "light" lockdown, the National Health System is concerned about ICUs already collapsing and may not handle so many requests. (Photo by Michele Lapini/Getty Images)
LUGANSK, UKRAINE - OCTOBER 29, 2020: A medical worker wears a protective suit at the Lugansk City Hospital No 1 which treats COVID-19 patients. Alexander Russky/TASS (Photo by Alexander Russky\TASS via Getty Images)
People line up to have their temperatures taken as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus at the Ministry of Transport at the border crossing over the second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge in Mae Sot in Tak province on October 29, 2020. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP) (Photo by LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP via Getty Images)
Women wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus disease visit the Central Market in Chisinau on October 29, 2020. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images)
Medical staff disembark a patient infected with Covid-19 disease arriving by medicalized jet plane from a region where hospitals are overwhelmed, at the Nantes-Atlantique airport in Bouguenais, on October 27, 2020. (Photo by Loic VENANCE / AFP) (Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 27: People wear mask as a precaution against coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic after the government impose wearing masks in crowded streets to contain the pandemic in Berlin, Germany on October, 27, 2020. (Photo by Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Benny Gantz (R), Israel's Alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister, mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, arrives to attend the "Deadly Arrow" military drill near Kibbutz Ravid in the northern part of Israel on October 27, 2020. - The largest military drill of the year, "Deadly Arrow" is meant to simulate a war against Hezbollah as part of efforts to improve the Israeli military's attack capabilities. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo by JALAA MAREY/AFP via Getty Images)
Medics escort a man into a hospital where patients infected with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus are being treated in the settlement of Kommunarka outside Moscow on October 27, 2020. - On Tuesday, authorities reported a record of daily death of 320 people with the disease. Russia has the fourth-highest virus caseload in the world, with a total of 1,547,774 registered infections and 26,589 deaths. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 27: A man wears a mask as a precaution against coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic after the government impose wearing masks in crowded streets to contain the pandemic in Berlin, Germany on October, 27, 2020. (Photo by Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2020/10/25: A woman wearing a face mask walks past a Lincoln Project Billboard that depicts Ivanka trump presenting the number of New Yorkers and americans who have died of Covid-19 and Jared Kushner next to a Vanity Fair quote. (Photo by John Nacion/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
26 October 2020, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Greifswald: A sign with a notice stating that masks must be worn hangs on the building of the University of Greifswald.the corona virus has been detected in several public institutions in the district of Vorpommern-Greifswald.the district asked the population to adhere to rules of hygiene and distance.the public health department and the follow-up team had also worked flat out on contact tracing over the weekend. Photo: Stefan Sauer/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB (Photo by Stefan Sauer/picture alliance via Getty Images)
GAZA CITY, GAZA - OCTOBER 26: Senior high school students, wearing face masks, wait in line before their lessons as they begin face-to-face education after a break as part of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, at the school yard in Gaza City, Gaza on October 26, 2020. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Police patrol on horseback along the St Kilda Esplanade in Melbourne on October 26, 2020 as Australian health officials reported no new coronavirus cases or deaths in Victoria state, which has spent months under onerous restrictions after becoming the epicentre of the country's second wave. (Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
25 October 2020, Spain, Teneriffa: A young tourist couple is standing in front of a display board at Tenerife South Airport, which informs about the arrival times of flights from different destinations. German and British tourists arrived back on the Canary Island for the first time this weekend, after the Canary Islands were taken off the risk list again due to falling infection figures. In order to contain the rapidly rising corona infection figures, the government in Spain has again declared a national emergency. The order applies to practically the whole country - with the exception of the Canary Islands. Photo: Andrés Gutiérrez/dpa (Photo by Andrés Gutiérrez/picture alliance via Getty Images)
A man wearing a face mask, walks by a Charlie Chaplin street art, in the Montmartre district of Paris, Sunday Oct.25, 2020. A curfew intended to curb the spiraling spread of the coronavirus, has been imposed in many regions of France including Paris and its suburbs. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)
25 October 2020, Spain, Teneriffa: A young tourist couple is standing in front of a display board at Tenerife South Airport, which informs about the arrival times of flights from different destinations. German and British tourists arrived back on the Canary Island for the first time this weekend, after the Canary Islands were taken off the risk list again due to falling infection figures. In order to contain the rapidly rising corona infection figures, the government in Spain has again declared a national emergency. The order applies to practically the whole country - with the exception of the Canary Islands. Photo: Andrés Gutiérrez/dpa (Photo by Andrés Gutiérrez/picture alliance via Getty Images)
KAZAN, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 25, 2020: Swimmers in face masks stretch before competing at the 2020 Russian Swimming Championships at the Palace of Water Sports. Yegor Aleyev/TASS (Photo by Yegor Aleyev\TASS via Getty Images)
A Hindu devotee wearing face mask and ornaments visits an almost deserted worship venue of Hindu goddess Durga during Durga Puja, the biggest festival of the region, in Kolkata, India, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. The Hindu festival season is traditionally laced with an unmatched fanfare and extravaganza, with socializing being the hallmark of the celebration. But because of the coronavirus pandemic this year's festivities have started on a pale note. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)
A man checks his mobile phone as he sits amid physical distancing markers prior to the start of a movie at CGV Cinemas theater in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. The cinema reopened this week after months of closure due to coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
A woman wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus rides an amusement park ride at a public park in Beijing, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. With the outbreak of COVID-19 largely under control within China's borders, the routines of normal daily life have begun to return for its citizens. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Vatican Swiss Guards, wearing masks to curb the spread of COVID-19, leave the St. Damaso courtyard after Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez meeting with Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Chinese paramilitary policemen wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus march down a staircase outside the Great Hall of the People after attending the commemorating conference on the 70th anniversary of China's entry into the 1950-53 Korean War, in Beijing Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
An entertainer plays for people sitting in restaurants in the old part of Bucharest, Romania, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. In much of Europe, city squares and streets, be they wide, elegant boulevards like in Paris or cobblestoned alleys in Rome, serve as animated evening extensions of drawing rooms and living rooms. As Coronavirus restrictions once again put limitations on how we live and socialize, AP photographers across Europe delivered a snapshot of how Friday evening, the gateway to the weekend, looks and feels. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)
Medical residents, who removed their clothes to protest against working conditions, take part on a protest during a strike in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Regional authorities across Spain continue to tighten restrictions against a sharp resurgence of coronavirus infections that is bringing the country’s cumulative caseload close to one million infections, the highest tally in western Europe. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Medical residents, who removed their clothes to protest against working conditions, take part on a protest during a strike in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Regional authorities across Spain continue to tighten restrictions against a sharp resurgence of coronavirus infections that is bringing the country’s cumulative caseload close to one million infections, the highest tally in western Europe. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 22, 2020: Moscow Underground employees clean and disinfect a train at Sviblovo depot. Mikhail Japaridze/TASS (Photo by Mikhail Japaridze\TASS via Getty Images)
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - OCTOBER 22: A woman stretches after a morning run at the medieval Charles Bridge on October 22, 2020 in Prague, Czech Republic. The Czech Republic is under partial lockdown closing schools, shops, restaurants and limits public activities until November 3. With 1,106 deaths from Covid-19, the Czech Republic has reported almost 15 000 new cases for yesterday. (Photo by Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images)
A health ministry collects sample for coronavirus testing from a resident at an urban area in Bandar Utama, outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Malaysia restrict movements in its biggest city Kuala Lumpur, neighboring Selangor state and the administrative capital of Putrajaya from Wednesday in an attempt to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A woman wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus looks at her mobile phone as she waits to cross a street during rush hour in Beijing on October 21, 2020. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the Bavarian state Parliament sit among protections panels as Bavaria's State Premier gives a statement about Covid-19 pandemic, in the Chamber of the Bavarian state Parliament in Munich, southern Germany, on October 21, 2020. (Photo by Peter Kneffel / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PETER KNEFFEL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The number of cases nationwide roared past the one million mark on Wednesday - with half of those infections emerging in just the last 19 days. The number of deaths totals 42,953 - the sixth highest tally in the world.

Hospitals across the country have struggled to manage the skyrocketing Covid-19 numbers, but the poorer south has appeared particularly ill-equipped to cope despite having all summer to bolster their defences.

The sick in Naples have been administered oxygen and placed on drips through their car windows as they wait for hours for COVID tests or to be admitted to hospital. Further south, on the island of Sicily, the mayor of Palermo warned on Monday his region faced an "inevitable massacre" as infections rose there.

"The north has always had a well-equipped health system spread out across the territory. The situation there might not be optimal, but the south by comparison is a wasteland," Carlo Palermo, head of the ANAAO-ASSOMED doctors' union, told Reuters.


Latest government figures from 2018 show this divide, with annual per-capita health spending coming in at 2,054 euros ($2,425) in the northern region of Liguria and 1,973 euros in neighbouring Emilia-Romagna. In Campania it was 1,697 euros, the lowest in Italy, and 1,706 euros in nearby Calabria.

But it is not just a question of money. Poor management has also taken a heavy toll in the south.

The issue came into focus this month when the health commissioner for Calabria was interviewed on state television and initially denied any responsibility for having to draw up a long-delayed emergency plan to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

To prove his point, Saverio Cotticelli, a retired general, produced the health ministry letter that established the guidelines. Still on camera, the truth slowly dawned on him that he was indeed responsible for drawing up the plan.

He resigned the following day.

Calabria had 146 intensive-care beds available at the start of the year. This number had risen to just 154 by the end of October despite the Rome government telling regions to double their emergency room capacity over the summer.

When the national government split the country into three tiers this month to reflect the differing health risks, it immediately put Calabria into the "red zone" and imposed a partial lockdown.

Using an algorithm based on 21 indicators, Campania, to widespread surprise, was placed in the lowest-risk "yellow zone". The decision raised questions about whether the region was supplying reliable data, and the Rome health ministry has dispatched inspectors to review the situation.

Maurizio Cappiello, an emergency services doctor at Naples Cardarelli hospital and a member of the ANAAO-ASSOMED union, said the virus was spreading exponentially.

"We have passed a critical level of alarm. The only way to manage the emergency in Campania is a total lockdown," he said.

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