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What happens if Italy's lockdowns don't work?

Eric J. Lyman, Special to USA TODAY

ROME — This could be the week Italy receives some desperately needed sustained good news about the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country. If it doesn’t, it may have to tighten one of the strictest peacetime lockdowns in modern European history.

Over the weekend, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called the month-long outbreak Italy’s worst crisis since World War II, and it is hard to disagree. 

Doctors in the northern regions of the country have been forced to make decisions usually reserved for wartime triage tents: deciding who lives or dies when the number of respirators is outnumbered by the patients who need them. Morgues are running out of space to hold corpses. Medical staff are collapsing from exhaustion during shifts lasting as long as 36 hours. The country’s economy has ground to a halt.

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