The Outbreak Outsourced: Why Italy was hit hard

Incompetence and obsession with money and exports, that’s why.

Chinese nationals have been living in northern Italian cities for years (New Yorker, April 2018), serving at cheap labour for Italy’s fashion industry.  Some live and work illegally, but the majority are supplied with visas and employed by the big fashion houses (Gucci, Prada, etc.).  A lot of what they make returns to the Chinese market for the…what’s Mandarin for nouveau riche?

As the Times of India reports today (link below), there were up to 300,000 Chinese nationals working in northern Italian cities when the COVID-19 outbreak happened.  Many of these Chinese nationals were from Wuhan.

COVID-19: Did you know about Italy’s China connection

Times of India, March 19, 2020

If there is one country that has suffered the most due to COVID-19 beyond China, it has to be the European country of Italy. But what is the connection between Italy and the novel coronavirus considering the deadly virus is reported to have originated from China?

The answer is fashionably simple. The northern part of Italy has been a traditionally prosperous region due to the flourishing fashion and garment industry. Most of the big global brands like Gucci and Prada have their base in this region. With China offering one of the cheapest manufacturing options in the world, it came as little surprise that most of these fashion brands were working with China.

A large number of these Italian fashion and garment houses had outsourced their manufacturing to Chinese labour, specifically in Wuhan. Italy also has direct flights from Wuhan and reports suggest over 100,000 Chinese citizens were working in Italian factories.

Italy didn’t cut off visa issuance to Chinese citizens until January 31st (Schengen Agreement visa website)They waited three weeks to stop Italy-Wuhan travel after Beijing announced mapping COVID-19 (Axios’s timeline of events), when the disease was already widespread in Wuhan.

Three weeks.  The Italian government has to explain why it allowed travel to continue when the world already knew about the outbreak.

If the disease had hit a different Chinese city, maybe the outbreak wouldn’t be worldwide.  Then again, it’s not impossible that the disease originated in Italy and went the other way.  HIV didn’t become a worldwide crisis until it was carried to EuroNA countries.