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  • September 26, 2020

Italy’s patient zero, whose case of coronavirus confirmed one of the world’s deadliest outbreaks was underway, is taking part in a 180km (112-mile) relay race as a sign of hope after he himself recovered from weeks in intensive care, AP reports.

Mattia Maestri, 38, was suited up on Saturday for the start of the two-day race between Italy’s first two virus hot spots. It began in Codogno, south of Milan, where Maestri tested positive on 21 February, and was ending Sunday in Vo Euganeo, where Italy’s first official Covid-19 death was recorded the same day.

Wearing a dark face mask, Maestri said the race was a beautiful initiative uniting the two virus-ravaged towns and the hard-hit swathe of territory between them. He said he was thrilled to even be alive to participate.

Maestri has marvelled about his recovery and how his case became the wake-up call for Europe, and the world, of the virus’ ability to spread. Photograph: Antonio Calanni/AP

Maestri had first gone to the hospital in his hometown of Codogno with flu-like symptoms on 18 February, but was sent home. He returned the next day after deteriorating and the doctor on duty, Dr Annalisa Malara, decided to test him for coronavirus even though doing so went beyond the protocol for testing set by the Health Ministry at the time; Maestri hadn’t travelled to China or been in contact with a known positive case.

Maestri’s positive result on 21 February was the first confirmed case of domestic transmission in Italy, evidence that the virus was circulating among the local population. Within days, Italy would become the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe, where it still has the second-highest number of Covid-19 deaths after the UK.

The Italian government immediately quarantined Codogno and 10 nearby towns and imposed a lockdown in Vo Euganeo, where on the same day as Maestri’s positive result authorities confirmed the first death of someone who tested positive post-mortem, Adriano Trevisan.

Maestri spent nearly three weeks in intensive care and weeks more hospitalised, during which his own father died of the virus. Soon after he was released, his wife who had tested positive but without serious complications gave birth to their first child, Giulia.

He has since recovered fully and said on Saturday he felt well enough to participate in the race. A marathoner and avid soccer player before he got sick, Maestri is taking the final leg of the relay and is scheduled to cross the finish line in Vo Euganeo on Sunday.

Maestri expressed concern about continued surge of infections in Europe and urged Italians to observe the three rules of social distancing, face masks and frequent hand washing to keep the virus under control.

I think if we observe those two to three simple rules they have given us, we will continue to see results in Italy. Let’s hope this is the right way to go.

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