Who would have thought that there is an island in Italy who was spared from the deadly virus after recording more than 240,000 cases and 35,000 deaths? Probably no one, not even its close-knitted residents.
For instance, Paola Muti, a cancer researcher at the University of Milan, worried that the tiny Giglio Island would be hit hard by COVID-19 after reports of people getting infected with COVID-19. She braced herself for the rapid spread of the disease to the island with more than 800 residents.
Her mother was a native of the island, being born and raised there. She often stays at the family home with the sea's beautiful overlooking view through the parlor's windows. Much to the residents' surprise, no one on the island developed any symptoms of COVID-19 even though their environment and its conditions seemed favorable for the disease to be transmitted instantly like a wildfire.
Giglio Island: Spared from COVID-19
The residents of Giglio Island, also known as Giliesi, are known to socialize in steep alleys near the port or on the narrow streets in the hilltop Castle neighborhood, packed with homes built against the remnants of a fortress constructed centuries ago as a protection against the pirates.
Giglio Island's sole physician for 40 years, Dr. Armando Schiaffano, shared Muti's concern of a possible local outbreak. He said that whenever someone gets sick even from a common childhood illness like scarlet fever, measles, or chickenpox, almost all residents would get sick within a few days.
Muti was baffled how the tiny island of Giglio could have been spared from the infection. She was trapped on the island after the country implemented a nationwide lockdown. Indeed, it was a mystery that even though the residents continued to have close contact with the visitors, none of them got sick.
Their first known COVID-19 case was a 60-year-old man who arrived on February 18, a couple of days before Italy recorded its first native case. The man came to Giglio for a relative's funeral and had been experiencing symptoms already. He went back to the mainland on the same day and died three weeks later.
Then on March 5, three more visitors came from mainland Italy and tested positive. Additionally, another islander who resides in Australia for two years went back to Giglio in mid-March and developed a mild fever and tested positive.
No other case was recorded since then, and even when the lockdown was lifted in June, and tourists came pouring in from Italy have been arriving.
Why was the Island Spared?
Health officials from Tuscany, where Giglio is a part of, conducted antibody tests on the island's residents. Out of 800 or more residents, 732 volunteered to be tested. They said that they all wanted to do it to be tranquil about any possible infection and to help science as well.
Even Rev. Lorenzo Pasquotti, who conducted the funeral service attended by 50 people, volunteered to be tested. He noted that during the ceremony, many people were greeting each other and exchanged hugs and kisses.
Still intrigued that no one on the island got infected, Muti guessed that it is possible that the islanders were not exposed enough to COVID-19 to get infected.
But some scientists suggested that it could be because of a unique genetic make-up that the islanders possessed or could be purely because of luck.