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Italy rushes 10K medical students into service during coronavirus outbreak, scrapping final exams

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Left with no choice amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, Italy is rushing 10,000 medical students into service, axing their final exams.

The country has been hit the hardest by COVID-19 outside of China, and as such, drastic measures are being taken to make sure everyone can be cared for adequately.

University Minister Gaetano Manfredi said the government will let this year’s group of medicine graduates start working eight or nine months ahead of time, waiving mandatory exams they normally sit before qualifying, Reuters reports.

READ MORE: ‘All is well’ — Triage and lies await Italy’s critical coronavirus patients

“This means immediately releasing into the National Health System the energy of about 10,000 doctors, which is fundamental to dealing with the shortage that our country is suffering,” Manfredi said in a statement.

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He added that the new graduates would be sent to work in general practitioners’ clinics and seniors’ homes, freeing up experienced colleagues to head to hospitals.

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In the past three weeks, 1,135 people have required intensive care in Lombardy, the region in northern Italy hit hardest by the rapidly spreading virus.

Coronavirus: Company in Italy printed respirator valves to deal with shortage of parts
Coronavirus: Company in Italy printed respirator valves to deal with shortage of parts

However, Lombardy only has 800 intensive care beds, head of intensive care at Milan’s Policlinico Hospital Giacomo Grasselli said, according to Channel News Asia.

Italy’s death toll has risen to 2,503 in the past 24 hours, the Civil Protection Agency said on Wednesday. The total number of confirmed cases has increased to 31,506 from a previous 27,980.

“Lombardy is on the point of collapse. All the intensive care beds and respirators are being used,” said Matteo Salvini, head of the League party, which governs the wealthy region.

READ MORE: Quarantined man in Italy serenades neighbours with Slayer during coronavirus quarantine

Hundreds of new intensive care beds are being set up in the Fiera Milano exhibition centre, but authorities are still waiting on sufficient respirators and qualified personnel to help.

On Tuesday, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he would donate US$11 million to help equip the new centre.

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Coronavirus: Drone video shows deserted motorways in Italy after government shutdown
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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from Reuters.

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca