Mismanagement of Covid-19: lessons learned from Italy

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Maria Laura Ruiu is lecturer at Northumbria University (Newcastle upon Tyne). She has recently completed her second PhD in Social Sciences (Northumbria University). She also acted as post-doctoral researcher at the Desertification Research Centre (University of Sassari, Italy) investigating the adaptive capacity of some communities to climate change impact. This paper analyses the first phases of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak management in Italy by exploring the combination of political, scientific, media and public responses. A lack of coordination between political and scientific levels, and between institutional claim-makers and the media, suggests a mismanagement of the crisis during the first phases of the outbreak. The outbreak management suffered from the five communication weaknesses identified by Reynolds, related to i) mixed messages from multiple messengers; ii) delay in releasing information; iii) paternalistic attitudes; iv) lack of immediate reaction to rumours; and v) political confusion. This supports that the communication of uncertainty around an unknown threat should be accompanied by both political and scientific cohesion. However, both political and scientific dysfunctions caused the failure of several government efforts to contain the outbreak. This paper contributes towards informing policymakers on some lessons learned from the management of the Covid-19 in one of the most affected countries in the world. The Italian case study offers the opportunity for other countries to improve the management of the outbreak by limiting the spread of both chaos and panic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1007-1020
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number7-8
Early online date6 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2020


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