• Authorities recorded the spike in cases earlier this week, though how it came about has remained unclear. Now there appears to be some clarity.
  • According to Italy's Corriere della Sera , one of the first people to contract the virus had to wait 36 hours at a hospital in Lombardy before he could be tested.
  • Health authorities didn't prioritize him because he hadn't recently come from China, Corriere della Sera said.
  • During those 36 hours he had contact with hospital staff and visiting friends and family, who likely went on to spread the virus, Corriere della Sera reported.
  • Italy's prime minister on Monday admitted that the hospital had "mishandled" the case, but rowed back his comments the next day, CNN reported .
  • Lombardy is the worst-hit region in Europe. Officials have sealed off almost a dozen towns and canceled major events in an effort to contain the outbreak. Neighboring countries are monitoring their borders.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .

Italy appears to have mishandled one of its first cases of the novel coronavirus, which made it spread further and turn the country into the most badly-affected outside Asia.

Italy recorded a dramatic uptick in coronavirus cases this week with at least 233 cases and 12 deaths as of Wednesday morning though the source and methods of the spread has been unclear. Now there appears to be some clarity.

According to CNN and Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper, a 38-year-old man with coronavirus symptoms had to wait 36 hours at a hospital in Lombardy before he could get tested for the virus, during which he had contact with hospital staff and visiting friends and family, some of whom later became infected.

The man, identified only as Mattia, was admittedto the emergency room in Codogno, Lombardy, on February 19 with respiratory problems, CNN reported.

Mattia was tested at 4 p.m. on February 20 36 hours after being admitted and at 9 p.m. the infection was diagnosed, according to Corriere della Sera. The delay in testing was because he wasn't recently returned from China, the newspaper said.

However, according to Corriere della Sera, the alarm was not raised and Mattia not moved to the ICU until midnight three hours after the diagnosis.

After this, his doctors and nurses, who assumed they had to self-quarantine, were recalled to their duties, and the emergency room he visited wasn't vacated until noon on February 21, Corriere della Sera said.

His wife, who is pregnant, has since diagnosed with the disease, but country authorities say her condition is"not worrying at all," CNN reported.

italy giuseppe conte government
italy giuseppe conte government
REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The Corriere della Sera report comes shortly after Italy's prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, appeared to admit fault of the Lombardy hospital before rowing his statement back shortly afterward.

He told reporters Monday: "There has been a management of the hospital not entirely proper according to prudent protocols, which are recommended in these cases, and this has certainly contributed to the spread," according to CNN.

However, he seemed to contradict that statement the next day, telling a press conference that a report from Lombardy authorities demonstrates the "full correctness" of the hospital staff's actions, CNN said.

When asked what had gone wrong, he added: "This is not the time for controversy," according to CNN.

"Our health system is excellent, our precautionary measures are of the utmost rigor and we trust that, by virtue of the combined provisions [...] we will promote a containment effect," Conte said.

Italy coronavirus
Italy coronavirus
REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Italy's health ministry had relaxed its official guidelines for hospitals' coronavirus response shortly before Mattia was admitted, Corriere della Sera reported, suggesting this might have been why he took so long to be tested and quarantined.

The paper said that on January 22, the guidelines advised swabbing anyone who "shows an unusual or unexpected medical development, especially a sudden deterioration despite proper treatment." This changed on January 27 to apply only to people who had connections to China which did not apply to Mattia.

Lombardy where Mattia was diagnosed is the worst-hit region in Europe. Most of Italy's cases are concentrated there.

Italian authorities sealed off 11 towns, including ten in Lombardy, on Saturday. They also canceled public events, leaving soccer teams playing in empty stadiums and the fashion house Giorgio Armani holding its Milan Fashion Week runway show in an empty theater as a precaution.

As of Wednesday, a total of 233 cases have been recorded in Italy . Twelve people have also died all of whom were reportedly elderly or had other preexisting health complications.

Italy coronavirus
Italy coronavirus
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

Walter Ricciardi, a World Health Organization committee member who also advises the Italian government, said it is "no coincidence" that other countries have fewer cases than Italy, reported CNN.

However, he told CNN that Italy's recent responses to the crisis "are going in the right direction," adding: "All the organization and management mechanisms are entrusted to the regions, unlike other countries that have a single command line, and so it is no coincidence that they currently have fewer cases than we do."

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