Interview by Al Sharq Newspaper to the Ambassador of Italy to the State of Qatar, H.E. Alessandro Prunas.
How do you see the relations between Qatar and Italy?
Italy and Qatar are bound by a solid and deep friendship, as well as by a comprehensive strategic partnership in many sectors such as – but not limited to – infrastructures, energy, defense, technology, hospitality, food and culture. I am really proud that our Countries are also exploring new forms of cooperation in the field of science and research as to establish new synergies between Italian and Qatari universities and research centers of excellence. We have been experiencing a constant growth in the intensity of bilateral relations, which makes us confident we will keep the same positive trends also in the future. Our close partnership has been strengthened by a continuous political dialogue, which have reached the highest levels in the exchange of visits between H.H. the Amir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and the President of the Italian Republic, H.E. Sergio Mattarella, who visited Qatar last January. This is the utmost expression of a consolidated process of political dialogue and a mutually beneficial exchange taking place in all fields and at all levels. Italy and Qatar are both committed to capitalize on the resources built together so far and engage in new projects to achieve more results.
What are the common efforts between two countries in fighting Coronavirus?
That is exactly what I was referring to with new projects. We live in challenging times, so the International Community needs more than ever to team up to defeat the novel Coronavirus. Covid-19 is threating the stability and well-being of our communities, so we have to quickly respond together to put an end to the pandemic and get back to our lives with renovated creativity and energy. With reference to the fight against the virus, I am very pleased that Italian and Qatari universities and medical institutions have already started to jointly research on the genomics of patients severely affected by Corona. The Qatar Foundation Research, Development, and Innovation division is in contact with some major Italian genetists to study data and understand if there are genetic patterns in the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, Qatar Foundation Hospital Mater Olbia in Sardinia is working with the Hamad Medical Corporation to explore if plasma from recovered patients can be of any help to develop new therapies to treat Covid-19 patients.
How do you assess the Qatari donation to Italy with 2 hospitals?
I would like to convey the gratitude of the Italian people to H.H. the Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, as well as to the Government and Qatari people, for their generosity and solidarity. Italy has been one of the first countries in Europe to be severely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Being at the forefront of a global emergency is not easy, but our public health system was ready to respond promptly and was able to face an unprecedented situation. While experts agree that the worst is behind us, the two field hospitals donated by Qatar, together with the additional medial aid, will contribute to mitigate the impact of this challenge on the national healthcare service, while offering well-equipped facilities to treat patients. One hospital is being installed in the region of Veneto, in the north-east of Italy, and the other one in Basilicata, a region in the south of the Country. The Italian people will never forget the support received by Qatar in a period when we needed help.
How do you see the increasing of the number of people infected with Coronavirus?
Actually the number of new infections in Italy has started to decrease day by day thanks to the tough measures promptly adopted by the Italian Authorities and the responsibility of Italian citizens who accepted to respect severe rules. The lockdown of the entire national territory, the temporary closure of most activities and the measures of social distancing have proved to be effective and we are now achieving positive results. The current trends show a daily reduction of the number of new cases and death toll. Our country is now moving into a transition phase and we are preparing to lay the groundwork for a “phase two” after facing the emergency. The Italian Government is now at work on how to safely ease and gradually remove restrictions. The goal is to manage a safe and fast return to normality for our communities and business activities.
How do you evaluate the Qatari medical capabilities to contain the virus?
Local Authorities acted promptly and adopted a full set of measures to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus in Qatar under the direction of the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management and are carrying out a massive communication campaign to raise the public awareness. They have shown determination, responsibility and preparedness in taking urgent and accurate provisions to protect the health of Qatari people and the many expatriate communities. As much as Italy, Qatar is committed to share with the International Community transparent information on the epidemic, sharing updates on a daily basis in press conferences and the dedicated website of the Ministry of Public Health. Since the beginning of the outbreak, the Embassy of Italy has sent various communication to the Italian community in Qatar asking to strictly follow the instructions of the competent Authorities, get information only from official sources and individually engage in the fight against the circulation of fake news, especially on social networks.
In your opinion, what is the impact of this epidemic on the global economy in coming years?
The necessary lockdown measures adopted by most countries around the world have inevitably slowed down the production of goods, trade relations and economies. This pandemics, for the first time in 70 years, is seriously threatening the prosperity of our countries and the well-being of our communities. We are facing an unprecedented situation with potential disruptive effects on a global scale, which therefore requires the implementation of exceptional measures. Governments need to get ready to do whatever it takes to safeguard the solidity and cohesion of their national economies. This is why the Italian Government has adopted a package of measures to mitigate the economic impact of coronavirus and help companies, self-employed workers and citizens get through the storm. These measures include the injection of around 200 billion euro into the economy and the Treasury‘s shield for banks from losses on 90% of loans to companies of all sizes. In addition, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, Italy’s State lender, and Sace, its export agency, will provide further guarantees to companies until the end of this year for an additional €200 billion. In addition, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with other relevant Italian authorities have defined a plan to strengthen the support to the Made in Italy production, as well as to boost export activities through a wide range of new projects. This will embrace enhanced strategic communication, e-commerce and digitalization processes, as well as new virtual fairs. I believe that every economic shock leaves a legacy and the coronavirus will be no different becoming for all countries a lesson learnt for the future.