As Italy prepares to emerge from the West’s first and most extensive coronavirus lockdown, it is increasingly clear that something went terribly wrong in Lombardy, the hardest-hit region in Europe’s hardest-hit country.

Italy had the bad luck of being the first Western nation to be slammed by the outbreak, and its total of 26,600 fatalities lags behind only the U.S. in the global death toll. Italy’s first homegrown case was recorded Feb. 21, at a time when the World Health Organization was still insisting the virus was “containable” and not nearly as infectious as the flu.

But there’s also evidence that demographics and health care deficiencies combined with political and business interests to expose the 10 million people in the northern Italian region of Lombardy in ways unseen anywhere else, particularly the most vulnerable in nursing homes.

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Virologists and epidemiologists say what went wrong there will be studied for years, given how the outbreak overwhelmed a medical system considered one of Europe’s best. In neighbouring Veneto, the impact was significantly more controlled.

Prosecutors are deciding whether to lay any criminal blame for the hundreds of dead in nursing homes,

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