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The story of Vò: Italy’s healthiest town

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On 21 February 2020, Adriano Trevisan became the first person in Europe to die from coronavirus. The 78-year-old bricklayer resided in Vò, a small Italian town of 3,300 residents near Venice. In response, the regional authorities enforced a lockdown of the whole town, initiating a scientific study rolled out by the University of Padua and Red Cross, in which all 3,300 inhabitants were tested for Covid-19.

The first round of testing on 29 February identified around 90 infected people — three percent of the population — and after two weeks of stringent identification and isolation, there were no new cases. As of last week, Vò has been coronavirus-free for two months, and today, along with the rest of Italy, the town is on track to recovery.

The grave of Adriano Trevisan, the first person in Europe to die after contracting coronovirus.
April 2020, Vo’ (Padua), Italy - CRAI Supermarket >< April 2020, Vo’ (Padua), Italy - Supermercato CRAI

Matteo de Mayda was granted permission to enter and photograph the town through his photojournalism agency. Since March, the photographer has been driving back and forth between Treviso, where he is based, and Vò, documenting what has become one of the few success stories in an otherwise bleak coverage around Europe’s handling of the pandemic.

According to the photographer, many residents of Vò were unhappy about the media attention at the start of the pandemic — some news reporters would film without asking for permission, which they found intrusive and insensitive. De Mayda wanted to be more reflective in his approach, and produce more of a long-term, in-depth documentation of this positive, iconic story from his home-country.

April 2020, Vo’ (Padua), Italy - Queue of the inhabitants of Vo' outside G.Negri Primary School, where all the community of Vo’ were tested.

“All of the images that have come out of this period are helpful in understanding the situation,” says De Mayda, referring to photos of hospitals and empty squares. “Many iconic pictures from Italy during the pandemic have been taken by normal people on their phones, but we, as photographers, have the ability to think a little more about what we are doing and how we are doing it.”

The result of his coverage is varied, ranging from still lifes of symbolic items from the pandemic — surgical masks, antibacterial gel, and bakers yeast, reported to be sold-out globally — to portraits of key figures such as Andrea Crisanti, the professor of Microbiology at the University of Padua who initiated the study. A large part of the documentation focuses on the testing process, which is not an easy procedure. Nasal swabbing can be uncomfortable and invasive — De Mayda can vouch for this after having been tested himself — and some residents queued for many hours of the day.

“I wanted to be sensitive to how these people feel. They feel confused, like everybody else. They’re not just doing this test for themselves, but also for the community, and for the nation,” says De Mayda. “The town has become a symbol for Italy and they are proud to be part of it.”

April 2020, Padua, Italy - Andrea Crisanti, virologist and professor of the University of Padua, conducted analysis on all the citizens of Vo' (Padua). >< Aprile 2020, Padova, Italia - Andrea Crisanti, virologo, professore dell’università di Padova e coordinatore del test a tampone su tutti gli abitanti di Vo’.
April 2020, Vo’ (Padua), Italy >< Aprile 2020, Vo’ (Padova), Italia
April 2020, Vo’ (Padua), Italy - Professor Stefano Merigliano at the University of Padua, conducted analysis on all the citizens of the town. >< Aprile 2020, Vo’ (Padova), Italia - Professor Stefano Merigliano, presidente della Scuola di Medicina dell’Università di Padova e coordinatore del test a tampone su tutti gli abitanti di Vo’.
April 2020, Vo’ (Padua), Italy - Black Panther Discotheque >< Aprile 2020, Vo’ (Padova), Italia - Discoteca Black Panther
Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.

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