The intensive care unit atย Bergamo’s main hospital, Papa Giovanni XXII, is official “COVID-free”, 137 days after the first coronavirus patient was rushed through its doors on 23 February.

The news was announced in the hospital on 8 July where doctors and nurses broke into a long “liberating” applause, followed by a minute’s silence in memory of the thousands of COVID-19 victims.

The ICU ward was at the forefront of Italy’s battle against coronavirus, coping with thousands of deaths and with its hospital facilities stretched to breaking point during the height of the crisis.

In Bergamo, there were about 6,000 coronavirus casualties and during the most critical days of the emergency, there were up to 100 patients intubated at Papa Giovanni XXII hospital.

“Victory has come,” said Luca Lorini, director of the emergency department at the hospital, where around 400 staff work in intensive care, including doctors, nurses, assistants, and cleaners.

Bergamo is among the worst-hit of Italy’s COVID-affected provinces, with the surrounding Lombardy region accounting for half of Italy’s 33,500 virus deaths, reports Italian news agency ANSA.