© 2017 IEEE. This letter studies if and to which extent COVID-19 epidemics can be controlled by authorities taking decisions on public health measures on the basis of daily reports of swab test results, active cases and total cases. A suitably simplified process model is derived to support the controllability analysis, highlighting the presence of very significant time delay; the model is validated with data from several outbreaks. The analysis shows that suppression strategies can be effective if strong enough and enacted early on. It also shows how mitigation strategies can fail because of the combination of delay, unstable dynamics, and uncertainty in the feedback loop; approximate conditions based on the theory of limitation of linear control are given for feedback control to be feasible.