Italy during coronavirus outbreak. Our attempt to follow the Chinese way.

Offering my point of view of what is going on in these weeks in Italy is my aim. The view, from somebody who’s living his 8th day in quarantine. I’m writing from Cesena in the Emilia-Romagna region where number of infected people is increasing on daily basis. After all, in my region and in Lombardy at this moment the causes why the trend of infected and deaths is not following the Chinese or other parts of Italy ones, thus decreasing in a significant way, are unknown. 

(c) ANSA 2020 -  Italian Army lorries in queue in front of Bergamo Cemetery
Today we have found out that number of deaths due to coronavirus has overrun those in China, reaching 3,405. This is terrifying, especially if looking at what happened yesterday in the city of Bergamo; due to incredible number of deaths caused by the COVID-19, the city cemeteries reached their full capacity and are now full. Italian army through tens of military lorries has moved coffins to neighbourhood cemeteries’ regions which have offered their crematorium now working 24/7. 

The outbreak is particularly aggressive in the North part of the country and especially in Lombardy region. The “Italian variant” of coronavirus has reached Veneto region at first and from there has spread in the rest of Italy. At this moment, Veneto seems that is reacting well both to quarantine and to other measures local authorities have undertook. So didn’t Lombardy nor Emilia Romagna. 

But how is it living in quarantine? Unreal. This would be my first instinctive answer. We have very quickly switched from being an “aperitivo” country to an almost intolerant one. 

First things first. On March 8th and 9th the President of the Council of Ministers (no, in Italy we don’t have a Prime Minister, and the main difference is that our President is a Primus inter pares – first among equals, which means, among other things, that can’t fire a minister) has signed two Decrees. Basically they say that people are allowed to leave their homes for health issues (for instance going to a scheduled medical visit); for important matters (I still didn’t understand what it means) and for shopping at supermarkets and pharmacies. Besides, doing sport outdoor is allowed as long as there is a minimum safety distance of 1 meter (3,2 ft) between people. Moreover, gatherings are forbidden in any form and in any place. 

Policemen in front of Duomo di Milano - Source:
So the reader of this article might think: «So where’s the problem if you can leave your flat and go for a walk or a run?». The problem is that we just can’t, or at least not anymore. Based on the Decrees we can, but here it comes into play our attempt to imitate the Chinese way. In these days, indeed, all media in the Country are saying that virus is spreading quickly and violently because people don’t stay home and they rather prefer going for a walk. Anyone who’s trying to say that the law allows it, it’s being considered a criminal who’s provoking death and contributing to the “new plague”. As if all of this wasn’t enough to create confusion, each Regional Governor in the last two days is issuing is own ordinance, partially in contrast with the State Decree, and people are just starting panicking. 

We can still go out but bringing with us a written paper aimed to explain and justify, in case there would be a police check, reasons why we are not in our homes. If police forces don’t consider the motivation valid enough to justify the outdoor presence, than the person is reported to the judge and accused of a criminal offence (up to 3 months in jail and a financial penalty of €200 if you don’t have symptoms of coronavirus, otherwise up to 12 years imprisonment). Going to supermarket is a valid reason, going to work with other 30 people in an open space office without masks is a valid reason, going alone in the woods, not talking to anybody nor meeting anyone, might not be good reasons. 

In the last days, a team of Chinese doctors have reached Italy to provide their consultancy on fighting coronavirus. It seems they have complained with Italian authorities that there are too many people around. And here starts the game. Media and people on social media started a which-hunt against runners or simply people who want to take some fresh air; for the community these people must be punished. Having said so it seems Italy is following the Chinese way and actually is doing so, but partially and in a very Italian style. We are becoming intolerant against each other, unless you sing outside a balcony, even if I don’t see any reason to sing especially when I think about people in Bergamo, and don’t go out for a solo walking. I said attempt, because behind this fake rigid way to follow the rules there is the reality; the same people who wish all the worst things to people who go for a run or a walk, are the same who use the excuse of walking their dogs out to spend majority of the day outside their homes.

I personally don’t know when all of this will be over, and for sure not before one month time. But I’m pretty sure of one thing: these outbreak will leave deep wounds on all of us, as Italians and as individuals.


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