I am a 22-years-old Italian girl living in the extreme south part of the country. I have completed a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Languages and Literature last October at the University of Palermo (Sicily) and I will be attending a second master’s degree in digital marketing starting from the end of April.
It has been now a month since this monster has started changing our lives. At the very beginning, it seemed affecting only the Northern regions – Lombardy in particular with its main cities Milan and Bergamo which is still at the heart of the coronavirus crisis. But in the end, it spread over all the regions, in particular, due to the fact people kept going moving from one area to the other.
At the beginning, we all undervalued the severity of this epidemy, starting from the governments and the leading authorities. The message received at the first stages was: “It’s just flu. It only affects old people with preconditions”. But it’s not like this, and we had to face sooner than expected with the seriousness of it.
And how have we realized that? Exactly at the moment when a doctor stated on TV news that they begun to have to decide who lives and who dies when the patients show up in the emergency room, like what happens in a war . “This will only get worse!” he added. Right at this moment, our Prime Minister announced that the entire country, meaning almost 60 million people, would go for lockdown because there was no more time. What he meant is that if the numbers of contagion did not start to go down, the Italian system would collapse.
The first step was shutting down the schools. Afterwards, all the flights from and to Italy were cancelled. Since the 9th of March, all the commercial activities have been suspended except groceries, pharmacies and banks. Besides parties, matches, celebration of any kind were forbidden. Even these were not enough, because especially young people did not understand the power of that epidemic and kept going with gathering around and chatting away in parks and outdoor areas. The next step was to ban every kind of open-air sports and reduces as much as possible all the movements not necessary from one place to another and, if so, they need to be justified by a self-declaration: who falsely states risks a fine or, in the worst cases, three months in jail.
How do we get affected by all those? Can you imagine the psychological side effects of this strict quarantine? Our streets are empty, lots of pigeon instead of people, you cannot see anymore not even the lonely elders sit on the benches: police monitor every movement and it feels like living in a ghost town. But even in the darkness, we haven’t lost our positivity; this quietness has never been as loud as now. We sing from our balconies every day to feel closer even if apart, to keep up our mood and lift our spirits, while all the kids painted and stitched on the doors of their homes a banner portraying a rainbow embracing a small meaningful sentence: “andrà tutto bene” – everything will be fine.
In my point of view, the only way to stop this virus is to limit contagion. And the only way to do it is for everyone to change their behaviour. I do not believe the first measures of the prevention they took were enough. The issue was no longer the exposition of the country to the risk of infection from the outside; the most problematic condition occurring was the contagion Italian-to-Italian. But if this is relatively easy to say, the hard part is to accept and do it concretely. We all needed our time to process the new containment measures.
If we are facing now, the worst crisis occurred after the Second World War, it is also because Europe abandoned us in this moment of necessity. Even if we asked for medical supplies and health items such as masks, sanitizers and medical respirators, we have not received anything if it was not for China and now Russia and Cuba, who have also sent us a team of volunteers ready to help and fight with us in the first line.
Italy has now superated China for numbers of deaths: to date, among the infected, victims and healed persons, we register 63,927 total cases. The daily growth scares Italy, and it does just while China seems to be winning its battle. China’s courageous approach to contain the rapid spread of this virus has changed the course of a quick rising and deadly epidemy. This is the reason why we needed to watch with interest in the method adopted by the Chinese governments.
For sure many mistakes have been made. For instance, at the beginning the masks were compulsory only for infected patients and for medical staff. On the contrary, in China, they have been obligatory since the beginning for everyone; but I believe that the most significant difference between us and the Asian approach stays in the idea of quarantine itself. Car use has been banned, and only one person for a family was allowed to leave the house every three days (mask on) to buy food and supplies. In Italy, measures similar to a total lockdown, have been applied after an initial phase in which it was planned only for Lombardy and some provinces. But even so, data and numbers of the last three days are proving that we are, slowly, following the right way.
To conclude, our life has totally changed during the last month. We are living a scenario that only a month ago we would have considered lunar: Queues at supermarkets, police on the streets to check who leaves home, schools closed, riots and deaths in prisons, trains that don’t leave, the impossibility to visit our beloved ones. After all, it is useless to give ourselves a time limit for the return to normality. For sure, it will not be ended on the 3rd of April (date initially indicated as the end of the Italian quarantine). We must put ourselves in the perspective of a new way of life that will involve many sectors. We will probably have to get used in the next few years to distrust metro, bars, pubs too crowded or gyms could start putting more money into online courses. The cinemas, the tea rooms, the shopping centres could install armchairs at least one metre apart from each other, benches where you can sit only one at a time and so on.
It makes no sense to delude ourselves that the stop we are obliged to, will be a short-term one. Surely what is going to happen to us in the next months is unprecedented, and it will lead us into an unknown land. Any important program we had planned during this time (marriage, children, travel, change of job, etc.) we have to take into account will be surely postponed. Even schools could remain closed, in the West, with effects on children never seen before. I have been myself reconsidering my future projects, and I am aware they will inevitably change due to the course of events. For this reason, as I was supposed to move to Milan for my studies, I will be waiting for better times and start attending classes online.
The tragedy Italy is experiencing has to be a warning to other European countries and to the United States, where the virus has started spreading at the same speed.
I have learned from my boyfriend who leaves in Thessaloniki, that the Greek government has started taking as same measures as the Italian ones, by limiting all the unnecessaries exits and movements unless they are proved and justified by strong motivations. Moreover, every greek citizen has to send a message to the municipality texting from where to where he\she is moving, and if it turns out to be a lie, he\she has to pay 1 thousand euro.
But, even if your government is still indecisive whether if closing or not offices, schools and non-core activities, or adopting these strict measures, you have to learn from our experience and mistakes: stay home! There’s no vaccine or drug able to fight this virus, and only our behaviour can stop it!
The only positive aspect of all this is that, even if we don’t know when exactly, the cruellest part of the conflict will end as long as we follow the rules imposed by the governments and the ones dictated by our common sense and civil responsibility.
“Each of you, today, not the government, not the mayor, each cıtızen has the chance, today, to take actıons that wıll prevent the sıtuatıon of ıtaly from becomıng your own country’s realıty. You have an opportunıty to make a dıfference and stop the spread ın your country. Work at home ıf you can, cancel bırthday partıes and other gatherıngs. Do anythıng you can. Practıce socıal dıstancıng and stay home as much as possıble because ıt saves lıves. AND THIS IS MIND: a LITTLE DISTANCE now WILL save and UNITE us all later!”