How Covid-19 is affecting day-to-day life in Italy

battleface continues its series on day-to-day life for workers and travellers living in affected areas affected by Covid-19

Note: The interviews below took place on Friday, 7 March, before nationwide restrictions took effect.

Edmea De Paoli is an Italian Certification Body employee who lives in Milan

How much warning did you have before the restrictions took place? How did you prepare?

Already from the first cases of coronavirus, we were all advised by the media to protect ourselves with basic hygienic standards of hand washing, avoiding greetings with bodily contact, etc.

We were told that the virus was very infectious, but not with particularly serious results if not for the elderly and for people already with other pathologies.

Schools and universities were closed for a week, then for another week. It was asked (if possible) to perform smart-working.

We were all curious and not particularly worried in the beginning. All these precautions seemed excessive. Our government told everyone to use only recognised information channels such as the Ministry of Health website and the WHO website.

Companies were barred from meeting with other companies, and business trips were prohibited. I work for a Certification Body, and have set up an emergency management team and a specific email to ask how to act for planned activities throughout the national territory.

But now we know from voice messages that arrive via WhatsApp from doctors of the various hospitals in Lombardy that the hospitals were already gearing up in recent weeks to close the wards by compacting the ‘standard’ sick in a few wards and equipping dismantled wards with new beds for intensive care. To date they say that all empty departments are filling up at an incredible speed with people all with the same diagnosis: bilateral interstitial pneumonia.

What are the restrictions in your area? Are people obeying them?

The restrictions are: do not leave or enter the red zone, leave the house as little as possible, avoid crowded places such as shopping centres and avoid restaurants. In pubs and restaurants, people must be at least 1 metre away from each other, under penalty of closing the venue.

Theatres, cinemas, gyms, and churches are closed, public and private events are prohibited. In short, any form of socialisation is prohibited. Schools and universities are closed until April 3, (a total of one and a half months)

People are still struggling to realise what is happening, it seems to be living in a science fiction novel and unfortunately, they also go out in crowded places where the distance of a metre can not be guaranteed. Today there was the weekly market and I didn’t go, but I’m sure there were too many people.

For those who leave the red zone to go to a lower risk area, there is an obligation to self-report. My son’s fiancée is going to university in Terni and she had to come back from Milan for an exam. She planned to return, knowing that she would have to do 15 days of quarantine without leaving home. When she arrived in Terni, she telephoned the Umbria Region Administration, giving the references of her address and that she was in voluntary quarantine; subsequently she was contacted by the local health service who asked her to constantly communicate her temperature and any symptoms.

Australians have famously stockpiled toilet paper in response to the crisis. What’s flying off the shelves in your part of the world?

I saw that Italians immediately purchased disinfectants (Amuchina), protective masks, detergents and a lot of bottles of water. In general, the advice is not to go to supermarkets and therefore I feel friends and neighbours will use all the food supplies they have in the freezer.

How have the restrictions affected day-to-day life in the region so far? How have they affected you and your family?

I have 3 children. My daughter and I work from home. My middle son is an osteopath and continues to work using the mask and treating urgent cases only. My last son is doing his university internship in Pesaro (even Pesaro is now a red zone). He has now interrupted the internship but obviously remains in Pesaro, because he cannot leave the red zone even to go to another red zone. My daughter met with some friends yesterday to play D&D, but they wore the protective masks all the time and respected the distance of one meter at the table.

From today, Amazon Prime Video is for free for people in the red zone for the time of restriction. Maybe we will see a lot of movies, we will read a lot of books and we will play cards after dinner.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Lombardy is one of the regions with the most efficient healthcare in Italy and hospitals are currently in deep crisis. All the sick people need intensive care. Doctors say the important thing is that we don’t get sick,  because there aren’t enough respirators.

There are gestures of solidarity, in the condominiums the younger and more healthy people offer to do food shopping for older people.

Today there was a riot in some prisons for fear of sick prisoners.

In conclusion, there are and there will still be many aspects of this pandemic that surprise us and that are unimaginable.

Paola is a retired teacher who lives with her husband in Torino

How much warning did you have before the restrictions took place? How did you prepare?

We had plenty of warning from all the media (radio, newspapers, TV, internet) The problem was that not all scientists agreed on the seriousness of the situation. At the beginning, even some doctors maintained that COVID-19 was only a more severe form of flu.

In spite of this confusion, long before the restrictions were announced, we cancelled a trip to Tuscany, and our daughter, who lives in London, also cancelled her trip to Italy. Until now we haven’t bought any particular items (masks, disinfectants) or large food supplies.

What are the restrictions in your area? Are people obeying them?

We are supposed to stay at home, and we are obeying them: we are both retired and don’t have any important obligations. We only go out to buy food or medicines.

The problem is that many must go out for work reasons, and there is no control over those who go out for leisure, e.g. students (schools and universities are closed). Not everyone is following the directions.

Australians have famously stockpiled toilet paper in response to the crisis. What’s flying off the shelves in your part of the world?

For the moment we don’t have this problem in my area.

How have the restrictions affected day-to-day life in the region so far? How have they affected you and your family?

The restrictions have affected our day-to-day life: we don’t go to restaurants, coffee-shops, fitness centres, museums, cinemas, theatres or public events anymore, and we do not see our friends. It has also affected our family life because we cannot see our children and their families. Fortunately, we have PCs and mobile phones.

The restrictions affect heavily on the economy of the region: particularly the self-employed and those who work in commerce and tourism are suffering financial losses.

Silvia is an Italian translator who lives in Arizzano with her husband and her two sons, aged 29 and 25

How much warning did you have before the restrictions took place? How did you prepare?

Actually not so much. Last week I read in the local newspapers that there were 3 cases in the village near ours. So my husband and I decided to cancel our reservation for a holiday in Tuscany because we didn’t want to risk going into a region that was still quite safe and maybe unconsciously bring the virus with us.

What are the restrictions in your area? Are people obeying them?

People should stay at home as much as possible, but obviously the ones who have to go to work are free to circulate. Schools, theatres and cinemas were already closed a couple of weeks ago, and all public events have been cancelled. Since yesterday coffee bars and restaurants have to close at 6 p.m. and people within have to keep a distance of about 4 feet from each other. Lots of people have gathered in coffee bars in the last days, without thinking that it is the best way to catch the virus.

People should not go to the doctor’s now, but phone their doctor and tell them how they feel.

Australians have famously stockpiled toilet paper in response to the crisis. What’s flying off the shelves in your part of the world?

Two weeks ago people bought everything possible. I know that yesterday supermarkets were again full of people, but I didn’t go and I don’t know what they bought this time. I presume disinfectants and masks, and lot of food. It seems they are afraid to starve.

While you can work from home, your sons are still leaving the house. Where are they going? How have the restrictions affected day-to-day life in the region so far? How have they affected you and your family?

They are trying to go out as little as possible, but of course they cannot completely cancel their working life. We’re working on our immune system to strengthen it, are walking every day at midday in the desert streets of our village on the hill and are avoiding hazardous situations.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, I think this is a great lesson for Western people. We are facing for the first time our frailty. It can be a big chance to reconsider our way of life, first of all on a large scale, but also in our everyday life. We have to become more aware of our choices, of our health, we have to respect ourselves, other people and the Earth. The concentration of fine particulate matter is decreasing in these weeks and we have to think about it and ask ourselves, governments etc. how we want to go on. Capitalism is a Leviathan. Can we still escape and survive?

How Covid-19 is affecting travellers and workers outside lockdown zones