Here in Ischia, the island is keeping safe, but we’re also battling with our own positive cases of COVID-19 and I wanted to give you an update on Ischia and the corona virus and what’s going on here.
Since everything is closed and we’re all staying at home, I feel like I’m in a vacuum. I read the local newspapers online, read the comments and follow the local Facebook groups, but what I most come across is anxiety, fear and speculation over the identity of the positive cases. I miss hearing the voices around me at the bar, in the shops and running into neighbours on the street. In this way, I felt like I was a part of the community and understood what was going on across the island. Now I can only rely on the official reports.
At the time of writing this, the local newspaper has said that there are 28 confirmed positive cases on the island, but the health office that covers our region (ASL Napoli Nord 2) has reported 24 confirmed cases with 8 patients in the local hospital, Ospedale a Rizzoli. I suspect the discrepancy is based on the slowness of getting the results back from testing, it usually takes a week, but the health office has reported that 160 people on the island are under active health watch. I’m not sure if that means they have taken tests and the results have not come back yet, or if these are people that the confirmed cases have been in contact with and are under surveillance as a precautionary measure, or maybe it’s both. Ischia lost its first member of the community to the virus on Monday 31 March, a kind-hearted gentleman named Claudio from the town of Barano
The hospital situation on the island has been an issue long before the start of the virus. It has suffered from years of funding cuts and department closures, as the regional health office has repeatedly stated that the islanders are expected to go to the mainland for hospital services. This makes the islanders feel incredibly vulnerable for any emergency services and they have protested for years to try to get more funding for the hospital on an island that has 60,000 full-time residents and soars up to 250,000 during the high season. It is not a long-term or economically feasible option to have a water ambulance or helicopter transport patients to the mainland and when there is bad weather, especially in the winter, the island can become quickly isolated.
The islanders have long felt this neglect from the mainland regional office and when the corona virus cases were first reported in the north, the worry and anxiety quickly set in. However, there is some good news to report. The regional health office in response to Ischia and the corona virus has sent over extra doctors and nurses, increased the hospital beds for COVID-19 patients from 6 – 12, sent over an extra ambulance, and has extended to the island a home health service for positive patients under strict quarantine. A fundraiser for the hospital to purchase much needed equipment and protective gear, which started last week, has already raised for 100,000 euros.
So perhaps we’re feeling a bit more protected in this very difficult time and volunteers, municipalities and charity organisations are working hard to help those in economic need with providing and delivering food. The island’s first and major priority is to safeguard everyone’s health, but once that danger has passed, we’ll be faced with the economic tragedy of an almost non-existent tourist season this year. It’s still too soon to tell what will happen and what this will look like and what kind of economic relief the government will provide for the island.
For me, in the times of Ischia and the corona virus, I could easily get overwhelmed by the what-ifs, so I’ve been trying hard to remain in the present and be grateful for the things that I have in my life such as my health and a garden so I can sit outside. It’s something I learned to do when I was dealing with a major health scare and recovering from surgery and it taught me how to deal with this now. The lockdown has been extended to the 13th of April (but I suspect it will go on until at least the end of April). My days are filled with talking to the cats, reading, writing, and making an after-lunch coffee and drinking it with Marituccio in the garden. Coffee and sunshine help me. And seeing people hang Italian flags from their windows and balconies. I have never seen that happen outside of the World Cup matches.
I hope you all keep yourselves and others safe and healthy during this strange and difficult time.