Italy and the corona virus: letter from Ischia

UPDATE: 12.3.2020 Conte announced that further restrictions have been put in place and all shops and businesses are now closed except for grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, tobacco shops and newspaper stands. I’ve updated the rules down below.

Things in Italy are changing day by day and my post today could very likely be obsolete by tomorrow, but I still want to document this very strange and surreal time and give you an update about Italy, the corona virus and the present lockdown.

It was just over two weeks ago when the news first broke about the initial cases of the corona virus and the towns in Lombardia were put in quarantine. The world panicked, people cancelled their trips to Italy, the Italian economy went into a down fall, Italians tried to show the world that life kept on going and they were unstoppable (#italianonsiferma), until now in just 3 days over 4500 new corona virus cases have been confirmed. The Italian government is now telling us to stop and stay at home. (#iorestoacasa)

But Sunday was a gorgeous day and in a move of reverse psychology and full display of the Italian furbismo (shrewdness) and menefreghismo (not giving a shit), many Italians throughout Italy went out to the bars, hung out in huge crowds and went skiing up in the Alps. So on Monday, as regional governors started to take more drastic measures to control the crowds and fine the bars for serving them, the government announced that all of Italy will be under lock down and everyone must stay at home and limit their movements.

corona virus

Life has slowed down and we’re all staying at home, but what does being on lock down actually mean?

  • Movement is limited to work, running necessary errands, and doctor visits: You can still go to work and run your necessary errands and visit your doctor. Public transportation is running and the transportation of goods and postal services are still running. If you have to leave your town and go somewhere else, you are asked to carry with you a self-certificate to state the reasons for leaving. For example, if I have to go to the doctor in Napoli, I need to carry with me a certificate that I can show if someone asks me when I board or get off the ferry. Here is a link to the certificate. For those who defy this rule, they risk going to jail or a heavy fine.
  • No hugs, kisses or handshakes and we must limit our personal distance in public by at least 1 meter: No touching, no closeness, Italians must increase their personal space.
  • Stop all gatherings, either at home or in public: No parties, going to dinner at your relative’s house, picnics in the park, coffee or aperitivo at the bar with your mates, no stopping for a glass of wine at your neighbours. Just stay home.
  • Mandatory quarantine for those who have a fever: A fever is considered anything over 37.5 centigrade (99.5F).
  • All national sporting events are cancelled: This includes all national football matches and championship games, although international matches (like say the Championships League matches) can happen in a closed setting with no spectators.
  • The following public gathering places are closed: cinemas, theatres, pubs, gyms, ski slopes, dance schools, betting shops, arcades, bingo halls, night clubs, markets, museums, and archaeological sites.
  • Schools: All schools and universities are closed until 3 April. This also includes driving schools and any scheduled exams.
  • Bars, restaurants and shops: All bars, restaurants and shops will be closed until 24 March, when the risk of contagion will be reassessed.
  • All supermarkets, small grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, tobacco shops and newspaper stands: These places will remain open with normal working hours, however they too will limit the amount of people at a time to control crowding. Expect to wait outside in queue with lots of space between each person.  
  • Churches: All religious ceremonies, weddings and funerals included, are suspended.
  • Parks: Parks are open and you can exercise in the park as long as you respect the minimum 1m distance.
  • Going for walks: Walking is allowed, but it is still strongly urged that you remain at home as much as possible. You can go for walks with your dog and children, but avoid crowded places and keep the distance among people.

These rules can be really difficult for some people, especially businesses. Italy is asking us to make a lot of sacrifices for a short period of time. It’s a really strange time to be here right now and we’re experiencing this great historical moment and a mass collective experience, being asked to change our normal behaviour to work in solidarity and help stop the spread of the virus and help save people’s lives.

Because the reality of the situation is that there are not enough hospital beds and respirators for everyone who is sick and doctors are starting to have to decide who to save and who not. Can you imagine being in that position? The corona virus is dangerous because it spreads very quickly and with so many people getting sick at once, there are not enough hospital beds to take care of anyone. And for those that need emergency care because of an accident, heart attack, stroke, etc won’t be able to go to the hospital if the hospitals are already full with patients sick with the virus. It’s a serious situation because people can’t get the care that they need.

Italy has made the drastic decision to lock down the entire country and asks everyone to STAY HOME. Ads and announcements on television and social media with the tag #iorestoacasa are in continuation telling people to stay home. TV presenters are interrupting their programs 2-3 times throughout the broadcast telling people to stay home. The police are crowd controlling and fining anyone who is not adhering to the mandate.  

This is creating terrible consequences for the Italian economy and it’s unclear yet how we’re going to get out of this. The government has already said that money is being put aside to help families and businesses, but the details aren’t out yet.

So, life is serious at the moment and while we’re okay in Ischia and not exactly scared, we are worried and we’re staying home. I’ve already been recovering from surgery for the past two months so I’m used to this, but for the time being no more walks and coffees at the bar and visiting friends. We can still go out and run errands and when I have to go to Napoli to visit my doctor, I can go. We’re not in confinement, but we’re asked to stay home to help stop this virus and to think about other people, our family and friends that are most vulnerable to the virus and help keep them safe.

It was amazing to see yesterday the very swift backlash against those who ignored the decree to stay at home and went out and congregated in public as if it were a holiday. There are still going to be assholes during this scare who will ignore the rules and defiantly put others at risk. But I believe there will be many more who will band together to help stop this spread and my love for Italy and Italians keeps growing. It’s definitely not easy living in Italy and especially not now, but there is no other place I’d rather be.

Yesterday, me and Marituccio made some coffee after lunch and went out in the garden to sit in the sun. I was supposed to go back to teaching this month and his hotel is supposed to open next month for the summer season, so our economic situation is precarious at best. But it’s a strange time and right now we’re both healthy and that’s all that matters. We’ll get through this along with the rest of Italy. In the meantime, we’ll read, cook, watch films, play the piano, and write and I’m sending good vibes to everyone in the world and hope they stay safe and healthy.

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  1. Rosalia Acampora wrote:

    Thanks for posting this!
    Forza Italia ♥️

    Posted 3.10.20 Reply