So here I am, writing the post I had previously told myself I wouldn’t: Coronavirus in Italy.
(I took all the photos before the lockdown).
I’m writing from my living room, which is also the dining room and the kitchen (a small kitchen area). Matteo (my husband) and I live in Padua in a condo between the train station and the city center. Our apartment is about 70 sm. Apart from this “main room” there’s the bedroom, of course. Then a small room which normally is my study/fitness room/drying room. These days I gave it to Matteo so that he can work in peace. I prefer to stay in the living room so that I can work, but also cook and watch some TV when I feel like it. After all, I have less work now, while he’s busy as usual, luckily. Last but absolutely not least, we have two bathrooms. Even if one of them (his, of course) is small, during a quarantine is the equivalent of owning a royal palace.
When I heard the first rumors of Coronavirus it seemed so distant from my home. But, being a bit hypochondriacal, I was still a bit preoccupied. Then came the news of a couple from China, who fell ill in Rome after visiting Verona and Florence and I thought: If this disease is so contagious, who knows how many people will be positive now. All around me people seemed very chill. My best friend mocked me for this thought. It was January. But then, on February 20 it began with patient 1, a 38 man from the now-famous Codogno (never heard of it before that).
And soon after that, many other people got sick in that area and also in Vò Eugàneo, a small village at the foot of my beloved hills, in my very district (even if not to close, about 20 miles from where I live). I wanted to believe that the two focuses could be contained. But I knew it couldn’t be possible. In this modern world where everybody travels every day, how could it be possible that those people did not infect people outside that area?
My area was one of the first to be considered a red zone. But soon after, the government extended the red zone to the whole country. At that point many young students living in Milan decided to take the train to reach their families to the South. Now, after 2 weeks, we know that 15% of them left with a fever and many of them infected their parents or relatives once home. The Northern Italy healthcare system considered the best in Italy is on the verge of collapsing. We need more instruments and more medical staff. I can’t imagine how Southern hospitals will do.
In the beginning, all around me, I saw people claiming that everything was normal, that Coronavirus was nothing more than regular flu, that we should not suggest people to stop traveling. I felt disgusted and also alone. Because I didn’t agree at all.
I have to say, I’m had already been following all the WHO precautions during regular flu season anyways. I always carry in my purse the Italian equivalent of Purell (Amuchina), I wash my hands carefully making all those weird movements, I avoid crowded places (I don’t even like them), if I’m in whatever shop/office/place I don’t touch anything without gloves or, if I do, I purell my hands. Is that even a verb? Why do I do all this?
Maybe some of you already follow me on Instagram, so for them it’s hearing the story a second time. I already went through quarantine in 2009. At the time there was the H1N1 flu and it seemed to hit pretty hard on people with immune defense problems. I suffer from asthma, but apart from that, the previous year was diagnosed with a rare disease and, as soon as the flu started spreading, my doctor told me to stay at home. And so I did. For about 3 months. Alone. My husband went to his parents for those months in order to protect me and he used to bring me food once a week and leave it on our doormat. I felt alone, but not too much, first because I’m a super loner, second because I kept myself occupied, and third because I was more terrified than bored/alone/whatever.
But now this is different. When you, and you alone, are in danger, but life goes on, it’s painful but not too much. But when you’re in quarantine and so are all the people around you, everything’s shut down, you feel the danger surrounding you and people are suffering, the economy is suffering… it is totally overwhelming. Also, to hear people complaining about a 15 days lockdown is unbearable. People who can’t but go out for a walk, putting in danger their neighbors or their relatives, because they can’t deal with themselves is very, very annoying.
And then the toothache came last weekend. My cheek started swelling and hurting and on Monday morning I was forced to go to the dentist, who was only open for emergencies. I had an abscess. He prescribed antibiotics and on the third day I had to go back there and have my tooth extracted (luckily it was a molar, whose vacancy no one will notice). Now I have 5 stitches and a super swollen cheek.
I can’t tell you about my state of mind. Worst timing ever. As I said, I’m hypochondriacal and I’m terribly worried because of this virus. So far I did everything to stay safe. Until it was still allowed, I used to go for a walk every day. But always alone, along empty streets or river banks, during times of the day in which no one’s around. But I stopped, as soon as I realized it was for everyone’s best. It’s not easy but I think it’s the least we can do.
Shops for first needs (pharmacies, supermarkets, grocery shops, banks) are regularly open. My brother works in a bank so he must go to work regularly. While my mother is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s and we can’t go visit her anymore. And my father is 83. Honestly, I’m scared.
We can only leave our houses for health reasons (as I did because of my tooth), to go grocery shopping or to go to work. And we must carry a self-certification to show in case of control by the police. Also, we can l take out the trash. Without self-certification.
It’s like wartime or something. But we’re luckier. The only thing we’re asked to do is staying at home. I know that in some cases it can be challenging. A follower of mine for example is alone with a 3 years old kid and two 8 months old twins. And it must be wearing. And there must be worse cases. People alone with an abusive parent or spouse.
But for all the other people, as much as they can be bored, worried, anxious, they must stay at home. On social media the most popular hashtags are now #iorestoacasa (I stay at home) and #andràtuttobene (everything will be fine). I use the first one. But the latter… I’m sorry but I don’t feel like it. Of course I hope it will. But I prefer to be cautious even with words.
It is very weird and sad to see spring blooming, the sky as blue as can be, while you must stay at home. It is sad to go to the supermarket and see other people wearing white gloves and white masks.
Yes, some people did some very cool flash mobs from their balconies (none where I live, sadly). And it was beautiful. Italians were not as united as now since the 2006 Soccer Worldcup (for those who remember my article about the Italian flag).
But this is just the bright side.
The other side is… the images of nurses and doctors worn out by assisting the patients, with red signs on their faces caused by the masks. When they’re all dressed up for work they can’t stop for a snack or even for peeing. Because they can’t take off the medical suits and personal protective equipment. After the first weeks many got sick too. And so the healthy ones had to face double shift or more, risking burnout.
Especially in Lombardy, the situation is desperate. In particular in the Bergamo area. Just the other night a photo went around the web here. It portrayed 70 trucks of the Army, carrying the coffins of Bergamo deceased to other cities’ crematory ovens because there was no place anymore. They also run out of intensive care places there.
And in all this there were 50.000 people surprised by controls while they left their houses for no apparent reason other than boredom or thoughtlessness. And last weekend the green areas of many cities seemed like a cross country race trail. Are people really this selfish while their compatriots are dying and others are risking bankruptcy because of the crisis?
I really hope that the government will release more strict rules and carry out more severe checks on the people going out.
This year I wanted to finally celebrate my birthday properly. A romantic lunch in Burano with Matteo. I was dreaming of it since last year. But I will almost certainly celebrate my birthday at home instead.
Nevermind, as long as we can defeat this bloody virus.