Italy continues to suffer terribly from the Covid-19 pandemic and the country has been in lockdown for weeks. Milan-based Pia Marazzi, originally from Perth, filed a report for The Starfish in early March, but due to site technical issues we were unable to run her piece. She has now added Part 2 so we are running both to convey what it is like to be living in a nation devastated by the contagion.
‘Relax’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!’
These Eagle’s lyrics came straight to mind the moment I heard we were locked down in Lombardy.
It all started just a couple of weeks ago, Friday Feb 21 to be exact, but it already seems like months, both because of how everything has changed, and the speed of new Corona cases. I’d just arrived back from seeing my sister and grandies in London–she’s a 5 times grandmother now, so, lots of fun there.
Looking back now, I realize I went there in the nick of time, because who knows when all this will end. Anyway, right after I got back, universities, schools, museums, bars, discos and more were closed in the region of Lombardy (look on a map, it’s big), from one moment to the next, literally.
Seemed pretty drastic to us westerners and we weren’t really taking it that seriously, thinking it’d be over in a week or two like they’d said. But every day we hear rumors of more drastic measures, and here we are now, Monday March 8, and all that’s left is for us not to be able to even leave our houses, or only one person every 2 days for an hour to shop and scuttle back.
The government’s treating us with kid gloves–first there are always the rumors, then BAM, another restriction put in place! We love our democracy, independence and ability to question authority, that’s who we are, but it doesn’t function quite as well in these unusual circumstances, and we’re all reeling trying to adjust. Particularly the “furbi” Italians, who particularly pride themselves on getting around any sort of restrictions, like avoiding taxes or parking fines in crafty or tricky ways.
In Milan we’re pretty much homebound, but supermarkets and shops are open with all supplies, for now. To be honest, I’m enjoying this time with no distractions, it’s amazing what can fill your day, then suddenly they’re gone–just little things, but that take up a lot of time. I’m working on a project, and am starting to think about chores around the house, like painting that spill on the kitchen wall that’s been there years and I’ve never got to.
Well that’s it, surreal, but you know, you just have to be adaptable. The only real concern is for the elderly and other people at risk, that’s sad and worrying. And here in Italy, we’re really only trying to stagger the timing of people getting sick, so that the health system can cope, because the horse has bolted.
Update since this was written two days ago: as of yesterday, the whole of Italy is now in shutdown, and today rumors are circulating that all shops and public transport is stopping in the Lombardy region.
But worst of all are the stories starting to come out of the hospitals and from healthcare workers who say they’re overwhelmed with amount of incoming patients, and are running low on equipment like respirators that are essential for treatment; they are having to make life and death decisions and the situation is very grave.
Wow, it’s only a month later, April Fool’s day, but no one’s taking that seriously.
Even though it didn’t seem possible when I started writing this, things have got stricter and stricter here. The self-declaration form that we need to complete before going out the front door, is now in its fourth edition. I’ve stopped reading them, but I think they’ve increased fines, jail terms and eliminated most excuses for stepping outside.
It’s strikingly quiet all the time, not much music or sounds coming from apartments anymore, only eerie sirens echoing from far away, vacated streets. Since 9/11, sirens have been ominous to me, and now they fill me with a foreboding.
Even though we’re into the third week of quarantine here in Lombardy, the numbers of new cases have only just started to decline, ever so slightly. Deaths are still shockingly high. We have a long road ahead. The idea of living like this for another couple of months is daunting (rumours are that it could longer, but I can’t listen to them right now.)
It hasn’t been that hard so far, but none of us are accustomed to such little stimulation, and that particularly goes for the youngsters. Good on them on for settling into these crazy routines, buckling down in front of monitors for endless hours of online school, and their assemblies with hundreds of little faces zoomed onto one screen. We really should make a “good on you kids” day after this.
Spring is coming but we don’t see it, we can only imagine bright green buds, quivering new leaves, magnolia and peach blossoms, birds nesting, the world turning– it’s only we humans who’ve come to a grinding halt.
But now’s certainly not the time to talk about taking the natural world for granted.
During this month, across the globe, countries have been following in China and Italy’s steps–totally unimaginable even two months ago. We’ all get the news and the stories at our fingertips, but to those just coming to terms with their lockdown, all I can say is do it, do it well and get used to doing it.
Perhaps it’s been all about us for too long, but now it’s more than ever about us–we’re all in this together. Sounds cliché, but I don’t even want to contemplate an internet malfunction or civil unrest, so the sooner we shift into Wuhan mode, the better. Never thought I’d be saying that to my fellow folk.
Good luck, keep safe and good distance, ‘til the next time.