Coronavirus in Italy, and what it should mean for everybody
Just some notes from lockdown country, and a request.
Yesterday evening several people on social networks and mailing lists asked me what is the situation in Italy, now that the whole country is in lockdown mode. I answered posting a few notes right away, without even re-reading them. Several readers told me “thanks, this is interesting, and potentially useful even for people outside Italy”. This chart (source):
seems to confirm that judgment. So I am posting the same notes here, with minimal editing and a final request. Except when explicitly noted, everything below was written on March 10, 2020, around 11pm Rome time. Please read this to the end, and after that please also read my other Coronavirus posts!!
How is it going with Coronavirus in Italy?
Public awareness: they are a minority now, but not enough people have already understood the seriousness and NATURE of the situation. Specifically, they don’t get that everybody should do their best to “flatten the curve” to spare from implosion the public healthcare system (which sucks… while still being one of the best worldwide, which I wouldn’t change with any other one). They keep staying too close in lines, continuing to go downtown for a walk, that kind of things. But hopefully they’ll get the message in the next days.
Basic needs: Grocery stores are open, supplies should be regular, but they have extra personnel making sure only a few patrons are inside in any given moment, as far from each other as possible. So waiting lines outside, and also at the cash counters. Before approaching them, you must wait until the previous customer has left with all her stuff, and then for the cashier to sanitize the desk. Some stores demand you wear throwaway gloves inside.
Education: school and universities closed until April 3. Each is struggling to keep lessons going via web or whatsapp, in many ways. Students half happy, half bored, half concerned for their final exams: will be they delayed, or happen as planned but with simplified formulas and programs?
Workplaces: same as above. Whoever manages people working behind a desk is struggling to find some way to keep them going via telecommute, aka “smart working”. I can’t wait for the moment when many of those managers, and their bosses, will find that things run even better when they are not micromanaging employees face by face!
Public life and public administrations: All public examinations for public posts are suspended sine die. Theaters, cinemas… got the order to close yesterday. TV Talk shows, cooking shows and similar, keep going, but in empty studios, without public. Betting hall managers ask to be inserted in the list of those who will get refunds/tax breaks to survice the lockdown. See addition below.
Travel: rumors say that Ciampino, the second airport of Rome, may likely close for lack of traffic until April 9th. Most ground personnel of both airports of Rome has been put on forced vacation time for one or more weeks, until managers figure out how to handle them, also depending on whether they’ll get state support or not. Of course, whoever is sent on vacation now will have no days left to go bring hotels, B&Bs etc… back to life, in Italy or everywhere else, when the outbreak is over.
Personal movements: There still is much confusion over practical details of the lockdown, which includes remaining inside one’s city boundaries: if I live in one town and work in the next, or have relatives needing my support there, how do I certify that status, to not be blocked at the border by local police? It depends.
Money: Tomorrow (that is, March 11th) the government should announce whether all taxes, utilities bills and mortage payments are suspended or not, and to which extent and under which conditions. I really hope they are, and with me millions of independent professionals and small business owners, or anybody with a mortgage, really.
Government “ratings”: There have been many critiques between central and local governments, and between political parties, over the times of action (e.g. “why didn’t you do this ten days ago”) and also over communication among institutions, and to citizens. But by and large, it looks every day more (to me for sure, and I would say to the majority of people), that the government is doing the right thing.
Spiritual life: (catholic) Churches are open, but religious ceremonies (Masses, weddings, funerals…) are suspended. (added on March 11th: For some reason, hearing that even funerals are suppressed depressed me more than other news. Brought back memories of studying Foscolo’s Sepolcri in high school.).
Soccer (of course): National championships of all levels have been suspended. If this doesn’t make many thick-skulled Italians realize that this is a serious moment, and that real life is beyond soccer (we as a society sorely need this epiphany) nothing will.
Added on March 11th
Prison system : Under SERIOUS pressure. Riots in several prisons because, as I understand, inmates went furious when visits from relatives and friends (who often bring in better food and other necessities) were forbidden for sanitary reasons. If I understood and remember correctly: 43 escaped from one prison, in another one, six inmates died during the riot. Of these, two died because, having full access to the prison farmacy, they consumed enough metadone or similar drugs to overdose.
Soccer, again: I say an epiphany is needed because soccer “Tifo” in Italy is enough out of control to be a serious (and, unlike COVID19, permanent) social plague in this country. See Piscitelli’s story to see what I mean. Soccer is wonderful. “Tifo” extremes as they are in Italy now do not deserve to exist.
Betting, again: On one hand, I really hope betting halls aren’t rescued and fail en masse, to free people from gambling dependency which is a big deal here. Then I realize that many of those people would just move to illegal, possibly mafia-connected venues. Big problem.
Education, again: In the long term, the biggest issue here is the same as in all other workplaces: Coronavirus is forcing a really obsolete system and workforce to test other, very different ways to function. Some bad, some much better than before. Much better. Will those better ways be forgotten/pushed back from social inertia as soon as the outbreak is over?
Prostitution, drug traffic and crime in general: I can’t wait to see a) official estimates of Coronavirus impacts on these activities and b) if and what Italy will learn and implement as a result.
Illegal immigration and refugees: they have disappeared from media. Is it because there is no space left, or because they too want to stay away from Italy now?
Family life: Families are forced to find ways to cope with children who can’t be left home alone, or wandering outside the home, or with elders needing care. Many families will have in this way the “luxury” of rediscovering what parenting and family ties should really mean in a saner world. I just saw a meme saying “Second day stuck at home with family. Hey, who would have told they are decent people???”. (relative) Baby boom coming next winter, in a rapidly aging (before Coronavirus, that is) country?
Families will also break, of course, exactly because left with just their (disappearance of) mutual feelings to deal with, without distractions from work, outings and what not. Some italian families with relatives studying or working abroad are worried… because those relatives are stuck in a country that, unlike Italy, is not dealing with COVID19 as it should. See both chart above, and next paragraph.
Last but not least: what is happening inside hospitals
Please read (and then come back here!) this public call from a doctor writing from inside one of the hardest-hit provinces and hospitals of Italy. Please note the “Social life is suspended for us” bit. Not cheerful reading.
Mandatory disclosure, and request
My first reason to make these notes and thoughts public is because somebody else said they could be of general interest. But it would be really hypocrite of me to deny that I will not mind any personal advantages I get out of this post. Just let me spell out very clearly which advantages I would be happy to have, and for what:
1: This outbreak will surely damage me and my family economically (and things were not particularly good even before). It is already damaging us, actually. But this is equally true for many millions of other people, in Italy and abroad who already were in really dire straits before the virus. So if you have money to spare for charity, please help hospitals to buy more equipment and hire more personnel, or fund any other equally urgent public cause, not me.
2: This said, I DO ask you a favour:
In addition to sharing this specific post as much as you see fit on social media, please DO spend some more minutes to:
- read why I have been publishing 6 posts a week here for many months now
- browse both this blog, and my main website as much as you can, to get an idea of my thoughts and concrete proposals about using appropriate technology for the greater good. For the blog, you may start from my other Coronavirus posts or just go to the home page and browse backwards. Oh, and don’t forget my “5000 concepts for Europe” project
- IF you think any of that work deserves more exposure and support because it’s useful to society, then yes: any help on that front, for that reason, is very welcome and much needed. Please do share what you like here as much as you see fit and/or support it as much as you can, via donations, consulting proposals or other means: for how to do it, see here
- (constructive, polite) Critiques to anything you discover from point 2 above are extremely welcome. Please send them by email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: my newer posts about Coronavirus, in Italy and worldwide, are here!