I've lived twelve months in lockdowns. What now?
The end of the tunnel seems in sight. Problem is, what’s there?
Exactly one year ago, Italy became the first western country to go into national lockdown, and stayed crushed there for more than two months. Moved by requests to know more, I did my best to share what was happening in those months, and its LONG term consequences. Most screenshots in this post are titles from that period, to encourage you to read the whole series. Then I stopped, because of burnout, and because more reports seemed less necessary with half the world now experiencing COVID-19 directly. Today, exactly one year after the first time in my life I asked myself “OK, where can I find masks?”, even a small update seemed due. It surely is, for my own, personal understanding of these events, now and in the future. But I also hope it can be useful to others. So please read, share, and give feedback.
Third wave, here you come
Ten days ago, we heard that the curve will rise for four more weeks, and be worst than October. Yesterday we reached 100K COVID19 deaths. I heard some say no big deal, in one year it’s a mere 13 people per day, per region. Others point out that a hundred thousands is more lives than Italy lost in Russia in WWII. Today, full lockdowns every weekend until Easter seem likely. The only region in good shape is Sardinia, where non-residents can enter only after a negative tampon, or with a vaccination certificate.
Italy, one year later
Executive summary: many people who had plenty of money and stability in February 2020 now have have at least as much, often more. All the others are worse off. Sometimes a lot.
Less kids have been born, mostly with fathers present only via video calls, and there have been also less marriages. Women lost, or gave up, 70% of the 444K jobs lost in 2020, but there is a boom of pet adoptions and pet products. In general, the country still holds because the freeze of layoffs in private companies that the government decreed last year is still in force. But even now, one million people in 335K families are in “total poverty”. With the third wave, millions of students are back to “distance learning”, mostly because, if I understand it correctly, the most recent COVID-19 variants are more infective, also among young people.
Besides social life, COVID-19 has also frozen almost all the italian activities for the Open Government Partnership (OGP). None of the 41 Open Data programmed goals were achieved. One month ago, the Conte government has been replaced by one led by a former president of the European Central Bank, supported by all but one of the parties in Parliament. One of his first acts was to nominate as new “Extraordinary Commissary for the COVID-19 Emergency” the general previously serving as Army Logistics Commander.
A poor man’s understanding of Italian Politics, 2021 edition
For what is worth, here is my absolutely personal feeling, and nothing more about Mario Draghi becoming Italy’s prime minister one month ago:
- Draghi’s much greater experience in monetary matters, personal reputation and longtime direct relations with everybody who matters in Europe cannot hurt, in a moment when Italy does need as much EU money and support as it can. Everybody understands this
- Hence, the deal between Draghi and italian parties was so unavoidable and simple that it happened spontaneously, without any need to say a word by any of the participants
- Draghi gets from Bruxelles more money, at better conditions, than anybody else could. He does this directly, but whoever supports him gets to make “suggestions” on how to spend it
- For one year, Draghi does what absolutely needs to be done within one year, no matter what. By himself, taking personally much of the credits but also all of the blame for really unpopular measures (those layoffs, remember?)
- Why one year? Because it is in February 2022 that President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella will leave office (and the Constitution forbids elections in the last semester of a presidential mandate)
- So, in February 2022, all parties will both thank Draghi for doing the dirty work, and push him out of the way, by making him president
- Right after that, all parties will call general elections, to get power back in their hands
- And they will all be able to campaign saying “Hey, if something bad happened to you it’s only Draghi’s fault, I did all I could to stop him but was in minority inside the coalition”
Vaccines are good. When they come
Seven italian hospitals have just been ranked among the best 100 in the world. With all the faults and inefficiencies that plague it, and the 100K deaths, I still would not trade italian healthcare with any other.
But of course, what’s good now, and THE one real improvement (eventually) with respect to 2020 is that now vaccines exist. My family and I are going to get them, and arguments that people should take any vaccine make a lot of sense to me. For that matter, I also think it is really, really stupid to refuse masks, and I still agree that in certain circumstances lockdowns are unavoidable, and it is stupid to contest them.
Back to vaccines, the only problem is when, that is if vaccines come first than COVID-19 variants, at least in Italy now. At current rates, my region will reach “herd immunity”, that is have 70% of residents over 16 years old vaccinated, in… [September 2022:
Meanwhile, the rich worldwide go to get vaccines in the Emirates.
Me and family? OK so far, thanks
I cannot say I am in the best of moods. One full year of this life does wear one out. I could use some less tiredness, and less restlessness. Family income took a dive one year ago, and it’s still there. The virus generally feels much closer now than in the first lockdown, because now we too have lost to COVID-19 our (so far small) share of relatives, friends, friends’ relatives… Right now, a nieces of mine, and one of my closest friends are positive, luckily almost without symptoms so far.
But I am well aware, and thankful, that it could be much worse. My own parents both passed away in much “normal” ways, and above all not alone, before this pandemic. Compared to what I hear, that alone is a blessing, in hindsight. So far, I’m healthy, if badly out of shape, and so are wife and kids. And we all really like each other, so being stuck at home for months is not the hell on Earth I know it is for many people. So we’ll be OK, eventually.
The real risk is still the same
I could report many more good or bad things about this year with COVID-19, but I’ll stop here. As far as the actual pandemic is concerned, I, Italy and the rest of the world will get out of it. That will happen. The problem is out of COVID-19, into what? During the 2020 lockdown, I was writing about:
- how bad it is to be forced to “work” instead of doing what matters, and would be really needed now (see “Let’s talk adults…” here)
- Coronavirus very conveniently taking the blame for a huge recession that was due very soon anyway (here, because of how broken the system is, regardless of pandemics
In March 2021, I am happy about the vaccines, and even happier than before to have a public healthcare that works way better than most alternatives. But I see no changes at all on those other fronts. Just like in 2020, my real concern now remains that, “Great Reset” or not, we’ll get out of COVID-19… back into 2019.