Letter from Italy: Life under lock-down

After living in China and Thailand, Joseph Rasia is in Italy, and plans to come to Taiwan later this year.


The ambient light and the clock ticking faster than before awake me. It’s 1:00 am and the TV screen shows the last decree from the Prime Minister: Lombardy is a red zone, and nobody without special permission, which could only be an emergency situation or working reasons can move to different areas. The news just increased the panic and the mass of the population of this specific region.

People started to run towards supermarkets, and this caused a large amount of people out gathering together in the same place, raising the risk of infection. The following day there were 1,492 new cases according to the Health Ministery update, which goes live everyday at around 6:00 pm; just before dinner time, a moment of gathering for the families.

Gathering is not permitted anymore: cities are locked down, and only pharmacies and supermarkets are open to allow people to reach them in the moment of need.

But one issue here is that a lot young communities of friends still meet and move around the city despite the lockdown. It is the main issue here in Italy with people ignoring the rules from the government being the main reason spreading of the virus is still not contained.

Soon in Milan, the main hub located in the north of Italy the decision resulted in thousands of students running to pack their luggage before taking off with the last trains going to the south of Italy. Their attempt to move to a safe area however, went bad, as the day after, the government made the whole country red, which means all sort of businesses are closed except the most needed ones, such as supermarkets and pharmacies.

Now it’s day number 19 for Italy from the beginning of the crises due to the coronavirus spread. Most European countries have just closed their borders: Slovakia, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. The US doesn’t allow anyone to travel from Europe.

Being here means not leaving the house unless there is an emergency. The other chance you have to go outside is if your workplace didn’t provide the option to work from home. Moreover, you go out on the streets to reach your car, and travel to work with a bit of fear, knowing anyone can have the virus along the way. At work there are not many people, but enough to spread it if someone is positive. Luckily, from tomorrow all offices will be closed, as the Prime Minister decided to shut down everything to slow down the epidemic.

At sunset time all people living in towns, cities and villages open the window or go out to their terrace and start to sing together – mostly the national anthem – in order to cheer up and keep fighting.

Kids don’t go to school anymore, and start to play some instruments on the terraces throughout the day. A way to lift the very sad atmosphere in the area where ambulances are heard continuously.

The government is questioned daily on why certain measurements were not taken before, as in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand, who have all done so well in containing the virus.

Should they have done less testing? Data from the National health system in Italy confirms 10,000 tests were done on the first days of the pandemic, hence so many positives: even the cases without symptoms were found.

The government of Spain tonight declared a state of emergency. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Norway have all closed their borders . Europe as it was created doesn’t look like it exists anymore. Italy asked for help and no countries were able to assist, or better said: neighboring countries didn’t provide any assistance, while China sent group of doctors and scientists to support us.

As Bill Gates said few years ago (2015), in a TED meeting: the biggest risk of our time was not going to be a bomb, as we have invested in defense, but a virus. The International community did not take any responsible actions to develop or prepare the health system for a possible pandemic as the one happening now.

Right now I am still hearing the sound of the ambulances, but we can also hear the songs and instruments played outside on the balconies of the town, to cheer us up, as we will get over it and start to make great pizzas again.

People are putting candles in windows to show support from medical workers fighting the pandemic. Picture: Joshua Rasia.

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