Fighting COVID-19 in locked-down Italy


23 maart 2020
The number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Italy surpassed China, on Friday the 20th of March 2020. However, Italian people are still trying to cope as best they can.

By Maria Marica Corrente & Anita Lombardo 

Contributing Writers

This article is part of an overview put together by the editorial team of The Voice, international student magazine on the effects COVID-19 has had on the daily lives of people in different countries across the World. We previously highlighted Spain and The Netherlands in separate articles and more accounts from people from different countries will soon follow.

Map from the Italian Ministry of Health with the number of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 per region in Italy as of 17:00 on Monday 23rd of March 2020.

Like during a war, the COVID-19 emergency is pushing the Italian government to intervene heavily in almost all spheres of life of Italian citizens, starting from the economy: government funds are being allocated to support the collapsing healthcare systems, to boost industries producing medical equipment and sanitary facilities as well as to offset the huge economic losses of industries and workers forced to stop production. The government in Italy is thus desperately trying to alleviate medical facilities by signing more and more stringent policies on an almost daily basis to reduce all possible contacts between citizens. The only activities outdoors that are still allowed are grocery shopping, walking the dog and jogging, the latter having further been restricted to 200 metres from home as of two days ago. 

The Italian government’s approach to the crisis has spurred criticisms because communication of the new measures put in place has often been and crucial decisions, such as whether or not to close off factories, have been unnecessarily delayed.

Hospitals in the North have now surpassed their capacity and are resorting to extreme measures: patients are sent to hospitals in the South of the country and temporary hospital facilities have been set up in empty spaces of cities, like Milan.

Nurses and doctors post pictures of their exhausted faces, red from the marks of protection masks and ask Italians to stay home so that all their efforts do not go to waste.

But some positive notes brighten up this rather chaotic and alarming picture. Big donations were made by wealthy politicians, private enterprises and influencers to help hospitals cope with the crisis. Out of solidarity for those confined at home, many entertainment services are also being provided for free through online channels: yoga teachers posting free sessions, phone companies offering unlimited gigabytes, streaming sites and bookstores opening the consultation of their products to everyone. 

Social interactions are undergoing a radical change as the lockdown forces Italians to shift all their relationships to online platforms and it is hard to tell what feelings currently prevail among the population. Shared photos of friends sipping “aperitivo” together through Skype and of happy families making homemade pasta and pizza are mixed with “stay home” hashtags and raging posts against those wandering on the streets with no apparent excuse. In spite of such conflicting thoughts and attitudes, Italian citizens are all going through the same unprecedented experience: each day that passes the weight of a forced imprisonment in their own house becoming heavier on their shoulders.

Free time, so longed for by many before the lockdown started, now seems to be too much and some don’t know what to do with it.

The current restrictions are testing collective responsibility and each individual’s capacity of coexisting with others, living their unusual routine with a positive attitude. By looking at the number of infections of the past few days, the possibility of the lockdown being lifted by the 3rd of April seems very unlikely. We can only imagine that when the lockdown will be over, Italians will flood the streets, bars and restaurants and will probably do so with a renewed appreciation for freedom and social interaction. However, a question still remains: how deep will the marks of this experience remain on people’s minds and influence their actions and choices after all this is over?

Official information from the government of Italy here (in Italian):

Official information from the Italian Ministry of Health here (in Italian):

Timeline of the measures taken in Italy

Since China alerted the world about the new virus, 2019-nCoV, on the 3st of December 2020, the Italian government started a surveillance of incoming travellers and at-risk population.

One month later, two cases were detected in Italy: they are two Chinese tourist who were isolated in Spallanzani Hospital in Rome.

21st of February 2020: the situation became more alarming as many people were identified with symptoms attributable to the new virus, then two outbreaks were reported in Northern Italy (Lombardy and Veneto regions).

7th of March 2020: due to the quick spread of the Coronavirus and the very dangerous consequences for at-risk populations and due to concern over the scarce availability of ICU beds, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte issued a new decree declaring 15 provinces as “red areas” with forbidden entry and exit.

10th of March 2020: an update on the latest decree of the prime minister declared that all of the Italian territory was to be considered a zone at risk. This was a very significant measure for the Italian population because the measures the government took are pervasive: no one can go outside except for strictly necessary activities: obtaining food, caring for animals, caring for the elderly, obtaining medical assistance, etc. Many workers and students from the North of Italy decided to move to their home town in Southern Italy. Erasmus students arranged to return to Italy.

20th of March 2020: Casualties of the virus have now officially surpassed those in China.

23rd of March 2020: according to the Italian Ministry of Health, as of 18:00 there were 50,418 active cases of COVID-19, 6,077 deaths, and 7,432 people have recovered. Of the 50,418 active cases of COVID-19, 26,522 are staying at home in self-isolation, 20,692 are hospitalized with symptoms and 3,204 are under intensive care.

Latest statement by the Belgian authorities on COVID-19 here.

More information on COVID-19 from the Belgian authorities here.