Until March 8, my life in my home country of Italy hadn’t changed that much. Before that day, I was still feeling that, aside from observing some security measures, such as washing my hands several times a day, keeping one meter distance from people, and avoiding shaking hands, the coronavirus wouldn’t affect my daily routine. Then the government declared Italy a “protected area,” and everything changed.
I live in Bergamo – an historic city next to Milan – where the virus is having the greatest impact, and, as a result, providing valuable lessons for other countries bracing for the virus’s impact. Just a few days ago, the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital, which has organized a model to face the emergency, trained the Harvard Surgical Leadership Class.
An ambulance siren has become my daily soundtrack. While I’m getting used to hearing that siren during the day, when I hear it in the middle of the night, I am fearful about who in my neighborhood might be on their way to the hospital.
My daily habits are radically changing. When I meet someone, I’m carefully about keeping the recommended distance. I wonder if they have some flu symptoms and, if they cough, I must confess that I step back.
We must limit, as much as we can, being in a crowd. We have been asked that one person per family go to the supermarket and only a few people at a time are allowed to go inside. It is recommended that we spray our hands with sanitizers when going out and it’s also prudent to wear surgical gloves.
As for me and my family, until yesterday I’d have said that our lives have been little affected by all the restrictions to travel inside the Lombardy region because we do everything in Milan, starting with basic things like going to the hairstylist. Now our lives are totally turned upside down. The Council of Ministers decided that, except for pharmacies and supermarkets, all other activities would be closed. Whenever we leave home, we must show a declaration proving where we are going and the the urgent reasons related to it, even if we just have to walk for one mile or plan to go to the supermarket.
We are allowed to take a short walk, so I’m testing some low density hours to take my kids for a walk or a bike ride, even if the game of the secret agents fighting against the Covid-19 is trying everything to limit our tours.
Children are the ones most touched by the situation because they can’t play together anymore. Scholarship has been hit as well. Although my children’s school provided a platform so they can access their lessons at home, see each other and interact, even if it’s just for a few times a week, there have been delays in getting the programs up and running.
My social life is much different. For two weeks, I haven’t seen my friends and my family members, including my brother, my nephews, my cousin and my uncle’s family. I had to quit my morning coffees with my best friend and my daily visits to Paola, my hometown aunt, who, since the beginning of the alert, I used to collect in the late afternoon to take her somewhere. My other aunt , who lives one hour by car from me, is the most exposed emotionally. Even though she feels exhausted, she doesn’t give up her daily walks, timed for when the streets are relatively deserted. I am able to see my parents because we work together, so it doesn’t expose us to a higher risk.
My job has been impacted as well. Although I can still keep appointments with Skype, all the legal activity has been suspended. While the government has set up several economic measures to aid the industries affected, that is not the case for many who run their own businesses. That may bring many to their knees.
Those who work in the health care industry are truly suffering. A dear friend of mine, a nurse in the intensive care unit in Bergamo, calls me sometimes crying for all the people who are dying alone in their hospital beds. She talks about the growing numbers of those who have died, being placed in body bags with no time to give them a decent goodbye.
In Lombardy, where we have an excellent health system, nurses, doctors and all the health workers don’t even rest anymore. The intensive care units in Lombardy are about to collapse. The number of positives is still growing at a rate of 25% per day.
While the government is restricting our movements, technology allows us to keep in touch with the rest of the world, continue to enjoy our hobbies from home, or watch tutorials, including those that could help us to overcome different situations we could meet along the way. Yes, it’s been declared a pandemic, but, hopefully, if we follow the rules, we will surely get out of this dark moment.
After China, Italy has been hardest hit by this virus. We know that the rest of the world is looking at us as an example, and that our sacrifice will help other countries, so we are moving on as one, struggling each and every day, looking forward for better days to come.
Photos by Federica di Cintio
Top: Municipality of Bergamo