It’s the second week of the COVID-19 lockdown in Italy. The entire country is in the so-called ‘red zone’.
About three weeks ago now, people refused to take the arrival of this virus seriously, partly because Dr Maria Rita Gismondo, director of the Laboratory of Microbiology, Virology, and Bio-emergencies at Luigi Sacco University Hospital in Milan, had reported that it was little more than the regular flu and wouldn’t be discussed after a week (by 4 March). To her mind, the Italian public had been collectively brainwashed by the media.
She wasn’t the only influential person who thought there was little to fear. Many people didn’t know what to think. I, for example, wondered why the Chinese had made so much effort to fight this virus if it wasn’t so lethal. I remained worried, although, considering Dr Gismondo’s opinion, I thought it was still safe to circulate cautiously. Likewise, many employers continued to force their employees to work, thinking that Dr Gismondo and a few other ‘experts’ were right after all.
In Cremona, one of the regions battered by COVID-19, an American Christian humanitarian aid organisation, Samaritan’s Purse, has offered to help with materials, such as medical equipment, and human resources, including doctors and technicians. They will provide 60 beds and eight spots for intensive care. Cremona’s mayor, Gianluca Galimberti, has expressed his gratitude that these good Samaritans have come to the rescue in Italy’s time of need.
There is an appeal from local leaders to respect the lockdown restrictions because the cases of illness are still increasing. By evening, the streets of Milan will be empty. The president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, is begging citizens to stay home because he says more drastic measures will have to be taken if people don’t heed warnings to cut the numbers outside; anyone who leaves home puts themselves at risk and others as well.
At the Casa Santa Marta Chapel, Pope Francis prays for the deceased and for the healthcare providers who have given their lives for others. He prays to God for an end to the pandemic and for healing for healing of the sick. Pope Francis urges the populace not to waste this time, to try to become closer to their families and to spend the time wisely in reflection. Moreover, a major conference that Pope Francis had planned to attend in late March, ‘The Economy of Francis’ at Assisi, has been postponed due to the gravity of the coronavirus situation.
Marcello Natali, a 57-year-old physician, secretary of the general practitioners’ federation in Lodi, has given his life, fighting until the end to save his patients. He didn’t have any pre-existing conditions, yet he didn’t make it, showing that anyone can fall prey to COVID-19. According to Corriere della Sera (18 March 2020), Dr Natali was put into intensive care on 11 March after having begged the government to provide more tests for the citizenry. Not long afterwards, he was transferred to Milan. Like many other doctors, nurses and volunteers who have worked for long hours throughout this emergency, Marcello Natali will forever remain a hero.
Many Italians have taken to the internet to keep in contact with friends and family. Neighbourhood solidarity groups have formed on Facebook, Instagram and other social networking websites. Many people who have never used these sites are now using them to cheer each other up and make suggestions about resolving problems. A Facebook user posted old photos of community members when they were children, so that other members could participate in guessing who those children were. Others snapped more recent photos of nature.
Italians on Facebook want to know who will be delivering food, water, and even pizza to their homes. Many make comments about the ways people should respond to this international emergency (i.e. by not walking too much around the village and by staying inside as much as possible). Many argue about what constitutes acceptable exercise; is walking outdoors really permissible exercise during this difficult period when everyone is supposed to be locked-down indoors? Must one be ‘running’ in order to move around town? Fortunately, local priests have set up religious services, prayers and Mass online to unite people and provide hope. May their prayers be answered!
Dr Laura Gail Sweeney writes articles on communication, life coaching, writing, education, and travel to Italy.
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