‘Sadness and fear won’t solve problems’: Italians respond to coronavirus with wine and jokes

Italy has the most coronavirus cases in Europe and highest death toll but rather than succumb to fear, some wisecracking Italians have opted to laugh in the face of danger with a slew of parodies, jokes and general silliness.

'Sadness and fear won't solve problems': Italians respond to coronavirus with wine and jokes
Italian aperitivo bars have told customers to "drink wine instead of fear". File photo: AFP

In the economic capital Milan, just 60 kilometres from from the main outbreak, bars have transformed aperitivo, the Italian version of happy hour, into “aperitiviruses”, where aperitifs and snacks can be bought at a discount.

READ ALSO: Life goes on as normal in most Italian regions despite coronavirus outbreak

At the Gelateria Infinito shop on the outskirts of Cremona – another area of the Lombardy region reporting many cases – customers can get a “Corona Cake”, which features the distinctive crown-like spikes of the COVID-19 virus.

“We know that this is a serious issue, but sadness and fear won't solve problems,” owners Andrea Schirali and his wife Daniela told local media. “It doesn't matter if we sell it or not. What matters is that it makes you smile and slightly eases the tensions that have arisen “

Staff at Gelateria Infinito with their “Corona Cake”. Photo: Gelateria Infinito/Facebook

“The important thing is to follow instructions and stay calm. If we eat a good ice cream in the meantime, it certainly can't hurt,” they said.

One bar in Milan advertised “aperivirus” hour with the slogan “Don't drink all that fear. It's better to have a glass of wine.”

There's fun to be had even by those in obligatory isolation in red zones, with only their social media feeds for company.

Virus jokes have gone viral, and as per tradition they target Italy's famous flaws, from its public transport to its mafia.

One gag shows a city mayor boasting that the metro's delays are actually helping keep his citizens safe, because “the waiting time is longer than the (14-day) incubation period!”

Another has a drug dealer offering hashish or cocaine, but his client demands “Amuchina” — the most famous hand sanitiser gel in Italy.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy seen such a huge leap in coronavirus cases?

The mafia's reputation for latching on to new trends is also a target for the online jokers.

One mock-up video shows a Naples mobster proposing to a fellow gangster that they switch from cocaine smuggling to Amuchina.

“Demand is skyrocketing for Amuchina, it's been nicknamed 'transparent gold', and colleagues in Honduras are transforming their labs to produce Amuchina,” he says.

The jump in the gel's price on some internet marketplaces since the virus hit Italy prompted several joke adverts, with one offering to swap “five litres of Amuchina for a 2019 Audi RS5”, a vehicle costing some 100,000 euros.

Another circulting on Whatsapp featured a joke advert reading: “Buy a bottle of Amuchina gel, get a Rolex free.”

Fun has also been poked at measures put in place to prevent the virus from spreading, derided by some as draconian.

In one video doing the rounds an elderly woman sneezes. A second later, a special forces team breaks into her house through the door, window and roof.

Not all of the buffoonery has hit the mark.

Police were investigating a man in northern Italy Thursday who had claimed on social media to have the virus and advised all those he knew to get tested – before finally admitting it had been a joke.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”