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HEALTH

‘You can feel the anxiety in the air’: 15 million Italians get to grips with quarantine

The sun shone on deserted squares in Milan and empty gondolas in Venice as a quarter of Italy's population came to grips with being cut off from the rest of the country, under new rules strictly limiting movement in and out of the new red zone.

'You can feel the anxiety in the air': 15 million Italians get to grips with quarantine
Empty tables in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, part of Italy's extended lockdown zone. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

While some packed their bags and fled, most in northern Italy stayed to brave a lockdown imposed by the government on some 15 million people, as it ramps up the fight against the deadly coronavirus.

The country on Sunday recorded the second-highest coronavirus toll in the world, after reporting a sharp jump in deaths — from 133 to 366 — and overtaking South Korea on infections.

Italy's interior ministry said anyone flouting the lockdown risked at least three months in jail or a €206 fine.

Only people with a “serious” reason that cannot be postponed, such as urgent work or family issues, will be allowed in or out of the quarantine zones, which cover Lombardy and 14 provinces in four other regions.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new quarantine measures in northern Italy

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Passengers departing on flights in the lockdown areas will need to justify themselves — apart from people who had been in the area temporarily, who are allowed to return home. All arrivals will need to justify their travel.

Police will be setting up controls at train stations to check people's temperatures, and stopping all cars on main roads in and out to verify the reason for travel, the ministry said in a statement.

Cruise ships will be forbidden from docking in Venice, with only passengers who are residents of the Renaissance city allowed to disembark.

Alitalia suspended national and international flights to and from Milan Malpensa airport, and announced it was operating only domestic routes from Milan Linate.

The borders with Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia remain open.

READ ALSO: 

Pina Antinucci, a psychoanalyst in her 60s who lives in Milan, told AFP she was suffering nightmares and felt the state was “bombarding us with anxieties, spreading paranoia”.

“I'd like to know if I'm infected… it would be better to know if I have that unwanted guest who occupies our homes, minds and lives,” she said.

With 366 fatalities, Italy has recorded the most deaths from the COVID-19 disease of any country outside China, where the outbreak began in December.

The new rules came shortly after the news that the number of people infected had jumped by over 1,200 in a 24-hour period.

The plan was leaked to the media on Saturday, infuriating Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who slammed it as “unacceptable”, saying it had created “uncertainty, anxiety, [and] confusion”.

People load up on groceries in Milan. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Expert Massimo Galli, the head of a team of doctors from the Biomedical Research Institute in Milan who managed to identify the Italian strain last month, told AFP it had been a “disastrous communication error” and “absolute idiocracy”.

Italian virologist Roberto Burioni described the leak on Twitter as “pure madness”.

“The draft of a very harsh decree is leaked, sparking panic and prompting people to try and flee the [then] theoretical red zone, carrying the virus with them,” he said on social media.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: 'Italy is notorious for disorganization, but this time it’s bested the US'

Vincenzo Tosetti, a 34-year old actor and Venice resident, told AFP “many people I know have fled, mainly from Milan.

“This is going to test the Italians' ability to behave responsibly, and I have to say that up until now they've been failing. There's been an exodus.”

Fellow Venetian Giancarlo, 49, who did not want to give his last name, said: “You can feel the anxiety in the air.” The floating city was also virtually empty of tourists, which was “a big blow”.

“First the city was hit by record floods, now this. Venice is very fragile right now,” he said.

OPINION: After flooding and coronavirus, is it time Venice stopped relying on tourism?


Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

Italy has found itself at the forefront of the global fight against the virus, with more than 5,800 infections recorded in the past seven weeks.

The virus has now spread to all 22 Italian regions, and the first deaths are being recorded in Italy's less well medically equipped south.

The head of the Puglia region in southern Italy pleaded with anyone thinking of returning from Lombardy and the other 11 provinces in lockdown — which include the cities of Parma and Rimini — to “stop and turn around”.

“Get off [the train] at the first station, don't get on the flights to Bari and Brindisi, turn your cars around, get off the bus at the next stop. Don't bring the epidemic to Puglia,” he said on Facebook.

“You are carrying to the lungs of your brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles, cousins and parents the virus that has severely strained the health system in northern Italy,” he said.

Remember:

According to the WHO, around 80 percent of people who contract the new coronavirus recover without needing special treatment.

Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

Find all The Local's coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy here

Member comments

  1. Hi, I really do wish you would get your figures accurate.
    The death toll rose by 133 yesterday to its new level..NOT FROM 133…thanks

  2. Also as far as I am aware Italy has 20 regions and not 22! Thanks for your attention to detail going forward.

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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