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‘I have no work’: Italy’s tour guides, teachers and business owners struggling with the coronavirus crisis

The Local's readers explain how school and office closures, tourist cancellations, and other effects of the coranavirus crisis in Italy have left them wondering how they'll pay the bills.

'I have no work': Italy's tour guides, teachers and business owners struggling with the coronavirus crisis
All schools and universities in Italy are now closed as part of measures aimed at containing the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: AFP

When we asked readers across Italy how the quarantine measures put in place to combat the spread of coronavirus had affected them, many of you told us it had been a lot to get used to, and a little stressful at times, though most said they were coping well.

READ ALSO: 'Stay at home': Italy's new coronavirus quarantine rules explained

But some reported a more serious impact on their lives, as the crisis hits businesses and jobs and leaves families struggling to cope following school and office closures.

“I already work from home and now my husband's office has closed down because of coronavirus, so we are both at home, expected to work full time,” says Catherine Monagle in Turin, Piedmont, one of the northern regions worst hit by the outbreak, and among the first to be put under quarantine measures.

“Because of the school closures in Piedmont, we have now had our one year old and three year old at home with us for weeks already as their asilo nido (nursery school) is also closed,” she explains.

“Trying to work at home in this situation is completely impossible as very small children need constant attention and care. We are both having to cut corners in our work to manage, and arguing over who needs to take responsibility for the kids and when.”

“While our employers have been kind and patient and understanding about the situation, we expect we will need to take annual or unpaid leave though if this goes on too much longer.”

The deserted Piazza del Duomo in Florence on Thursday. Photo: AFP

Those working in the tourist industry say their businesses are struggling badly or that jobs have already been lost due to the impact on the sector.

“Our business is taking a massive hit. We deal with mostly US travellers to Italy,” says Liam Rogers in Florence.

“My wife already lost her job due to the economic affect on inbound tourism to Florence,” he adds. “So she can at least be home with our two young boys;”

Tour guides and teachers are among the contractors left wondering how they'll pay the bills after suddenly losing all of their customers and contracts.

Helen Bayley, a tour guide based in Florence, Tuscany, told The Local: “I have no work. I'm highly concerned about paying my rent and bills.”

Coronavirus: The everyday precautions to take if you're in Italy

Anna Mcpartland is an English teacher living in Arquata Scrivia in the region of Piemonte, on the border with Liguria.

“All my contracts have been cancelled and I can't see schools reopening again before the summer,” she tells The Local. “My husband who is a surveyor has also had everything put on hold.”

“Luckily the government has announced that mortgage payments can be suspended for three months as well as household bills like water and electricity which obviously helps.”

On Wednesday, the government announced 25 billion euros in funding to fight the coronavirus outbreak, with part of that money destined for those hit financially by the crisis

“We are preparing rules to protect companies, workers and families,” Labour Minister Nunzia Catalfo said.

The government also announced it was working on plan to let families temporarily suspend some mortgage and social tax payments, and said “partial state guarantees” were being discussed to help Italy's creaking banks survive.

However, details of the financial rescue plan remain scarce as the full measures are yet to be announced.

And there has been no word yet on whether any help will be available for renters, or what kind of help will be provided for the self-employed, or to parents struggling to pay for childcare they can't actually use.

A parent helps her child complete schoolwork at home in northern Italy on Thursday. Photo: AFP

“We are still required to pay for the private asilo nido the little ones attend, almost 1000 euros a month,” even though the children aren't allowed to go, explains Catherine, and she explains a babysitter isn't really an option in the current situation – nor is asking for help from the childrens' grandmother “as we feel we need to protect her most of all.”

“Having said all that, we believe it is important we all take steps to protect the most vulnerable in our community,” she adds.

“This inconvenience and insanity-inducing situation is something that we just have to accept as our duty in difficult times.”

The emergency quarantine measures are set to stay in place until April 3. As Italy starts to adjust to the rules and the situation becomes the new normal, everyone is waiting to see if the restrictions are enough to contain the outbreak.

But beyond the immediate crisis, those hit hardest by the financial fallout are waiting anxiously to find out what happens next, and if and how the governent will be able to help them get back on their feet.

Thanks to everyone who has sent in their comments, includng those not included in the article.

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

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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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