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How you can help Italy during the coronavirus crisis

From hospital fundraisers to paying for a family's groceries, here are some of the ways Italians have come up with to help each other during the coronavirus outbreak.

How you can help Italy during the coronavirus crisis
A worker restocks produce in an Italian supermarket. Photo: AFP

Italy is the country by far worst hit by the coronavirus crisis in Europe, and it has seen almost one-third of all deaths from the virus worldwide.

Funding for healthcare is badly needed, as even the country's best hospitals struggle with the sheer volume of coronavirus cases.

But while the nationwide lockdown measures imposed on March 12th seem to be helping to contain the outbreak, this has also caused serious economic problems for a country where poverty was already rife.

Millions of people in Italy are now thought to be out of work, with many left without the money for food and essentials. In poorer southern regions especially the situation is getting desperate.

READ ALSO: 

Many of our readers in Italy and beyond have asked if there's anything they can do to help, whether through donating or volunteering. We've compiled a list of initiatives in the country which we hope you may find useful.

The list is not exhaustive and we'll continue to add to it. If there's another charity organisation or fundraising initiative that you think should be listed here, please email us and let us know.

Spesa sospesa, or “suspended shopping”

You've probably heard of a caffè sospeso, ot suspended coffee, a concept thought to have originated in Naples, Italy, and adopted by coffee shops worldwide.

A customer pays for an extra coffee when buying their own at a coffee shop, the idea being that if someone who can't afford one can ask for a 'suspended coffee', and it's already been paid for.

Coffee shops across Italy are of course now closed. But the idea has been transferred to food delivery.

The new nationwide spesa sospesa (suspended shopping) initiative, from farmers' cooperative Campagna Amica, helps support both local farmers and the many Italian families who have suddenly found themselves unable to afford groceries.

“To help fight poverty and the growing food emergency, citizens who have groceries delivered to their homes through the Campagna Amica markets can also choose to donate a food package to the most needy families, following the model of Campania's caffè sospeso custom,” explains national agricultural association Coldiretti.

For those outside of Italy, it's also possible to make a donation by bank transfer. “Campagna Amica will use that money to purchase quality products from its farmers, to be delivered free of charge to families in need,” writes Coldiretti.

Find out more about the food delivery scheme here.

Note that if you make a donation o this scheme via bank transfer, you are asked to provide your address. The reason for this, Coldiretti says, is that Campagna Amica is not centralised but is a network of small local businesses, and giving your address (or at least city or region) means the money will be directed to businesses in your local area. If you live outside Italy however, you can either state that you're abroad, or choose an italian city or region to donate to.

Community bank accounts

Almost every Italian comune, or town hall, has set up a bank account for donations. Though the Italian government has sent emergency funding to municipal authorities around the country, many local mayors have said the money is nowhere near enough to help all those in need.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: The financial help available in Italy and how to claim it

Local authorities across Italy are distributing food vouchers to those left with no income, as well as food parcels in cooperation with local churches and charities.

See your local comune's website (or you may need to send them an email) to get bank account details and further information.

People have been leaving food on public benches in Rome as part of a local initiative. Photo: AFP

Charity donations

La Croce Rossa Italiana, The Italian Red Cross, has been playing a vital role in helping people affected by the coronavirus crisis and the shutdown in Italy, not least by delivering food parcels to vulnerable and elderly people. Find out more about their work and how you can donate to support their efforts here.

Church-run charity Caritas is also helping people across Italy who are struggling during the coronavirus outbreak. You can donate to support them here.

Volunteering in Lombardy

Here is a link to register your interest in various volunteering roles in Lombardy, the region around Milan, which is the area by far worst-hit by the coronavirus crisis in Europe.

Hospital fundraisers

Other efforts have focused on fundraising, particularly to support hospitals in southern Italy who are now racing against time to prepare for potential outbreaks in poorer regions.

One appeal to fund equipment for a hospital in Sicily has so far raised almost 60,000 euros.

READ ALSO: 

In Naples, a similar appeal made by a 23-year-old medical student to help a hospital in Naples has raised more than €500,000 so far for medical equipment.

The fundraising appeals are not only being made in southern Italy, but across the country.

Another appeal was set up in the Tuscan city of Pisa, which was nearing the €14,000 mark.

There are numerous fundraisers for hospitals around Italy, and anyone wanting to donate can search for a campaign in their area on Gofundme or other crowdfunding websites.

Some hospitals are also launching their own official fundrasing campaigns, such as Rome's Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases.

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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