People across Italy have been living under quarantine for five weeks now, or longer in some areas, and after the latest extension last Friday we know the rules will be in place until at least May 3rd.
Italy, which has enforced strict quarantine rules nationwide, was the first Western democracy to impose a lockdown after it suffered by far the biggest outbreak of Covid-19 in Europe. Though numbers of new cases and deaths are now steadily declining, Italy remains one of the worst-hit countries in the world, after the US.
As government ministers look at how and when they might be able to move to “phase two” of lockdown, the prospect of a gradual return to normality remains weeks or possibly even months away.
Almost all of those who wrote in said they were struggling to some extent. Many said the worst thing was the uncertainty, the loneliness, or the pain and worry of being separated from family and friends.
One reader summed up the hardest things about life under lockdown: “The financial strain and worry. The worry about family and friends. The heartbreak of seeing your adopted city lose so many people.”
And yet, despite all this, the majority said that lockdown must continue.
Our survey of The Local's readers in Italy found 82 percent agreed the country should take whatever measures are needed to contain the spread.
Many urged caution, fearing a second wave of contagion could mean “we'd end up back in quarantine again anyway.”
Even some who are feeling the financial impact of the shutdown said it had to continue.
“Many of us have made, and are making, huge sacrifices. If extending the lockdown for another week, two weeks or even a month makes these sacrifices worthwhile, I would be prepared to do it,” said one.
And some have been very badly hit economically.
“Being closed has cost us tens of thousands of euros,” said one restaurant owner.
A couple who run a hotel said they've had no income for the past month and a half. “We probably won't see the market return to normal until next year, and might not make it to then.”
Many more are self.employed workers who say they're now struggling to make ends meet.
“I'm a freelance English teacher living alone. I've had to reorganise my work online, having never worked in this way before,” said one. “I've earned 20 percent of my average monthly salary since lockdown and I receive no other income.”
People queue to shop at a tabaccheria in northern Italy. Photo: AFP
Some of Italy's foreign residents are also concerned about how a sudden loss of income could potentially affect their right to live in the country.
“My family has a vacation rental in Pontremoli that remains empty as tourism has ground to a halt,” explained one reader. “This means the loss of passive income that is required to maintain an elective residency visa.”
The government on Tuesday allowed a very short list of shops and businesses deemed to be low-risk to start getting back to work, under certain conditions.
Some readers said they thought loosening measures further, allowing some outdoor exercise and letting more businesses to open would be a sensible move.
“At the moment we can order stuff online and get it delivered from miles away, but not buy the same thing from local shops. Seems a bit daft to me,” commented one reader.
“Social distancing should be continued, but not lockdown,” said another.
“There are worse places to be locked down“
However, the vast majority told us that seeing Italy's response to the crisis had left them feeling very positive overall about life in the country, and closer to their Italian neighbours.
“It showed me the true unity of the italian people. I have fallen in love with Italy even more than before,” said Sandy Blackburn, living in Lago Patria.
Many said they felt “proud” and “grateful” that “the country and its people have taken the necessary precautions to protect society.”
American and British readers in particular said they were happy with the Italian government's response.
“In my 14 years here in Italy, I have never seen the government act with such authority, courage and strength,” commented one reader. “I would much rather be enduring the crisis here than in NY, where I am originally from.”
Another reader, originally from the north of England, said: “I'm now living in Alto Adige near Trento and I can safely say there are worse places to be locked down.”
ANALYSIS: How and when will Italy's lockdown end?
Some readers said they believe things will eventually get back to normal in Italy, while others said the severe economic damage would change the country for years to come. But the majority said they do believe things will change in Italy after lockdown – for the better.
“Lockdown has shone a light on certain problems. Smart working will be more accepted now that we've learned what we can do remotely. I think it's given people time to reflect on what's important,” said one.
“I hope everything will change, and a fairer and more just economic model will be brought in. I also hope the public health service will be better funded,” commented reader Jule Blint in Rome.
And many said fundamental parts of life in Italy would almost certainly change, with many wondering if the crisis spells the end for kisses and hugs as a standard greeting for friends, acquaintances, and colleagues.
As one reader in Ravenna province put it: “People here will have a hard time being as social and as inviting as before.”
We weren't able to include everyone's answers, but thank you to all who took the time to fill out this questionnaire.