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Thanks for supporting The Local during lockdown – here’s what we’re doing for readers

The Local Italy's editor looks back on nearly six months of reporting on the coronavirus crisis – and asks what members would like to see us write more about in future.

Thanks for supporting The Local during lockdown - here's what we're doing for readers
People stand at their windows during lockdown in Italy, the first country to suffer an outbreak outside of China.. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

On the morning of Friday, February 21st, we learned that three cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in northern Italy. I remember the sense of dread I felt as we reported a few hours later that the number had doubled.

By the next day the first localised lockdowns had begun, and Italy had reported its first fatality – the first European known to have died from the disease, which we weren’t yet calling Covid-19. Within days there were hundreds of cases.
 
I was getting countless calls and messages from worried friends and family abroad asking about the situation in Italy, many asking me to fact-check things they'd heard on the international news  At that moment, what people with connections to Italy, and English-speakers living in the country, told me they needed was simply clear, verified information written in a straightforward way. We were determined that The Local’s reporting would provide it.
 
 
Our aim has always been to explain the situation here and to help you keep track of the latest rules, decrees, and numbers.
Throughout the crisis, we've also brought readers details of the latest official updates and explained what they meant, corrected the inaccuracies reported in some international media, and interviewed some of Italy's most respected scientific experts.
 
When we made the decision early on to remove the paywall from essential coverage of the crisis, we asked paying members if they approved – you overwhelmingly agreed that it was the right thing to do.
 
Another priority for us has been telling your stories and getting answers to your questions – partiicularly after Italy moved out of the emergency phase, and we all tried to adjust to life under various restrictions.
 
We recently published a series of in-depth articles related to travel to Italy from the US, as the ongoing restrictions are of course a major issue for so many of our readers who live internationally.
 
All of these articles were informed by your questions, and featured the real-life experiences of our readers. Here are some examples:
 
We've had a very positive response to these articles, with one member in the Campania region writing in to say: “The Local is the only news source providing practical and detailed information on travel to Italy. Every other source writes in general terms and without firsthand knowledge.”
 
We've also been looking in detail at what's being done to help people in Italy through the crisis.
 
We received a grant from the Solutions Journalism Network to take an in-depth look at the responses to different parts of the coronavirus crisis in Italy, and across Europe: what's worked, what hasn't, and why, through a series of articles.
 
Here are some of those pieces:
While reporting on it, we’ve been living through this pandemic just like readers. Reporting on something you’re living through yourself – particularly while shut in your apartment for months – is quite intense, so we really appreciated every kind and encouraging word from our members.
 
 
It was near-impossible to disconnect from work at the peak of the crisis. We wanted to follow what was happening at all times – and when I say we worked around the clock, I’m not exaggerating. 
 
It didn’t help that the Italian Prime Minister developed an unfortunate habit of giving important speeches late in the evening. I remember sitting up until after 2am one night waiting for him to appear, and translating what he was saying into English for our news report.  I know many of my colleagues across Europe were working at all hours, too.
 
 
But like everyone else, we’ve also been worried about the future of our jobs and business. So many media companies have had to lay off staff. Here at The Local, our advertising revenues plummeted due to the crisis.
 
We were rescued by the record number of readers who signed up as paying members. There are now 27,000 of you – and if we reach 40,000, The Local will become sustainable on membership alone.
 
We really couldn’t write these articles without support from our members. Thank you.
 
We hope you'll stick with us. In return, we'll keep on working hard to bring you the facts and explain life in Italy, and around Europe. The Local is also reinvesting in increasing our coverage and improving our sites.

 
The Local's staff from our nine European sites flew to Stockholm for a meetup in January, just weeks before the pandemic hit. Photo: Tim Marringa/The Local
 
We also hope that members will keep telling us what they want and need to know in future, whether that’s pandemic-related or another essential issue, from understanding the language and culture to bureaucracy, finances and Brexit.
 
We’ve received more emails than ever from readers in the past few months, full of bright ideas and thoughtful comments. We haven’t always been able to reply, simply because of the number of messages we’ve been getting, but we do read and appreciate them all.
 
Now I’m asking our members to send me another email, with any more thoughts and suggestions you have for our coverage of Italy in future. If you have a story idea that should be added to our list, or if you have any burning questions we might be able to answer, please email them to me here.
 
Grazie mille,
 
Clare Speak
Editor, The Local Italy
 

 

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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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