Well, I’m in the ‘Red Zone’, a zone that is literally at grave risk! As of the 3rd of November 2020, the Italian government has given new ‘anti-Covid-19’ restrictions, such as curfews and closures, which are most vital in the Red Zone. These restrictions apply to citizens, tourists, and non-citizen permanent residents. It surprised most inhabitants when they got the news abruptly on TV a few days ago. Of course, I shared the information that we were in the Red Zone with my friends who were to be affected by the event. We are in the same boat, meaning that we can not move in or out of the Red Zone without a self-certification declaring that we are going out of the area for a necessity. Moreover, no one can travel out of his or her legal municipality without self-certified reasons of work, health, and absolute necessity, which they will have to present to the police if stopped.
For now, everything looks about the same outdoors in the countryside, and I’ve had a few opportunities to snap some serene photos of Italy! Nevertheless, there won’t be many people singing and dancing on balconies this time round. Most people are neither positive about the restrictions nor trusting that they will be adequate.
Instead, small businesses fear for their survival in these difficult times. I’ve heard a few conspiracy theories, such as the one that claims these lockdowns exist to help the government get more control over its residents. A handful believes that God is making things right with a profound reason behind ‘His’ work. Most Italians were hopeful during the first lockdown, having thought that ‘everything would have been okay’. Having been let down, many have been proactive in protests. Over the past couple of weeks, there have been various rallies by a wide variety of groups that insist they should have the freedom to go outdoors without masks and that the government need not require a strict lockdown.
There are three levels of urgency represented by three separate zones: Yellow, Orange, and Red–red being the worst. Of course, I’m in red! At this point, gyms, theatres, cinemas, museums, and swimming pools are closed. While middle schools and elementary schools are open, all higher-level schools will have to conduct lessons online until the 3rd of December, something for which most Italian schools are not prepared. Restaurants and bars in the Red Zone can only serve food and drink by delivery, and the curfew runs each day from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.
Merchants argue that these closures (in the Red Zone) endanger the survival of small businesses. Many little shops, already on the brink of failure before the second lockdown, have loans and expensive monthly rent to pay. They want to know how they can pay their bills if they are not earning any money while being ordered to lock their doors. Furthermore, Italian entertainers at the lower echelons have complained about not being able to make enough money without producing live shows and concerts, one reason why some top entertainers with excellent financial means have suggested making donations to help their less-fortunate colleagues.
At this time, the Italian Health System (Sistema Sanitario) is strained. On TV this evening, I saw reports of churches filled with lots of beds awaiting Covid-19 patients. Although Italian hospitals are seeking additional medical staff, they typically only offer temporary (six-month) contracts. This makes me ask if medical staff are afraid to put their lives on the line without job security afterwards. It seems that if the cases keep on increasing, there will be no more room for patients in hospitals. For this reason, physicians are paying more visits to the homes of the elderly in need. Fewer people with non-critical illnesses are being treated, and it’s worrisome that people with suspicions of cancer and heart attack are often afraid to go to a hospital for fear of catching the coronavirus or taking attention away from critically ill patients.
Longevity in Italy is currently under attack by the evil coronavirus. Sick patients are being sent home early for the reason that there is neither room nor safety from the coronavirus at some hospitals. This means that families are having to provide in-home services for their elderly family members when, in regular times, more travelling nurses and doctors would have been accessible. (I asked about getting a flu shot only to discover that I had to have a pre-existing condition to qualify for one if I were under 60.) This year, there is a shortage of flu shots, but it is thought that if residents wear more masks, they will be less likely to get the common flu. Interestingly, before the arrival of the pandemic, most Italians were opposed to flu shots, but lately, those anti-vaccine activists are quiet.
Covid-19 is onerous! It’s a killer to be taken seriously. From what I can see, Italians over 60 are generally a little more conscientious about wearing masks properly at all times when they leave the house. While younger Italians are more likely to go round without masks, there is a majority that wears masks to protect others, particularly when they have elderly grandparents at home. To go round Italy, one needs to wear a mask at all times and wash one’s hands regularly, while avoiding touching the face! There are enough people who don’t take the virus seriously, so tourists and retirees need to look out for themselves. Masks have been proven, after all, to provide defense wherever you are.
Finding delightful food to prepare at home has not been a problem as the stores are well stocked. One can still have a great time in Italy, although I would recommend sojourning in a dwelling with a yard or balcony in case the restrictions get worse. Somebody can deliver food, or one might consider shopping (while wearing protective masks) once weekly in a nearby grocery store if there aren’t crowds. By refraining from too much shopping in stores, people residing in Italy effectively shield themselves from exposure.
This is an excellent time to enjoy healthy Italian meals that reinforce the immunity system. Visitors and Italian residents will benefit from a wide variety of fruit and vegetables as well as other fresh food that’s part of the traditional Mediterranean diet. The online-aperitif (i.e. prescheduled on Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) now substitutes for the world-renowned Italian aperitif that accompanied the nightly ‘passeggiata‘. Therefore, no matter where you are in Italy, you can still communicate online with friends and colleagues, embrace ‘smart working’, and even enjoy opportunities to meditate at home with a glass of luscious Italian wine! (6 November 2020)