Up until a few weeks ago, Italy was the second country after China to suffer from the coronavirus. I live in the Lombardy region, which felt the worst effects in all of Italy. We’ve been ordered not to go out, which means we have been confined in our homes for more than three weeks now.
People started discussing the question of why Italy was the first place in Europe that the virus spread back in mid-February, but there’s neither a way to trace it, nor a point in even looking for the source of the contagion.
The reason for that, as you already know, is that there are people who are infected with the virus but show no symptoms. The fact that it’s something that people can unknowingly spread around makes it impossible to trace it back to where it started.
Mad cow disease caused quite a scare in Italy during the early 2000s. At the time, people avoided it by not eating beef, but with this virus, people can’t just stop breathing the way they stopped consuming meat—despite the fact that it’s been nearly two months since the first infected person was discovered in Italy. There’s nothing people can do about it, and meanwhile the virus continues to claim many lives.
Before they got to the point where they issued the shelter-in-place order, school (including university classes) was cancelled—but because the severity of the situation still hadn’t been communicated to people, the Italians, whose nature is to be cheerful and outgoing, simply interpreted it positively as an unexpected vacation. Many of the people I know got their families together and headed out to resort areas in the mountains or by the ocean. Most of them returned to their homes in Milan without showing any signs of contagion or quarantining where they were, though the people who didn’t come back before the shelter-in-place order was issued are still stuck wherever they traveled to.
Later, when the government forbade anyone to go in or out of Lombardy, the train stations became packed with people who were trying to escape the region. The measure apparently ended up further spreading the disease. The government realized the situation had turned south and immediately forbade anyone in the entire country from travelling. The shelter-in-place order was issued after that.
For days, special correspondents urged people to look at deserted scenes of places where there were always crowds of people. When I first heard them, the message I got was how strange it was not to have any people around, but if it were me, the message I’d send would be, “Look at how wonderful it is that the Milanese are sticking together!” I wanted them to be reporting something like, “The people of Milan have taken an incredible first step towards stopping the spread of the virus.”
One of the most common questions I got from my friends outside Italy who were worried about me was how I was spending my time since I was stuck inside my house due to the shelter-in-place order.
Time is a strange thing.
Although I was excited about having so much free time and being able to have time for my hobbies, it seems like there is never enough of it.
Time!! Why do you continue to escape me?