A New National Lockdown in Italy?

The news that a new national lockdown in Italy may happen in the next week has hit our family hard. At the moment, I’m writing from Virginia where I’ve been for a few weeks visiting family. My husband, who is a pastor in the Milan metro area, and my son are supposed to join me next week. Their flights were canceled but I was able to re-route them and thankfully able to get new flights. In the next week we’ll find out if the airline decides to cancel all flights out of Milan, or if indeed they’ll be able to travel. Times are tense for the residents of Italy as what was considered unthinkable just a few weeks ago, namely a second national lockdown, may soon come to pass.

I snapped this photo in late September. I remember thinking how wonderful it was to see the city return to a somewhat normal state.

The return of restrictions in Italy began slowly. After the lifting of lockdown and rollout of several phase back in May, residents rejoiced. For months we had been confined to the four walls of our homes, only going out for groceries, walking the dog, essential work, and medical necessities. Police cars patrolled neighborhoods enforcing the restrictive rules. We spent Easter grilling in our backyard, exchanging plates of food and conversation with our neighbors over the hedge. Then May arrived and the lockdown eased. We were quick to enjoy so many of the freedoms that we took for granted. First, we were allowed to travel within our own regions. Restaurants and bars opened and then, finally, shops opened. We enjoyed walks without feeling suffocated by a mask. We went out to dinner with friends, and we planned our summer vacation. Italy had done it. We had flattened the curve. So much national sacrifice and hard work on the part of the medical community had paid off. There was talk about a second wave but the consensus (even among government officials) was that Italy’s economy would not survive another lockdown.

In late September the crowds in the historic downtown of Milan were almost to pre-Covid levels.

How did we get here?

But as Italians returned from their vacations abroad in late summer, they brought the virus with them. The number of cases increased gradually. As the school year began and children returned to in person learning, the number of cases ballooned. The first sign that restrictions would return was in early October with the renewed requirement of masks while outdoors. Things went from bad to worse very quickly. The government, thinking the spreading of the virus was a problem among young people, enforced new curfews on bars and restaurants. This was followed by requiring high schools to return to online education. My son was none too happy about returning to sitting in front of a screen for hours every day. On November 4th, Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy, announced a new series of measures classifying each region by color, red being the most restrictive. Lombardy, Piedmont, and Valle d’Aosta in the north, and Calabria, which forms the southern toe of the Italian peninsula have been classified as red zones and put under lockdown as of November 6, with the new measures intended to last until December 3. So here we are, back to where we were in early March.

Unlike the first lockdown, the new measures have not been met with quiet submissiveness. Riots in Milan, Turin and other cities erupted in protest. No one is singing from their balconies. No one is clapping at 6 pm for health workers. The overwhelming feelings are fatigue, anger and confusion.

What’s next?

In the last few days, Italian media have reported that a decision will be made on November 15 regarding whether or not to put all Italian regions into the red zone category, which will obviously create a new national lockdown. Apparently, as the number of cases increases and the number of available ICU beds continues to decrease, the Italian medical community has been begging the government to adopt stricter measures to avoid a total overwhelming of the national health care system.

If the newly enacted measures make a difference on the virus statistics, perhaps we can avoid a new national lockdown. Let’s hope and pray, for the sake of the fragile Italian economy, that a new national lockdown won’t be necessary. If you’re living in Italy, I’d love to hear your opinion. Do you think the government’s plan is called for?

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