As the number of Coronavirus cases continue to rise here in Italy, the government has decided to impose new, national measures to help stop the spread of the virus. As of today, masks are required at all times while outdoors. Not only are masks required outdoors but they are also required in in one’s own home if someone who does not live with you is visiting. Those who do not comply will face a fat 400-1000 euro fine. Since the reopening of the country after lock down, rules regarding mask wearing had gradually relaxed a little. Masks have been required in all indoor public places but wearing masks outdoors eventually was relaxed to only wearing them when one was not able to social distance. It’s a sad day indeed!
UPDATE: On Saturday, May 16th the Italian government announced that travel restrictions will be lifted on June 3. This announcement came as a surprise to many, including me, who expected tourism to be pushed out into late summer (see original post below). In an effort to save the tourist season, the government will allow tourists to enter the country without having to observe a 14 day quarantine. Good news, right? It is, indeed but there’s a catch. The lifting of travel restrictions only applies to those visiting from the European Union, Schengen Area, United Kingdom, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino. As for when tourists from other countries can visit without the mandatory 14 day quarantine, it’s a bit unclear. The European Union has a ban on foreign tourism until June 15. If that ban is lifted and not extended then Non-European tourists will, most likely, be allowed to visit.
After nearly 10 weeks of lockdown, we are nearly at the end of Phase 1. Tomorrow Phase 2 begins here in Italy. The entire country is ready to have a little more freedom, putting the worst behind us and moving forward. You can read about what Phase 2 will look like in my previous post. As we enter into the new phase, here’s what I’ll remember:
Last night, Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, explained to all of Italy what life will look like as we enter into Phase 2 of containment measures. Phase 1 of the lockdown ends next week on May 4 and for several weeks now, many have been asking and wondering when the details of Phase 2 would be revealed. Although the new measures are a bit vague on some details, one thing is very sure and that is the continued enforcement of social distancing in every area of public life. The new phase is laid out in a 70 page document released last night. Here are the highlights:
As of yesterday the number of cases of COVID-19 in Italy reached 105,792 with 12,428 deaths. Here in Lombardy there are 43,208 cases, and 7,199 deaths. As bleak as those numbers are there has been one encouraging sign in the last few days. Yesterday we saw the lowest amount of new cases in the last 13 days. Although the number of deaths continues to hover between 700 to almost 1,000 a day, the rate of infection has slowed down. On March 21 there was a daily increase of 6,557 new cases. Yesterday, March 31, there were 4,053 new cases.
This week brought horrific losses here in Lombardy. Yesterday, there were 627 deaths in Italy, the highest number yet. Sadly, this brings the number of deaths in Italy to 4,032, making Italy the country with the most deaths attributed to Coronavirus.
Of the 47,021 cases of Coronavirus, 22,264 of them have occurred here in Lombardy. To date, the hardest hit provinces with the most deaths are Bergamo (5,154), Brescia (4,648), and Milan (3,804). This week there have been so many deaths in the town of Bergamo that the Italian army has been called in to transport coffins (see the videos below). Morgues are full, cemeteries are at the brink, and because of the stringent measures in place prohibiting gatherings, the dead do not get the funeral they deserve. Mourning families who weren’t allowed to be at the bedside of their loved one, not allowed to comfort and reassure them as they suffered through their last moments, are left doubly heartbroken.
Last night the Protezione Civile, who hold a daily press conference announcing the dreaded COVI-19 numbers of the day, announced that the “peak” they anticipated would happen by Sunday, March 22, is nowhere in sight. They don’t know, they can’t predict when it will come.
The mood here in Lombardy has shifted from laughing at funny quarantine videos and singing on balconies, to that of shock, disbelief and grieving. As I write this, a friend is in the hospital, gasping for air, fighting COVID-19 alone. He is my age with a wife and two young children. Another friend, mother of 7, and her teenage son have the symptoms of the virus, fever and cough. Not a good sign, but I’m hopeful they’ll only have a mild case.
As the death toll climbs the government is cracking down on its citizens, handing out fat fines to those who are out for no good reason. Until recently, here in Lombardia, lone joggers and dog walkers have been going out (as I did) citing a health necessity. Now, it seems even those activities are discouraged. I haven’t walked my dog in almost a week. I’m thankful I have a yard where my dog can chase a ball and get some exercise and where, on a clear day, we can enjoy the precious afternoon sunshine. I know most in the Milan metro area do not have the luxury of a small yard. Most are quarantined in small, cramped apartments, their only escape is a balcony or a view out a window.
Today, I went through photos, reliving happier times. I found some beautiful photos of Bergamo (see below) taken by my son, a blossoming photographer and videographer. Bergamo is a short 40 minute drive from here and we often go there to enjoy the views from the Citta Alta, the old medieval heart of the city that sits on a hill, walls in tact, with stunning views of the valley on one side and the Alps on the other. I know one day we’ll return to take a passeggiata and eat brasato at our favorite restaurant. Until then, I pray for the city, that their citizens would heal, and that all the losses in Lombardy, and the rest of the country, would come to an end.
As of 6 p.m. last night, there are 27,980 cases of Coronavirus and 2,153 deaths in Italy. We had our second day of losing over 300 people in a 24 hour period. Yesterday there were 349 deaths, one of which was a relative of a dear friend.
Last night, as all of Italia received the news of the latest COVID-19 numbers, you could almost hear a collective, national sigh of grief. 368 people died in a single day, the highest number of deaths in one day so far. The new death toll is 1,809 nationally, 1,218 of those deaths are here in Lombardy. As we approach the peak of the virus this week, we’re bracing ourselves for the worst.