The coronavirus has temporarily transformed Italy. Images of a deserted Rome have dominated newspapers and websites across the world, along with the hashtag #iorestoacasa (#iwillstayhome) and the message of hope displayed on balconies: “Andrà tutto bene” (“Everything will be okay.”)
While the coronavirus is having an unprecedented effect around the world, Italy has been particularly badly affected, in part because of the elderly population with underlying health conditions. The situation changes daily, but here we’ll do our best to answer your questions and summarise the current situation (as of 27 March).
What is the coronavirus situation in Italy?
The country is currently in lockdown. The northern region of Lombardia was the first to suffer, with spiralling numbers of infections and deaths. The north has been defined as a zona rossa (red zone) for a few weeks now, but the total lockdown was later extended to the rest of Italy.
These are some of the main lockdown rules (in place since approximately 10-12 March):
- All schools, universities, bars, restaurants, museums, cultural centres, libraries, theatres, clubs, swimming pools, gyms, monuments, archaeological sites and parks are closed (to list just some examples)
- The only shops allowed to remain open are supermarkets (and other food shops), pharmacies, newspaper kiosks and tabaccherie (shops selling cigarettes).
- People must maintain a distance of at least one metre from each other in public spaces.
- People are only allowed to leave the house for “essential reasons” (such as buying food or medicine) and must carry a special certificate, to be shown to the police on request.
- Gathering in groups is strictly forbidden.
- People who break the lockdown rules could be fined a couple of hundred euros. People who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus are not allowed to leave the house at all, and risk a prison sentence if caught outside.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has acknowledged that these drastic rules will be a challenge for residents and businesses, but we’re all hoping that after a couple of weeks, we’ll start to see results. The lockdown may seem extreme, but other countries such as France and Spain have followed Italy’s example. Many experts believe that a lockdown (along with an increase in testing) is the only way to prevent the virus from spreading.
Anyone interested in the exact statistics for coronavirus in Italy can check the bollettino, a bulletin which is published at 6pm every day with the updated numbers for infections, deaths and recoveries. According to the most recent statistics (27 March), there have been 86,498 cases of coronavirus total, 66.414 people who are currently sick, 10.950 people healed and 9,134 deaths in Italy. Lombardia is by far the worst affected, followed by other northern regions such as Emilia Romagna and Veneto.
Why are Italians staying at home?
The social media hashtag #iorestoacasa (#iwillstayhome) originally began as an attempt to encourage people to stay at home as much as possible, avoiding the risk of contagion. However, the law changed shortly afterwards, essentially forcing people to stay at home and stay safe.
The whole of Italy is staying at home. While it’s true that people don’t really have a choice, there’s also a strong sense of social responsibility. Horrified by reports from northern Italy, people across the country have understood that the only way to stop the spread of the coronavirus is to practise social distancing and avoid going out unless it’s absolutely necessary.
While the prospect of being stuck at home for a month or longer is daunting – especially for people who live alone, or families with young children – we’re trying to make the most of it, and support each other during this difficult time. During the first days of the lockdown, every day at 6 pm people come out on to the balcony or roof terrace to sing and show solidarity. There have also been collective applauses to show support for Italy’s medical workers.
How long will the lockdown continue?
At the time of writing, no one knows exactly how long the lockdown will last. The original dates were 25 March for some re-openings, and 3 April for schools and universities. Conte has already made it clear that the lockdown will have to be extended for as lo
ng as necessary – well into April, and possibly into May.
While it seems highly unlikely that a full lockdown can remain in place for more than a couple of months without wreaking havoc on the economy (not to mention people’s personal lives), it will take a while for things to go back to normal. We can probably expect a gradual easing of restrictions rather than an overnight return to normality.
When can I visit Italy?
At the moment the message from Italy to Italians – and the rest of the world – is “stay at home, stay safe”. It’s not possible to plan a trip to Italy for the next few weeks, probably a couple of months. When things go back to normal, Italy will be waiting for you with open arms.
Italy is highly dependent on tourists. It’s not just tour operators, hotels and airlines. Restaurants, bars, shops, and countless other small businesses need tourism to survive, and have been badly affected by the coronavirus crisis.
As soon as it’s possible to travel again, we hope to see you in Italy. We will show you the beauty and history of Rome, the Renaissance masterpieces of Florence, the atmosphere of Venice, and so much more. Italy will rise again!
In the meantime, try to experience Italy at home through videos and online resources (ex. On our social channels). If you have any questions about planning your visit to Italy later in the year, contact Roads to Rome Private Tours – we’re here to help!
Read more: My Life on Italy’s Coronavirus Frontlines, and in Quarantine (New York Times)