The government of Italy announced late on 9 March that the entire country would be subject to the same rules which apply to areas previously known as “red zones.” This has been referred to in the press as Italy on lockdown, but it was not clear what that means. Here is the letter I wrote to friends and family the next morning, 10 March.
Friends and family outside of Italy – thank you for your concern! Jimmy, Giacomo, and I are completely fine and were not surprised when the announcement came last night that Italy was in “lockdown.”
What it means:
-We are all being asked to stay home as much as possible and to avoid traveling between regions.
-Schools, museums, cultural events, gyms, pubs etc are closed until at least April 3rd. This includes church masses, and even weddings and funerals.
-Congregating in large groups, even outside, is prohibited.
-Pharmacies are all open and operating normally. Less essential businesses like coffee bars and restaurants must close by 6 pm.
-Supermarkets are operating fairly normally but there may be a longer wait than normal as they limit the number of people allowed inside at one time in order to maintain a space of 1 meter around each customer.
-If you are a citizen of another country and not a resident of Italy, you can freely leave the country. You are not “stuck” here. Just be prepared for screenings at the airport departure and requests to self isolate when you return home.
What it does not mean:
-Martial law and military patrols.
There are controls set up at train stations and major roads to enforce the restrictions on movements, but we are allowed to leave our homes – just discouraged from doing so unless necessary. We plan to have just one person do the shopping (there is plenty of food and toilet paper here). We are allowed to go for walks out in the open.
While we aren’t surprised by this development now, we would have been two weeks ago. This was all unimaginable even 10 days ago. The general feeling in Italy is that if it is happening here, it can (and likely will) happen anywhere.
Having been through the early days and now entering a critical period, we would suggest that wherever you are, you practice some “social distancing.” The virus spreads rapidly because so many people have mild cases, but it is all of our civic duty to minimize the spread as much as possible because some people who catch it won’t be so lucky as to recover easily at home.
Stay home when you can and avoid crowds, but don’t panic buy and prepare for an apocalypse. Maybe have a few days worth of food and some fever reducers on hand. This will pass if we all make these small sacrifices.
We don’t want to catch the virus at all, but we don’t live in fear of it. While we are doing everything we can to avoid it, the biggest toll for Italy will be economic, so we are following the guidelines to have this managed as soon as possible in order to save lives and get back to our own normal ones.
We are also incredibly thankful to live in a country with excellent universal healthcare. We know that it is strained now, but we appreciate the transparency and honesty of the Italian government in handling this crisis.
Update 12 March:
As of last night, the lockdown in Italy has become stricter, but we are still totally fine. We feel cooped up but we don’t feel as though the world is ending.
You can only leave home to go to the pharmacy or the supermarket, or to get some exercise. This must be done alone. (And if you read below, this is what we personally were already doing). If you go outside, you have to be prepared to sign a legally binding document stating who you are and why you are out.
You cannot meet friends, and you cannot go to work.
Every. Single. Restaurant. In. Italy. Is. Closed.
You can, however, still buy cigarettes.
This might sound extreme to you, but to us, it feels like the right thing to do.
It also feels like we are watching this play out in the exact same way in other countries in slow motion.
This is not an Italy problem and this is not a Europe problem, just in the way we know it was not a China problem.
You don’t need to hoard months’ worth of supplies, but you do need to expect things to change. Your life will be inconvenienced. Events will be canceled. All of our jobs in Italy are suffering, and this may happen in other places too. This is not something we would have willingly signed up for, but it is now very clearly the only option.
We don’t intend to leave – though we could. The “travel ban” does not apply to us as American and Irish citizens. But Italy is doing what it has to do, no matter how painful that is. If your government has not yet taken steps, ask them to. Ireland, for example, announced today that they would close schools from tomorrow.