Milano 9th April,
I hope you are healthy and safe wherever you may be.
I am writing to you to give you an update on life in Northern Italy and how both the circumstances and my focus have changed in the last two weeks. For anyone who is unaware, stricter restrictive measures have been enforced in Northern Italy meaning people can no longer leave for an hour solitary exercise. The only two permitting circumstances to leave your residence are getting food supplies and/or pharmaceutical needs.
Unfortunately, the situation has continued to worsen here in Milan and the broader region as there have been several thousand more cases and deaths – something that is deeply saddening and concerning. In comparison to two weeks ago where in other parts of Europe, such as the UK, the Coronavirus was still in its infancy in terms of cases, the devastating effects of the pandemic are now more relatable than they were before. Therefore, I know that almost everybody reading this will be isolating at home. Having now completed a month of isolation, I wanted to share how I have coped with anyone who may be finding the prospect daunting.
Understandably, three days after I published my last article the Italian government enforced stricter “lockdown rules” in order to eliminate the need for people to be outside. Unfortunately for me, that meant the liberty of an hour of daily exercise / fresh air was taken away. In truth, I was initially apprehensive about how I would cope with not being allowed outside but quickly reminded myself that these were necessary measures in order to contain the virus.
As the situation has changed, so too has my focus. Despite the restrictions, I maintain that daily exercise is important to get through this time and therefore in my bedroom I have been challenging myself to various Bodyweight/HIIT workouts. Instead of viewing life under lockdown as “more time indoors” I’m trying to view it as “more free time” than I had before. With this free time comes greater opportunity to do things you previously couldn’t. Of course, learning Italian is my primary focus and does take up most of my time, especially with three hours a day of virtual lessons with a language school. However, beyond that, the free time I now have has made me discover other interests such as reading, listening to a range of podcasts, and cooking. For anyone looking for good quarantine books, having recently finished “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman, and Ant Middleton’s “First Man In”, I would recommend all three.
Despite the difficult and limiting circumstances here in Milan, there is still a resounding sense of community and positivity in the way people are conducting themselves. In the supermarkets, everyone continues to respect the rules and social distancing regulation by queuing outside patiently and spacing at the checkout. The solidarity and acceptance within society is apparent as the rules are followed and nobody is shopping excessively. At the till, I try to remain positive and upbeat with the employees as of course we are all grateful they are putting themselves at risk for the benefit of others. From the confines of the balcony, we have socialised with our neighbours, chatting and sharing experiences with one man even lending us some weights to exercise with. With other friends over the street, we managed to free a trapped pigeon from a balcony the floor above their own, and of course when it flew off, we celebrated, remarking how we will also soon have that sense of freedom to leave our apartments.
It’s fair to say that by now I’m fairly used to life confined to my apartment. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want things to improve and restrictions to be lifted soon. However, with no definite time frame and the priority being the containment of the virus I am, of course, very accepting of the need to stay at home. This acceptance is fuelled by positive news that at the minute the new daily cases are on a slow decline and, on the 4th of April, according to the Worldometer statistics, R0 (Reproductive Number) in Italy is now 1. This number represents the number of people an infected person will infect – a couple of weeks ago this number was at 3 and therefore it is clear proof that the quarantine measures are working.
The Coronavirus presents several different threats to our society as health systems around the world are working at maximum capacity to contain it and global economies are halting due to the lack of people able to work. For people in positions of authority it is a complicated issue to resolve due to the uncertainty about when it will end. However, for most of the population and everyday citizen, the way to combat the virus is extremely simple; we are required to stay at home and social distance. This method is working in Italy and will continue to work until the virus has disappeared. Following news that our Prime minister Boris Johnson is now in Intensive Care, and that the cases are rapidly rising in the UK it comes as great surprise to see videos of people outside in large groups. One month ago, in British news and social media, Italy was used as an example of “how not to deal” with the Coronavirus. Now, as an English student looking at videos of people at home, outside in London in the sunshine or socialising at houses, I believe Italy should now be used as an example of the way to go about tackling the problem. Nobody in Milan is disobeying the quarantine measures as everyone understands and respects the fact it is the only solution to this virus.
Therefore, for the sake of our NHS workers and others working to fight the virus we have a responsibility to support them and respect the rules. Despite travel plans being adjusted, events being cancelled, and parties being postponed, life at “home” is bearable and provides us all with an opportunity to do things we otherwise wouldn’t have done. If you can still get out and do solitary exercise in the fresh air, I urge you to make the most of that opportunity as even after two weeks of not being able to, it is a liberty I will never again take for granted. Challenge yourself to try something new; learn a new language, how to cook, or read about a subject you know little about.
The next time I write restrictions may have eased but if not, I will be staying positive and trust the fact that by obeying social distancing measures, things will slowly start improving.
Image: Gabriele Calmanti via Flickr
Originally published on LinkedIn