Italy getting ready for Phase 2 of coronavirus lockdown

Photo by Roberto Nickson

Given the numbers, no one expected Italy lockdown to be lifted this weekend but Italians surely hoped for more concessions from the government. On Sunday, April 26, the Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte called in a press conference where he announced more gradual openings.


Coronavirus lockdown situation in Italy so far

The coronavirus outbreak has been ebbing for some weeks now but the country needs to proceed with caution. The world is watching to see Italy recovered from Covid-19. This would be a message of hope for other countries, where the lockdown began only a few weeks ago. Italy shutdown started on March 11. The end date was due to May 4 but it looks like the opening will have a more gradual pace.
The lockdown has been a traumatic process so far. We all grieve for our past lives and freedom, let alone the money issues. Most people reached the acceptance phase after 50 days of confinement. Coronavirus is exposing our fears, vulnerabilities, and social differentiation but we are handling it.

Shutdown and Italian culture

When I talk about Italy to expats, I often mention that loyalty here is local – related to the city, region, or soccer team. It becomes national only in extreme cases. This is one of those. The singing and clapping flashmobs made their way through the world. Many Italians hanged national flags outside their balconies. This display of national unity usually happens when the Italian soccer team is aiming at the World Cup.
The power distance index in Italy is not high. This means Italians generally prefer equality and decentralization of decision-making. They dislike authorities and complying with rules they don’t approve of. In comparison to the collectivist Chinese citizens, Italians are also on a more individualistic side. This could cause many complications but it looks like prime minister Conte did a good communication job so far. Also, the initial spreading of articles about Great Britain’s reluctance to shut down gave Italy another reason to feel better about their choice and to further unify the nation.
During this lockdown, Italians reduced their mobility by 85%. Not even recent holidays like Easter or April 25 Liberation Day, usually spent outdoors, made them change their mind. Nevertheless, they were only partially rewarded during yesterday’s press conference.

Italy entering Phase 2

From May 4 Italy residents will be able to see their close relatives but not in big gatherings. Those blocked in another city will finally return home. Even so, traveling between regions is still prohibited. Shops, bars, and restaurants will probably open on June 1, but the takeaway is now possible. During the lockdown phase in most regions only restaurants that could assure delivery stayed open. Outdoor exercise will be allowed at any distance from home as long as they comply with 1-meter social distancing. Anyone with 37,5 degrees of fever or more must stay at home and inform the doctor. 
Face masks must be worn on public transport and in other enclosed spaces. Body temperature scanners will be installed in metro stations and airports. Public transport will probably have a maximum number of passengers set during rush hours. Work from home is still encouraged. Schools won’t open until September.
International tourism will probably be on hold for a while, even if museums might reopen on May 18, to send an optimistic message. In a big local Facebook group, there was a poll asking who would travel again this summer and most people said they can’t wait to.
The Decree Conte referred to should be signed by the end of April.
alternative family reunions
Families will finally be reunited in Italy after May 4.

The social distancing and resilience

One of the main points of phase two is social distancing. For some countries, it may be easier than for others. In Italy, the average social distance is less than 1,2 meters (4 feet). It is even less in the south. Some theories claimed this was one of the reasons for the major spreading of the virus here. The typical Italian greeting – two kisses on the cheeks, a habit now completely forgotten – may have contributed as well. Also, Italians see their elderly relatives more often than Germans and Americans. This is why the lockdown has been a very trying time for them.
Still, Italians are doing their best to resist the adversities. They try new recipes (no pineapple pizza or one-pot pasta though). They joke about the prime minister’s hotness, and lack of fresh yeast in the supermarkets. Social gatherings and aperitivos moved online or to the balconies. Shops and beaches are preparing for social distancing by installing transparent booths.

Solidarity and hope

While having fun, Italians are also looking out for those most vulnerable. In many cities, people do “suspended shopping” – buy food for those who can’t afford it, and bring it to the elderly. Fashion brands like Gucci and Prada are now sewing masks and gowns. Prontopia app designed to assist travelers in Italy now helps those over 65 completely free of charge. A heartwarming story comes from Seregno, near Milan, where the Senegalese community donated to the mayor 1000 euro to help fight coronavirus – saying this was all they could give but they wanted to contribute somehow. 
By showing patience, solidarity and unity Italians make their lockdown slogan a reality: “Andrà tutto bene” – everything is going to be fine.

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