Two women among 60 million in Italy living under restricted movement rule
Kate Nicholls’ apartment in Trastevere, a colorful neighborhood just south of the Vatican City in Rome, is not a bad place to be in lockdown during a pandemic.
Nicholls, 65, is a British author and the owner of an education business, and has called the Italian capital home for the last five years.
Dozens of books line the shelves, there is a good collection of boardgames, a decent Wi-fi connection, and the window has a picturesque view of Sant’Agnese basilica and the River Tiber.
She has stocked the pantry and refrigerator (“I haven’t gone crazy, it’s about as full as the day before Christmas”) and she has the company of her daughter, 32-year-old visual artist Maisie McNeice, who arrived for a visit several weeks ago.
The two women are among the 60.5 million people in Italy living under a level of restricted movement that is unprecedented in modern peacetime.
Out of all European nations, Italy has been hardest hit by the outbreak of novel coronavirus, and the resulting disease COVID-19. As of Thursday, the disease had killed 1,016 people in the country and infected more than 15,000.
The majority of cases have occurred in the north, where several provinces were put on lockdown last week.
At that time, restaurants, bars and cafes in the south reduced their opening hours, before the Italian government announced on Wednesday that all shops nationwide, apart from supermarkets and pharmacies, must shut.
People can only leave their homes to buy food and medication, or to walk their dogs, and have been instructed to maintain a distance of one meter from one another.
“The mood has changed, people are much more serious, much more anxious than a few days ago,” said Nicholls.
She says most of this concern is for the north, where health services are stretched to the limit.
“It’s very different in the north, it’s absolutely tragic,” Nicholls said. “Because of this, in Rome you get the feeling people are happy to do what they can, to follow the rules and make sure the situation doesn’t get worse.”
On trips to the shop, Nicholls says people will keep their distance and cover their faces with masks or scarves. “But it’s done with a smile and with respect,” she said. “People want to defend the most vulnerable parts of the population－the strong sense of community and family Italians feel is really coming into play.”
McNeice says they are lucky as unlike many other people in the country, they can both work from home.
“It’s heartbreaking for small businesses,” she added. “In terms of people’s livelihoods, it’s devastating. The cafes and restaurants and all the squares here are usually always full. Then the tourists stopped coming, and now even the locals can’t go.”
The Italian government has granted a grace period on mortgages, utility and tax bills in an effort to ease the pain of those who are hurting financially.
On Wednesday, the emergencies director of the World Health Organization, Mike Ryan, said that Iran and Italy are now the front line for COVID-19, but other countries “will be in that situation very soon” and all nations should consider aggressive measures.
Nicholls says that she feels secure due to the action the Italian government has taken, and worries most about her family abroad.
“We are being defended and protected to the best of the government’s ability,” Nicholls said. “But I have family in many different countries, and I am very worried because I don’t know that they are being protected.”
For now, both women say they are remaining upbeat and have accepted the prospect of an extended period of confinement.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have a dog to walk,” McNeice said. “So, the next step is to come up with an exercise routine and try to stay healthy.”