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Coronavirus in Puglia – what a difference a day makes

With the situation remaining fluid we consider the latest developments in Italy over the last 24 hours.

New containment measures - Italy wide

Yesterday, Italy’s government took a raft of new steps to contain the coronavirus outbreak including closure of all schools and universities until 15 March.

All sporting events including Serie A football (our top soccer league) will be played behind closed doors until April 3. The ban will also cover the Italy v England Six Nations match a week on Saturday, 14 March.

Cinemas and theatres have been closed and public events have been banned across the whole country.

Section 1(b) of Article 1 of the measures issued by the Council of Ministers yesterday provides that:

“Conferences, meetings, gatherings and social events, including cinema and theatrical events, held in any place, both public and private, which entail crowding of people such as not to allow the respect of the interpersonal safety distance of at least one meter, are suspended.”

People with respiratory problems have been advised to stay at home, as have those over the age of 65.

The decree even provides guidance to refrain from the traditional greeting of kissing on the cheek and hugging, to avoid crowded places and keep a distance of one to two metres from others.

The stats

Italy has now recorded a total of 3,090 cases since the outbreak began, including 276 people who have recovered. The number of confirmed deaths of patients who tested positive for coronavirus in Italy has risen to 107 from 79, including our first here in Puglia. A 75-year old man from Trani. Originally his death had been attributed to other causes, but a number of days after his funeral the swab test he had prior to his death came back positive for coronavirus.

But while the number of cases grow it is reported that the recovery rate is good, with a “record” number of recoveries confirmed yesterday.

Word on the street

There is still no sense of panic. Yesterday we visited Ostuni and it was very much business as usual.

The lack of people and of businesses open was due to the time of the year. Outside Bari and Lecce many of Puglia’stowns and cities are much quieter off-season. Many popular tourist destinations, such as Ostuni’s old town, operate at around 25% during the off-season period (our non-scientific estimate, based on observation).

Proprietors close for refurbishment, to prepare for the forthcoming season, or simply because there is no demand to sustain staff and running costs. We noted a very quiet Piazza della Libertà without an aperol spritz in sight. See a very quiet Ostuni open for business as usual, but under refurbishment:

We saw a facemask being worn in public in the supermarket in one of Ostuni’s satellite towns. But only the one.

The supermarket shelves remain full.

Undoubtedly day-to-day life will start to feel different here in Puglia due to the new measures. A number of cultural events have had to be cancelled including a poetry reading that we were going to in Brindisi this evening for Salento Pride and the Salento Rainbow Film Festival that had been due to take place in Lecce next weekend that we are sponsoring.

The closure of schools will have “enormous consequences” for families, according to Italy’s main consumer association Codacons.

“Those who cannot count on relatives to look after their children will have to take time off work, meaning a drop in productivity across all of Italy and enormous economic repercussions.”

Some such repercussions may have seemed unforeseen but their effects will have a far-reaching effect on Italy. Two weeks ago we interviewed Antonio Nicoletti, the direttore generale of Basilicata's tourist board, the Agenzia di Promozione Territoriale Basilicata for our latest podcast episode.

He spoke at length about the “Bond bounce” that Matera was preparing for as the star of the stunning opening sequence of “No Time to Die”, the 25th James Bond movie which had been due for release on 3 April.

But yesterday’s announcement that the release of the new Bond movie has been put back by seven months as coronavirus continues to spread will be doubly devastating for Matera and Basilicata with the projected - and planned - visitor growth that was anticipated would result not now likely to happen this year.

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