Strange times indeed...
Today is Wednesday, yesterday was Tuesday. But living in circumstances such as these, life is surreal. And how quickly that has happened. Keeping track of which day it is seems relatively unimportant to everything else unfolding around us.
The current statistics
As of today the number of infections in Puglia have increased to 65 with 9 new cases confirmed: 4 in the provinces of Bari, 1 in each of BAT, Brindisi and Foggia and 2 in Lecce.
There have been 2 more deaths. A 90-year old gentleman in Foggia and an 88-year old lady in Lecce.
Yesterday 168 deaths were reported across Italy, brining the total fatalities as of yesterday to 631 people. We are now at over 10,000 cases, although 280 people have now recovered.
A glimmer of good news
In the province of Lodi in Lombardy, where the first cluster of infections were reported, the rate of infection is now decreasing.
Word on the street
Today I went to the supermarket. There was a long queue (line) of people, mostly wearing masks, waiting to get in. Not because of any rush on the supermarket. Rather because the current coronavirus restrictions prohibit crowding. The number of people being allowed into the supermarket at any one time was being restricted, and significantly so, to comply with the containment measures.
Once you arrive at the check-out, there are markings on the floor so that you must not come within 1 metre of the people in front and behind. I could only unload my shopping cart once the person in front was packing at the opposite end of the counter. I could only approach to pay once they had vacated the bagging area, and only once I was there could the person behind me start to unpack.
New screens had been put up in front of the cashiers, as if at the bank or post office, no doubt an attempt to give further protection to staff and customers alike.
Here in Puglia, as in Italy generally, we are still finding our way around the “stay at home” quarantine. Train stations and airports remain open. With a permit, travel is permitted. According to the countrywide “I stay at home” restrictions, to qualify for a permit you have to be travelling on health grounds or for professional reasons.
Yet, Davide - one of our regular Italian podcast presenters - is travelling home tonight from Piedmont in the north of Italy where he has been working for the winter ski season, brought to an abrupt and premature end. Yet, we read reports of no road checks in place monitoring and enforcing the ban. Yet, we don’t know the limits on non-restricted travel. Can I go to Ostuni, some 8km away to buy our daily bread from our usual baker, or must I go no further than the first available panificio?
A friend was returning from work last night - from the local municipality. The local police were out on the piazza asking people to go home. Was there a curfew? Was it because after 18:00 bars and restaurants must close and, so, we must “stay at home”?
I read that if I am in public and cough (in the sense of displaying any symptoms consistent with infection, whether infected or not) I can be fined or imprisoned.
Strange times indeed...
And still we read that stricter containment measures may be on their way.
The government is considering the imposition of even tighter restrictions, including closing shops except for supermarkets and pharmacies and halting public transport.
Italy’s civil protection chief, Angelo Borrelli, said requests from senior politicians to “close everything” in the northern Lombardy and Veneto regions “must be examined, considered and assessed”.
Two things that came out of the podcast we recorded on Sunday, the day after the north Italy quarantine was announced and the day before the nationwide quarantine was announced.
Now is the time that Italians should individually take responsibility for working to contain the Covid-19 virus.
Not known historically as a nation inclined to follow the rules and regulations (as witnessed by the stress being placed in reports that anyone found travelling with a forged travel permit will be prosecuted), Italians needed to pay attention to the travel ban. Do not come from the north and risk spreading the infection more extensively here in the south. It is the responsibility of each and every Italian national to make this happen.
With good reason. It has been acknowledged that the health services and facilities here in the south do not compare with those in Lombardy- reported to be amongst the best in Europe. Quite simply regions such as Calabria, Basilica and Puglia would be quickly overwhelmed with infection rates equivalent to those suffered in the north.
The second theme was the sense of fear. Fear of the seriousness of the situation. Economically and socially. Puglia is precariously perched on the economic spectrum. Tourism brings a very real boost to the economy but no-one is visiting, and for how long who knows. Even when Italy gets better we might find the rest of Europe and the world is catching-up...
Shops, bars and restaurants have closed. Not because they are obliged to but because they feel the need to, to protect their families (often these are small, family-owned and run businesses). Our favourite baker shop is run by two brothers and their sister and the fiancé of one of the brothers. And just as I am starting to sense that those not covering their mouths and noses are being seen as anti-social, so to is a sense growing that those shops, bars and restaurants staying open are not being socially responsible.
Fear for those who are vulnerable. Italy has an above average senior population. It is not unusual for grandparents, parents and children living under the same roof. People are well aware of the risk bringing the virus home to the elderly, as too the very young.
Earlier this week people were urging each other on social media that family members returning to Puglia from the north in breach of the quarantine as it then was be “turned in”.
Strange times indeed...
But what you know is that when these difficult times are over, beautiful Puglia and all of Italy will still be here to visit. And visitors will be more welcome than ever.