From: Lamezia Terme (Italy)
I'll share a bit more about what is happening here in Lombardy (and in the rest of Italy), on the ground.
Yesterday Italy had the highest number of dead in a single day - 475 - surpassing even the record set by China. The number of cases jumped to 4,207 in 24 hours, with a total at 35,713 as of Wednesday.
A single, sobering symbol of the situation: "L'Eco di Bergamo" is the daily newspaper of Bergamo, near Milan and one of the hardest hit cities. Normally they publish a page of obituaries. On March, 13th the obituaries filled ten pages. I guess this is not "only a flu".
Going around, it It would seem that the Real World(tm) is not the internet; I saw a small increase of people in the streets but nothing comparable to the "Twitter Rebellions". More worrisome is the youths' attitude towards the virus. While the situation, here in Northern Italy, is not as bad as it is in other countries, many simply don't feel "really threatened" by this emergency. Of course if you are young you can get mild to no symptoms from this virus - but you will pass it around anyway, possibly starting with your parents and grandparents.
To be fair, I have to underline what I already wrote: inside supermarkets people of every age lose any sense of "social distance" and frantically blunder into each other all the time. If you are looking for a good place to legally catch the virus, well...
The government increased the already strict lockdown measures. There is a new "auto-certification" document that you have to download, print and compile; elderly people with no computers or printers must rely on the help of neighboroughs. Checks are more frequent. If you lie you get a fine and can get up to 3 years in jail; if you lie while being knowingly sick you can get up to 12 years. In a week, about 43,000 people have been denounced for "violating the quarantene".
But wait! Due to a loophole in the new lockdown decree, Italy was becoming a country of sport men! You see, if you exit your home they can stop you and ask where you are going, but "practicing physical exercise, like running" is allowed, as long as you do it alone and keep away to others. So, technically I couldn't walk to my daughter's condo except if she is sick, but I can run to her! Of course your deep purple complexion paired with a look at your belly will give away to the Police your "I used to run when I was 20 years younger" attire. As a result, the government is about to forbid any kind of physical exercise done outside your home.
Beware of a fake news: "The authorities can now reconstruct your movements by tracking your cellphone!!!1". Not true: this would be illegal even now. What authorities in Lombardy are now doing is to ask for "aggregate data" to the phone companies - i.e. data that show the movement fluxes of people, areas of heightened concentration and so on (the same data that apps like Google maps use to track traffic situations and gridlocks along your route). This allows them to evaluate the overall behaviour of the population during the quarantine while maintaining the privacy of the single.
Of course feel free for your paranoia to kick in anyway.
Also, note how this is different from what South Korea is doing (i.e., IIUC, use tracking data to reconstruct where a sick individual went before showing the first symptoms).
Banks and financial institutions are closed. Some of them operate their public area with a skeleton crew and accept visits on appointment basis only. You have to phone and check in advance if your bank offers this service - then they will evaluate if your need is "worth an appointment".
Funerals are forbidden since the beginning of the lockdown, but now the situation is becoming worse. Until a few days ago the body of the deceased was put in the coffin and brought to the cemetery. Now even this service is breaking down, and in some areas coffins were piling up in churches and other "holding areas". Now the Army is being mobilised: soldiers will take these coffins and bring them to crematory sites outside Lombardy.
Yesterday the North healthcare system officially collapsed, and new infected are now subjected to triage. It also turned out that, beside beds and medical supplies, there is another finite commodity: time. The hours that doctors and nurses can devote to the fight. Remember: being heroic actually helps no one. The fact that a percentage of medical personnel catched the virus causes fear, and fear, in turn increases the stress. Those on the frontlines have to rest and act with clear minds or costly mistakes will be made.
But there are good news too: with a Chinese-level effort, the empty spaces of the abandoned ex-Milan's Fair buildings are being turned in record time into the biggest ****ing ICU in the World. Silvio Berlusconi (yup, that Silvio Berlusconi) donated 10 millions Euro to kickstart the buying of IC beds and other medical supplies for this project. Donations from other people from all strata of the society followed. Other Italian regions are looking at how Lombardy managed to pull this stunt, and there are rumbles of similar initiatives being discussed.
Another frontline is, of course, the economy. The Italian government plans to fire a bazooka of 350 billions Euro to keep it alive (with the so called "Heal Italy" decree). To put thing in context, this is 19,6% of Italy's GDP; My accountant, who works for me but also for a number of other restaurants, is trying to understand the nuances and see what the practical effects will be for us. He is, it turn, working 24/7 and co-ordinating with the accountants of the people from whom we buy our supplies - because, of course, no one is working. I wrote off all the perishables I had stored, the rest is for more hopeful times.
My accountant made an interesting comparison: "Italy is like a body infected by the Coronavirus. We must fight to keep the small, medium and big business alive, on support, while we expel the infection. If enough business die, then we can survive the virus but with our economy essentially dead."
I visit my daughter around 7PM, we dine together and then we walk in the inner park until around 10PM. Her boyfriend is now interested in my "sea stories" - and I'm now seeing how easy it is to "embellish things"... You may have seen "heartwarming" videos of Italians singing together from balconies. This is, sadly, true, and I firmly put it among the afflictions caused by this plague.
Me... I'm learning. I now bring a second pair of surgical gloves with me, because it is easy for the first one to break after handling a lot of pointy things (with "pointy" I mean even the corners of food boxes). I go to the 24h market early in the morning (around 6:30 am) because it is the only way to avoid the crowd. But the most important thing I have learned is how following strict measures keeps others save, not me (if someone sneezes right on my face while he is outside even if he is sick, there is little I can do). Everybody is responsible for those around him while, in turn, they are responsible for your well-being. An interesting thing to wonder about, but it is true.
As usual, stay safe; and hold your government accountable. I see that other countries' governments are finally waking up and starting to realise that there is a bug thingie or such going around. Big words like "We are at war!", "I'm a war President!" and the evergreen "United We Will Prevail!" are being freely distributed, as everyone is trying to convince the World how he/she was the very first to become aware of the virus. Well... What I can say...? Welcome!]
Truth is: don't be gaslighted; social awareness it is part of your effort in this "war". The delays and feet-dragging I saw (and I'm seeing right now) in some countries are stunning. You don't want to catch this thing, but you also don't want for your country to catch it, believe me.
"Yes darling, I served in the Navy for eight years. I was a cook..."
"Oh dad... so you were a God-damned cook?"
(My 10 years old daughter after watching "The Hunt for Red October")