LESLIE MCBRIDE WILE
The numbers still mount in Italy: more than 25,000 are dead. In the United States almost twice that number have died, but eight state governments have yet to issue a general stay-at-home order. Beaches are open in Florida and Georgia; it seems many Americans are bored after a few weeks of lockdown, ready to get back to a 24/7 lifestyle, virus be damned. Spain and Denmark and Germany are reopening certain businesses and schools; IKEA says its European stores will be open in May. Economies must be re-started, of course they must. Truck drivers, film directors, line cooks, librarians, and bricklayers all over the world need to get back to earning a living.
Liberation Day will be a subdued affair this year. La Festa della Liberazione on 25 April commemorates both the victory of Italian partisans over Nazi occupation and the liberation of Italy by Allied forces. It is always a solemn occasion, with wreaths laid on tombs and prominently displayed in town centers, little marching bands, speeches by local officials, ever-smaller groups of veteran fighters, some in uniform. This year there are no crowds waving the Italian Tricolore; public ceremonies are banned. The President lays a wreath at the tomb of the unknown in Rome, and that is that. But nothing will stop Italians from singing the partisan anthem Bella Ciao from their balconies.
Our neighbors gifted us once again a half-dozen eggs from their prolific hens; even having lost one to a fox it seems they have a surplus of small white eggs with saffron colored yolks. Yesterday I baked two cakes and this morning I took one up the road to their place.
Earlier a friend and I walked our usual circuit to Piazza Maggiore, where by chance we met a couple we know. Through our masks we all exchanged greetings and news—she volunteers at the Croce Rossa, he keeps busy with their enormous gardens, a former neighbor had a baby girl in January—and I am so pleased to see them I realize how long it’s been since I had casual conversation with anyone. In our small city we are accustomed to running into friends and acquaintances; it’s a part of most any trip into town, and one that always makes me feel that I am truly at home here, that I belong. It is a great pleasure to have that feeling again after seven weeks of enforced segregation.
Wet weather today; we made pizza for lunch to console ourselves.
Prime Minister Conte spoke to the nation on Sunday about “Fase 2,” detailing changes to current restrictions on movement and commerce and emphasizing the need for personal responsibility and cooperation. A new set of rules—and a new version of the autodichiarazione that we all carry when we leave home—will remain in effect from 4 – 18 May. All these are subject to modifications based on actual conditions within each Regione.
From next Monday, people may visit nearby relatives, including “relations, in-laws, spouses, cohabitants, long-term partners and loved ones” in small groups only. Gathering with friends is not yet allowed. And funerals may resume, limited to 15 persons, all of close family relation and maintaining social distance. Outdoor services are encouraged wherever possible. Holy Mass continues suspended; some bishops have protested but Papa Francesco has appealed for cooperation and support of government measures at this time.
Travel across regional borders is not yet allowed except for urgent work or in an emergency; this means we can’t leave Piemonte for Liguria and the Mediterranean Sea. But outdoor exercise is permitted and parks will re-open, so we may go walking in our nearby Alps. Team sports remain prohibited at least through 18 May.
Face masks must be worn on public transportation and in the street, and social distancing of at least one meter remains the norm. Passengers on buses, trams, and trains will be limited during rush hours and distancing will be enforced by designating seats that must remain empty.
The price of a face mask is fixed at 50 centesimi, sales-tax free.
Restaurants may sell take-away meals, admitting one person at a time, and food must be consumed at home. Gelato and pastries will also be available under the same rules.
In mid-May the government will assess results of these measures and effects on the rate of contagion, and will make adjustments if necessary. If Italy’s curve continues flat further easing will follow: more shops, museums and cultural heritage sites, and libraries may reopen from 18 May. By 1 June I may even be able to schedule a haircut—salons, barber shops, spas and gyms may re-open on that date. Schools remain suspended until September.
The Prime Minister’s tone was sober but congenial, cautiously encouraging. He said we will not be able to return to anything like pre-pandemic life until a reliable vaccine is widely available.
“We can get angry and look for a scapegoat – the government, the press – or we can try to resolve the situation together, working as a team.”
“If the curve rises during phase two, we need to respond rapidly.”
“If we don’t respect the rules the curve will rise again, deaths will increase and there will be irreversible damage to our economy.”
“If you love Italy, keep your distance from others.”