Exclusive: What It’s Like to Live Under Coronavirus Lockdown in Italy

Empty shelves in the dairy section are all that’s left of the milk display at Patiri’s local grocery store in Imola, Italy on Tuesday. Photo credit: Anna Patiri.

“We are totally in the black since yesterday evening, like we are under arrest.” So says Anna Ioanna Patiri, a Greek woman living in the town of Imola, just outside the northern Italian city of Bologna. She, along with everyone else in the country, has been under strict quarantine since late Monday.

Greek Reporter spoke with Patiri on Tuesday, just one day after the blanket quarantine order was imposed on the entire nation of Italy by its leader, Guiseppe Conte. Patiri has lived in Italy ever since emigrating there at the age of nineteen in order to pursue her studies.

Now 45, the Athens native now works for an international chemical manufacturing firm employing approximately 100 people, 40 of whom work in the office and the rest in the manufacturing process. As of now, she relates, there are only ten people working in her office, with the rest of the employees working from home if they are able to do so.

Adding to the draconian aspect of these measures is the fact that in order to move around now in Italy, one must carry papers indicating where one works, or that one has another explicit reason to travel — to go to a doctor’s office for example.

Trains there are still operational, but there are authorities at all stations who will stop you to check your papers to make sure you are indeed going to work or another authorized activity.

Otherwise, travel in Italy is now completely banned.

An empty street is seen in the northern Italian city of Imola after the national coronavirus lockdown. Photo credit: Anna Patiri

Patiri says that all the nation’s grocery stores only allow four people to shop at a time, in order to avoid possible contagion by other shoppers. And even then, food stores are only open on weekdays until 6 PM, and she gets off work at 5:30 PM — so working people such as herself are finding it extremely difficult to purchase food at all right now.

All stores are now completely closed on weekends, which was when Patiri used to purchase her groceries.

Disregarding her own needs at this point despite already experiencing shortages of certain products at home, Patiri tells Greek Reporter that “food for my cat is now my priority.”

In addition to all these major difficulties, she explains that she is now not even allowed to bring her car in for service despite the fact that it needs repair.

Adding to this, she says, on the weekends now, “There is no church, no temple, no theaters – nothing.”

Athens native and longtime resident of Imola, Italy Anna Ioanna Patiri. Photo courtesy Anna Patiri

She describes the current situation as “devastating” although she technically does not live in a danger zone, or “Red Zone,” as designated by the Italian authorities. There are only 25 cases of suspected coronavirus in her town, and those people are waiting to see if they truly have the disease. Those individuals, of course, are now in strict isolation, completely prohibited from leaving their homes for any reason whatsoever.

Making the situation even more tense, Patiri relates to Greek Reporter, is what happened immediately after the earlier official lockdown of the northern Italian counties, including the cities of Milan and Venice, on Sunday night. Suddenly, she says, “tens of thousands” of people who had been on holiday at ski resorts and along the seashore returned to the midlands and the south of Italy — with some of them undoubtedly bringing the contagion with them.

Unsurprisingly, Patiri states, the very next day there were  another 1,700 cases of the coronavirus declared in the country. It may have been this event more than any other which caused the Italian government to finally put a complete lockdown on movement nationwide.

Patiri says that along with encouraging frequent handwashing and the use of gel-based disinfectants, the Italian health authorities have stipulated that all people should stay at least one meter (three feet) away from other individuals.

Additionally, people are told to stay in self-imposed quarantine if they have left a “red zone” or virus hotspot, for a total of fifteen days.

Basically, she related to Greek Reporter, the entire nation is now an “Orange Zone,” interspersed with isolated areas of Red Zones.

However, the Greek native shows a great deal of resilience — and even optimism — as she describes the reality of her world now. On the bright side of things, she says, Italy is manufacturing its own test kits, distributing them as quickly as they can be assembled to hospitals and all other facilities as needed.

Although there currently are not enough ICU beds or respirators in the country for all the potential need, companies such as the fashion house of Armani have pledged vast sums to aid in the effort to fight the Coronavirus, with the iconic Italian firm donating $1,250,000 to Italian hospitals.

A number of banks have also donated billions toward the purchase of needed medical supplies in the country.

Although Patiri admits that her current reality is a “very difficult situation,” she is very pleased with the level of healthcare in the nation of Italy overall. While expressing concern about people in other countries who do not enjoy reliable access to healthcare, she says she feels very fortunate to live in a country with such a high level of access to healthcare system.

Meanwhile, time alone will tell if these draconian measures, which so severely restrict the freedom to go about everyday life in Italy, will have the desired effect, and people such as Patiri can soon return to their normal lives.