Italy is currently under a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus. Restaurants, shops, gymnasiums, cinemas — even churches — are closed. Draconian travel restrictions have been put into place in response to the high number of Covid-19 cases as Italy’s death toll has risen to over a 1,000 persons.
Italians in the UK React: ‘The Situation is Very Grave’
What do Italians in London think of the situation at home, where nearly 16 million fellow citizens are in quarantine? What are their particular fears? I wanted to find out, feeling compassion for what Italy — a country that I love and that like so many, have been culturally educated by — is experiencing.
Emanuela, who works in estate lettings in the British capital, said the crisis has affected her significantly. “I was upset on Friday, after Boris Johnson’s speech, as my family was shocked that the UK government was not doing anything to contain the virus. I myself am very saddened by the whole thing. Many people have not been able to work. Our economy will be very deeply affected at the end of this,” she said.
Emanuela, who has lived in London for seven years, considers it her home. But her family is trying to convince her to go back to Italy.
“They think the British government is going to just leave us to die,” she said, adding that “In Italy, the situation is very grave. All the streets are empty, as no one is allowed to leave home without a permit. The sensationalistic media there is not helping. People have stay to at home all day, listening to the latest news of the virus. It has become a sort of alarmist brainwashing.”
Distrust of the UK Government as Anti-Italian Racism on the Rise in England
Emanuela said the situation in the UK also has her very worried.
“I am concerned about the situation in the UK too. A lot of my foreign friends have been kicked out of their apartments, because of the acute racism generated by the virus,” she said. “Also, I don’t feel particularly safe in the knowledge that the UK’s only plan to fight the virus seems to be to have it infect us all!”
Emanuela certainly isn’t the only expatriate Italian who is worried about the situation in UK.
Maria Chiara, an account manager at a tech company in London, says her family lives on the outskirts of Milan — in its so-called hinterland.
“My sister and her family live right next to the town where it all began. They are not worried right now, as they are doing exactly what they are told to do, which is to stay at home. We all know that Italy’s health system is strong and reliable, so we’re doing our best to support it. We have three doctors in our extended family, so we know very well how hard they are working, and how dangerous it is for them.”
‘Boris Johnson’s Policy is Honestly Frightening’
Chiara is worried about the lack of lockdown in Britain. “Boris Johnson’s policy is honestly frightening,” she said. “I feel as though I am watching a horror movie for the second time, Nobody here is reacting in a timely manner.”
Furthermore, Chiara believes the lockdown in Italy was necessary. “I am absolutely in favour of it. I call my family and my boyfriend everyday, to make sure they are in a good spirits. I don’t want them to feel too isolated.”
Chiara says she herself is beginning to take strong steps to prevent coronavirus.
“Even in London, I am personally starting to self-isolate. I avoid the tube if I can, as well as all places of big gatherings, including restaurants, pubs and gigs. As an Italian in London, I guess the situation is psychologically harder, as I am feeling more alienated now, and with no reassurance whatsoever as to when I will be able to go back home,” she said.
‘I Am Happy There is a Quarantine in Place’
Iman, who is half Italian and half Egyptian, works in tourism in the British capital. From her line of work, she sees exactly how catastrophically Italy is suffering and will continue to suffer for the foreseeable future.
“The perception of our country abroad, from an economic point of view certainly, is a huge problem. Tourism, after all, is one of Italy’s important sources of income.”
Nonetheless, Iman hopes that with the lockdown, the disease can be contained.
“My father is quite old, and lives in the north eastern part of Italy. We didn’t have a lot of cases in our region. I am happy there is a quarantine in place, because that way, I know he is going to be safe.”
Like Emanuela and Chiara, Iman is worried about the lax situation in London.
‘My Heart is Broken in Hundreds of Pieces’
Sara is a makeup artist working in London, whose original training was in nursing.
“When I lived in Italy, I worked as a nurse and most of my friends there are nurses,” Sara explained. “I keep talking to them, and am told that the situation in hospitals has become really bad. There are not enough beds in intensive-care departments, so doctors are having to decide who they can help and who must die.”
Sara also said that elderly people in hospitals are having to face dying alone, as visitors are not allowed.
“They are begging my friends who are nurses to save them from death, but they are helpless, as there simply is not enough equipment,” Sara said. “As a former nurse, I know very well how my friends are feeling. My heart is broken in hundreds of pieces.”