A dispatch from Ariane about the current situation in Italy:

Thank you to everyone who has been checking in and asking about how things are going here as the Italian government takes decisive measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.

I think it’s helpful to set some context. We live in a globalized world, and in a globalized economy where people move regularly (mostly) across boarders. That the virus was going to spread out of Asia was only a matter of when and not if.

Italians take their health very seriously. If someone is sick, they don’t go to work. If a child is sick, they don’t go to school. Italians are regularly made fun of for their extreme sensitivity to conditions that might cause a cold (the classic “colpo di freddo” that exists only in Italy). The flip side of this is that they take health risks seriously. Italy also has a nationalized healthcare system, which provides top-quality care to its citizens and visitors.

In late January, when it became obvious that the virus was spreading outside of Asia, Italy started actively controlling and testing not only its citizens, but everyone who came into the country. In February, before the explosion of the virus in Italy, I traveled to Germany, the US, and Mexico, and ONLY upon my return to Italy was my temperature checked (along with every other person entering) before being released from the airport and allowed to enter the country. The amount of checks and controls Italy has done far outweigh the per-capita controls in other countries. The more you test, the more you find, in this case.

Italy has also operated on a principle of transparency. There is a moral responsibility for transparency in an emergency like this. This approach is turning out not to be the case from other countries, which makes the situation even worse. It seems like (still being verified) that the virus entered Italy from Germany, where a man was sick, went to the hospital, and then returned to work. Where he worked had regular contact with many countries, including Italy and one of the two first outbreak towns in Northern Italy. That Germany did not report this and that this is only coming out now seems like an extraordinary failure on the part of its system.

There is finally the point to be reiterated over and over again: the victims are overwhelming the elderly who already have other illnesses. The role of the rest of the population becomes to stop the spread.

The Italian government has now taken even more restrictive measures to contain the spread. It is prioritizing the health of its population (and the world’s) and sacrificing in the short-term its economy. It is being transparent, coordinating with the WHO, and not scared to do what needs to be done to control the spread of the virus.

I am not quarantined but I limit my movement to the farm, home, and the supermarket. The virus has drastically impacted the Italian economy and severely disrupted our daily lives. My business has suffered, but not as much as others’. It remains to be seen how long this situation will go on.

It is unclear how events will evolve, and it will take a long time for Italy and the rest of the world to recover from this. I won’t make a plea to “buy Italian” because I don’t think that consumerism is the response to anything. But I do encourage everyone to act not out of fear but with precaution, and have the patience to see this through. I also encourage people not to resort to discrimination. The last thing the world needs is for this to justify nationalist agendas hell-bent on dividing people instead of uniting them.

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