A dispatch from Ariane about the current situation in Italy:
What a difference a week makes. In the past week, the Italian government has put the entire country under strict rules in order to “flatten the curve” of Covid-19. The rest of Europe and North America seem to have woken up to the fact that this is something to be taken seriously.
In response to the government’s measures, Italians are… staying at home. Working from home. Only leaving home to go to work (if they can’t work from home) or to the supermarket/pharmacy. In short, Italians — who are known for many great things, but not necessarily for being strict rule-followers — are following the rules.
The Covid-19 crisis is uniting a population that is often described as “provincial” and that has struggled to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. There is really a sense that if we are going to beat this virus, that every single person has a responsibility to do what they can to minimize social contact, not clog up the healthcare system, and support each other through a very difficult time.
Staying at home, in social isolation, is very difficult, especially for a culture that is super social. Efforts to stay in non-physical contact abound: musicians play for their neighbors from balconies, celebrities and TV/radio hosts organize day-long fundraising marathons for first-responders, and WhatsApp groups keep people connected and in touch.
The most heartening story of the week, in my mind, was the arrival of nine Chinese medical experts with a plane full of medical supplies. In a week where certain politicians failed to see the severity of the crisis (including the head of the European Central Bank, at first!) and some resorted to spewing misinformation, the emblem of international cooperation became the group of Chinese doctors (organized by the Red Cross) who arrived here to help, with experience and supplies. This is an international health crisis and requires international cooperation.
Being in the primary production sector, we continue to farm. I put in place safety and health protocols for the people who live and work on the farm. We have suspended all preparations for the agritourism season until there is greater certainty. We are receiving and fulfilling more orders for rice products. We are taking this one day at a time, as the situation keeps on evolving.
Our health authorities do not think that we have hit the “peak” yet. While there are glimmers of hope — the two towns that were originally infected have no new cases — the daily number of cases is still going up (although the rate may be slowing). We hope to hit the peak soon, hopefully this week.
Italians carry in their genes a cultural resilience that is coming out in spades. We still have a few weeks of the mandatory lockdown, and I have full faith in the ability of our country to make it through, stronger and more united.