Martin Daykin By: Martin Daykin
Holiday Rental Operator
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28 Apr 2020 : A View From Italy

I live in the central Italian region of Umbria and, for nearly the last two months, have been unable to leave the house without filling in a form stating that the purpose of my trip is to go food shopping, visit a pharmacy or medical services. In truth I've been to the supermarket three times in eight weeks and am about to venture into town for the fourth time either tomorrow or the day after. Unlike many people in Italy who live in apartments, often with extended family nearby, I live in the countryside with no immediate neighbours or relatives, I can count myself lucky that I have a garden to work and relax in. Our daughters are young adults and live in the UK, my wife decided to stick to her plans to go to the Greek island of Lesbos just before lockdown to help a refugee charity, and, as a result, I have found myself on my own, spending a lot of time in my own head and have, for the most part, realised that I'm quite good company... maybe I'm just good at fooling myself.

My exercise routine of a morning run with the dog along deserted tracks soon came to end when going more than 50 m from your property was banned with the sanction of a large fine for rule breakers. Although I hardly see anyone on the tracks near my house there was an air of paranoia and I couldn't take the risk. I have entertained myself with Zoom yoga lessons, learning the Python programming language plus improving my real language skills. Several friends of friends in the UK have had the virus but no one I know of here. I think Umbria has the lowest number of cases (around 400 last time I looked). No one I know has died yet but I'm sure that if this happens, things will suddenly seem even more serious.

I looked on in horror at the opportunities squandered by the UK and US governments to prepare for the virus. Here, we seemed to be about 3 weeks ahead and the high death rate in the north of Italy showed what would happen if the virus was left unchecked. Unlike many of the contributors here, I'm not an expert in public health, but I am aware that political considerations can lead to the most favourable of a range of possible outcomes presented to decision makers being chosen. From what I understand, in the case of the original model used by the UK to forecast the virus' behaviour in the UK population, the critical input was the infection rate, the model used a far lower rate than that which was actually occurring. My pet theory is that, until the middle of March, the UK government were so focussed on leaving the current UK-EU arrangements that they failed to realise the gravity of the situation. They also knew that a lockdown would trigger a massive recession which would make a "clean" (I prefer calamitous) break with the EU much harder at the end of 2020. If I'm correct, the lives of thousands of people have been sacrificed for an ideological aim, not the first time in history that this has happened.

Italy's lockdown will be eased starting on May 4th, I'm not feeling complacent though, life won't return to normal, it's going to take a vaccine to do that, and even then, reality may just have shifted slightly for us all.

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