On Tuesday, 10th March 2020, Italy was locked down in a bid to control the largest Coronavirus outbreak outside China.
According to Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, ‘locked down’ means, “I stay home.”
The borders are closed and there are restrictions on all but essential travel. Pretty much everything is closed, other than food shops and pharmacies. Although tourists will apparently be allowed home, they have to justify their movements.
But just because we could move, does that mean that we should?
Should We Carry On With Our Travel Plans?
We had planned to leave our winter retreat in Monte Rosa and start a tour through Poland and The Baltics, but have decided to stay where we are for a number of reasons.
We are safe and comfortable in our apartment. The village is deserted, so although we are in the midst of the outbreak, it is like being in the eye of the storm. With no-one here, we are not only unlikely to become infected, but also unlikely to pass on any infection to others. In these extraordinary times, personal responsibility is paramount. The lock down is completely devastating for local businesses and I would hate for anyone else to be put through that, particularly if it were through my own irresponsible behaviour in carrying on as normal when the situation is really anything but normal.
There is also no way of knowing whether moving would avoid the possibility of becoming infected or locked down. If anything, I think it would increase our risk. The World Health Organisation advice remains that “Most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others.” So I maintain that if you are in good health, becoming infected is not the issue; the issue is infecting others who might not be so fortunate.
Coronavirus is spreading rapidly. A few short weeks ago in Italy, it was business as usual and no-one was talking about Covid-19. How quickly that changed – and how quickly it is likely to change elsewhere.
On Wednesday 11th March, Denmark became the second European country to go into lockdown. On Thursday 12th March 2020, Morocco closed its borders with Spain, which has already locked down four towns to contain the spread of the virus.
I am all for a sensible and level approach. Should anyone carry on and travel? It is a tough decision because insurers are reluctant to pay out unless there is a travel ban in place. At the moment, other countries are dragging their heels – as Italy did initially – because they know that a shut down will be devastating to their economies. In the meantime, as people carry on with their lives, the virus continues to spread. The decision on whether to travel should not really be down to the conscience of an individual.
Britain’s policy on Coronavirus has been criticised and a scene from the excellent 1980’s satirical comedy Yes, Minister has gone viral as the perfect parody of Boris Johnson’s response to the outbreak.
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What Does Lockdown Mean to Us?
Everything in our small village is closed. There are police checkpoints on the road to limit movement for all but essential travel. In order to go to the minimarket in the next-but-one village of Gressoney St Jean to buy food, I have to fill in a form and hand it in to a police checkpoint, stating my reasons for travel. Only one person is allowed in the car. I have broken a tooth and am currently working out if and how to go to the nearest dentist, which is in Pont St Martin, one hour down the mountain. The tooth is not painful, so I might just try and live with it until things calm down!
Since the main supermarket is also in Pont, our routine all winter has been to drive down every couple of weeks to stock up. Once we made the decision to stay in Monte Rosa, we did a supermarket run before we were locked down, so we have enough food and supplies to keep us going for at least two weeks.
The ski lifts are closed. We had considered using our skins to get into the mountains to ski, since we have the entire resort to ourselves. However, the hospitals are all full and the last thing the over-stretched emergency services need is some numpty injuring themselves skiing – and they might decide not to come and get us if we did. They have enough on their plate. So we are just enjoying the scenery and walking the dogs locally. Since there is no-one here, we have more freedom than most Italians to walk, since limiting social contact is the primary objective of the lockdown.
What Can We Do As Individuals About Coronavirus?
I am sure that I don’t need to repeat the obvious advice about hand hygiene, not touching your face, avoiding close contact, covering coughs and sneezes and self-isolating if you have symptoms, but there, I have any way. Please don’t treat it like an airline safety briefing. You need to take note.
However, I mentioned above about individual responsibility and we all need to do that in this crisis. A couple of extra things that I want to put out there are;
1. Do Not Share False Information on Social Media
Spread FACT not FEAR.
Sharing misinformation ‘just in case it might be true’ is not helpful and could be downright dangerous. At the very least, it causes anxiety and panic.
The BBC has reported on fake news spreading in Italy while Russia denies spreading Coronavirus misinformation. I have seen a few Facebook posts about holding your breath to self-diagnose, allegedly ‘posted on my friend’s timeline by such and such, who is a consultant and really knows what they are talking about…’
To halt the irresponsible spread of misinformation, before you click <share>, please either;
- Fact check – the easiest way is to use a reliable fact-checking website like Snopes or click here for a list of Fact Checking Websites around the world.
- Share only from reliable, primary sources – such as the World Health Organisation, The Centre for Disease Control & Prevention or the National Health Service to name a few. All of these supply information based on scientific fact and are updated regularly. Remember that the primary objective of newspapers is to create sensation and sell more copies (or advertising).
- If in doubt – don’t share – if it is too much trouble to ensure that what you are sharing is true, just don’t press <share>. And there, you have taken responsibility by abdicating responsibility!
Not sharing false information is a lesson from Coronavirus that we can each carry forward.
2. Don’t Panic Buy
The elderly, sick and vulnerable are most at risk of both Coronavirus and shortages of essential items – yet they are the least able to get out to buy what they need or go beyond their limited weekly budget to stockpile vital supplies.
Panic buying denies essential goods to those who really need them. There are reports from around the world of healthcare workers being unable to get face masks or cancer patients being deprived of alcohol hand gel. I even saw one disgraceful image of a hand gel dispenser ripped off the wall in a UK hospital, putting staff and vulnerable patients at risk.
Panic buying and stockpiling is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As soon as people panic and start to stockpile, it results in shortages. This causes more people to panic buy and stockpile – then supplies run out for everybody.
Misinformation on social media also plays its part in panic buying. For example, the erroneous claim that toilet paper was going to run out because it was made in China.
Please, be sensible and responsible. Soap and water is your best defence for hand hygiene and how much toilet roll do you really need to see you through a 2-week isolation?
Don’t deny essential supplies to those who need them.
3. If You Do Panic Buy And Then Sell On Essentials At An Inflated Price
Shame on you.
And What To Do If You Run Out of Toilet Roll?
We have heard reports of toilet roll shortages all over the UK as a result of panic buying, yet here in Italy, I can get toilet roll whenever I am allowed out of the house. It just shows what is possible when you avoid hysteria, so please. Get a grip! And read this if you want some sustainable toilet paper alternatives.
Otherwise, take a leaf out of medieval monk François Rabelais‘ book and wipe your bum on the neck of a goose.
To quote the passage from Mr R’s Gargantua and Pantagruel, “…I say and maintain, that of all torcheculs, arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches, there is none in the woerld comparable to the neck of a goose, that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs. And believe me therein upon mine honour, for you will thereby feel in your nockhole a most wonderful pleasure, both in regard of the softness of the said down and of the temporate heat of the goose, which is easily communicated to the bum-gut and the rest the inwards, in so far as to come even to the regions of the heart and brains.”
Be wary of recipes for home-made hand sanitisers, since these may be less effective than the commercial product, which is still less effective than soap and water.
So, that is our Life in Lockdown. Unfortunately, as governments drag their heels, I strongly suspect that it may be coming soon to a country near you.
By all means prepare, but please, don’t panic.
Please note that, while this information has been researched carefully and is given in good faith, it is very much subject to my disclaimer. The Covid-19 situation is changing rapidly, so do sign up for alerts and check reliable sources regularly for the most up to date information.
Photos from Pixabay, other than the snowy scenes and Bisto, which are mine and the empty shelves in Waitrose Ruislip courtesy of my dear friend David Selwood.