The time of quarantined Italians singing old patriotic songs on their balconies next to their flag is coming to an end. This two-month lockdown has made me discover the pleasure of the simple things like enjoying the sun on our patio while reading a book, striking up a conversation with the odd man who used to silently stare at us from his balcony, walking in circles around our house while looking at the trees in full blossom. Even cooking every single meal has not been so bad. The happiness in these restrictions and the appreciation of the small things in life is certainly something we will all remember from this historical time. But it has not been all roses and flowers.
We are all feeling frustrated and my patience is running out. I am tired of seeing William in front of the computer instead of playing soccer, or the daily hassle of having to explain the purpose of a walk from the house to a store on the latest version of this auto-certification form, a very detailed document I had to fill in and sign every day before leaving the house. Enough. I want to leave the house without the damned form, go meet a friend for coffee and I am tired of drinking wine in front of Zoom. We all need to get out over here. It is time.
Personally, on May 4 I hope to hear a loud “Liberi tutti” (Italian phrase to let the children go out and play). John wants to go for a long bike ride. William wants to have a big party in the courtyard, with food, mercatino (yard sale) and movie night, followed by disco. But I am afraid he will have to wait for much longer for his dream to come true.
First, the condo association of our building only allows us to go to the courtyard to throw rubbish or water the roses. So instead of hearing the children play we only used to hear the sound of the glass bottles tumbling down into the large dumpster. We still do, but thanks to the Covid-19 emergency, we also hear the occasional laugh of a small child running in circles in front of a bored parent. Second, here in Piemonte, although the number of people on ICU beds has had a steady decline, there has not been a single day with less than 50 deaths and the number of Covid-19 infections continue to go up, probably due to the large number of people in close contact during lockdown, which is a paradox but there you go. So, contrary to what we all need and were hoping, here in Piemonte, and in Turin in particular, there will be very few changes to the lockdown restrictions; no parties allowed I am afraid. So what are the new rules?
Starting from tomorrow, we will no longer be under house arrest. Many of us will be able to go back to work, and the unbearable rule of the 200-metre radius walks near the house no longer applies. From tomorrow we can go anywhere in Piemonte. Parks will be open, we will be allowed to exercise, but not in groups. Limited numbers of people will be able to travel by public transportation, go to public and private offices to receive services but, and here it gets tough, on the condition that we all respect the 2-metre social distancing rule and that we all wear facial masks. Unfortunately, nor in the decreto the Piemonte Governor just sent out, nor in the previous one, nor in the news this simple but essential social distancing rule has been made clear. On the contrary, in the laboriously written Government documents there is a large list of rules instead, in all possible scenarios, such as taking the dog for grooming, going to second houses, visiting people with intimate relations (yet to be clarified what they mean by “intimate”), what to use the bicycle for even going horseback riding! How social distancing will be enforced in all these situations has not been mentioned and it is not on anyone’s concern.
So What has changed? Questions: (1) who will maintain the 2 metre social distance rule? (2) what will the Italian police do to enforce it?
Many people think that life will not change much from tomorrow, except for the sound of more cars on the road (better to hear traffic than the sound of the ambulances, for sure). However, unfortunately, there are many people who would answer my question with a laugh and go partying afterwards. “Domani andiamo in discoteca!” (Tomorrow we’ll go to disco!), William overheard a teenager say to a friend yesterday.
During lockdown I saw crowds of people in side streets, who not only were not following social distancing but who were also chatting with each other, without wearing a facial mask. In more than one occasion the Italian police was standing next to their car, while looking at them. Last week two ladies got really offended when I asked them to move so that I could walk by without coming too close. Before that, on two occasions, I had to walk two streets out of my way with heavy bags of groceries, in order to avoid having to walk through a crowd of people cheering in front of a concert on top of a balcony. Many people there were smoking, others dancing, with their masks flopping loosely below their chins. Yesterday the baker was insulted and laughed at by a man who had not been allowed to enter the store to buy bread because he wasn’t wearing a facial mask. I later saw the same man buying bread at a different store. He was even coughing. I saw groups of children playing soccer where the police cars were less likely to stop and do checks on people. And I found that whenever I went outside, I always had to play the role of the one who constantly has to run away from people veering too closely. The others? In two months, I only had one person crossing the street to give me space, so I didn’t have to leave the sidewalk.
What will happen tomorrow with more of these people outside and a confusing set of rules? Will the Italians obey? Maybe it will not matter anyway as it is confusing and everyone does what they want here anyway.