Undeniably a good question, especially when you consider all the political manoeuvering that’s going on… but I want to focus on the dreaded Coronavirus for now. At the beginning of the pandemic, almost a year ago now, all the news was about Italy, but with other countries now surging ahead in the ‘who can infect the most people’ stakes, everything has gone a bit quieter. So, I just wanted to let you know what’s happening here right now.
Since the autumn, Italy’s regions have been divided into coloured zones – Red, Orange and Yellow – according to a set of 21 parameters, which includes things like infection rates availability of hospital beds etc. The zones have varying levels of restrictions, with Red being the most severe and Yellow being the lightest.
In the Red Zones, you can’t leave your house without first filling in a form stating where you are going and why. You’re allowed out for reasons of work, health or urgent need. Restaurants and bars are shut, as are most shops.
In Orange, you can move freely around your comune without filling in a form, and in a comune of less than 5,000 inhabitants you can travel up to 30km (though I’m yet to figure exactly what you’re allowed to travel for. It’s pretty vague…). You can also have two people over to your house for lunch. A few more shops are open, and restaurants and bars can offer takeaway.
In yellow, restaurants and bars are open at lunchtime and you can move freely around the region. There are still plenty of restrictions though, such as a nighttime curfew from 10pm and a ban on travel outside of your region. And, of course, you have to wear a mask all the time.
There is talk of a Zona Bianca for regions where the infection rate is really low, but right now nowhere is close.
How things are actually going here, depends on who you listen to. There is a select group of people (virologists mainly, but also a very outspoken vet!) working with the government who are forever pushing stricter lockdowns, China-style house arrest, third waves and bodies in the streets. Spreading fear appears to be their main objective. And I get it. People are more likely to follow the rules if they’re afraid. At the same time though, it’s hard to get away from the feeling that these people are loving the attention and are just trying to say ever more outlandish things so as to extend their time in the limelight.
But in reality, the third wave that would ‘definitely arrive before Christmas’, then ‘definitely in mid-January’, has now been postponed until ‘definitely in February’. Right now, the numbers are slowly falling, and have been for a couple of weeks. They are still too high and it won’t take much for them to start going up again, but as things stand, Italy is in a fairly good place compared to most of its neighbours.
I won’t talk about vaccines, mostly because there is not much to say… Italy vaccinated a few people, then ran out of vaccines.
Here in Piemonte, we are currently an Orange Zone, though it looks likely we will become Yellow from the coming weekend. In the Langhe, the virus itself hasn’t caused too many problems so far. I guess that’s the beauty of living in the countryside. A couple of people in Novello have had pretty mild cases, but that’s about it.
The restrictions, however, are really starting to get people down. Firstly, all the fun stuff has been taken away from life. You can go to work or to the supermarket, but you can’t go skiing, play football or meet your friends for a drink. And secondly, an awful lot of us work in tourism… hotels, guides, taxis, restaurants, bars, even winemakers, are suffering hugely. I imagine many won’t survive. Government help is more or less non-existent and most people’s savings can only keep them afloat for so long.
What happens next is anyone’s guess, but that is where we are right now. Healthy, a bit bored and longing for things to go back to any kind of normal.