What’s Going On In Italy (Again)?

I was kind of hoping not to have to write another installment of ‘What’s going in Italy’, but sadly, with most of the country now going back into lockdown, I guess that just isn’t meant to be. So, here goes…

Cases have been rising across Italy for the past three weeks, although the rate of that rise has been slowing for the past seven days, which suggests the peak is close. We are also at a far lower rate than in the second wave that hit in the autumn.

We have a new government, or a new leader of the government at least, with Giuseppe Conte having been ousted and replaced by Mario Draghi. In terms of virus management though, nothing much has changed. 

Italy has a colour-coded zonal system, whereby the government analyses 21 data points at the end of every week (using two-week old data for some reason… hence reacting only now, when the graph above clearly shows that cases were rising sharply two weeks ago) and on the basis of those data points determines whether each of the Regions should be Yellow, Orange or Red, with Red being the most severe lockdown and Yellow relatively mild. Recently, closures have started to be made on a more local basis too, so instead of shutting down a whole Region, individual provinces have been shut down where necessary.

Under the new government, this colour system remains in place, but they have added some more colours, or more precisely, new shades, to make the map look a little prettier… we now have Dark Orange, Dark Red and White. Oh, and as of this weekend, Yellow has become Orange, which means we don’t have Yellow anymore. So, if Orange has replaced Yellow, then Dark Orange must now be Orange. Red is still Red though. And Dark Red? I have no idea.

In summary, we are pretty much where we were exactly a year ago. Piemonte, like much of the country, is now Red, which means schools are closed, parks are shut, we can only leave home for essential reasons or for exercise (so long as it’s close to home) and we must always fill in a form stating why we are out. 

Rather frighteningly, there has been a lot of talk of wanting to follow ‘The Codogno Model’. Codogno, in case you don’t remember, is a small town outside of Milan and was the first place in Italy, and the first place outside of China, to suffer an outbreak. The whole town was shut down for weeks, with the military guarding all roads in and out. Obviously, it didn’t work as the virus wasn’t contained. Despite this, and with all the knowledge you would hope we might have accrued over the past year, the government is now suggesting we should follow the so-called ‘Codogno Model’ to get the latest outbreak under control. It’s not totally clear how they would do this, but even the fact that it is being suggested is terrifying. It didn’t work a year ago and we know a lot more now (or at least we should), so why on earth would anyone want to do that?

So, as the rest of the world looks to the future, and maybe a life after the virus, Italy is looking back to the heady days of failing to control it by shutting down towns and locking people in their homes. 

And then there’s the vaccine… The minister originally in charge of vaccines has, thankfully, been relieved of his duty, but not before he spent millions on advertising and tents with flowers on them (no, really) while completely neglecting to do any actual planning. The new guy has ditched all the marketing material (if you want a flowery tent, there are some cheap ones on ebay.it right now) and has also figured out that we might need people to administer the vaccines, which is progress. Originally, only doctors were allowed to do it, and there simply aren’t enough doctors to administer 500,000 vaccines a day, so they are now hoping to change the law so that nurses and members of the armed forces can administer them too. There is still a massive shortage of vaccines across the EU, but hopefully once they start to arrive in greater numbers there might actually be a plan in place to administer them. We’ll have to wait and see on that one though. Italy has a lot going for it, but organisation has never been one of the country’s strong points.

And that’s where we are… locked down again, waiting for things to improve and hoping the vaccination programme might actually get properly underway some time soon.

4 thoughts on “What’s Going On In Italy (Again)?

  1. I am usually a very upbeat person, but at the moment life in Italy is very hard. One of the biggest problems is we can’t see an end to this situation. Will we get our lives back at the end of this year? Doubtful! By the end of 2022? Boh!

    Finally, what will Italy post pandemic look like, so many companies are closing…

    1. It’s pretty hard to be upbeat right now, isn’t it… there is just no plan to get out of it. We’re a year in and the only idea remains lockdown. As for telling ski resorts they could open, then changing their minds the day before, and then telling cinemas and museums they could open in Yellow, then scrapping Yellow, I am genuinely speechless. Not only are businesses not able to earn, but the government is actively encouraging them to waste what money they have in the false hope of being able to open. I think only once businesses start to fail in huge numbers (which I guess will start to happen pretty soon, as not many people can survive beyond a year without any income) will the government finally realise that they can’t just continue like this. Of course, by then it will be too late. I was hoping Draghi might come at things differently, but he has carried on exactly where Conte left off, but made things a bit more complicated and the lockdown a bit more severe. It’s painful watching countries like the UK and US, who have a genuine plan for the future and are vaccinating in huge numbers, while we just continue in exactly the same way as 12 months ago.

  2. Every sympathy with you. Here in France it’s the same story, apart from the actual lockdown, though that may come and certainly should do around Paris. We still haven’t sacked the sleepy old professor who failed to implement any kind of plan. We watch endless tv programmes analysing why there are no vaccines, (hadn’t realised the French were so lousy at logistics) while my Zoom/Whatsapp conversations with people back home seem to focus on their vaccines, done and dusted! For us jabs will mean possibly returning to our Bristol flat, near the granddaughters whom we haven’t seen since September. Unfortunately we had to attend my father’s UK funeral via Whatsapp, as hubby is shielding. As an expat, you’ll be familiar with this kind of issue. …
    I am hoping against hope you had enough bookings to tide you over and that you are receiving some support from the government. Italy really has been through the mill, so we commiserate and have everything crossed for you and your family.

    1. Hi Ann, yes, France sounds extremely similar! I’m so sorry to hear about your father. As you say, as an expat, these things are always tricky, but when you move to France or Italy you kind of imagine you’ll always be able to get back to the UK pretty quickly if you really need to! Unfortunately the government here hasn’t provided any help… a few people have had a couple of payments of 600 euros, but we don’t qualify for anything, despite losing most of our income for a year… Good luck with getting your vaccinations, however you end up doing it, and stay safe!

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