From amber to red in forty-eight hours

My phone started to go crazy just before 10pm yesterday evening. It was my colleagues on our WhatsApp teachers’ group letting everyone know that Prime Minister Conte was about to speak to the nation. Even before we’d turned on the TV, though, we knew it was not going to be good news. And sure enough, dark-suited, grey-faced and drawn, the Prime Minister announced in sombre tones that with the continued, relentless rise in fatalities and new cases of the virus, there was only one option left: close everything that is not essential for daily existence. But in an effort to put a more positive spin on the new restrictions, he stressed that the country was not becoming a red zone, but a ‘zona prottetta’ – a protected zone. Cruel to be kind. Tough love. For our own good.  And I think he’s probably right.

So for the next fortnight, it’s no bars, cafes or restaurants; no shops or markets, no pools or gyms or spas. No schools or universities, no museums, galleries, theatres or cinemas; no weddings, no funerals, no baptisms. No public gatherings, no sport, no gigs, no parties, no passegiate. Only travel beyond your comune if absolutely necessary – which effectively means just for work or medical reasons – and carry documentary proof of that need. Then remain far apart, touch no one and nothing. But best of all, stay at home, stay at home, stay at home. Essential services are guaranteed, though, and shopping for food and other necessities is permitted – although only one person per household, and always as close to home as possible. Supermarkets, pharmacies, newsagents and tobacconists can remain open, as can banks, petrol stations and garages. Firms and factories can still function, but with strict measures to protect their workforce in place.

It all feels slightly surreal. It is difficult to imagine that, especially on a glorious day like today, with blossom filling the hedgerows, trees bursting into leaf and the sound of birdsong filling the warm spring air and all looks well with the world, I would risk a fine or even arrest if I went out without good reason, or if I failed to provide acceptable auto-certification should I be stopped by the police, or if I was travelling with more than one person, or failed to maintain a safe distance from other people while I was out.

It will sink in soon, though, and it won’t be much fun. But Conte is right, I believe. He had no other choice. And it is only for two weeks (well, let’s hope it is). And if it works, it will be worth it: no pain, no gain. Conte put it better, though “Rimaniamo distanti oggi per abbracciarci tutti poi.” – Let’s remain at a distance today so that we can all embrace again later.

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