A Chinese person in Italy: 'Finally, my Italian friend asked if I have any extra masks'

By Wang Yiming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, March 18, 2020
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The COVID-19 outbreak in Italy started on Feb. 20 when a 38-year-old man tested positive for the virus in the town of Codogno in Lombardy. In less than a month, Italy has become the center of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, reporting the highest number of cases of any country outside of China. As of March 13, a total of 15,113 cases of COVID-19 and 1,016 deaths have been confirmed in Italy. As such, the country's government announced a nationwide lockdown on March 10.

Sources: Until Feb. 22: Various news sources; From Feb. 23: Protezione Civile bulletins at 18:00 CET; From March3: Protezione Civile bulletins at 17:00 CET. [Chart produced by Wang Yiming/China.org.cn]

"I think that the official advice and the mentality of my Italian friends began to change drastically on March 8, the first day of the lockdown for the Lombardy region. Finally, an Italian friend called me to ask if I had any extra masks I could give him. Over the following days, the regulations became even stricter. Before, restaurants and bars were allowed to open until 6 pm, but now they've all been closed. People are being told to stay at home and avoid all non-essential travel."

Zhu Zhu mentioned that there have been some voices criticizing Italy's epidemic prevention measures, saying that they haven't learned from China's experience. However, she believes that the Italian government's response was relatively fast, and there were complicated reasons behind the spread and outbreak of the pandemic in Italy.

"The government has to shoulder some responsibility for today's situation, for example, the advice on 'not having to wear a mask.' But being the first country in Europe to suspend all flights between Italy and China, announcing a state of emergency, and locking down the country showed it wasn't a slow response. "

"However, during the implementation, I think there have been huge differences between Chinese and Italians in terms of lifestyle and mindset. Italians like going out for coffee in bars, they think wearing masks is strange, and they tend to be stuck in their ways. I convinced the older people in my family back in China to stay home and wear masks, but I failed to reason with my Italian friends," Zhu Zhu said. 

"Chinese supermarkets here are closed. People can only go to big supermarkets to buy things, while supermarkets like Carrefour and Auchan can deliver goods if you order online. However, several days ago, it took just two or three days to get your items. But, the food I ordered on March 11 won't be delivered until March 24. So, it's much slower since the lockdown."

As for the availability of disinfectant and protective items, Zhu Zhu explained, "Alcohol and disinfectants are in stock at the supermarket. However, face masks are still in short supply. We can go to the drugstore to register and they'll contact us when the masks arrive, but there aren't many available. My friend in Ukraine sent me a batch of masks, but it's been stuck in customs for two weeks."

The pandemic is now putting unprecedented strain on Italian hospitals and some of Zhu Zhu's friends and families have tried convincing her to return to China. In the end, however, she decided to stay. 

"Chinese expert teams and medical supplies will arrive here and I hope that'll help keep the pandemic under control. I can't return to China now. I think that the best way to control the global pandemic at the moment is for everyone to stay where they are whilst reducing movement and contact."

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