“It Looks Like a Science Fiction Movie”

This February 24, Sommacampagna dawned like any other Monday. In this municipality in the province of Verona, its almost 15,000 inhabitants woke up to face the day normally. At least apparently. Actually, there were some differences with the previous week. In the pharmacies hung the sign ‘Mascherine mancanti’; There are no masks. In the park, school-age children played carefree. In the bakery, the saleswoman attended to the clientele serving coffee with her son hanging by the arm. But there was no talk of anything else: the word coronavirus floats since Friday in northern Italy as an undeniable presence.Up to localities in the Veneto region such as Sommacampagna have only arrived, so far, preventive restrictions. “Schools and gyms have closed. In my work there are changes because they are also vetoing the offices open to the public. The measures are becoming more stringent and I think the situation will get worse,” says Alessandro. This young resident in the municipality canceled his trip to Venice on Sunday after the local authority closed the carnival early. “My mother works in a hospital and, rationally, she knows she doesn’t have to worry so much, but with this news she is very nervous,” he adds.
  
      

    
    
Masks and disinfectant gels are depleted in most of northern Italy.

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There they feel only the first effects of a wave of concern that begins to spread, as does the number of people infected by the virus. Other towns have not been so lucky, such as Codogno – a size similar to Sommacampagna – and the other ten municipalities that are in quarantine with much more restrictive measures. Nor do other areas in the north of the country, where the situation changes every hour that passes. Red areas where the tension is palpated The maelstrom of the coronavirus in Italy began to take shape on Friday 21, the day when the first cases occurred and in which Maria Miret, from Madrid, traveled to Milan. “When we got off the plane when they arrived they measured us all body temperature,” he says. On the other hand, he contrasts surprised, when he returned to Barajas on Monday, no additional security measures were found. Miret recounts how the situation changed during the weekend in the fashion capital of the world, which already has numerous cases of contagion. “In the residence where I stayed on Sunday they received the order to separate people who shared a room in individual rooms. Now in Milan there are police and army everywhere; the Duomo and museums are closed; the center, half-deserted; and the most people wear masks, “he says. However, it also expresses concern that “the subway, tram and buses are operating normally.”
  
      

    
    
A man with a mask walks before the covers on the coronavirus in Italy, which star national and international press.

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In Bergamo, where one of those affected by the coronavirus has died, Fabio (fictitious name) claims to feel “a different climate: stress and anxiety are noticeable.” Details such as a more fluid state of roads and scenes in supermarkets corroborate it. “There are those who laugh and joke about the matter, but it is true that part of the shelves are empty, especially those related to cleaning and disinfectants,” he says. “People are starting to buy to anticipate if stocks are missing, but there are no episodes of hysteria.” The university stops in Italy, but it was not for Paola, a PhD student who lives in Trieste, in northeastern Italy, the suspension University classes in the northern regions involve much more than a week off. “All university activities are blocked, for the moment until March 1. In my case, they have canceled health-related practices in case some students came from areas where infections have occurred,” he explains. The situation for her would not be so Dramatic if it were not because not finishing your practices on time compromises your future. “This means not reaching the date I was going to move to write the thesis at a university in France. I also don’t know if they will accept students from areas at risk,” says Paola. The young Italian tells that something similar has happened to a friend: “A university in Slovenia has postponed its stay, scheduled to start this week, and will reassess the situation later if it proves it is healthy.” Airports: traps or escape windows Milan-Malpensa is the second busiest in the country, but this Monday its hallways gave a more discreet impression. In the retinas of the passengers images that inspired both fear and tenderness, like a hugged couple who brushed their masks or a young Spanish woman who had improvised protection with a piece of towel and elastic around her face. “I was worried about coming to the airport, people are panicking,” says Anna from the city of Pavia, another of the red zones. The young woman is one of the few people who agrees to talk and says that there, “with colleges and universities closed, people are increasingly aware of the danger and wear masks on the street.” The same disturbing feeling about going to Alessandra P. has had a place as busy as an airport in the Lake Garda area: “From Milan I go to Seville and then to Tangier, and I have thought twice before coming. The situation is objectively worrying, it shows that people are restless and also surprised. That in a weekend all this has happened it seems like a science fiction movie. ”
  
      

    
    
Travelers and airport staff exercise extreme caution with hygiene measures and masks.

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Caterina S. has gone alone to accompany her son from Switzerland and confesses that, “although I had planned a vacation in Naples or Rome, I will not book anything until all this happens.” The woman says that at the moment the Swiss only look at the situation with suspicion, “in the distance.” In another bordering country, Austria, on Sunday they suspended all rail traffic with Italy.The question about what to do with borders proliferates in social networks, where disinformation begins to abound, which triggers panic. And vice versa. “Faced with fear, people are beginning to invent stories. My friends have been sharing fake news that talked about cases of infection in places where nothing had happened yet. There was even a link to a fake news that has then disappeared,” he says. Alessandro de Sommacampagna. The feeling of having to leave At the airport you feel a restless calm, the hours weigh. Among the travelers of that abnormal Monday there were also people from Japan, Korea and China. This is the case of a Chinese student who does not want to give his name and says he returns home “because they cannot control the virus here.” To prove it, he takes out his cell phone and shows the figures; also photos of empty supermarkets. It has been in Turin since September, and now the capital of the Piedmont region is another major affected by the coronavirus. But the student says that in his hometown “everyone has recovered” and that his family believes that it is the most “safe and sensible.” Spend Monday night at the airport, for fear of being closed off. Meanwhile, northern Italy breathes a contradictory atmosphere, whose direction changes rapidly. Alessandro sums up the general feeling: “I think some measures are exaggerated, but I don’t think we will return to normal in a week. I don’t feel locked up but, of course, my freedom is limited.”

                

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