‘People in the UK are naive’: Italian students on watching their country suffer from afar

‘You can face prison if you’re seen outside without valid reason’

The atmosphere in the UK at the moment is palpable. Coronavirus is spreading and the panic surrounding it even more so. We’re apparently weeks behind Italy and following the same trajectory. Only at this point are people seeming to take the pandemic more seriously – but a certain group of students are way ahead of that.

Italian students have watched from afar as their home country became one of the worst affected regions, eventually going into complete lockdown. They’ve been FaceTiming family members who aren’t allowed to leave their house, worrying about grandparents who are more susceptible to the disease than anyone, and not been able to do anything to help.

Italian students have witnessed everything the UK is about to endure, through their families, their friends and countless Skype calls. All they ask is that you take it as seriously as it should be taken.

Agnese, Third year

“My family is in Rome and they are doing all right, I talk with them often! Everyone in Italy is doing self-quarantine, leaving the house at least as possible and only for specific matters (such as getting food, visit doctors, urgent work reasons), little walks in the neighbourhood are allowed but you always have to keep yourself at distance from others. Police patrols go around and if they stop you out without a valid reason, you can face up to 3 months of prison. Just a limited number of people is allowed into markets and supermarkets, everyone has to walk on a line drawn on the floor and keep the usual distance from others (it’s hard to imagine all this, but it’s real!).

“Honestly it took me a while to understand how serious the situation in Italy was, I’ve always been in contact with my family and friends who explained me the criticality of it but not being there I guess made me underestimate it initially. It properly kicked me 4 days ago, just before the country had been locked down. As of this evening [11th March] 12.462 cases have been registered and 827 deaths.

“The complete state of denial the UK authorities are adopting is really worrying. Just the fact that they expect people to get ill and develop anti-corps. Many elderly people and those with weak immune systems won’t be able to make it.”

Davide, Second year


“It is quite surreal to hear that all my extended family is living in quarantine, and only going out for the daily/weekly shop. It is also hard to see it being ridiculed by media outlets and fellow students for its mishandling of the virus, of course that has been a factor but the reality of the situation is that most European countries will be facing a similar situation in the next coming weeks, Italy has just been unfortunate enough to be hit first.

“You can’t help but feel removed given that life pretty much goes on as normal here in England, but it has made me much more sensitive to remarks that the coronavirus is nothing, and that everyone is overreacting. Such remarks overlook the severity of the situation for some countries and the fact that by downplaying the situation and not taking preventive action, one plays an active role in the spread of the disease.

Susanna, Post-graduate

“I’ve been FaceTiming my grandparents in Italy every day and been in contact with my close friends. They live an hour South from Rome so the situation isn’t as critical as in the North, however Italy is now a complete red zone. They are trying to stay inside as much as possible, especially my grandparents however it’s quite difficult to go to the supermarket and buy food.

“For the time being it is manageable but naturally everyone is really worried due to the sheer number of cases across Italy. It has been really difficult to hear what is happening and knowing that I can’t do anything about it. Italian families are very close and I FaceTime my grandparents every day. A lot of my family members are elderly and so naturally I am worried about them and the impact the virus could have on their health.

“I think so far people in the UK have been a bit naive, I see a lot of memes about how cheap it is to travel and go on holiday which frustrates me because it’s not being taken as seriously as it should be and this is the problem that happened in Italy. I think we should be learning from the mistakes of other countries and trying to do as much as we can to prevent the spread to the same extent. It isn’t a question of scaremongering but being realistic and especially taking into consideration the elderly, those with existing health problems and the vulnerable in society to name a few.

“I am concerned about the situation in the UK but more so for the safety of other people and the NHS, rather than my close friends and myself. The situation is difficult for those who are not in privileged circumstances or have underlying health conditions and so we should be taking precautions to prevent the spread to those who would suffer if they contracted the virus.”

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