Sardinia – an Italian island on lockdown
I was born and raised in a small village in the north east of Ireland. While studying journalism in Dublin, and meeting and making friends with people from all over the world, I decided to start travelling.
In one of the countries I lived, I met a beautiful Italian girl who then became my wife. This is what led me to follow her to her beautiful homeland, the Italian island of Sardinia. Sardinia is a beach lovers paradise, the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and home to 1.6 million people.
Fast forward two years later, and this beautiful paradise has been hit by COVID-19, better known as Coronavirus. As of Tuesday, March 10th, there have been 34 confirmed cases of the virus in Sardinia. This pales in comparison to the number of documented cases in the province of Lombardy, of which Milan is the capital.
Sardinia had been dealing pretty well with the outbreaks at the beginning. It was always “on the mainland”, and therefore in the back of everyone’s mind. Then on Monday, March 2nd, the first Sardinian case was confirmed – a man who had returned from Rimini, a city on Italy’s eastern Adriatic coast. This man was from Cagliari, the biggest city on the island, and the city where I work.
For three days the regional government, working in conjunction with the national government, debated the pros and cons of closing public schools. They finally decided on Thursday to close them for a temporary period of 10 days. The school where I work, a private English school in the heart of Cagliari, followed suit.
This decision changed on Monday evening when almost all national TV channels were interrupted by a live broadcast from the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte. Many provinces in the northern regions of Italy had already been observing a total lockdown limiting travel in and out since the end of February, however on Saturday, March 8th the government decided to approve stricter quarantine measures, but before it was announced the news leaked to the public.
This led to a mass exodus, and videos emerged shortly after, of hundreds of people running to take the last trains south, thereby compromising the quarantine. This led Mr. Conte on Monday to then expand the lockdown to the whole country.
According to Mr. Conte’s decree, schools will now stay closed until April 3rd, travel is restricted to those travelling for work or health reasons, and public gatherings are banned. Italian Serie A football has also been postponed. The hashtag #IoRestoaCasa (I Stay at Home) is currently trending all over Italy.
Today (Tuesday) is the first day of the national lockdown, and Sardinians, well almost all, are taking the threat seriously. There are less people on the street, and there is definitely a sense of tension in the air. The normally very talkative Italians seem quieter and more aware of their surroundings. Adverts on TV and radio constantly remind people to stay at least one metre distance from others, to avoid touching their face, and to frequently wash their hands.
Many shops, bars and restaurants remain closed, and those that do remain open only operate between 6am in the morning and 6pm in the evening.
The supermarkets all over Italy have vowed to stay open regardless, and although there has been coverage of panic buying in the north of Italy, that doesn’t seem to have happened here in Sardinia. Most notably today however, is that depending on the size of the supermarket, only 10-20 people are allowed in at any one time and there are markers at the checkout to make people follow the one metre rule. We saw orderly queues outside almost every supermarket we passed today. Worth noting also, is that in the majority of supermarkets staff now wear masks and gloves.
For tonight, we are housebound enjoying a glass of local red wine, and waiting for news whether or not we will begin working from home. Our friends are in the same boat. Regardless of whether or not we will suffer gravely ourselves from being infected by the virus, we understand that if we don’t take it seriously, there’s a risk to the vulnerable and older members of our community here.
Italians are trying to overcome this potential crisis together. Another hashtag has begun trending today which explains the current frame of mind and sense of community, #DistantiMaUniti – Distant but united.