Everyone seems to be waiting in uncertainty as Italy prepares to open up once again on the 4th of May after the first coronavirus crisis. There’s a lot of dialogue about helicopter money that should help businesses get back on track while avoiding the possibility of a horrible recession. Not surprisingly, Italian citizens gather around the TV every evening to hear about the latest news related to the coronavirus calamity. By now, most young Italians have cabin fever even though the majority live in apartments or villas that are quite different from small cabins. Being confined at home with other people for a long time takes outstanding discipline and readiness to be diplomatic at times because people are no longer used to spending long periods together. For this reason, Italian psychologists have finally agreed to do psychological therapy for their patients online, even after having argued for years that it was more effective in person.
According to recent TV-news reports, some families are facing domestic disputes because they have to spend too much time together in small places. This is why organizations have recently been promoted on TV to support families and cohabitants who don’t get along well. Another problem is the fear of an impending recession as well as job loss. Numerous small businesses could close, and some employees report that they are uncertain of job security even if the government has already paid them a small amount of money (typically 600 euros) for temporary layoffs known as “cassa integrazione“. In the interim, many freelancers have also received 600 euros while numerous unemployed people will receive the controversial “rendita di cittadinanza“, which is a much-debated, short-term form of citizenship-income that’s somewhat like unemployment. That being said, receiving such funds is sometimes a slow process, many families reporting that they struggle to pay for food and provisions in the interim. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti, aware of the public’s concerns, has promised to take a look at how things have been done in the past to utilize this problematic occasion to improve the administration of the country.
Until recently, it has been standard for Italians to say that they don’t like to get drawn into politics because it seems too complicated to comprehend what their representatives are doing. Nevertheless, the coronavirus emergency has lured them into politics during the past two months. The same personalities arise on TV each evening, like movie stars, including Matteo Salvini, Silvio Berlusconi, Giorgia Meloni, Matteo Renzi, and Luigi di Maio. If Italian politics had once been too perplexing to understand in the past, citizens have recently had a great deal of time to acquaint themselves with the various solutions that each politician has offered to resolve the coronavirus-dilemma. Just like politicians from other countries across the globe, Italian politicians conduct numerous debates, have shouting matches, and even try to put their differences aside for the sake of the country, as hard as that might be.
It’s not going to be easy to change people’s habits, neither in Italy nor in any other part of the world. A little over a century has passed since the Spanish flu went away, and we know very little about how people coped with that malevolent flu that we thought had been eradicated forever. Will people open up their minds or close up psychologically as they draw away from personal expression through hugs, handshakes, and kisses on the cheeks? After all, Italy is known for its affectionate expression! If a person ventures out onto the streets of Italy nowadays, she notes that people tend to look away to avoid communication. People have become proficient ‘social distancers’ who maintain about two meters between themselves and others.
According to local business people, making changes at work will be expensive because they will need to mount additional video cameras, build Plexiglas partitions, install separate exit doors, provide sanitizer for everyone at entrances, install new exits, and even offer masks to both employees and customers. Businesses that sell jewelry or small gadgets will purchase UV-light sanitizers, which will have to meet local governments’ requirements. It’s possible that clothing shops will use UV lights to disinfect clothing before and after clothes are tried on by customers. Trains and buses will have to be sanitized and have symbols that indicate where passengers can or can’t sit to ensure proper distancing. Sad to say, some businesses won’t be able to afford such additions and will have to close forever.
The Italian public largely accepts as accurate that the COVID-19 pandemic is real because almost everyone knows someone who has either died or who has had a family member that has passed away. Since Italians generally take the coronavirus seriously, they have already cancelled many summer festivals and concerts that would have been attended by people who are over fifty. It’s uncertain whether younger Italians will be willing to gather at famous Discotheques when they finally open, but they probably will do so, being less fearful than their elders. Perhaps they will remember the earlier TV news when some virologists assured them that the coronavirus was lethal primarily to those people over 65.
On Monday, 4 May 2020, the Italian economy will finally re-open, and people will circulate to visit intimate friends and family. When they do so, they are advised to only meet in tiny groups. It’s going to be problematic to determine who qualifies as a ‘good friend’ and how the police will intervene if people don’t respect the laws governing personal meetings. People are willing to give up some freedom to protect others, while they also hold private conversations about how much freedom they should be required to give up. Almost everyone is concerned about when they will re-start and how they’ll operate, it having been said that class sizes will become smaller. There’s much talk about taking the school outside of the brick-and-mortar building to parks and other public spaces.
Significant changes are coming to Italian restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. In the beginning, most restaurants will have to serve take-out food in disposable containers. Consumers will not be able to gather inside or in front of these eateries as they will have to drink their coffees elsewhere with proper social distancing. Those who eat in restaurants might find themselves eating with partitions between the tables, even if they live together, while tables will have more than a meter between each other. Such changes might amaze tourists who are courageous enough to venture to Italy. The changes seem freakish in post-COVID-19-Italy, as we’ve never seen it before, a country reminiscent of darker times, like in the 1300s, but with a bright torch carried by those heroes courageous enough to do the jobs that have to be done to thwart an economic downturn.