As Italians stand invested in the tornado of news and talk shows that, day after day, lets them know how slowly – and poorly – things are going, the common motto in the boot-shaped peninsula seems to be: “the UK is doing it better, and is way ahead.”
Yet one cannot help but wonder how it is that the “we are not doing enough, we are too slow” slogan has come about, when Italy was the first country in Europe to enforce a complete shutdown, and one of the few to have adopted the severest – and longest-running – restrictions to this day. One answer surely lies in the fact that Italy is still working on its own vaccine, and is therefore forced, as many other countries are, to submit to the rules of import. The assumption that Italians have disregarded rules, and that the internal law-enforcement system has failed, seems to pay little respect to the huge sacrifices that many have made, under the overwhelming weight of the current pandemic.
In the midst of this, Mario Draghi, the newly-appointed leader, together with the country’s Ministry of Health, has decided to take a leap of faith, and, just like the British, to start reopening. Addressing his audience in a calm, down-to-earth manner, the former President of the European Central Bank answered each and every question the insistent media had for him, at a press conference on Friday 16 April, taking upon his own governance the “calculated risk” of a general “reopening”, starting from April 26. This new measure – claimed Roberto Speranza, the Italian Minister of Health who sat right next to Draghi – has been advanced upon the basic scientific knowledge that the chance of outdoor infection is very low. As a result, only outdoor activities will be allowed at first. Bars and restaurants will be the first to open – albeit only for outdoor sitting and dining –, closely followed by gyms, cinemas and theatres who must also follow the “outdoors only” limitation. Schools will effectively and uniformly reopen regardless of this.
Although the 22 to 5 curfew is still in place (having been introduced on November 6 2020), these new regulations definitely open the way to the hopes that Italians had for the oncoming summer: a breath of the life before COVID19. Unlike last summer, however, when things loosened up a bit, holidays this year will probably run around a tighter schedule, with colour coded areas still at the centre of day-to-day protocols, where every region is apt to change its colour depending on the infection rate, thus dictating the citizens’ possibilities on a daily basis. The fact remains nonetheless that a definite boost in both the country’s morale and economics is what the current government is seeking, as stated by Draghi himself.
No sooner were the news released – as might have been expected – than the country’s media started considerable turmoil. At the notorious talk show ‘Otto e mezzo’, Massimo Galli, one of Milan’s leading infectious disease doctors, blamed the overly soft approach of Draghi’s governance, stating that hospitals are still saturated and would not be able to sustain another sudden increase in COVID cases right now. Economists, on the other hand, defend the idea that governance cannot be left in the hands of health specialists, and that economical factors – at this stage – must by necessity be taken into account too.
The situation is therefore a very delicate one, and a proper balance is not easy to be achieved – especially considering that the vaccine rate is still rising slowly. The “risk factor” becomes a key element, in a time when no one seems to be prepared for the next move, and in a place where no one seems to feel at ease. Then “calculated risks” become a country’s best guess in succeeding at what neither letters nor numbers seem to provide an answer to. Trial by error and experimentation are the unfortunate friends and the way out in such a scenario. Perhaps the United Kingdom’s risk is as calculated and as dangerous as Italy’s, yet it could well represent the countries’ efforts to stand tall, to determinately find a way out and, most of all, to finally help and support the pandemic’s ultimate victim: the citizen.
For if one is to correctly run one’s country, one has to wonder how much of a risk is inherent not in the virus alone, but also in people’s psychology: how much the people can take, and when and how they may tire of sitting back and holding out. These risks are also to be calculated, for in the long run – as we are now well into the second year of this pandemic – they may increase and weave into each other, thus creating an intricate web that may be hard to untangle once fully formed. One has to look at these factors and anticipate how individual psychological issues may slowly turn into collective ones. Cooperation is required and expected of both the people and their leaders, and if a government is sensible enough to understand when its own audience is indeed cooperating but definitely tired out, then it should act promptly, letting aside the scientific findings for a short while and looking at a way to embrace the humanistic side too; only when in sight of a future hope are men motivated to give their absolute best. Believing is sometimes the first step to cooperating, and in believing in one another and in those whose job is to guide and inform us, as well as in those whose job is to cure us, we are perhaps achieving great results even sooner than expected, together.
Written by Edoardo Cippitelli
Edoardo Cippitelli is a columnist at DecipherGrey