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Italy is the hardest hit by the coronavirus among all the European countries. Speaking to us via email, four residents relate their personal experience during this health crisis

It was unprecedented. A nationwide lockdown in a developed nation as a desperate measure to control the coronavirus outbreak had caught the free-spirited and laidback Italians by surprise.

Italy has been reporting a spike in coronavirus cases since Feb 21, predominantly concentrated in the northern region of Lombardy. From a restriction of movement in the region and a few other cities, on March 9, all of Italy’s 20 regions with 60 million citizens went into lockdown. Two days later, it was announced that all businesses and services except pharmacies, supermarkets and grocery stores must close.

The lockdown is supposed to end on April 3 but no one is sure if that will happen now.

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Diego Bellantuano, 41, software engineer in Venice

“I was having dinner with friends. I went out to have a smoke and saw some unofficial news on my phone saying that from the day after, we would not have the permission to move around freely anymore.

I was surprised, I could not believe it and neither could my friends. I mean, these are the kind of things you read about during Fascism. I didn’t think that were many cases in Venice. And considering the last we heard from the government was that there wasn’t going to be an emergency.

I’m able to work from home but I’m trying to adjust to having no social life. I sometimes wonder if this sacrifice is absolutely necessary but I try my best to follow the rules.

Luckily I have my guitar, the internet, Netflix, TV, books and phone.  And I go out for a walk after work, as it is allowed. It is also surreal to see Venice without any tourist. I actually enjoy the tranquility.”

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I’m more concerned about the health of my ageing mother who lives with me. We have to do our best to protect her.

Milena Ciroli, 56, English teacher in Brescia

“Living in the second hardest hit city by Covid-19 in Lombardy, my neighbours and I are abiding by the strict restrictions in a peaceful and practical manner.

There are empathy and appreciation for the healthcare professionals who have sacrificed much although initially we had some doubts about the effectiveness of the solutions proposed by the government.

I’m not worried about getting infected as I’m very careful; I’m more concerned about the health of my ageing mother who lives with me. Mamma is immobile as she suffers from osteoarthritis and already had pains before this. We have to do our best to protect her.  Gloves, masks and hand-washing are now part and parcel of our lives.

I’m fortunate that I could do video conferencing and streaming for my lessons. My only pastime now is taking a short walk with my dog in the neighbourhood.”

Francesco Baldini, 43, hotel employee in Alberobello

“For those living in the southern part of Italy where there were fewer cases of the coronavirus, the lockdown came as a shock. It was quite bizarre. The restrictions became much more severe and our lives changed instantly. Most of us feel isolated.

I live with my mother and 97-year-old grandfather. Grandpa is not happy because he can’t hang out with his friends at the bar or even go to the barber. My mom takes a lot of precautions, going out with masks and gloves on.

It makes me sad to see places where people go to socialise are closed but I know this is a necessary sacrifice. Italians have never been under such restrictions since World War II. Indeed it feels like war - war against an invisible enemy.  And my greatest fear is that I will be a `vehicle’ of infection to others. I cannot tolerate that.”

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Marcello De Santis, 35, online tutor in Salerno

“I think the virus and the lockdown have united us as a nation. Just look at what happened last weekend when thousands of Italians stood on their balconies to sing and play music. Hundreds of these videos have gone viral, and they show the spirit of unity across the nation.

The virus has also taught the younger generation to ponder on things they used to take for granted. We are a generation of information technology and we are used to having our independence and freedom. Now it is time to be with our families, and it is also time to reflect.”

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