06 Apr 2020

An update and a few reflections now that life has stopped going on as usual. All in all, we pay the fact that we are “us”.

There’s no visiting Tuscany at the time of Coronavirus

The title is a bit ironic. I thought an update after my last post was overdue. Of course, as everybody will already know, life has stopped going on as usual since my last post. We have been in lockdown for 4 weeks now. So, visiting Tuscany at the time of Coronavirus is not a thing. Well… at least at this time, because I assume Covid19 is here to stay and eventually we will need to go back to a new normal… whatever that will be.

This said, I would like to report that Tuscany, with its present 6000 cases, is not in too bad a shape. Many lives have been lost here too, 350 to be precise, and this is in itself terrible news. However, I don’t think we have had any dramatic emergency situation like Lombardy, or Veneto or Piedmont have. The contagions have grown steadily and are starting to decrease, quite slowly. Up to now, hospitals have coped relatively well. This is a small consolation, because every life is a life lost, and a generation of parents and grandparents has disappeared.

So besides these few factual notes (our confinement, the situation relatively under control in spite of the many sad losses, and no shortages in supermarkets to report), I would like to dedicate a few words to the fact that Italy, like Spain, is paying the price of its lifestyle (and of the cuts to what was once the best health system in the world… but that’s for another post…).

The numbers of the contagion and the death toll in Italy is only rivalled by those in Spain. Sure the States have exhorbitant numbers… but no near as many deaths in percentage terms. Neither does any other country in Europe. How can we explain this?

Sure there have been many articles ascribing these differences to differences in the numbers of tests or in the way in which deaths are reported or in the number of ICU units available. But if you look carefully enough, you will notice another striking factor: the average age of the people infected. In Germany the average patient is 47, in Italy he/she is 59. So that makes per se a big difference in terms of the chances of a positive outcome.

This tells me that after all we pay being who we are. We are penalized by the most beautiful facets of our culture: we have many elderly people who reach their late 80s and 90s and an intense social and community life. Most importantly, this crosscuts the generations. Our elderly are integrated in our society in a fundamental and inextricable way. Thus there is no easy way to isolate and protect them. With the young ones moving around a lot and getting infected, the older ones were severely hit. Thus one of our reasons for pride has become one of the sources of great sorrow.

Truth be told, most people I speak to do not miss going to the restaurant, or travelling… they miss dinners with friends, seeing their parents, grandparents, being able to visit the cemetery. My kids don’t miss school per se or going to the park: they miss their grandparents. To the point that my father, now almost 72, has installed skype so that he can tell stories to my kids remotely. It’s heart warming and heart breaking at the same time.

This again might seem hard to understand to some, but it tells me that the concept of freedom in Italy goes hand in hand with social and affective bonds. That whatever comes of this won’t be completely negative. We have learnt new rhythms, we have understood (or we should have understood) what truly matters and we have rediscovered the value of human connections. And I find this utterly beautiful.

When we can finally travel again, if you choose to visit Tuscany, find a way to enjoy this way of being together too!

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