Covid-19 Impact Series (V): Worldview on Coronavirus

Meet Individuals from Around the World- Italy and China

 

When Covid-19 was first mentioned, the country on the tip of everyone’s tongue was China. It was to be expected, after all, China was the epicenter of the outbreak. And then, there was Italy, a country that was hit badly by the virus. How much we know of the situation in these two countries is pretty much same as with other countries around the world, the ones we are not residing in, and that is mostly from news reports.

And so we think it is only fitting that these two countries round up our Worldview on Coronavirus series, a subpart of and the fifth in our Covid-19 Impact Series. Today we are introducing you to Chiara and Lu, two women from Italy and China, who will be telling us about their struggle and situation in the time of Covid-19 and how they, the people around them, and their countries are coping and healing.

SOGH: Can you describe the situation in your country?

Chiara: Covid-19 cases are gradually decreasing, although some northern regions, (such as Lombardy and Veneto), still have high numbers of new positives. Recently, some infections have been detected that were brought in from people coming from other countries. Hospitals are no longer in an emergency phase, beds and intensive care places are enough and almost empty. The attention of the government has now shifted to the economic sphere, issuing some laws aiming to help in several fields. Recently, it has been declared that people coming from some countries, which are still considered at risk, are denied entry to Italy.

Lu: From the news on the 18th of July to 20th of July, there were in total 908 existing confirmed case in China, 154 of which has no symptoms. 11 out of 34 provinces are now case free. We already passed the peak at the beginning of March. I would say the situation in China is good, almost everything is back to normal. We have controlled the disease very well; it took less than 1.5 months for us to control the outbreak. After the beginning of March, we only had a few cases reported every day. There were small groups of cases that popped up recently in Beijing and Xijiang Province, but we controlled both pretty fast. Most people have already gone back to work since April, and 18th July was the first time we opened cinemas in some cities. This all means that life is back to normal here.

SOGH: How do you feel about the situation? How are you faring?

Chiara: Now I feel much better and more relaxed than during the quarantine. It seems to me that we have almost come back to normal life, although the rhythms are much slower, which I find positive, in some aspects.

Lu: Although we had a massive outbreak in February, I feel safe when I see that our government is taking very strong measures and strict regulations to control the disease.

SOGH: What measures are being taken by the government in the fight against COVID-19?

Chiara: Italy has been on lockdown for about two months, meaning that movement was only allowed for primary needs (e.g. food, medicines), work (but many workers have been placed in layoffs or remote working), or for urgent health needs. Gradually, we have been able to go out for walks (it was not allowed before), and, in mid-May, the authorities allowed us to move between different municipalities. In June, restaurants and commercial activities reopened, and travels between the regions became possible again. It is currently mandatory to wear masks in all closed environments and public transport. Physical distancing is highly recommended and obviously, those who test positive for Covid-19 have to stay in quarantine. In some companies and places, body temperature measurements to check for fever is mandatory as well.

Lu: The outbreak started from Wuhan. When things were going bad, our government locked down Wuhan immediately. We built two hospitals within 10 days, and several facilities such as Hongshan Gymnasium, the Wuhan International Conference and Exhibition Center, were turned into temporary shelter hospitals. Doctors from different cities traveled to Wuhan to help locals. Traveling to and from Wuhan was forbidden. Almost all the cities were ‘isolated’ for a month. Since it happened during the traditional Chinese New Year, people took holidays and stayed at home with their family. We kept postponing the date to go back to work. For some important industries, people started with working from home. Meanwhile, it was, and it still is mandatory to wear a mask to go outside. Our government introduced a health code system for everyone in the country linked to personal ID with the help of the WeChat app. People are managed by each housing corporate, and the health status connected to the code is updated. As for students, all the schools were closed in China during February. Some schools started with distance learning for grade-12 students who need to take national university entrance examinations. When school opened in late April, all the students needed to do Covid-19 test and have a thermometer with them and measure their temperature 3 times per day. Depending on cities and companies, people started to go back to work in late March/April. The companies were divided into different urgency levels and were given different dates to go back to work.

SOGH: Can you describe your personal situation and that of those around you? How are you coping?

Chiara: It may seem strange, but the moment in which I suffered the most was the phase between the end of the quarantine and the gradual re-opening: being exposed again to the real world, after having been at home for so long time, was not easy at the beginning. There was many fears and concerns, regarding our society, our jobs… I remember that during the quarantine I was very distressed and irritable but at least I knew I was “safe”. Instead, going back to normal life has been even harder, because our habits have changed again. Regarding my friends and family, I see that they are very calm, since, now, our region (Umbria) has very few cases, luckily.

Lu: For me (living in Heilongjiang Province), I haven’t experienced much as there were no cases in my city. Everyone was staying at home and when the outbreak happened, my company gave us masks and let us stay at home. Until now, we only go to the company once or twice per week. Most of the time, we work from home. I’m feeling good but it’s a bit boring at home.

 

SOGH: What is different about life now?

Chiara: We always have to remember to bring hand sanitizer and a mask with us, even if now we are quite used to it. There is no physical contact anymore, which is a big cultural change for us. Furthermore, planning our lives in the long term is unthinkable; we can only make short-term plans.

Lu: Although things have started to go back to normal, it has become a bit more complicated, especially for elder people in risk groups. They often cannot use mobile phones very well, but people in risk groups need to scan the health code when entering public places, like supermarkets. It has also become more difficult to travel: The telephone company can track your location based on your mobile phone signal so if you travel too far or by accident pass by a high risk province, your health code will show a red code and it makes it tricky to go home.

SOGH: What are you doing during this period as a result of the situation?

Chiara: I am looking for a job, studying and trying to focus on my hobbies, such as going out for walks or short trips and practicing fit boxing. I am still training from home though, the gym is open again but not for courses, so they are providing online lessons.

Lu: I rest at home most of the time. I also do some indoor exercise, read, and watch TV series when I’m not working. I spend time with family too.

SOGH: What are your personal opinions on the situation?

Chiara: I believe that we can enjoy this calm and safe moment now, but we must be careful in the future and do not take anything for granted. The emergency could come back, so it is up to each of us to take all the necessary precautions.

Lu: I have some colleagues working in the US. Comparing the situation over there to here in China through our talks, it gave me a feeling that the situation in the US is much worse than in China nowadays. For most of the people here in China, it has affected a lot. For students, there are some big effects, for example, the national university entrance exam has been delayed for a month. I believe it is always better for students to be at school than at home. How effective self-studying will be is dependent on an individual’s strength, this is why, in my opinion, teachers are important.

SOGH: What are you looking forward to doing when the peak is over/virus has been contained?

Chiara: A huge party with many people, where we will be allowed to sing, drink and dance all together!!!

Lu: I would say we’ve already passed the peak in China. Although I really want to travel, I dare not do so because there is always a risk of the virus coming back. Then, I will be under risk of being locked down in another city, so it is better to just travel around

SOGH: What do you miss doing as a result of COVID-19?

Chiara: I miss partying with people, being able to hug each other. Speaking of my education, I really miss attending the Psychotherapy School and being able to see new clinical cases! Our program is usually based on seeing how to treat psychological disorders and, obviously, this was not possible during the past months, so we missed some important parts of our curriculum. Therefore, we really want to go back to our classes and our motivation is even stronger now!

Lu: I was planning to discuss a salary increase with my leader but due to Covid-19 I cannot do it, as we currently do not have a very good economic status. On the other hand, I feel lucky that I still have a job compared to people who lost their jobs.

SOGH: What do you imagine will be different about life/the world when this is over or rather contained?

Chiara: I think that the economic situation will be the most severely affected. Many companies will have to reinvent themselves; people will once again have to change their habits.

Lu: I think lifestyle of people will be different as we have already had to adapt and change some habits. For instance, when eating in China, we did not separate each other’s food as taking from the same plate or bowl was the norm. But since the beginning of the outbreak, it was recommended that we learn from western countries, to prepare separate dishes for everyone and always have a common pair of chopsticks for dividing food. Lots of restaurants and small businesses were also heavily hit by the virus outbreak. This will only amount to loss of income and jobs, which I think will hit many people heavily.

SOGH: What acts of kindness have you experienced or witnessed in these times and what acts of kindness have you yourself shown?

Chiara: I certainly appreciated the attention of my family; we took care of each other more than usual. For example, even just by offering to buy some food for everyone, since we were very scared to go out during the lockdown. As a psychologist, I occasionally lent my help via chat and phone to people who were worried about the situation for free. I created multimedia content and shared them on my professional accounts to inform people about psychological health, in relation to the emergency.

Lu: I saw doctors from all over the country were traveling to Wuhan to help in the fight against the disease and to help save lives. Because of the sudden lockdown of the city, many pets were separated from their owners. I have seen people helping to feed their neighbor’s pets from their balconies. It touched me a lot.

SOGH: What do you fear most during this time?

Chiara: That people won’t understand the seriousness of the situation and will persist in their rooted ideologies, e.g. “Covid-19 doesn’t exist, this virus won’t kill me, I don’t care about the others” and so on.

Lu: My biggest fear was related to the global economy and how it will affect my company (as it is an American company) and my job.

SOGH: How else do you want the government in your country to address the problems caused by COVID-19?

Chiara: I think our government responded adequately and I believe the counter measures that were introduced so far were the right ones.

Lu: I think our government could have been faster in action at the early stage. Other than that, I really think we have done an amazing job to control the disease.

SOGH: What do you want to tell people around the world in these times?

Chiara: Hang in there because when the lockdown is over everything will be as before!! You will appreciate certain things even more but be careful: do not underestimate the situation! In my country, I have seen so much suffering and pain, that could have been avoided with a few more precautions.

Lu: Wearing a mask is very important and effective. Be positive and optimistic, exercise more and be healthy.

We would like to sincerely thank Lu and Chiara for sharing their experiences with us and wish them all the best for themselves and their families in these challenging times.

China and Italy make up the final part of this series, but if you haven’t already make sure you also read the stories of individuals from Australia, Uganda, Brazil and the United States we shared in earlier posts. Did we not cover the country where you reside? As always, email  us or leave a comment below to let the world learn about your experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What would you like to read next on this blog?

By: Avwerosuoghene Onobrakpeya, Irene Provvidenza and Fiona Koeltringer