In its latest effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus the Italian government has placed temporary restrictions on visiting relatives in nursing homes and is urging elderly people not to go outside unless absolutely necessary.
The move comes on the day schools and universities across the nation were closed and people were warned to avoid mixing with crowds and keep physical contact to a minimum.
In the capital Rome, chemist shops have run out of hand sanitiser and face masks and some pharmacists are resorting to DIY techniques to restock supplies.
We found Giulia Papello making her own sanitiser in a small lab at the back of her pharmacy and pouring the alcohol mix into small bottles for sale.
She told us there is no alternative. They can’t get stock from their usual suppliers and, as the virus has spread, demand is growing by the day.
“It is very difficult to find masks even for us, difficult to find alcohol for us,” she said. “They all ran out of stock.”
“Do you think you need to wear a mask?” I ask her.
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“No, but you don’t know how it’s going to evolve,” she says. “I am optimistic though with all these latest measures.”
Close to the pharmacy we find a group of students on the street outside where they should have been attending classes.
Image: A lecture hall at La Sapienza University stands empty in Rome
Their university, like every other across the nation, is shut.
Nine million school pupils are also starting an unexpected break until at least the middle of March.
“It’s crazy,” student Eliza Pelagalli tells us.
“We are upset because of the stopping of lessons.
“Some guys who have their graduation in this period have to do this by internet working and they have a lot to do. And we don’t know what to do.
Image: A gondolier checks his mobile phone while waiting for tourists in Venice
“To stop the lessons for us is like to stop the life.”
But there is plenty of support too for what may seem like draconian measures by the government.
At a nearby school we meet Christina Verdone whose 15-year-old daughter is a pupil there.
She tells us: “That is the right decision. But not now.
“I think they should have done it months ago. Early January for sure.”
She reflects on how things might have been different had the government acted sooner, but she and many others feel more confident now that the restrictions are in place.
Along with school closures and curbs on visits to the elderly, major sporting events have been affected.
Image: Empty tables are pictured outside a restaurant at St Mark’s Square in Venice
England’s final Six Nations rugby match against Italy, scheduled to take place in Rome next week, has been postponed.
And the man advising the Italian government on the virus tells us the measures are necessary.
Professor Walter Ricciardi said: “It is dramatic actually, the things that we are advising.
“And based on evidence and the closing of schools, there is actually limited evidence that these measures are effective. But to contain, we still believe that this is appropriate to do it now.”
Image: People walk in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican City
The moves may help the spread of coronavirus in Italy – the worst affected country in Europe – but they have come too late to stop many visitors cancelling their trips.
Ask in pretty much any hotel in Rome and they will tell you bookings are down.
One tour operator told us they’ve had thousands of cancellations in the last few days alone.
And that is a huge worry for people in a city which relies heavily on tourism and where street performer Danilo Muscara relies on those visitors to earn a living.
We talk to him as he tap dances on a side street telling us the money in the hat by his feet isn’t as full as he’d like it to be.
“Are you worried?” I ask. He responds with a smile. “The situation won’t change if you worry or don’t worry. I don’t worry”
But plenty of people here in Rome and right across Italy do worry. Not just about the virus but the effect it could have on jobs, tourism and the economy.
Source : Sky News