Tuesday morning, 9:30 a.m. There is little traffic along Via Emilia in Italy and this is unusual for a weekday. There are usually many small vans and trucks on the former Roman road. The Bassa Lodigiana, southeast of Milan, where the Lombard infection center of the Coronavirus has taken root, is a very productive economic area. In the ten municipalities under quarantine alone, 3,400 companies, including the international group Unilever, and 170 cattle breeding companies are located.
The first barrier you come across from Milan via Via Emilia is that of Casalpusterlengo. 15,200 people live here. The barrier is already four kilometers ahead, in a suburb. Two police cars block the passage. Three policemen and a policewoman, all with face masks, stand guard and only let vans and cars through when the driver shows the permit issued by the prefecture.
In the parking lot next to the barrier, a woman watches the whole thing for a while and then shakes her head: "Let's hope that the spook will soon be over," she says. Annalisa does not want to give her surname, is around 50 and lives in the provincial capital Lodi. She is here because of her 80-year-old mother who lives in Codogno, in the community from where the coronavirus has spread to the other nine quarantine locations. Annalisa today brought two bags full of groceries to the roadblock and handed them over to the security forces. On the other side was her mother, who was given the bags. "No, it's not that there is a lack of food in the restricted area, but I feel safer if I take care of my mother myself."
"As I said, there is no emergency"
Annalisa is not an isolated case, says one of the police officers. Friends, children, relatives with full shopping bags keep coming over the day. Doing something for the people behind the barrier is also reassuring. "At the weekend, right after the red zone was closed, the situation here was temporarily tense," says the official. Some didn't want to put up with not being allowed out, others wanted to go in to get their laptop quickly. "Today the situation seems calmer and in general the population reacts very responsibly."
This is also how Elia Delmiglio, the 25-year-old Mayor of Casalpusterlengo, whom we can reach by phone. "It is a surreal situation that we are experiencing here," he says at the beginning. Everyday life has changed drastically. "The cafes are closed, you can't go to work, the weekly market is canceled. Only the pharmacies and grocery stores are open." But his fellow citizens are well taken care of. In Casalpusterlengo there are seven supermarkets, three butchers, seven bakers and there are replenishments every day. At the weekend there was a small rush to the supermarkets, but now everything is back to normal. The fact that people were only allowed in in small groups was a mere safety precaution and only for their own good. "As I said, there is no emergency, neither in terms of groceries, petrol or money from ATMs," Delmiglio repeated.
But not everyone seems to share his opinion. Pietro Meazzi, for example, a worker from Casalpusterlengo, described a completely different situation for the daily La Repubblica . In the municipalities of the red zone, you had to queue for hours to be able to shop, and when you were finally in the shop, you were often faced with empty fruit and vegetable shelves. That's why he organized himself with a few friends and together they would shop for themselves and older citizens in the nearby, non-quarantined town of San Rocco. Bypassing the barriers is not difficult, instead of driving along the road you just take the dirt roads. You can't just lock people up.
The authorities also know that there are numerous alternative routes along the fields, which is why they have recently increased the barriers around the quarantine area from 15 to 35 and the security forces deployed to 500. Not only police officers are deployed, but also carabinieri, financial police and armed forces. Those who violate the rules risk being fined and up to three months in prison.
"3,500 tests carried out in just four days"
The coordination of the food supply for the 50,000 inhabitants of the quarantine area is the responsibility of the prefecture in Lodi. "It also issues the transit permits for the suppliers," explains Pietro Foroni, member of the Council of the Lombardy regional administration and responsible for civil protection. He also repeats that there is still no lack of food in any of the ten communities. "I also know that firsthand because my parents live in the red zone." In each community there is a Comitato operativo Comunale (Coc), a local civil protection force that the citizens could contact at any time: "The Coc staff also look after those patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus, but none They have symptoms of illness and are therefore in quarantine at home. They do the shopping for them or provide them with the necessary medication. " The message that Foroni is particularly concerned with is the following: "We carried out 3,500 tests in just four days, France only 400 in the same period." Obviously, this would lead to more positive cases.
Walter Ricciardi, special adviser to the World Health Organization at the Italian Minister of Health, recently pointed out once again that "out of a hundred people infected with the virus, eighty are self-recovering, fifteen are serious and five are fatal: 95 percent of the patients are getting well again". The situation was also described by the health ministers from neighboring countries Germany, Austria, France, Slovenia, Switzerland and the responsible EU Commissioner Stella Kyriakides. So at the end of their meeting in Rome they decided not to close the borders for the time being.
Meanwhile, the number of patients tested positive continues to rise: there are far more than 300 throughout Italy, most of them in the regions of Lombardy and Veneto, and eleven deaths. The other cases of infection in Liguria, Tuscany and Sicily were all patients who were recently in Lombardy. No one can say at the moment how long the barriers will remain in the red zone and where they still have to be sealed off. But people are worried either way.