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Two days ago, Murat Çınar, a jour­nal­ist resid­ing in Italy, pub­lished infor­ma­tion on the dai­ly aspects of the coro­n­avirus epidemic.

Since then, the sit­u­a­tion has evolved every­where in Europe.

Italy is the Euro­pean coun­try most impact­ed cur­rent­ly by the new gen­er­a­tion Coro­n­avirus (Covid-19). As of March 12, 12 839 peo­ple were diag­nosed and of these, the ill­ness had caused the death of 1 016 people.

In his dec­la­ra­tion on the evening of Sun­day March 8, the Pres­i­dent Giuseppe Con­te, announced a quar­an­tine extend­ing to the whole coun­try, “we declare the entire coun­try a red zone,” he said. No trips are autho­rized, except if moti­vat­ed by pre­vi­ous­ly con­firmed pro­fes­sion­al and med­ical rea­sons. All cul­tur­al, sports and social activ­i­ties are can­celled. Peo­ple can­not leave their homes with­out spe­cif­ic pass­es and for those who work, the oblig­a­tion exists to do so from their home when­ev­er possible.

So what is dai­ly life like in Italy? What has hap­pened since the appear­ance of the first case a month and a half ago? How do the media and the pop­u­la­tion see the pro­gres­sion of events?

torino coronoavirus murat cinar italie

Murat Çınar

Jour­nal­ist Murat Çınar lives in Tori­no, neigh­bor­ing Lom­bardy, in the North of Italy where the great­est num­ber of cas­es have been observed.

First encounter with the virus

The first case was revealed on Jan­u­ary 30 with two affect­ed Chi­nese tourists in a hotel in Rome. They were imme­di­ate­ly quar­an­tined and treated.

At that time, the gov­ern­ment did not pro­vide health infor­ma­tion and the pop­u­la­tion had not yet under­stood the seri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion. There were no warn­ings such as “these per­sons may have trans­mit­ted the virus, be cau­tious.” This went on until Feb­ru­ary 21 in the North­ern Lom­bardy region of Italy where sud­den­ly, cas­es began appear­ing rapid­ly; two in the morn­ing, then, five, then nine in the evening. Since that day, we have been in the cur­rent situation.

This is the rich­est region in Italy. More­over it is also the region with the most con­tacts with Chi­na both eco­nom­i­cal­ly and in terms of tourism. And indeed, 76% of the deaths occurred in Milan, Lom­bardy’s cap­i­tal. Cur­rent­ly the 14 large cities under quar­an­tine serve as a buffer zone around Lombardy.

Mainstream and new media

If you lis­ten to tra­di­tion­al main­stream media, they tend­ed to pan­ick until Mon­day March 9th, with “flash” news, head­lines on the increas­ing num­ber of cas­es and of deaths. Fol­low­ing Con­te’s speech on Sun­day March 9, the num­ber of cas­es and of deaths no longer appear in any of the news­pa­pers’ headlines.

But the struc­ture of media has changed also. One could even say that What­sapp is a new media source. Fake infos, fake images and sound record­ings abound. “I am a doc­tor work­ing in such and such a place… The sit­u­a­tion is cat­a­stroph­ic,” that type of shar­ing keeps on spread­ing. In Turkey, events will prob­a­bly play out in the same way. And peo­ple in whom you trust, or that you call “jour­nal­ists” spread these things. This reached tremen­dous pro­por­tions in the last week. I had to block sev­er­al peo­ple for that reason.

Inform­ing with­out a con­science, or focal­i­sa­tion only on the neg­a­tive is not ben­e­fi­cial. For exam­ple, cur­rent­ly, the num­ber of patients being treat­ed is increas­ing. By omit­ting cov­er­age of the top­ic under that angle, fears increase.

Panic in the population

Final­ly, many peo­ple are seri­ous­ly pan­icked. I have friends who have not left their home since March 1st and who check their tem­per­a­ture every half hour. An unknown agent is spread­ing and, of course, this cre­ates a cli­mate con­ducive to pan­ic. There is also quite a bit of Sino­pho­bia in Italy. This is a sick­ness com­ing out of Chi­na and every­thing com­ing out of Chi­na — excep­tion made for iPhones — leads to the awak­en­ing of a strange fear.

Dur­ing the first days, super­mar­ket shelves were picked clean. Fol­low­ing Con­te’s declar­ing the entire coun­try a “red zone” 7/24 mar­kets were also emptied.

Two days ago, I noticed that super­mar­kets, for health rea­sons, were autho­riz­ing access to small groups of cus­tomers at a time. Those inside had to leave before a new group could enter. Inside the super­mar­ket, reg­u­lar mes­sages advise cus­tomers to main­tain a min­i­mum dis­tance of one meter one from the oth­er. Stocks were almost com­plete on the shelves. The only short­ages were in san­i­tary prod­ucts such as hand gels and jav­el water. Of course you can buy these online, although their cost is a bit higher.

There is no seri­ous prob­lem in Tori­no. But in Lom­bardy, just next door, res­i­dents have been clois­tered for 15 days. They go out at spec­i­fied times to run errands and go back home. We haven’t reached that point here yet.

Daily Life

Five days ago, we could still go out some­where for a drink. This is no longer pos­si­ble. The­ater, cin­e­mas, muse­ums, sports facil­i­ties, every­thing is closed. Yes­ter­day, bars and restau­rants were open until 6 PM. They have also been shut down since.

torino coronavirus

Pho­togra­phie: Fed­er­i­ca Tourn — Torino

We must now move around with a doc­u­ment. If we are going to work, this doc­u­ment spec­i­fies our iden­ti­ty, the hour we left home, des­ti­na­tion and time of return. For shop­ping also, we must have this autho­riza­tion. Police can con­trol you at any moment and if you do not have this doc­u­ment, you are at risk of a penal­ty. Frankly, the basic aim of these pre­cau­tions is to keep peo­ple in their homes. This doc­u­ment is valid as an indi­vid­ual dec­la­ra­tion. If you go to the super­mar­ket, you write down your address, where you are going and the depar­ture time and the time of return. The same applies to your work.

Are autho­rized to stay open: some fac­to­ries, super­mar­kets, phar­ma­cies, gas sta­tions, tobac­co and news­pa­per kiosks, shops sell­ing clean­ing prod­ucts, post offices, cer­tain banks, insur­ance com­pa­nies and laun­dro­mats. Couri­er ser­vices are also allowed to work. As for schools, they are closed since the begin­ning of March and will stay closed until April 3rd for the time being.

The Health System

In recent years in Italy, much of the health sys­tem has been pri­va­tized. This start­ed with “for sim­ple blood tests, instead of stand­ing in line, you go to such and such a place, in any event, it will be reim­bursed by the gov­ern­ment”, and now, from IRMs to light surg­eries, you are direct­ed toward the pri­vate sec­tor and pay the gov­ern­men­tal share. Pri­va­ti­za­tion has been pro­gress­ing rapid­ly for the past 15,20 years.

With the appear­ance of the virus, pri­vate estab­lish­ments were not pro­vid­ing any beds. Now, with the sit­u­a­tion reach­ing more seri­ous pro­por­tions, they do. We have thus seen that the State health ser­vices sup­posed to offer free ser­vice to the pop­u­la­tion were lim­it­ed. And yet, we are in a coun­try where health ser­vices are of a fair­ly high qual­i­ty. Even so, we can see that this is limited.

One of the fake news spread­ing at the moment says “in gov­ern­men­tal hos­pi­tals, they are not treat­ing the elder­ly in order to make room for younger patients”… This type of fake infor­ma­tion spreads quick­ly and rais­es jus­ti­fied fear about the hos­pi­tals. Per­haps this is sim­ply a mat­ter of lack of con­fi­dence in the health sys­tem. For exam­ple, a week ago, Con­te announced the hir­ing of 20 000 nurs­es. For there are not enough nurs­es presently.


At the begin­ning of March a sys­tem called “smart work­ing” was acti­vat­ed for those who can work from home. In Italy, work­ing from home does not rest on clear legal grounds. Fol­low­ing the decree pro­mul­gat­ed by the Prime Min­is­ter, all those who can must now work from home. Those who can­not and whose pro­fes­sions are in vital areas con­tin­ue their nor­mal pro­fes­sion­al life.

At first , there was a void as far as insur­ances went. There were many ques­tions con­cern­ing work-relat­ed acci­dents occur­ring in the home… A decree was pro­mul­gat­ed to cov­er all these matters.

In his speech on Tues­day, March 10, the Min­is­ter of the Econ­o­my announced a sup­ple­men­tary bud­get of 25 bil­lion Euros and that no one would face unem­ploy­ment and no indus­try would go bankrupt.

We’ll see…

Lat­est fig­ures in Italy (as of March 12 2020):
15 113 diag­nosed cas­es, 1 258 healed, 1 016 deaths, 12 839 active patients.
Infec­tions on March 12: 2 651, deaths on March 12: 189, crit­i­cal con­di­tions: 1 153.
These fig­ures were obtained on the evening of this report, on March 12 2020 from the coro­n­avirus sec­tion on Worl­dome­ters.

Head­line pho­to: Fed­er­i­ca Tourn — Torino

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
*A word to English-speaking readers: in all instances where the original text is in Turkish or Kurdish, the English version is derived from French translations. Inevitably, some shift in meaning occurs with each translation. Hopefully, the intent of the original is preserved in all cases. While an ideal situation would call for a direct translation from the original, access to information remains our main objective in this exercise and, we hope, makes more sense than would a translation provided by AI…
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