The recent outbreak of the coronavirus has spread throughout the world, with cases first identified in China, killing thousands of people in its wake.
As of February 29, more than 85,000 cases have been confirmed in 62 territories, of which 8,000 were considered serious. At least 2,900 deaths have been attributed to the disease, and more than 39,000 people have recovered. The risk of the virus spreading is very high.
Out of all of the countries affected by the virus, Italy has faced the brunt of its European arrival, with approximately 1,128 cases and 29 deaths. The virus was confirmed in Italy on January 30, when two Chinese tourists tested positive for its carrier virus, SARS-CoV-2, in Rome. Italy was one of two countries in Europe to suspend all direct flights to and from China and the earliest to do so. The two Italian clusters of the virus are centered around the regions of Lombardy and Veneto.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, if anyone travels through a potentially affected area, that person could become a carrier themselves,” said Rafael DiFuria, an American vlogger who now makes his home in Rovigo, in the Veneto region. “Because there is no vaccine and there are so many unknowns about this virus, you might be willing to take a risk and travel, but the people you are around that you could possibly pass the virus to might not be willing to take that risk.”
“Because there is no vaccine and because there are so many unknowns about this [situation] right now, you may be willing to take the risk,” he added. “But that doesn’t mean that people you come into contact with, or people you may be around would be willing to take that risk [of exposure]. I understand the desire to keep on going [with] just normal day-to-day life, but, with how much is unknown right now, I think the responsible thing, in my personal opinion, is to be a little bit more careful”
DiFuria runs a popular YouTube channel focusing on his life abroad, offering tips and tricks to those who are looking to declare dual Italian citizenship, as well as to those who are simply trying to navigate their way around a new homeland. His video regarding the Coronavirus outbreak has already amassed more than 1,500 views within hours of publication. The first person in Italy to die of the virus was from his region and lived 30 km away from his town.
“Given the global situation I’m personally not going to be traveling anytime soon, he said. “My personal choice has been to also avoid all public transportation of any kind. Due to the restrictions placed on my region by the local authorities, I’m staying inside as much as possible and avoiding public areas as much as possible. I will not be attending any public gatherings as they are all canceled to begin with.”
“This is simply my personal choice and each person needs to do what’s right for them while also considering public safety,” he added.
The Coronavirus passes from one person to others via respiratory droplets produced from the airways during coughing or sneezing. The time between exposure and symptom onset is typically between two and fourteen days, and symptoms may include fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. Complications may include pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.
At this time, there is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for the Coronavirus. Current efforts aim at managing symptoms and supportive therapy. Hand washing, maintaining distance from people who are coughing, and avoiding touching one’s face are recommended to prevent the disease. Anyone who is suspected of carrying the virus is advised to monitor their health for two weeks, self-isolate, wear a surgical mask, and seek medical advice by calling a doctor before visiting a clinic.
For Deanna Olivieri, an American from Staten Island, New York, who moved to Italy to teach in Airola, in Campania, the reaction to the virus has been an eye-opening experience.
“My school is currently closed for cleaning due to the virus—in fact, all schools in Campania have been closed as a precaution,” she said. “We were told not to travel and not to make any trips, which I understand for safety’s sake.”
Olivieri recently met up in Naples with an American friend who currently lives in Bolzano and the two were surprised at local reactions to the virus in Campania.
“It was like all hell broke loose,” she said. “We didn’t realize until we turned on the news what was going on. We didn’t realize how crazy it would get here, because there were no cases here. My friend came back to my town with me as we thought it would be safe, but people were suspicious. We went to the supermarket and she happened to cough and all eyes were on her. I could see the fear in everyone here.”
“The vibe here in the South, even though there’s not that many cases, has been really awkward,” she added. “I have a few friends who cancelled their trips to Italy. I wonder if I am going to get stuck here or if I will get quarantined when I go home for a visit this summer.”
The Coronavirus panic has even spread to the island of Sardinia, where flights arrive from Milan, in Lombardia, on a daily basis.
“All cases recorded, even outside of Lombardia and Veneto, are all people who have had contact with people from Lombardia,” said Calangianus resident Silvia Giagheddu. “The same goes for cases recorded abroad. They need to stop people from leaving Lombardia for at least a few weeks. It might be an extreme solution, but it might be the only way to keep the disease from further spreading to other regions. So far, no cases were recorded in Sardinia. I am feeling just as paranoid because I think it is just a matter of time.”
“You’re living a nightmare– It feels like a movie,” she added. “It’s a weird feeling and I wish it would just go away. It affects your life. It affects your freedom. It’s going to affect our economy in a bad way, too. Nobody knows when this will end. This could be a fatal blow for our country.”
For continued travel updates regarding American travel abroad to Italy, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website by clicking here.