Italy is the second most coronavirus-infected nation in the world, with 53,578 reported cases and 4,825 deathsas of Sunday morning. Its number of fatalities exceeded China, where COVID-19 originated, on Thursday. The country has now been in a national lockdown since March 10, and several days ago, prime minister Giuseppe Conte declared his intention to extend the ‘I Stay Home’ decree until April 3. Amidst the crisis, the pandemic has strengthened health worker’s sense of purpose towards their jobs, and is providing an opportunity for people to experience a unique sense of connection to their family and community.
Naples Doctor: ‘I Chose The Right Path’
Vincenzo, a doctor who works at a hospital in Naples in Southern Italy, told the Sarajevo Times that the pandemic has served to solidify his vocation as a medical professional.
Now I know that I want to be here…that I chose the right path,” he stated.
Vincenzo said that although he is not personally fearful of illness or fatality, he does have worries about infecting others, a valid concern considering as of March 17, health workers accounted for 8.3 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Italy, which is more than double the percentage in China.
“As a doctor I am not afraid of dealing with illness…I am not afraid, even of death…My biggest concern is to infect my family…[and] other people,” he said.
According to the Naples doctor, continuing to go to work is what allows him to maintain a sense of normality amidst the current crisis in Italy.
“The situation is heavy here, we are living day by day …I feel like everything is stopping, but going to work in the morning is helping me to feel still normal,” he told the Sarajevo Times.
Pharmacist in Jesi on Helping People: ‘It Just Feels Right’
Francesco Molinelli, a pharmacist working in Jesi in East-Central Italy, told the Sarajevo Times that although his job has become both physically and psychologically taxing due to the coronavirus outbreak, he feels a sense of fulfillment and emotional reward in assisting his community.
“My job not only consists of dispensing medicines, but also in helping and supporting all the people who entrust me and my colleagues,” he began.
“In this non-ordinary period, I have felt many emotions, moments of stress and discouragement, alternating with moments in which you appreciate your job even more,” Mr Molinelli said.
“My colleagues and I are working long hours in emergency conditions, with gloves that make you sweat and masks that don’t let you breathe, nonstop… trying to not to touch your face, dealing with many people…but you do it in order to help anyone who needs it, without stepping back from duties as a pharmacist, because it just feels right that way,” he explained.
“At times a ‘thank you’, or a smile back at you are enough to make you understand that you are doing the right thing,” the pharmacist said.
‘The Lockdown Has Brought Us Closer and Back Together’
At the beginning of the lockdown, Stephanie Budai, a twenty year-old blogger who lives in Florence with her family, was posting daily updates on her Instagram account expressing her feelings about the lockdown, but in the last few days she has taken to sharing throwback pictures reminiscing of life before the global pandemic.
Miss Budai has been feeling conflicting emotions, oscillating between experiencing fear about COVID-19, and a sense of comfort by a community that has united in solidarity.
“Many times I’m feeling sad and depressed because I see every day how many people are dying and how many of them are sick,” she told the Sarajevo Times.
“The lockdown makes you sick a little bit, because you are scared… but also a lot of times I’m happy because I know that we can fight the virus and be happy and free again.
“I have experienced a lot of things under the lockdown, mostly, I experienced how great our community is!…We are in this together, and I never thought that in a situation like this we will be such a great team,” she said.
Miss Budai added that she believes the experience of being in lockdown has caused her to connect in a deeper way with her family and others in the community.
“I’m not alone in lockdown, I’m with my family so we have a lot of fun, we play together, cook together and do sports together…I think it’s also great because it brings people together…everyone is singing on their balconies, we do too, and it’s a lot of fun,” the blogger told the Sarajevo Times.
“I think that the lockdown has brought us closer and back together, also you can appreciate more time with your family and talk more,” Miss Budai concluded.
‘We Should Not Be Staying With Our Fears Alone’
Milan-based psychologist Dr Anna Barecka-Bocchiola
told the Sarajevo Times that “when we consider the impact of the lockdown on the Italian population, we might think about the pervasive sense of fear.”
This fear, she said, could manifest as “an excessive concern for one’s health condition by perceiving every signal from the body as an indisputable symptom of infection.”
Dr Barecka-Bocchiola said that given the abundance of global media coverage on COVID-19, seeking out factual information, and then communicating subsequent concerns with loved ones, instead of trying to individually deal with unwanted emotions, was essential.
“Everyday people all over the world are being exposed to a mass of information about the virus,” Dr Barecka-Bocchiola said.
“It is important to acquire information from reliable sources, but then you might have to process this information through talking to friends or family members about the situation.
“We should not be staying with our fears alone,” the psychologist emphasized.
‘Help by Staying Home’
Mr Molinelli, the Jesi-based pharmacist, said that he hopes the coronavirus situation will be quickly resolved in order to alleviate the pressure on Italy’s healthcare workers.
He told the Sarajevo Times that Italians could contribute to this by remaining inside and only leaving out of necessity.
“I wish this situation can be solved as soon as possible, because I see pharmacists, doctors and nurses who everyday are on the front line and exhausted, trying to do their best and always thinking of the Italian citizens first.
“I invite everyone to give useful help by staying at home and going out just for strictly necessary reasons,” he said.
Interviewed and written by Miya Yamanouchi for the Sarajevo Times