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Letters / Do not underestimate this virus

Dear Shetland,

I’m an Italian girl who’s been lucky enough to live for a few months in Shetland, a place that I will always keep in my heart. I’ve read what’s being said all over the media and by the English government and I’m really sad hearing that there are already 11 confirmed cases in Shetland. 

I hope this will help Shetland people, and everyone willing to listen, act beforehand.

I was born in Milan, which, as you probably know, right now is at the very centre of the Covid-19 emergency. Our healthcare system is probably the best in Italy but after less than a month since the virus has started hitting heavily, the system itself is now risking to collapse.

The virus initially appeared in the areas surrounding two small towns: Codogno and Vo’ Euganeo. Both towns have been put in quarantine, no access allowed to anyone, no way out for people inside; all commercial activities except for supermarkets (keeping the 1.5 m distance from each other) were closed, people were not allowed to leave their houses unless they had emergencies or specific necessities.

Every other town has been kept open and has worked normally until last week, when first Lombardy plus a few severely hit areas were declared ‘red zones’, applying the same prohibitions and rules. The rest of Italy followed two days later.

Codogno and Vo’ Euganeo have now almost no new sick patients, while in the rest of Italy (Lombardy especially) the confirmed cases increased very, very fast.

As it happened in Wuhan, staying at home has proven to be the best way of fighting against the contagion.

Many of us unfortunately underestimated (and still do underestimate) what’s been going on and kept on wandering around, hanging out in groups, having parties, allowing the virus to spread and leading to the current situation

It’s not just a flu, it’s far more contagious and dangerous to older people.

Speaking as someone who’s directly witnessing what’s happening in northern Italy I will never, ever stop saying PLEASE STAY AT HOME. The images and stories we are receiving from the hospitals (I personally know doctors and nurses who are right now working in some of the busiest hospitals at the moment) are terrible.

Healthcare professionals are exhausted and are working non-stop to help sick people in need. We’re starting not to have enough space for sick people in intensive care.

Now only people with symptoms can be tested for the virus, everyone else is living in a state of uncertainty and fear. I hear four to five ambulances every day, which never happened before in the area I live in.

All of this could have been avoided.

Do not underestimate the virus. This doesn’t mean that now everyone has to panic, assault supermarkets and live in a state of constant anxiety. The only way we have to help each other is to stay home and follow a few simple rules, such as washing hands as much as we can, avoiding physical contact, avoiding touching our faces, keep one and a half metres distance from each other, go food shopping just one person per family, keep the children home. Avoid any kind of gathering.

I think that choosing to self-isolate and follow the hygiene rules is the wisest, most forward-looking and unselfish choice anyone can make right now. I think everyone of us would have done it earlier if we only had known how serious this would have become.

We’ve been in quarantine for some time now; everyone is doing their best to stay home. We’re stressed and anxious but believe me, we also feel safer. We’re really trying to help.

We need to protect each other, especially the most vulnerable ones. Please, do so by staying at home.

I really hope my experience can help. I wish the very best to everyone living these difficult days.

Federica Miotti