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Home  >  Features  >  The Coronavirus Diaries: ‘Together, We Will Get Through It’


The Coronavirus Diaries: ‘Together, We Will Get Through It’

The Coronavirus Diaries: ‘Together, We Will Get Through It’

Wednesday April 15 2020

In the first of a new online series, Fiona Kendall, the Church of Scotland’s Mission Partner in Rome offers first-hand experience of the Coronavirus Covid-19 in the Italian capital.

ITALY’S first victim was identified on February 21.  I was at the time abroad on holiday.  When I returned to Rome on March 1, the landscape had already changed significantly.  By then, 1694 cases had been identified and 34 people had died.  People were very fearful, and not without reason.  Four weeks on, Italy had suffered over 86,000 cases and over 9,000 deaths. 

The lockdown measures first imposed in the “red zones” in the north of the country were applied throughout Italy on March 9.  Here in Rome, it has been a challenge to adapt to the new reality.  Part of the reason for that has been that “the new reality” has changed every few days.  This incremental tightening of measures, although necessary, has heightened the sense of disorientation.  It seems that no sooner have we got our heads round the terms of one decree than another is issued, reflecting the pace of the spread of the virus. 

I have been inspired and humbled by the overall willingness of those living here to accept that the restrictions are for the common good.  A sense of collective responsibility has prevailed from the outset despite the fact that, for Italians in particular, these measures are totally counter-cultural.  My experience of this society is primarily of warm, tactile people who love to socialise with family and friends.  To be unable to jostle with a small crowd of people in a bar of a morning in order to grab a caffè before work is to be deprived of a cultural ritual.  To be unable to kiss the friends you meet on the street or join the rest of your family for a very long lunch on a Sunday is practically unthinkable. 

Yet, from early on, people have kept that respectful metre apart, queued patiently outside supermarkets and stayed indoors, unable to interact physically with anyone but those with whom they share a home.  Creative ways to socialise have developed, whether that be singing with neighbours from your window at 6pm, having a virtual aperitivo or meal with friends and family via a wide range of apps, or conversing across balconies.  Neighbours are looking out for one another and  offering to shop for one another to minimise trips to the supermarket.  Congregations are getting together via Zoom and online resources are circulating freely.

The Italian Department for Civil Protection broadcasts updated Covid-19 figures every day.  A detailed breakdown is also published online. 

The crisis has exacerbated already difficult situations for many.  For those without a roof, the injunction to stay at home is impossible to respect.  For those without access to running water, the advice to wash your hands regularly with soap and water simply cannot be followed.  For those in abusive relationships, the prohibition on all but entirely necessary movement may increase risk.  For some, the health threat is overshadowed by the financial impact of the outbreak.  Notwithstanding the considerable economic interventions being made and the huge effort of many organisations to mobilise to address the most extreme situations, there seems little doubt that casualties will come in many forms.  So, I wonder, when the time comes for us to start to reconstruct our society, do we want to return to an identikit version of what we had before?  Or might we dare to aim for something better?

If I can offer any insight from my experience of the last few weeks it is this.  Your feelings about the situation are unlikely to be constant.  There will be moments of high anxiety and, equally, moments of real peace.  Whilst that rollercoaster may be running several times a day at the start of lockdown, it is likely to operate a less frequent timetable as the days go on. 

Our faith in a God who does not change is therefore all the more valuable at a time like this.  Keeping faith, keeping the situation in prayer, keeping up with our reading of the Word; in short, keeping in touch with God makes a real difference.  We need to keep attending to our own spiritual, mental and physical well-being, as well as that of those around us. 

Keep communicating.  Articulate your feelings.  Draw strength from and offer it to others.  Find ways to connect with your communities - and help others to do likewise.  This may be one the greatest tests that we have endured as a global community but, together, we will get through it.

My prayers are with you all.

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