So far it’s been a rather trying week, and it’s only Wednesday morning!
On Sunday afternoon my teenage son gleefully informed me that his school would be closed for the coming week, due to the coronavirus.
Which meant we had to make a hurried decision whether to open OUR school the following morning, and to make sure everyone involved (teachers, students) knew what that decision was.
The Regione’s ruling on the (obligatory) closure was unhelpful, in that it referred to ‘schools at every level, whether public or private’ as well as universities’ etc. but made no mention of things like gyms, restaurants and the like. Technically, we’re a ‘business’ rather than being a ‘school’, which would comport much greater regulation but also bring various benefits which the state has always been reluctant to conceed us.
So it wasn’t obvious whether we were supposed to be closed, or not. Was the authorities’ intention to close down most of the economy, or simply to give the kids an extra week of full-time Playstationing? It wasn’t clear, so in the end, we decided to be pragmatic and to open anyway, especially given that we have students from all over who were relying on us to be there. And, given that they were in Bologna anyway, what else would they do?
You can read the hurried, Sunday-evening announcement we put on our website here.
Most other language schools in our city made the same decision, but not all, and at a national level there was much debate in ASILS (the Association of Schools of Italian as a Second Language) as to what the correct decision should be. Clearly in some places, such as Lombardia, closure was the obvious choice. But other areas of Italy were so far unaffected, or like our region, had a few cases but no indication that there was reason to be alarmed.
On Monday our wonderful teachers turned up to work without complaint, along with most of their students, and apart from a queue for handwashing and a buzz of nervous chatter, things seemed much like any other Monday. Then, in the evening the ‘Regione’ issued a clarification to Sunday’s decree, this time specifying amongst other things that gyms, language schools, driving schools and so on were NOT to close. Which was a relief.
But then the next day, Tuesday, word went around that British people who had travelled to northern Italy would be expected to self-quarantine on their return (the Italian press re-published a crude image showing their country cut in half at approximately the height of Pisa).
Later came the news that a thousand hotel guests had been quarantined in a hotel in Tenerife due to the presence of one infected Italian (bet he was flavour of the month.) The glug-gluging that accompanied that piece of information was the sound of the tourist and language-travel industries disappearing down the plughole.
In the afternoon, it became clearer that the Brits were not actually advising against travel to Italy, and that only people who were showing symptoms of Covid 19 would be expected to self-quarantine on their return. Travel insurance firms pointed out that they would follow UK government advice when deciding whether or not to pay out for cancelled holidays, and that said advice currently did not say that people should not travel to northern Italy, only that they should obey local authorities, i.e. avoid quarantined zones like anyone else. Deciding to err on the safe side is not a valid reason for claiming on your travel insurance policy, apparently.
By Tuesday p.m., several of our students had already decided to finish their courses early and return home, not so much out of fear of infection as because they had other trips or holidays planned and dutifully felt they needed to make sure they could self-quarantine for the required period before heading once more for somewhere sunny.
“But” I reasoned, “if you don’t have symptoms, you don’t have to self-quarantine! And if you DO have symptoms, missing out on your holiday will be the least of your problems.”
People are anxious, it’s understandable. Our response is to smile and reply that, of course, we’ll keep a credit for a future moment, when you decide to return and complete your course. No worries, see you again soon, we hope!
But this level of anxiety has consequences for people’s jobs and businesses, as well as potentially their lives. Frightened people rushing places in a panic does not make for easy infection control.
Keeping things in perspective would do no harm, as this article explains. It’s in Italian but not so hard to read, so do take a look. Six hundred and fifty thousand Italians have influenza on a typical winter’s day like today, apparently, and some of us will die as a consequence. But that’s dwarfed by the daily (and equally frightening in my opinion) toll from heart disease, cancer and the other major killers. Only ten people die on the roads each day, which surprised me.
But anyway, here we are. Putting morbid thoughts aside, it’s sunny in Bologna today and the sky is a cheerful blue. Getting a seat on the bus to work will likely be much easier than on a normal Wednesday, and once there, the place will look as it always does, though perhaps a little more echoey (we have high ceilings, with frescoes!) If the telephone rings, it’ll be an automated sales message or similar (rather than people asking for information about courses). I’ll be able to take it easy.
Outside, there will still be tourists sitting at cafè tables in Piazza Maggiore, the shops will be open as normal, and in the evening when I head back to the bus stop, there’ll still be a crowd of drinkers outside the Celtic Druid, the Irish pub around the corner from the school. Life going on, insomma.
Guaranteed Virus-Free Ebooks!
Well OF COURSE you can’t get ill from reading/listening to an ebook, even if the person emailing it to you happens to be on the wrong side of that alarming red line crossing Italy from sea to sea at approximately the level of Pisa.
And anyway, if you’re going to ‘self-isolate’ for fourteen days (since when was that a GOOD thing?), you’ll want something useful to do, don’t you think?
Personally, I’m like, yo, close the whole damn economy down and I’ll stay in bed for a couple of weeks and study Spanish. I’d make SO much progress if I didn’t have to go to work!
No, not really. Closing down the economy is not something to wish for. However, if you do happen to be going out less and staying home more, don’t forget that this week’s ‘eBook of the Week’ is Michelangelo e il Mosè, and that it’s half-price until Sunday night. Or until the end of the world, should that come sooner.
As usual, there’s a Free Sample Chapter (.pdf) that you can look at and, as I mentioned on Monday, we have other ebooks (also virus-free) in the ‘famous lives’ series, too. If you buy all seven in a ‘bundle’, you’ll save 50% on the lot, and so have something useful to do while self-isolated…
A venerdì, allora.
Tuesday’s edition of EasyItalianNews.com, if not exactly reassuring, is also guaranteed to be incapable of infecting you with anything other than enthusiasm for listening and reading more in Italian (for free.)