Former Winnipegger says ‘everyone’s suffering’ as Italy locks down over coronavirus fears

A former Winnipegger now living in northern Italy says she’s seeing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis first-hand.

Europe’s worst-affected country, Italy’s prime minister said Monday that the entire country will be placed in lockdown until next month as part of an unprecedented effort to fight the coronavirus.

Daniela di Biaggio, a teacher originally from Winnipeg now living in San Daniele, Italy, told 680 CJOB that the crisis is affecting everything from businesses to schools – which are currently shut down – to street traffic.

“You don’t see much traffic. You don’t see people around,” she said. “It’s deserted.

“It is scary… people are still going to the shop and have to get their food, but (the government) suggests you keep a metre distance, and you can see that there are more people at the tills. They don’t want people lining up close together.

“They’re trying to do things to prevent the spread of the virus. You find sanitary gel to clean your hands everywhere.”

Di Biaggio said her parents in Winnipeg have been calling every day with concerns as news of the Italian crisis worsens, but she said despite an excess of caution, she and her family and friends are relatively safe.

One of the biggest impacts, she said, is on her teenage daughter, who can’t go to school, can’t hang out with her friends, and is generally stuck in the house all day.

“She’s at home. She’s doing school online, and things have been cancelled. She understands that she has to stay at home. All sporting events have been cancelled, and we’re just trying to do our best with the situation.”

Italy‘s 60 million people will only be able to travel for work, medical reasons or emergencies until April 3. All schools and universities, which were originally closed nationwide last week until March 15, will now not reopen before next month.

Since late February, Italy has had over 9,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as well as more than 460 deaths.

“Hopefully the flu will not be around much longer and we’ll be able to recover,” said di Biaggio.

“It’s a hard situation for everyone, and everyone’s suffering.”

Canada’s federal government has put out a travel advisory for Italy, encouraging Canadians to avoid any non-essential travel to the country due to COVID-19.

The northern region, where di Biaggio lives, is being specifically called out as a danger zone.

“In Italy widespread transmission is being reported in multiple regions in the north of the country. Confirmed cases that are linked to Italy are being reported in other countries, and more are expected,” the advisory says.

As of Monday, there were 79 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada, with one death – a man in his 80s at a British Columbia care home.

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