“On Feb. 25, with the first case in Italy, in the city of Codogno, we realized that the virus was now close to us,” my cousins Laura and Dario Genovese, who are residents of Sicily, Italy, said. This was the moment that the Genoveses realized that they too could be affected by the virus, and that it was going to start changing their lives dramatically.
Every country in the world has been affected in some way by the coronavirus, and many have taken measures that have resulted in rapid changes in people’s lives. I reached out to family and friends in Italy and the Netherlands to see how they have been impacted by the virus, and though their experiences have been somewhat different, all of their lives have been forever changed nonetheless.
In Sicily, the coronavirus has not just affected the residents’ health. Because of the coronavirus, the Sicilian Mafia has started to take advantage of the Sicilian people’s vulnerability. As a result of the lack of jobs, Mafia bosses are looking to recruit people and provide jobs on the black market.
On top of that, people like the Genoveses are dealing with the rapid change in their lifestyles. For the majority of the month of March, Italy was, at one point, the country with the most cases. Living there during that time was frightening and life-changing.
“The virus has changed everything in our life, has changed relationships with others, has changed the way we live our life,” Laura said. The increasing restrictions have made everyday life much different. At the peak of the virus in Italy, citizens needed to fill out a special form to leave their homes. This was originally put into place in mid-March. Walking your dog or going for a run are some of the activities that are no longer allowed. According to Laura and Dario, while they can go to the grocery store, most people opt for food delivery or eating what they already have in their homes.
“Restrictions have affected the lives of all of us profoundly,” Laura said. “We can only leave the house to shop or go to the pharmacy. No walking, no jogging, no parks.” In Sicily, the people are barely able to get outside unless they are doing the most necessary things. They can only visit the grocery store or pick up a prescription if it is absolutely required. Laura explained that not being able to go for a run or walk gives many people a stronger feeling of loneliness and isolation.
Most people in Italy know someone who is suffering from the virus or someone who is working in healthcare. Having a family member that works in healthcare can be very worrisome, as they are surrounded by death and the illness, which takes a toll on their own physical and mental health. Laura’s mom is a nurse in the Syracuse Hospital, which has been especially nerve-wracking for her. “I personally don’t know people affected by COVID-19, but my mother tells me of people who suffer from this virus every day,” Laura said. “The worst thing is to die alone in intensive care. They try to give a smile to the sick, but it is difficult to see them die alone, without any of the family members being close to them. No funeral, no flowers, no masses.”
In Italy, the deceased are not allowed to be honored and remembered in a traditional way by their family. The patients may not see their family at all while they are at the hospital. To make things worse, in most cases, the infected patient dies alone to prevent the spread of the virus.
As coronavirus continues to spread around the world, other countries like the Netherlands have also been greatly impacted. Collette Budde is a teenage resident of the Netherlands who, like many others, did not initially comprehend the severity of the virus until it made an appearance in her own country.
“Nobody really worried about the virus and most people, including me, didn’t think it would be as dangerous,” Collete said. “I and other people I know were very relaxed. However, the virus spread during the carnival event. After that, the virus infected many people very quickly. We saw the effects of the virus and how dangerous it actually was.” The Carnival in the Netherlands is a festival held mainly in the Southern and Eastern regions of the country, involving a large number of people. This caused the initial spread of the virus in the Netherlands.
Before any changes were put into place by the government, the first “change” was the people’s mindset toward the severity of the virus. The Netherlands went into lockdown in mid-March. “We currently have what is called an ‘intelligent lockdown,’ ” Collete said. That means we don’t have a complete lockdown where staying inside is obligated, but that we rely on people following the strict rules.”
The rules include: only leaving the house if it is a necessity, having a maximum of three people over, staying one and a half meters apart, closing all restaurants, and canceling all activities. “If you break those rules, you can actually receive a fine,” Collette said. “The fine can go up to €400,00 or however many dollars,” she said. The lockdown in the Netherlands is designed to keep people indoors, and the fine makes sure everyone follows the rules.
Like everyone around the world, Collette certainly misses life before the virus. “I do miss going out for fun, doing stuff with friends, going out for dinner, or catching a movie,” Collette said. “Everything is closed and only certain businesses are open, like restaurants for takeout and the doctor’s office. I even had to miss my granddad’s 85th birthday because we didn’t want to risk infecting him.”
COVID-19 has rapidly changed the way we live our lives, and Italy and the Netherlands are just two countries that have been heavily impacted. While both countries have put extreme measures into place to combat the spread of the virus, these changes and the virus itself have had a significant impact on everyday life. Currently, the Netherlands is planning on relaxing some of its rules and allowing small gatherings on May 19. Schools are closed until June 1, when they will most likely reopen. In Italy, the death count is still incredibly high, but the country is beginning to gradually open up certain cities and towns again.