Tallaght native shares story of life in Italian lockdown town

By Mary Dennehy

Just over two weeks ago, The Echo spoke with Tallaght native Joseph O’Flaherty about life in an Italian town on the cusp of lockdown over coronavirus – a situation which has drastically escalated in the past 14 days.

Originally from Tallaght, Joseph lives with his wife and five-year-old son in the provincial town of Mantova, which lies in the south east corner of the Italian region of Lombardy.

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Sign outside hospital says ‘In total emergency, nurses and doctors: national pride’

When The Echo spoke with Joseph two weeks ago, the 50,000 people living in Mantova had not yet been restricted to their homes.

Schools and public spaces were closed, shops were low on pasta, flour and water and hand sanitiser was not to be found in any pharmacy.

However, despite streets being deserted and a lack of traffic, Mantova was not yet in the red zone.

Fast forward 14 days and the situation has escalated, as Italy goes into lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus.

When The Echo last spoke with Joseph, an outbreak of the virus in Northern Italy had resulted in 11 deaths and more than 320 confirmed cases.

At the time of The Echo going to print on Wednesday, this figure had jumped to more than 10,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Italy, with 631 confirmed deaths.

“Now we can’t use parks and kids have to stay indoors,” Joseph told The Echo.

“Kids are not really getting sick but they could pass it onto an older person.

“For adults, we have to have a good reason for being out in public.

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Sign outside the hospital; “Doctors and nurses, you are our heroes”

“Police are stopping people and asking them where they are going, especially if they’re traveling in a car.

“People can travel to get food, for medical reasons or work.

“However, they are now trying to stop all industry except food, medical, waste and energy.

“It’s after getting really surreal.”

While a small number of businesses remain open, the school for adults that Joseph works in has been closed for more than two weeks.

“I was at the supermarket this morning and that was very strange,” Joseph said.

“There was enough food for everyone, they had obviously had a restock.

“However, there were signs everywhere asking people to stay at least a metre away from other people.

“They were announcing it as well over the loud speaker, and reminding people to maintain a metre.

“Bars and cafés are open as well from 6am to 6pm but they can only open if they can keep everybody one metre apart.”

Despite the uncertainty and concern for many around coronavirus, community support and solidarity remains.

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A shop sign instructing customers to maintain a one metre distance 

“There is lots of support for medics, and there are signs on hospitals thanking nurses and doctors and calling them ‘our heroes’.

“There are also official numbers that older people can call and volunteers will bring them medicine and food.

“Everybody knows it is important to keep an eye on people.

“Myself and my wife have put a sign on our door for anyone who needs shopping, most of our neighbours in this apartment block are older than us.

“There is a lot of solidarity, everyone is working together and wants to help out.”

Joseph and his family were scheduled to fly home to Dublin for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations, but those plans have been cancelled – with his focus now on keeping his five-year-old boy entertained at home.

“These restrictions are in place until April 3 and we would hope after that they can be lifted,”, Joseph said.

“However, at this point we can’t be sure to be honest.”

For up-to-date information and advice on the situation in Ireland visit the HSE website HERE

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