April 5, 2020
“We’ve decided to extend the lockdown to keep you safe from the flu.”
Assuming that everyone can make it to the end of the lockdown without running out of money and food was a mistake.
As Italy enters its fourth week under lockdown, tensions are building across the poorest southern regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia as people run out of food and money.
The number of checkpoints has increased nationwide to discourage people from going out. But instead of staying home as required by the government, there have been reports of shop owners being pressured to give food for free, and police are patrolling supermarkets in some areas to stop thefts.
Small but vocal crowds of unemployed have gathered in front of city halls in the south, calling for financial help to buy food.
“Give us something, it’s tough,” read a sign protesters held up in the city of Messina. Police dispersed the crowd and identified some of the demonstrators.
“They haven’t been working for weeks as everything has stopped because of coronavirus. Now they have no money left to buy food, and they don’t qualify for state aid,” said a policeman, adding that some of his colleagues gave demonstrators sandwiches and cigarettes to calm them down.
Similar scenes were witnessed in the Naples and Bari hinterland. Investigators are concerned that this could be a visible sign that the situation is heating up, and are afraid that the mafia might take advantage.
The self-employed, and those working on contracts that do not guarantee social benefits provided by the government to help face the crisis, have lost their salaries. Many small businesses may never reopen.
The ramifications of the lockdown, which has been extended until after Easter, are also hitting badly the estimated 3.3 million people in Italy who were working off the books, of whom more than 1 million live in Campania, Sicily, Puglia and Calabria, according to the most recent figures from CGIA Mestre, a Venice-based small business association.
“A significant number of people live day to day, doing occasional jobs,” Emanuele Fiano, chief whip of the Democratic Party in the Italian Parliament, told Arab News. “There are also many shopkeepers, or professionals working for themselves, who may have moderate reserves that will run out the longer they’re in lockdown.”
Caritas, a Roman Catholic charity operating nationwide, said requests for food at its soup kitchens have increased by 50 percent since the lockdown was enforced.
It’s amazing that Equality advocates from all around the world aren’t speaking up about the obvious fact that only people with at least a small amount of savings can go through the lockdown without government aid.
For the people who need to work every day in order to eat, the lockdown is a nightmare.
And the nightmare is just getting started.
After weeks with nearly zero petty crime reported due to the lockdown, now local media have started to report an increase in robberies.
Two elderly people were robbed of their shopping by young people on scooters in separate incidents when they left a supermarket.
Police are trying to increase surveillance on supermarkets so that the elderly do not get targeted, but the situation does not seem to be improving.
The weak will be targeted first, but as desperation and hunger increase, so too will the risks that people are willing to take.
Unless this flu hysteria stops, things are likely to get darker pretty fast.
It’s going to make the cover of an Iron Maiden album look like a walk in the dog park.