By Francesco Rocca
ROME — Intensive care beds full of people. Of every age. Women and men dying alone, unable to say goodbye to their loved ones. Funerals with no mourners. A line of military trucks transporting bodies away from the city because there is no more space to bury them in town.
These heartbreaking images are now part of daily life in Italy.
A few weeks ago, these scenes — the result of the global COVID-19 pandemic — would have seemed unthinkable here in Italy.
As a Red Cross and Red Crescent worker, I try to be optimistic, but it is hard to keep a hopeful outlook when I see communities around the world not taking this virus seriously.
In Italy, as in many countries, I still notice individuals who don’t understand the importance of following simple rules on physical distancing. I witness bogus or racist rumours about the virus on social media. I hear people saying that “this is only a flu” or “will only affect the elderly” — as if the latter would be acceptable.
Each of these deeds affects how far this virus will spread.
Local volunteers, local communities, families, groups of friends and individuals have a great responsibility to stop COVID-19: And this is the moment. Take it from me. Take it from my country.
Practice physical distancing, be kind, check on your neighbours, run essential errands for older adults and people with compromised immune systems. Stay at home as much as possible, buy only what you need, cancel your party and yes — wash your hands.
Whether or not you have symptoms, your actions are critical to “flattening the curve” and keeping your neighbours alive. Recognize that people over 65 are not the only ones contracting the virus. And do your part by staying healthy so that hospitals, doctors and nurses can continue to do their lifesaving jobs as time and resources dwindle.