By Fiona McGarry
A SOUTH-East Clare woman, living in Northern Italy, has pleaded with the Irish people to take Government guidelines on social distancing seriously in order to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Rachel Turner, originally from Bridgetown, has been living in Milan for more than a decade and said people here should be taking every possible precaution to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus. As the death toll in Italy surpasses that of China, Rachel told The Clare Champion the mood is very low and people are desperately missing their normal lifestyles, after more than a month of severe restrictions on movement.
Earlier this month, Italy put around 16 million people into lockdown. Under the measures, people are forbidden to enter or leave the region of Lombardy, where Milan is the main city.
“We had a neighbour taken away in an ambulance this morning and the apartment block disinfected,” Ruth said. “The death toll is very high for Milan this week. We are adapting to the new way of life but most of us desperately miss our lifestyles. Children, above all, miss school.”
A teacher of English for business clients, who include the likes of Pirelli and Campari, Rachel is a busy mum of two boys, seven-year-old Giorgio and four-year-old Lorenzo, who are adapting to the enforced home-schooling.
“We have now had schools closed in our region for a month,” she explained. “We have been in quarantine for two weeks. [That means] absolutely no leaving the house, unless getting food or medicine and only one person per household may go out, with a certificate stating the reason. I feel very proud of how well my boys are coping but also worried about the fall-out from this on their mental wellbeing. [It’s] very sad to not see my mother Jean this Easter.”
Rachel’s parents, Jean and Dave, live in Bridgetown and work in the University of Limerick (UL). This year will see the first Easter that Rachel’s mum has been unable to visit her and her husband, Giuseppe, and their family.
As Ireland is widely believed to be following a similar pattern of infection to Italy, Rachel appealed for vigilance.
“Please take this seriously. We didn’t at all in the beginning and now our lives are so restricted. Follow guidelines but also don’t wait until the Government tells you to self-isolate; just do it as much as you can.”
The virus has taken a huge toll on Rachel’s community. Nobody remains untouched by its impact.
“Our priest, Don Franco, is in hospital with Covid-19,” Rachel outlined. “A student called me to tell me his father died last night and his mother was fighting for her life from Covid-19. My husband had a case in his office and now they are remote-working too. Ambulances pick up people from our neighbourhood frequently. A lot of us, myself included, presume to have it or have had it.
“I was officially quarantined for my cough for 15 days, meaning I couldn’t do the food shop and so on. I’ve had an antibiotic and feel much better. They are not testing unless you are at major risk. The system is already at breaking point.”
In such uncertain times, the link with home in Clare is more important than ever, Rachel said.
“I’m speaking to my mother every day on WhatsApp, thank God for new technology. Facebook is a blessing, and a curse, but for the most part it’s nice to feel connected. I was honoured to be asked by Eoin and Ruth O’Hagan to take part in interviews on Sundays on Scariff Bay Radio. It’s a wonderful show and I feel so much closer to home. My aunt, Carol McNamara, is a regular.
They are now jokingly referring to me as their Italian correspondent.”
Italy’s lockdown situation, which affects around 16,000 people is set to continue for some time. By midweek, the death toll from the outbreak in Italy grew by 602 to 6,077.
“They are cracking down on anyone breaking curfew and fining them, with possible jail time for going out if sick.
We are now waiting for [Giuseppe] Conté (the Italian Prime Minister) to tell us the new date for [the lifting of the restrictions]. Right now, it’s April 3; it’s likely to say May and many people think we will not be back in classrooms until September.”