Something invisible has stopped us

March 18, 2020


Who would have thought that something invisible to the human eye, will stop people, all over Europe, and all over the world?

COVID-19 is spreading very fast, much faster than it takes you to convince yourself that the only solution to combat it is to stay home.

I am confined to my room, working remotely from Italy. From morning to afternoon, I am watching television and following the news, and despite the drastic measures, the numbers are still not down; we do not know if the peak of the epidemic has come or not.

Then I see what is happening to Spain, what is happening to France, and I realize this is a film that I have already seen. At the beginning everyone goes on with their life, perhaps saying, mistakenly, "It is just the flu, nothing will happen". Then people start to see the numbers of infections go up, that hospitals are overflowing, and people are starting to die, and then it becomes a serious thing.

It has entered our lives

And still in my head is that image that something minuscule and invisible has stopped us. It has entered our lives, our intimacy, identity, it has taken away our hugs, our greetings, it has made us rigid, closed, silent. And that silence is surreal because nobody knows exactly what will happen next.

I'm from a small town in Calabria, a beautiful region in southern Italy, where lots of people come to get married. But all the weddings in March and April have been cancelled, the hotels and shops have closed their blinds and not a bar is open. Everything has stopped. Italy is a country made of small family-run businesses, it has been, and is our strength, and when a business stops, it stops a family, it stops the income of all. In this chain of uncertainty, if revenues are stopped in those small businesses there will have to be decisions made on how to pay providers, on how to relaunch the image of our country, which depends on tourism and exports, and that has been so beaten, and where there are almost no flights coming in.

We will get over it

The government has made the first decrees to help small businesses such as guaranteeing loans, temporary job restructuring, and delayed tax payments. The only thing that gives us hope is that this crisis will be temporary and we will get over it.

And from my desk here, my mind flies to Latin America and the Caribbean, where I have been working for more than 13 years, and I think about how we can help the most vulnerable to rise from this shock. National public health systems may not have much capacity, and families will have to be supported because the cost of medical care might make them fall back into poverty. Workers will lose their jobs because of the crisis. The strain on women will be greater, with children out of school.

Caring for the most vulnerable

This crisis, which has no border, brings to light the structural weaknesses of the countries that, if they have not worked to reduce inequities, will be confronted with hard decisions, with very limited resources to take care of the most vulnerable.

Recovery will be a huge challenge for everyone. Just as with the terrorist attacks on September 11 2001, CODIV-19 will changed how we will look at the world. After being contained for many days, we are realizing how vulnerable we are and how interconnected. We see how valuable public services must been accessible to all, and how an efficient tax system is necessary so that we can pay the salaries of all doctors, nurses, members of civil protection, and decision-makers who are fighting against the clock, saving lives, and ensuring the vital right to health and wellness.