Minim Magazine, April 29, 2021
The deadly outbreak of COVID-19 in Italy marked a turning point in the global conversation about the pandemic. When the disease first emerged and spread throughout China, people in powerful western countries found it easy to dismiss the threat. But by late February, news of a serious outbreak in the wealthy, Northern Italian region of Lombardy forced a sobering revelation: if a major Covid-19 outbreak could happen in Italy, it could happen anywhere.
By Tuesday, March 9, then-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared the entire country a “red zone”. Every excursion from home had to be validated by an autocertificiazione, a signed self-declaration of a legally valid excuse. Lockdown infractions could — and did — result in heavy fines. Groceries could be purchased once a week. As supermarkets drastically limited the number of clients admitted at a time, one often had to wait in a queue snaking outside. Often with a Red Cross supervisor outside. Despite these extreme measures, in just a few short weeks, over 30,000 Italians lost their lives. Many thousands more of course were sickened, traumatized, and permanently injured. As of this writing one year later, that number has reached over 117,000.
Within these previously unfathomable conditions, there are crucial lessons to be learned by social movements about crises and local governance.