Tempers fray over social distancing and visitors from Lombardy tell of discrimination
Tensions are breaking out on beaches and tourists from Lombardy have reported instances of discrimination as Italy’s first holiday season since the coronavirus outbreak gets under way.
Residents of Codogno, in Lodi province, the first town in the country’s badly affected Lombardy region to be quarantined, have claimed attempts to book holidays elsewhere in Italy were rebuffed after they revealed they would be travelling from a former “red zone”.
Among them was Davide Passerini, who lives in Codogno but is mayor of the small town of Fombio, another area quarantined early. His accommodation booking for a weekend away in Tuscany was rejected after the owner discovered he was from Codogno.
“Even if these are rare episodes, the prejudice leaves you feeling very bitter,” Passerini said. “It is the result of ignorance among those who don’t understand that people coming from the first red zones are today probably less likely to bring the virus because the level of contagion in these places is now close to zero and has been for a long time. But in the minds of some people, Codogno remains synonymous with infectious disease.”
During a phone-in to an Italian radio show last week, a couple from another area hard-hit by the virus spoke about being turned away at a hotel reception with the excuse that the establishment was fully booked.
At the same time, tempers are rising as people jostle for space on packed public beaches, where safety rules are rarely observed. On a beach in Ostia, near Rome, last weekend a 20-year-old woman was slapped after she asked a fellow beachgoer to move his towel because there was no safe distance between them.
Marina Marzari, a psychologist from Veneto, said her recent experience at a beach in the Marche region went from “paradise to hell” within a few hours as large groups descended throughout the day.
“It was the most dense crowd I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “There were no masks and not even the slightest distancing being respected. It’s really dangerous.”
Marzari called the local police several times but she said nobody came to patrol the beach. “We’ve all made sacrifices in recent months but feel taken for a ride after having stayed at home for so long, as when we go out situations like this aren’t made safe. If I get sick due to something similar I will press charges against the state.”
Safety rules at privately run establishments, where people can rent loungers and umbrellas, have been easier to maintain.
Even though requirements are similar for free beaches – people can gather in groups of no more than four people, maintaining a 1.5-metre distance from others, and beach games are banned – they have been more difficult to enforce.