As a Mancunian living in Italy, I follow the Covid-19 situation in both countries with interest. There are differences and similarities, no surprise there.
It’s become apparent that the residents of care homes have been ignored in many countries, with the tragedies in both Italy and the UK being well-documented. The lockdowns have shown that domestic violence is not limited to any particular part of Europe but is widespread. The virus has had a greater impact on the over 60s in Italy and in the UK, while the feeling is that deaths have been wildly under-reported in both countries.
One difference that stands out is the political one. Compared to Italy’s Giuseppe Conte, Boris Johnson has had an easy ride. Johnson undergoes the occasional 30 minute ‘grilling’ each Wednesday and the odd tough question from the media when he deigns to appear at the daily press conference.
Meanwhile, Conte has been surrounded by a pack of wolves, all trying to bring him down. Matteo Salvini, Giorgia Meloni, Matteo Renzi, and to a lesser extent Silvio Berlusconi, have all opposed Conte’s plans at the time of Covid-19, and the coalition itself (the PD and 5Star) could be on firmer ground.
Added to that, Italy’s economic situation is the most precarious in Europe and many regions in the South were in dire straits prior to the pandemic. Conte has tried to broker a Recovery Pact with the EU for those hit hardest by the pandemic, but he faces fierce opposition from the northern Eurozone countries.
Italy is now in a re-opening phase, with many regions fearful that the economies will not recover without outside aid. The UK has been more generous in its approach to keeping business alive as it feels it has the economic muscle to get back into the game, post pandemic. Then there’s Brexit, now in the unfamiliar role of simply having a walk-on part – its lines are still being learnt.
In both countries, there’s a feeling in the air that many people are no longer following advice regarding social distancing and staying alert. Conte was moved to say that it was not “party time” and that further controls could be re-introduced, as necessary. In Italy, it should be possible at the end of the month to see if this free movement has caused the contagion curve to rise again. It’s less clear on any timing in the UK.
Nothing is certain except that clarity will only arrive with a vaccine. The search for that panacea looks like developing into a race, with Big Pharma fully involved. It’s a comment on today’s world that it’s a race rather than a symbol of global co-operation.