Coronavirus: You could get arrested for going to the gym – what it's like to live in locked-down Italy

Will Taylor
·News Reporter
·3-min read
Massimo, right, with wife Alessandra.
Massimo Sangiovanni and his wife Alessandra (Massimo Sangiovanni)

A family has described what it’s like to live in Italy as it struggles to contain the spread of coronavirus by placing emergency measures across the entire country.

Based on official reporting worldwide, Italy is the worst hit country from the infection outside of China, with more than 9,000 reported cases and over 460 deaths.

Massimo Sangiovanni, who runs his own business, has been working remotely from home in Pavia, a historic town not far from Milan.

With the entire country in lockdown, he gave Yahoo News UK a glimpse of what it is like to live under quarantine in Europe’s worst affected state.

“We have been locked down since Saturday but as you may have seen the whole country is locked down so there’s not much difference across Italy now,” he said.

 Foto Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse 12 marzo 2020 Torino, Italia cronaca Emergenza Coronavirus - Torino deserta nel terzo giorno di quarantena. Nella foto: Via Roma Photo Fabio Ferrari/LaPresse March 12, 2020 Turin, Italy news Coronavirus emergency - Torino in the third Day of quarantine caused by the coronavirus spread . In the pic: Via Roma (Photo by LaPresse/Sipa USA)
The road Via Roma effectively deserted in Turin as Italy's lockdown continues. (Photo by LaPresse/Sipa USA)

“Staying at home, decreasing social life will help limit the spread of the virus, so I’ve been decreasing my social life quite a lot in the last two, three weeks.

“Being locked down means you shouldn’t leave the home unless there are serious reasons to do so.”

These include getting medicines and food, Massimo added, and many grocery stores and supermarkets have remained open.

Most shops and businesses have closed, however. Massimo, who runs a consultancy business called StrategicLane, is able to work from home.

“As of (Monday) depending on the severity of your behaviours, if they catch you out at night or going to the gym – which would be closed by the way – you could get arrested actually, you could get three months of jail.

“I don’t think you’d have that but you could get a fine.

“You can download from the government website a form to explain why you need to go from place A to B.

This street in Pavia would usually be packed at the time of day in the photo – late afternoon – but only a handful of pedestrians are out in lockdown.
This street in Pavia would usually be packed at the time of day in the photo – late afternoon – but only a handful of pedestrians are out in lockdown (Massimo Sangiovanni)

“(It shows) my name is ‘X’, I live here, this is my address, I go to the pharmacy there because I need medicine and drugs, and (the authorities) stop you.

“You show it and of course they can trust you or they can follow you.”

His wife Alessandra is at home with him, and his eldest daughter is finishing her PHD in artificial intelligence and robotics but her university has been shut for a month.

He is most concerned for his other daughter who lives and works in Paris.

He worries that France, along with other European countries, could see a similar outbreak to Italy, which he said should be viewed as a “test bench” for what coronavirus can do to a European country.

Although the restrictions mark a serious change to daily life, Massimo said he views the quarantining as necessary to fight the virus.

“Put it this way, nobody in the government has faced a pandemic, an emergency like this one, I think they did it correctly.

“I think if they had imposed a lockdown earlier it would have been better, but Italy is not like China, where Chairman Xi has locked down people in Wuhan, they couldn’t do it overnight in Italy.”

He added that he believes the sooner governments take the “hard decisions”, the better.

The Foreign Office now advises against all but essential travel to Italy, and a number of airlines have cancelled flights to the country. Neighbouring Austria shut its border to the country.

Meanwhile, the UK, which has announced more than 450 cases, is expected to reach its coronavirus case peak within two weeks.

The government has warned that isolating too many people prematurely would not help stem the UK’s outbreak.