An Italian's guide to keeping healthy during a coronavirus shutdown

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
A personal trainer leads an exercise class for her neighbours from her balcony in Rome, as Italians are unable leave their homes due to the coronavirus crisis. (Reuters/Remo Casilli)

Nowhere in the world has the coronavirus crisis been more stark than in Italy.

The country has suffered the highest number of deaths of any country: 5,476 as of midday on Monday. Meanwhile, it also has a rapidly growing number of confirmed cases, 59,138. This figure is second only to China, where the virus originated.

Claudio Semenza, head of media at Yahoo Italy, says: “People are not fine. We have many initiatives to stay together: flash mobs from the balconies, singing together.

“But at 6pm, we have the daily bulletin from the health authority. Everybody waits for it and unfortunately you don’t get good news. Very often it’s bad news.”

Italy’s entire population has been subject to draconian restrictions as the government desperately tries to slow the spread of COVID-19. On Sunday, it went further by banning travel within the country and closing all non-essential businesses.

The move has left millions of Italians housebound: something Brits could be facing in coming weeks as cases leap on a daily basis in the UK. Already, 1.4 million people with serious medical conditions have received advice urging them to go into quarantine for 12 weeks.

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Semenza has been in quarantine with his family for a month. He lives in the city of Lodi in Lombardy, the worst-affected region in the country.

With lockdown looking ever more likely in Britain, Semenza shared seven pieces of advice for keeping healthy – physically and mentally – while forced into self-isolation at home.

1. Stay at home

“Don’t go out unless necessary [for example, to visit the supermarket]. Put it in your mind that you have to stay at home. You are doing a very important thing by doing this as it’s not just for you, but for everybody in your country.”

2. Be patient

“We all need to be patient. We have to prepare ourselves and say: ‘OK, we have to do it, it’s a positive to do it.’”

3. Organise your new life

“In my opinion, it’s important to respect yourself. Take care of yourself every day. Take a shower, or better have a relaxing bath. Shave every day, I have been shaving more than in the past! Even if you don’t go out, be prepared for your day.”

4. Eat properly

“In some cases you can treat yourself to chocolate or drink a bit of wine. But eat properly. Don’t eat junk. It’s important to eat in the right way and keep strong.”

5. Create a routine

“Have daily objectives and goals and try to fulfil them, whether it’s your job or hobby. Also try to do some exercise. You can find tutorials online.”

6. Talk about life

“If you are not alone, try to leverage the situation by talking to your partner or children. Talk about your life more than you did in the past. It’s an opportunity to go deeper. It’s something I’m doing with my wife and sons: it’s very helpful.”

7. Keep in touch with friends

“But don’t talk about ‘the thing’. Try to share your dreams and not just your nightmares. Make plans for your summer. I have some friends living alone and I try to call them or just write a message to let them know I am here for them.”

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