Royston mum living in Italy lockdown’s plea to others to help stop coronavirus spread

PUBLISHED: 18:04 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 19:43 16 March 2020

Joanne Glasscock with her husband Willi Messetti and son James. Picture: Courtesy of Joanne Glasscock

Joanne Glasscock with her husband Willi Messetti and son James. Picture: Courtesy of Joanne Glasscock

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A mum-of-one, who is from Royston and is now living in Italy, has told the Crow of the reality of living in a country in lockdown due to coronavirus – and hopes by raising awareness more people back home will make changes to help stop the virus spreading.

The empty streets of Lazise, a tourist village on Lake Garda in northern Italy, due to the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Willi MessettiThe empty streets of Lazise, a tourist village on Lake Garda in northern Italy, due to the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Willi Messetti

Joanne Glasscock settled in Italy more than 20 years ago, having travelled to the country on a year out aged 21. She lives with her Italian husband Willi – who runs an estate agency, and their 10-year-old son James in Lazise on Lake Garda.

The 44-year-old English teacher and interpreter said: “I don’t think people here were realising what was really happening until 10 days ago – we were thinking it’s just flu and it will calm down.

“If I’d thought this could happen two weeks ago, I would have called myself crazy. I just never thought we would be in this situation ever.

“We’re very close to the epicentre, the Lombardy area is an hour drive from us. We’re Lombardy’s neighbours and they locked that area down and then they locked down the area below us and then the other side so it was closing in on us.

The empty streets of Lazise, a tourist village on Lake Garda in northern Italy, due to the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Willi Willi MessettiThe empty streets of Lazise, a tourist village on Lake Garda in northern Italy, due to the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Willi Willi Messetti

“In the week of February 24, I was in the UK with my son, and that week it started evolving.

“We didn’t think it was that bad at the time, we thought there were only a few cases – but the government were already starting to stop football matches, carnivals and big events.

“My husband and I spoke about me and my son staying in the UK longer but we wanted to go back because we didn’t know when we would be able to get back.

“When we came back a lot of Italians were wearing masks and keeping their distance, they were really starting to understand something big was happening. All the schools were closed then.

The empty streets of Lazise, a tourist village on Lake Garda in northern Italy, due to the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Willi MessettiThe empty streets of Lazise, a tourist village on Lake Garda in northern Italy, due to the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Willi Messetti

“There was a 60/40 ratio of people taking it seriously. Children were still going to the park together and parents were still going to work, so then we thought why are the children off school but workers still potentially bringing the virus home to the children?

“It was a halfway measure, but the government were giving a lot of indication about what to do. They were telling people kissing was banned, and about keeping your distance.

“However, the weather was fantastic and people were out and enjoying it and weren’t taking it seriously – us included.

“On Saturday, March 7, we went out for dinner – we’d had it organised with friends since Christmas and didn’t want to cancel on them. The restaurants were full but tables had to have a certain amount of distance between them.

“Afterwards we went for a drink and me and my husband looked at each other and said ‘what are we doing? This is crazy. We shouldn’t be out’.

“We had to start taking action. The next day we said we have to stay at home as much as possible, my husband would go to work and I’d stay at home with James.

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“James is in the last year of primary school, he knows about the coronavirus –we’ve told him to wash his hands and that we need to protect other people, who were of a certain age or with health problems because the hospitals don’t have enough beds for everybody who needs them.

“On the Monday night the announcement was made that the country was on lockdown, it was freaky but I did think ‘thank goodness for that’, not everyone was taking precautions and it was something that needed to be done.

“The country needed to be guided and the government said it’s going to be difficult and tough but we have to do it.”
More than 24,700 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Italy with over 1,800 deaths, the highest number outside China – where the virus originated. In the UK, 1,543 cases have been confirmed and 36 people have died.

Joanne continued: “It’s a sacrifice we have to make at this time to stay at home as much as possible. Avoid contact, avoid travelling and keep washing your hands.

“We have been following the rules – I haven’t been out since Sunday, March 8. My husband is allowed to go to the supermarket – one person from each family is allowed to go to the supermarket.

“Italians do travel around the country – people are usually back and forth. This is what, in my opinion, has made it spread as much as it has.

“We have just found out yesterday that our friend’s wife has got it – it’s getting closer and closer. In the village we live in there were two cases, and there’s a nunnery and they’ve just found out that 10 of the nuns have got it.

“Because we were out and about until two Saturdays ago, the incubation period would end for us next weekend so then we will see if we’re OK.

“It feels like it’s closing in on us. We are getting to the real peak period now, over the next five or six days I think it’s going to get worse and then we’ll see what happens from there.

“The streets are completely empty – there’s the A4 motorway, equivalent to the M25, and its completely empty. There are lots of police checks happening, nurses and doctors have to go to work but they have permission – all shops, bars and restaurants are closed. Only chemists and supermarkets are open.

“When you look out the window and see no cars or people, there’s no traffic. It’s the silence, the only thing you can hear is the sound of the birds. It’s extremely surreal.

“Ten days ago we we’re saying it’ll calm down but it spreads so fast. There’s very good healthcare here, but the system is on it’s knees because the amount of people needing intensive care or treatment.

“I would say to people back home it’s not a film and it’s not just happening in another country far away – everyone is locking down and we have to close ourselves away as much as possible.

“In my opinion, there shouldn’t be any gatherings – even a group of friends having dinner, if there’s 10 of you and one has it they have to contact the 10 people and they have to contact people they’ve seen. Hundreds could be affected as a result of that just that one group getting together.

“I’m a positive person, I see the positive in everything and I’m grateful I can spend time with my son.

“Two weeks ago I would have said, ‘what about work, we can’t not go to work’ – but if it’s about stopping this spreading you can not go to work unless you absolutely have to. It’s not about the economy, we can get the economy back - this is about people’s lives.”

“Don’t make the same mistakes we made and not take action quick enough.”

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