Events canceled, museums closed – Milan, Lombardy and the Coronavirus

Image above: Youth in Milan with masks – in reality,  not everyone is wearing masks, photo/Shutterstock

Dear MilanoStyle Readers,

Thank you for the messages of concern and well wishes!
I and my family are well.

(Feb 26, 2020) In light of the Coronavirus news reporting alarm and worry, I have received many emails and messages asking about what is going on here in Italy. Family and friends are worried, and travelers are concerned about going ahead with their travel plans.

Seeing headlines like these would make anyone worry:

  • Coronavirus: Outbreak spreads in Europe from Italy – BBC News
  • Coronavirus live updates: Americans are warned … – CBS News
  • Coronavirus in Italy: What we know about CDC … – USA Today

The following are my personal opinions, experience and observations.

It is true that the Coronavirus has spread and has been identified in Italy. It is also true that some areas of Italy, like here in Lombardy, a public ordinance has imposed restrictions and limits with the aim of preventing a mass outbreak.

Public places and gatherings have all been closed and activities suspended until an undetermined date.  Some business like bars, cafes and pubs have restrictions. Supermarkets and restaurants do not.
Public transportation is still running. Some intercity trains have been delayed or canceled.

In my opinion, although it may seem extreme in some respects or even contradictory in others, it is the right thing to do.

In the past weeks the earliest cases in Italy were detected and unfortunately some deaths have occurred in patients who had compromising health issues. Read more (in Italian):  Corriere delle Sera

Over the weekend a  public ordinance was published by authorities.  Lombardy region website – this is a link to the latest update 23 Feb 2020 (in Italian). Schools, cinemas, theatres, museums, religious gatherings, concerts, other conference and meetings have all been closed and activities suspended until an undetermined date.  

You may also be interested in: Coronavirus: Living in Milan – Easymilano.com

On Sunday, as we sat watching the news, a deluge of telephone and email notifications pinged on our phones.

I am a volunteer guide at a public monument, and on Sunday morning we received notice that all visits would be suspended.

The tennis club sent notifications that the local tournament was canceled, and the club would remain closed for an un-defined period.

The same at the gym.

Friends posted on Facebook pictures of empty supermarket shelves, tv news showed lines of people waiting to get into stores. However, I went to my local Carrefour supermarket on Monday morning and everything seemed fine- the only thing that was completely sold out was cleaning alcohol.

Venice Carnival was suspended in mid-stride and the Milan Carnival (which would have been this weekend) has been canceled.

Today they announced that the Salone dei Mobile Furniture fair, Milan Design Week, in April will be postponed until June. Read more: https://www.salonemilano.it/en/

Although schools and public places are closed, local public transport is running. People who commute are still commuting and have told me the train cars and metro have fewer passengers.   

In light of the situation and to follow the public ordinance, I notified my English students that all group lessons would be suspended.

No, I am not wearing a surgical mask when I go out and despite the news photos, I haven’t seen many people who are.

As you may know, I live in Lecco, 45 minutes north of Milan. As a precaution, I have decided to not travel by train in the next few days. I suffer from asthma and as a preventive measure I would rather work from home. In general, during the winter season, even catching a common cold puts me at unease.

Should I cancel my trip to Italy?
Through my blog I have gotten numerous questions like “Should I cancel my trip to Italy?” Unfortunately, I can’t really give you a direct answer. To say “everything is alright” would be superficial. I am a cautious traveler and have canceled travel on two occasions due to terrorist attacks, which I regret to say, in our day and age is as unpredictable as contracting a disease.

I admit, if I had invested a year planning and saving for my dream trip to Italy, I would be concerned about departing this week but if your plans to come to Italy are for this summer, my best advice is to keep an eye on news and developments.

Read dependable sources (BBC, CNN, CBS, USAToday, Aljazeera, Euronews, La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera) and stay away from sensationalizing news channels (any “news” page that open with auto-play advertisement videos is a sure sign they baited you with sensationalized news).

Talk to your travel agent, advisor or the tour operator to get an idea of what is happening in the areas you will be visiting.

Check the CDC website for travel warnings: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list/

How long will the Coronavirus last?
In a report by La Repubblica , “Months” says the director of the Department of Infectious Diseases of the Higher Institute of Health, but he also goes on to say “The main outbreak is limited. The new cases are almost all attributable to the epicenter of the epidemic in the Lodi area and to the two smaller outbreaks in Veneto”.
Read the full aricle on La Repubblica .

Lodi is 90 km from Lake Como where I live. The only thing I feel I can do is take precautions by avoiding large crowds and washing my hands frequently and I feel comfortable with that.

Some may say I might be jinxing myself but I’ll just see what happens and play it day by day.

That’s all we can do.

Wishing you well,

Celia, Milanostyle.com
Keeping warm in Milan

Celia Abernethy

Celia is the founder and managing editor at MilanoStyle.com. Originally from New York, she now spends her time between Milan and Lake Como sharing her discoveries and experiences living in Italy. Follow @CeliaAbernethy on Twitter