The Coronavirus Effect: supermarkets emptied in Italy

The fear of quarantine sees supermarket shelves emptied in northern Italy

30w ago

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I don't know where you're reading me from, or what the media in your country says about the Coronavirus epidemic in Italy, so here's the situation.

At the time of writing, Italy has the third highest number of infected people, excluding China. We are recording 283 cases of infection, with seven dead and one person recovered. The Lombardy region alone has recorded 212 infections and now has a curfew in place of 18.00. There are now 11 municipalities that have been quarantined to contain the spread of Covid-19. You can't get out of those "red areas" for any reason.

In Italy, there have been two reactions: disinterest and panic. Nothing in the middle. The disinterest is mainly made up of sceptics, the very young guys and immortal people.

"We have alcohol that protects us". Based on a real interview in Veneto. The Veneto region is known for its "sportiness" towards the use of alcohol. In fact, the guys interviewed are drinking an Aperol Spritz, a famous aperitif!

"We have alcohol that protects us". Based on a real interview in Veneto. The Veneto region is known for its "sportiness" towards the use of alcohol. In fact, the guys interviewed are drinking an Aperol Spritz, a famous aperitif!

The panic side of things is shown by the apocalyptic headlines in newspapers, and the confusing information from Italian virologists, who in this period are more prominent than the models walking in Milan Fashion Week.

Italian rubbish journalism - "The government facilitates the diffusion of the virus - Technical tests of massacre"

Italian rubbish journalism - "The government facilitates the diffusion of the virus - Technical tests of massacre"

Within two days of the outbreak, the supermarkets were emptied of disinfectants, Amuchina (Purell hand sanitiser gel in English) and masks. This isn't unusual, right? Prevention and disinfectant are the only weapons we have against Coronavirus for now.

So how come we emptied the supermarkets of pasta, canned food and water as well, as if the war was coming?

Photo taken in the Esselunga supermarket in Varedo, Milan - February 24, 2020

Photo taken in the Esselunga supermarket in Varedo, Milan - February 24, 2020

The official line is that it's the fear of quarantine. In fact, the phenomenon occurred only in areas close to infected areas, not in the south. But even this makes little sense, because the quarantine period for Covid-19 is 15-20 days, so a regular shop would be enough, and if you're pushing it, maybe buying one or two extra bits. Instead, people were buying 20-30 packages of pasta each, 10 cases of water and cans of beans as if they were the last ones left on planet Earth.

However, I believe there is a deeper reason.

The last time the Italians attacked supermarkets was in the 90s, when the United Nations went to war against Iraq. It was not known if and what position Italy would take but – history teaches – everyone imagined that it would undoubtedly be the wrong part. And so everyone made provisions. But this time we are not at war, we do not even risk a war, so why are we behaving as if it were so?

Because "Non si sa mai"

Net of self-irony, I think it's an ancestral reaction. Our grandparents fought in the Second World War. They have been locked up in concentration camps. They went hungry.

I remember that my grandfather could never have anything missing from his pantry. He didn't even allow a food to be 'finished' before buying more. The freezer was full of frozen meat. Because "Non si sa mai" (one never knows).

My grandmother was one of the people who thought the Iraq war would come to Italy. She bought so many provisions, if I check, I'll probably still find packs of paper napkins from that time. Because "Non si sa mai."

A war is very different from 20 days of quarantine. Food is not in short supply, and supermarket shelves will be refilled. But I believe that "Non si sa mai", it has stuck with us, despite everything.

Fear of hunger, even if it was never your hunger. The fear of not having food for your family. If you add to this the all-Italian tendency to want your whole family to be as safe as birds in the nest that they must never be hungry, here is the answer. I believe.

Or maybe we're just dumb, as we're saying to ourselves these days.

However, we hope to return to normal as soon as possible. We Italians are too emotional to handle emergencies.

Barbie Walk in Milan - Mask not included

Barbie Walk in Milan - Mask not included

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Comments (22)

  • This happens in the UK the moment the temperature hits -1C

      7 months ago
  • People do strange things when they panic. Somebody is probably sitting at home with the last 30 jars of pickled squash they could find and will now be eating pickled squash for the next decade.

      7 months ago
  • Hope you're safe where you are, Val. Just remember not to drink Corona beer 😁

      7 months ago
    • Not very well 😂😂😂 (Too bad, I like Corona beer!)

        7 months ago
    • Yep, same here, one of the first Corona cases in Germany happened in a town less than 20 km away from me 😒. Well, so I immediately went to a supermarket to get some supplies, after all non si sa mai, as you say 😉 and I got this. No idea whether it's...

      Read more
        7 months ago
  • Nah, y'all like food. I respect the Italian ethic.

      7 months ago
  • I am pretty sure everyone would do that. Nothing fancies us more than bad news. Hoomans are weird TBH.

      7 months ago
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