EFFECTS ON THE SOCIETY
By the end of February, while the pandemic is having a very quick spread in China, and when all European countries are sure that “this will never happen to us”, Italy became the first European country to face Covid-19. The spreading of the contagion begins very fast and at first, we don’t even have time to react properly. The number of people in need of intensive care double each day and hospitals all over Italy, very soon, are on the verge of collapse. In that first moment, Italy is literally left alone. The whole world is looking at Italy with suspicion, like a bad example of health system and containment measures, like a totally unprepared country. I remember President Trump say “We don’t want to be in a position like Italy”. Italy in a week goes from being “one of the most beautiful country in the world” to just “a place to avoid”.
When lockdown starts, the 9th of March (even in the Italian regions with no covid cases) we really feel scared and hopeless. But in this terrible situation, Italian people has a strong and fierce reaction of national unity. During the lockdown phases we pass through different state of mind: At first we are full of hope, even if Italian’s natural attitude to sociality and to human touch is cancelled in a second; and this, in a psychological level, is very difficult to accept. At that moment, Italian people, closed in their home, find relief only in little moments of sharing like the daily appointment at 6:00 PM from our balconies and terraces. Singing together and looking at each other, even if we are locked in, seems liberating and makes us feel closer and not alone. People start to replace social connections with virtual connection: we start sharing recipes on social networks, videos of our gardening activity, our sport sessions etc.. and even if (as it happens all over the world) there are some cases of disobedience to lockdown’s rules, Italian people respect a very severe and long confinement. We have to fill a self-certification for the police each time we want to get out from our houses (to demonstrate that we are going out for one of the three serious and admitted reason (health, work, buying food).
But after the second month of lockdown we start to be tired and frustrated, economic problems for the majority of the population start to get obvious while the number of deaths joins an impressive level (we all watched on tv the images of military trucks bringing away thousands of coffins from the north of Italy because there were no more space in cemeteries or even in crematoria). We stop singing, we lose our hope and our mood change definitively.
Italian celebrities and important companies activate to help the nation:
- Giorgio Armani begins to produce single-use scrubs.
- Valentino, Gucci, Prada produce masks and donate a lot of money to hospitals
- Chiara Ferragni, one of the most important influencer of the world (20,6 MLN followers) with her husband, the rap singer Fedez (10,7 MLN followers), collected 4,5 millions of euros from their followers in just few days to enlarge the intensive care unit of the San Raffaele hospital in Milan.
Dolce e Gabbana supported the Humanitas Research Hospital with a huge donation in favour of the covid research. Many important Italian singers gave free “home concerts” from their living room, to sustain people mood and to show that “we are all in this together”. And this solidarity was appreciated and even multiplied by Italian people. In all the big cities such as Milan, Rome or Naples we could notice wicker baskets, full of food and essentials goods, hanging out from a lot of balconies just until the street level with this message “If you can, Give. If you need, Take” All this efforts have brought us to the end of lockdown (3rd of June), right now the sanitary situation is under control, we have very few people in intensive care and Covid hospital are almost empty, while all over Europe a lot of outbreaks are still very scaring and many European brothers are concerned for a new wave. Our Government is still very aware and careful, and they decide to prolong the state of emergency to react very fast in case of a second wave.
Lockdown, of course, had a deep impact on consumption, especially on “classical shopping”. Even today, with the end of lockdown, shops are facing a hard time because people still don’t come back to physical shops. We still have to wear masks in enclosed spaces (as shops, supermarket, public offices…) and in some places, before you get in, you have to wait in line, they still control your temperature, they ask you to use hands sanitizer and after that you also have to wear plastic gloves. All these requirements makes the shop experience very stressful and unpleasant for many people.
It is very alienating, for example, in a big city like Milan, the city I live in (who is maybe the most “shopping addicted and fashionable Italian city), walking down the street sensing that shops are completely voids. Despite that, online shopping has known an impressive increase. Even people who weren’t technological at all, got close to the endless possibilities that internet gave them. A huge amount of online purchases was registered especially in sectors like food, personal care, beauty and make-up, home decoration, gardening, high-tech, sport items.
Fashion, on the contrary, had a deep decline, people in tele working don’t need to dress up every day, they are just looking for comfortable loungewear, and they almost spend the entire lockdown’s months wearing simple sweat-suits. Seasonal rebates started already trying to save as much as possible of sales volume, but it is next to impossible.The only category of stores that seems to have taken an advantage from lockdown is the one of small neighbourhood shops like little groceries, greengrocers, bakeries…which also started with a delivery service, really appreciated by clients.Clients, who feel very insecure and uncomfortable in big department store and supermarkets, turn back to easy and familiar purchase processes, because even having a nice little conversation with a person that you can call by name is something very comforting in this situation.Big cities are suffering while little towns find new opportunity. It’s time for a new humanism.
Smart working is probably the most impactive change of the entire Covid period, and maybe it is also the one that will bring a completely new era. Forced by containment measures, private companies and public offices had to accept “smart working” as a possibility. I guess they will never had the bravery (should I say the “vision”?) to try smart working without covid-19. However now is a reality, and it seems that many companies will keep the smart working as a permanent solution. Labour productivity didn’t decrease at all (on the contrary, people don’t lose time and energy commuting from home to work) and in a perspective way of thinking companies will save a lot of money reducing (and sometimes completely cancelling) rent amounts, stationery, cleaning, security, sanitizing etc…Workers’ s position towards smart working is still ambivalent: the majority of people is very happy but everyone also declares to miss human relationships and sharing moments. That’s why there is a possibility that a new form of mixed approach (smart + classic work) will be the final choice. We still have a lot of problems concerning school and education: politicians and experts are looking for the right solution to go safely back to school in September, but it still seems very complicated.
Distance learning knew a difficult time in Italy, schools weren’t prepared, as well as teachers, and many schoolchildren didn’t have a personal computer to use at home. All this create a gap that we have to manage as soon as possible.
Another “victim” of lockdown’s measures and smart working is certainly the catering and restoration market. If the majority of companies are following smart working solutions, the cities are empty, and there’s no more “lunchtime”. Bars and restaurants register a -70% turnover with the negative effect that we can imagine. They were already deeply affected by post-lockdown measures because they were asked to keep tables at 2 meters of distance to save social distancing and this create a great loss of profit. Many entrepreneurial realities, particularly small and medium one, are failing. People are losing their job and economic situation becomes every day more complicated.
Tourism is another “badly hit” reality. Italy is a touristic country by birth. We receive millions of tourists every year, because of our beautiful landscapes, our incomparable historic sites and artistic heritage, and of course because we are “masters of hospitality” (good food and smiling happy faces are never missing!) But, of course, the pandemic put Italy in the “black list” and tourism is registering a hard recession. By chance Italy, which of course have a lot foreign tourism, can also count on a great internal tourism, that’s why the sector is now starting to react. Hoteliers, flying company and travel agencies in any case need a help to go through this period and they hope that Government will soon support them in reviving the sector.
Right now, as I already said, the sanitary situation is under control and Italians, very slowly, are going back to their habits. Holidays period helps us to feel a certain ease after all, but we don’t have to forget that almost the 45% of Italians won’t go in vacation because they can’t afford it. And many people will only have very short escapes not very far from their home. Big companies, the same as singular families, are very careful about spending money because they know that if a second wave will force us to a new lockdown this will represent the end of our economy, the way we know it. Investment are very low, budgets are blocked because everyone first wants to be sure to have the resources to face another hard time period.
For sure something has changed forever, the general feeling is a sense of insecurity and fear for the future, we understood very well that the entire equilibrium of the world is something very delicate and fragile and only if we put in place a common policy of protection and sustain we will be able to manage the future in a proper a safe way.
Nobody saves himself alone.