24 May 2022

Derry woman at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy pleads for people at home to act now to stop their loved ones dying

"We have one chance in Derry to get this right. This is not a drill."

Derry woman at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy pleads for people at home to act now to stop their loved ones dying

A local newspaper in Bergamo with photos of those who have died. Photograph by Associated Press

Derry woman Fionnuala Crabtree is a teacher in the Italian city of Bergamo, the area hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak. In the last week alone, 400 people have died in the city which is roughly the same size as Derry. Fionnuala, who is currently living in lockdown, has a stark warning for people back home.

Quarantine continues, as does the number of cases of and deaths from Covid-19.

We sit in our apartments with the hope that this lockdown will start to pay off sometime soon.

We can’t control our previous actions, our ignorance, our failure to take this situation as seriously as we should have.

All we can do now is hope that everyone can look at Italy and act now to protect their communities.

The noise of sirens continues, as does the bells of churches to mark the mourning of our city.

The army has been deployed to help the undertakers and hospitals in removing victims of Covid-19 to other cities to be cremated, because the crematoriums here are full.

They are taken away without people getting the chance to say goodbye, to send them off with dignity, and with love.

The families are left to grieve on lockdown.

If you want to understand how two weeks can impact the ‘spread’ of covid-19 you only have to look at Italy.

The impact of people’s actions, or lack of action, is starting to be seen.

As thousands of people fled highly infected areas in Northern Italy before the final lockdown, they thought they were being clever, they thought they were escaping lockdown, they felt fine so what was the harm?

However, it wasn't fine.

Not only did these actions force the lockdown of an entire country, instead of just a region but now, two weeks later, these areas in central and southern Italy are now badly affected with cases of Covid-19 and deaths as a result.

The reality here, is that people are not only worried about being infected or ill due to Covid-19, but afraid of other illness or health complications because now hospitals cannot deal with any other emergency.

Staying home and isolating is hard, but right now it is critical for you to do so, to protect your community.

A little sacrifice now, can go a long way in protecting the people of our community and supporting the incredible work that our NHS staff will have to face.

My plea would be don't wait to be told how to act in this situation, learn from our mistakes here.

When we initially took the precaution of closing schools, no one in my city of Bergamo, a town the size of Derry, had tested positive, so people carried on with their normal lives.

In the past week alone there have been 400 deaths in this city.

Do not underestimate the low numbers, and the strength and speed of the spread of this virus.

Whilst the numbers seem low or unapparent right now in Derry, it is the best time to act.

In hindsight, I believe the period in which people are complacent because the numbers are low, is the exact period in which the virus is spreading the most.

Please understand this before there needs to be a ‘total lockdown’ like here, when it is inevitably too late.

You now all still have that control, you can act to prevent this situation unfolding in the areas where you live and love.

It's vital now that children are off from school that they stay home that they are not socialising in public areas or playing in the street.

Utilise your gardens and fresh air, utilise the time to teach your children life skills. It can be a positive time for you and your family.

Trips to the supermarket or for essential services where possible shouldn’t be ‘family outings’, only one family member should go to the limit the risk of exposing your family to the virus.

There is also no need to panic buy, yes limit the times you need to do a shop but also be respectful of your community.

If you’re not working or working home it’s a period of social responsibility, in which you should stay home to limit the risk to the vulnerable people in your families and communities.

Remember to follow the guidelines with regards to social distancing, hand washing, reducing non-essential visits to friends and families. These will all play a crucial role in limiting the spread.

Every person in the community right now has their own role and responsibility to limit the impact on others and our NHS.

We have one chance in Derry to get this right. It is vital to follow the advice and act now.

This is not a drill.

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