ROME — In Italy, where people are known for large family gatherings and effusive two-kiss greetings, many are struggling to adapt to new rules of behavior to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The hardest-hit country in Europe, Italy has seen some 4,600 cases and almost 200 deaths, prompting the government to cancel major public events and encourage people to keep their distance from one another and avoid gestures of affection, in what Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte acknowledged amounted to a significant “change in lifestyle.”
But while health experts insist that the disease can only be contained by avoiding social contact, calls to be “united but distant” are proving particularly hard to enforce among habitually affectionate and socially minded Italians.
“It is ingrained in Italian culture to hug, kiss and shake hands,” said Rome resident Giulia Bianchi, who said she hadnt seen anyone observing the new rules yet.
The effusive nature of Italians may even have contributed to the spread, according to Italys head of civil protection Angelo Borrelli, who admitted following the new rules would feel unnatural to him.
Social activity has come to a near complete halt across most of the country, with the closure of schools and universities, and entertainment venues such as cinemas and theaters
“We have a collective social life, very florid, very expansive, we have lots of contact, we shake hands, we kiss each other, we hug each other,” he said. “Maybe it would be best in this period not to have too much contact — which for me will be a big change from how I am normally.”
Social activity has come to a near complete halt across most of the country, with the closure of schools and universities, and entertainment venues such as cinemas and theaters. Public events where people might be less than one meter apart have also been canceled. Older people were instructed to stay at home in isolation, and hospital patients were told they must attend medical visits alone.
These emergency measures have created angst among some, who worry that they will change or diminish personal relationships if they are kept in place indefinitely.
“Does the removal of our tangible signs of affection and friendship change the nature of that personal relationship?” asked an editorial in the Rome-based newspaper Il Messaggero.
Two university students kiss each other at La Sapienza University Campus | Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images
Since the lockdown of several towns around Milan and in Veneto, Italian media has breathlessly reported stories of tragic young lovers separated Romeo-and-Juliet-style by the cordons surrounding the so-called “red zone.”
Other reports of inhabitants caught breaking lockdown to see their mistresses suggest that the social impact in Italy will be partly mitigated by a natural aversion to following authoritarian rules.
But mental health experts say there are genuine reasons to be concerned about the emotional impact of isolation and the withdrawal of physical affection.
Naples-based psychoanalyst Caterina Scafariello said the measures “are necessary but are likely to create isolation and anxiety fueled by social media and fake news … They deny people conversations, relationships and intimacy.”
Children may also suffer from being separated frRead More – Source