Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Italians subject to checkpoints, fines for leaving home, crossing boundaries
The COVID-19 lockdown in Washington state is inconvenient for most of us and devasting for those who are out of work or own businesses that have been shut down or restricted. But the lockdown in Italy is much, much more severe.
Police cars patrol the streets, even in pedestrian areas, and the army has also been called on to help. Checkpoints ensure that people who are out have good reason. If you get stopped, you must show where you’re going on a form printed from the government website. Whatever you declare is subject to verification, and if it’s found to be false, you could end up with a jail term of three months or a fine of up to 3,000 euros. Anyone out in a group will be fined on the spot.
Newspaper accounts say that police stopped and checked 700,000 citizens between 11 and 17 March, 43,000 of whom were found to have violated the stay-at-home decree. Many of those accused of violating the lockdown have justified their behavior based on ambiguities in the decree, claiming they did not understand the restrictions. Police have also been testing the people they stop for the COVID-19 virus, so imagine the double-whammy of getting a fine and discovering you have the virus at the same time.
My cousin Claudio Del Terra in Altopascio is one of those officers on the front lines, stopping people who are out to make sure they have valid reasons. It is not permitted to cross from one municipality to another except for “cases of absolute urgency,” Claudio wrote me. Because he is in a position where he could be exposed to the virus, he does not visit his elderly mother, who lives nearby and is undergoing chemotherapy, to avoid the risk of accidentally contaminating her (his brother Marco is able to check in on her).
Hats off to the brave Italian police officers who must enforce the regulations despite resistance and confusion from some citizens. And let us hope and pray that we don’t have to take such extreme measures in Washington.