Milan Cathedral is closed and St. Mark's Square is empty. Supermarkets have been stripped bare, and bars and restaurants have been shuttered. Northern Italy is being badly hit by the novel coronavirus, and tracking down the source of the outbreak is proving to be problematic.
Roberto Cighetti lives in Codogno, the small Lombardy town that has found itself at the center of Italy's coronavirus crisis. The streets are emptier than usual, but some people do still go for walks. All shops except pharmacies and supermarkets are closed.
The town, just south of Milan, is home to around 15,000 inhabitants and is now a restricted zone. Dozens of people have contracted the coronavirus there. It's a time to hunker down at home, not to go out to meet friends.
"There are families who are relaxed," says Cighetti, a 33-year-old teacher at a school in the region. "But there are also families who are worried, especially if there's an infected person among them. And then there are families who panic for no reason."
He doesn't like the comparison between Codogno and the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged. "We are a small place, unlike Wuhan, not densely populated, we're surrounded by nature and have many green spaces," he tells the German Press Agency (DPA) by phone. And in Codogno, the inhabitants are allowed to leave their houses.
He regrets the many false reports that circulated about the outbreak on social networks and on Whatsapp. "I only trust official data," he says.
There is concern that the virus will spread to Milan. Several municipalities in the province have been quarantined, with security guards deployed to prevent anyone from entering or leaving. There are now more than 200 known cases in Italy – by comparison, Germany has only 16. And although the six dead so far were all elderly people with pre-existing health conditions, panic is beginning to spread.
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