There is no Coronavirus emergency in Rome

Business as usual in Rome and Lazio region.

Rome mayor Virginia Raggi and Lazio Region president Nicola Zingaretti have both underlined the fact that there is no Coronavirus emergency in the capital or in the Lazio region.

There have been no cases of locally-transmitted infections of Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in Rome or the Lazio region. Of the four people treated successfully for Coronavirus in Rome's Spallanzani hospital, two are Chinese and two are Italians who were flown back to Italy from China.

One of the Italians is already better and has been discharged, the other Italian is expected to be discharged in the coming days, while the Chinese couple - the first cases of Coronavirus on Italian soil - are making an excellent recovery and are out of any danger.

In addition, all tests carried out on suspected Coronavirus cases at Rome's Spallanzani hospital have proved negative.

Both Raggi and Zingaretti are keen to get the message out that, despite the outbreak of Coronavirus - mainly in the north of the country - it is business as usual in the capital.

Some things have changed however in recent days. Many pharmacies have sold out of masks and hand sanitizer (some have notices in their windows, others prefer not to advertise the fact). However if you walk around the centre for an hour you probably won't see more than a dozen people actually wearing masks.

Lazio regional health authorities have begun installing pre-triage tents outside hospitals in Rome and around the region, as a precautionary measure. This should be interpreted as a sensible rather than an alarmist move.

Likewise Rome has begun disinfecting city buses and train stations. Municipal offices have been equipped with hand sanitiser and you may notice some staff wearing gloves when dealing with the public.

Another thing that has changed is the return of the requirement of a doctor's certificate if your child has been out of school for more than five days, a measure that was scrapped in 2018.

Tourism

A major knock-on effect of Italy's Coronavirus outbreak - mainly in the north with isolated cases around the country but none in Lazio - has been the devastating impact on Rome's tourist sector.

Tourism chiefs complain of a loss of €1.5 billion and "90 per cent cancellations" in March, with the restaurant sector alone said to be losing €3 million a day.

Rome's mayor is set to convene a summit with tourism associations, with local media reporting that the city's tourist tax could be temporarily dropped to assist the struggling hospitality sector.

Culture

The March edition of the nationwide Domenica al Museo, allowing free access to Italy's state museums and archaeological sites, has been cancelled. The Rome version, involving free entry to municipal museums, is - for now - going ahead as normal on 1 March.

Another nationwide decision, taken by the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology,  involves the closure of catacombs around Italy. Other than that there is no change to the cultural scene in Rome, although the drop-off in visitors might mean you enjoy the museums more without the crowds.

Image abroad

Italy's foreign minister Luigi Di Maio, speaking to the international press on 27 February, condemned the misinformation or "infodemic" damaging the country’s “scientific community, image and economy”.

Di Maio's intervention came as several countries, including the UK, updated their travel advice about travelling to Italy, with US president Donald Trump even not ruling out travel restrictions to Italy.

The scare has also led Ireland to cancel the upcoming Six Nations clash with Italy in Dublin and resulted in several US universities closing their study-abroad programmes in Italy.

“Without wishing to minimise the situation" - Di Maio said - "just over 10 towns out of 7,904 are involved. And all of the cases we are finding outside of this radius are attributable to the outbreaks in the Lombardy and Veneto regions.”Data issued by the Italian foreign ministry reveals that the towns in quarantine represent just 0.05 per cent of Italian territory.

Di Maio also attacked the "jackals" who are exploiting Coronavirus fears by selling masks and disinfectant online for exorbitant prices, promising "severe punishment" for those caught.

Numbers

There are around 650 people infected in Italy (out of a population of over 60 million), of whom 248 are in hospital and the rest are recovering at home.

It is also worth noting the strict screening measures that Italy has in place - far more comprehensive and stringent than most other countries - with more than 10,000 Coronavirus tests carried out over the last week. In addition, Italy was the first country in Europe to isolate the virus.

Information

For updated information on the situation in Rome and the Lazio region see Regione Lazio website. The dedicated local (regional) number to call is 800.11.88.00 while the national number is 1500 (health ministry) or the emergency number 112.