A few days into Italy’s lockdown, people across the country sang and played music from their balconies as they came together to say “Everything will be alright” (Andrà tutto bene).
Three weeks on, the singing has stopped and social unrest is mounting as a significant part of the population, especially in the poorer south, realise that everything is not all right.
“They are no longer singing or dancing on the balconies,” said Salvatore Melluso, a priest at Caritas Diocesana di Napoli, a church-run charity in Naples. “Now people are more afraid – not so much of the virus, but of poverty. Many are out of work and hungry. There are now long queues at food banks.”
Poverty and fears
There have been far fewer coronavirus deaths in Italy’s south compared with the worst-affected northern regions, but the pandemic is having a serious impact on livelihoods.
Tensions are building across the poorest southern regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia as people run out of food and money.
There have been reports of small shop owners being pressured to give food for free, while police are patrolling supermarkets in some areas to stop thefts.
The self-employed or those working on contracts that do not guarantee social benefits have lost salaries, and many small businesses may never reopen.
Paride Ezzine, a waiter in Palermo, Sicily, no longer gets his salary. “Obviously, due to the lockdown, the restaurant closed,” he said. “I have a wife and two children and we’re living off our savings. But I don’t know how long they will last. I asked my bank to postpone payment instalments – they said no. This situation is bringing us to our knees.”
This is what desperation looks like in souther Italy right now:
Mafia loves crisis
For over a month, shops, cafés, restaurants and pubs have been closed.
Millions of people work in the grey economy, which means that they haven’t received any income in more than a month and have no idea when they might return to work.
The government is issuing so-called shopping vouchers to support people, but it’s not enough.
The Mafia is gaining local support by distributing free food to poor families in quarantine who have run out of cash across the poorest southern regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia.
Criminal organisations in Italy also offer interest-free lending to the needy to try to extend their influence and are ready to snatch up struggling businesses.
If the state doesn’t step in soon to help these families, the mafia will provide its services, imposing their control over people’s lives.
And I tell you, this will become a widespread phenomenon! It’s not going to happen only in Italy! Be prepared for the incoming societal and economic collapse, because it’s going to be very bad. [The Guardian]