Face masks and three-hour shopping queues but there is hope ... a Sunderland expat's life in Italy

A glimmer of positivity has emerged for a former Sunderland woman living under lockdown in Italy.

Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 4:45 pm

Sandra Laws, who hails originally from Farringdon, is now living in Cingoli in central Italy with husband Greg.

But hope has now emerged. Sandra told how today’s Italy is a mix of more positive news on restrictions being lifted but at the same time, it’s no easy battle to return to normality.

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Sandra and Greg pictured at their home in Italy.

Daily life includes having to wear face masks to get to the shops – and then waiting up to three hours to get in to them.

Sandra added: “Sunday, May 3 will hopefully see the Italian lockdown lifted or partially lifted and only then perhaps life may start to recover.”

But life continues in Covid-19 torn Italy which remains the third highest globally for the number of coronavirus cases.

Sandra said: “There is hope as there is now the first decline in active virus cases.

The face masks delivered by the commune of Cingoli.

“The recent warm sunny weather has seen people becoming more positive yet life still seems so surreal. Our local Italian neighbours continue to adopt their attitudes of working together, not panic buying, respecting laws to contain the virus and keeping to a strict two metre social distancing policy.

“The government recently announced that stationers, bookshops, children’s clothes shops and launderettes can now re-open. An increasing number of regions have legislated that face masks and plastic gloves must be worn before entering shops, chemists and other public areas. Some have even insisted that face masks must be worn outside of homes.

“Our local town of Cingoli has seen more than its fair share of deaths from the virus.

“To contain the virus our local Comune (council) took the initiative to provide face masks for its 10,000 inhabitants. Two Red Cross personnel wearing masks arrived at our entrance gates a week or so ago with a mask for both of us. They asked if we were both okay and one even tried to speak to us in English.

A message on Sandra's smart phone saying 'I rest at home' in Italian at the top of the screen.

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“At least Greg could now go shopping with a decent mask rather than wearing the builder’s type mask he had discovered in the workshop.”

But once Greg gets to the shops, the restriction measures are still tough for now.

“Only one person can leave home at any one time and then must have a permit to show to the police if stopped. And then no travel is permitted between towns. “

Sandra in her younger days in Sunderland.

Wearing new gloves, Greg recently waited ‘with all the other good-humoured and patient supermarket shoppers’ for three hours before he could get into the store.

But the Italian people were only buying what they needed and there were no shortages, said Sandra.

“Greg went shopping again last week with only a 1⁄2 hour wait before access to the store and the only stock out item were plastic disposable gloves. It was a very nice touch to see that the supermarket would now allow health workers, defence staff, police and other key front line personnel immediate access to the supermarket with proof of identity.

“Despite working on the front line, having to wear masks and gloves these brave workers are really patient, friendly and well-humoured.”

Italy is really sticking to the restrictions and it is working, said Sandra.

“Social distancing is adhered to and most people wear masks and gloves whilst driving, in public areas and it is obligatory to wear these to enter any shops, supermarkets, and garages etc.”

There is support for the vulnerable, too, with food vouchers for the most needy recently handed out by the Comune.

There’s been support to for the unemployed and signs that life is getting back to normal.

“It’s now possible to order repeat prescriptions from the doctors’ practice with delivery directly to the farmacia,” said Sandra.

“The Red Cross turned up again on Saturday to bring another face mask.”

Italy’s phase two plans of renewing the way of life are working with businesses restarting – although they are doing it with the introduction of social distancing rules and the wearing of facemasks and other protective equipment for workers.

“There are no shortages of face masks and it is possible to buy disposable gloves from the farmacia and some other shops,” said Sandra.

And there was a further message of hope from Greg and Sandra for Sunderland people who have families in Italy.

“We can now see some hope and recent information even anticipates some regions to have zero cases shortly,” said Sandra.

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