ROME: “Mum, look, all the cars are back!” Caterina, 5, could not believe her eyes when on Monday morning she looked out of the window of the flat in Rome where she has been secluded with her parents for 52 days.
This was the day Europe’s hardest-hit country eased the world’s longest coronavirus lockdown. “It’s like before the nasty virus!” Caterina shouted at her parents, begging them to take her to watch the cars moving again — wearing a face mask, of course.
They fulfilled her wish and took her downstairs. “The kid was as excited as if we’d taken her to the zoo. She hasn’t seen cars in a while, and every now and then she was asking where they’d gone,” her father Sebastiano told Arab News.
“My wife is a doctor so she never stopped going to work. I think I’ll keep working from home and won’t use public transport for a while. As schools are closed and won’t reopen until September, I have to look after Caterina,” he added as he walked with her to a nearby cafe that had reopened on Monday.
“Takeaway only,” a sign on the window said. “This is my first croissant and espresso in weeks. That’s how I’d normally breakfast,” he said.
Cafe owner Osvaldo told Arab News: “I felt emotional when I switched the espresso machine on after such a long time. The steam coming out of the back, like in the good old days, made me smile again.”
He had had no business for the past two months, “but bills kept coming in the post and I have to pay the rent anyway. Now I’m broke. I hope I’ll make something with takeaway.”
Nearby, a man struggled to start his car. “I haven’t used it for two months. The battery is gone,” he told Arab News.
Grocery store owner Ersilia told Arab News: “We can hear more noise now. It’s better than this frightening silence we had so far, as there was nobody in the street. Now we see life again.”
But bars and ice cream parlors will remain shut, at least until mid-May, to preserve social distancing.
I’m worried about the reopening. The authorities seem very undecided about how to proceed. For the moment I’m financially destroyed, and so are the 12 staff I used to employ.
Michele Bertucci, Restaurant owner
The use of public transport will be discouraged, and everyone will have to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Buses and underground trains in Rome remained quite empty on Monday.
“It’s OK while shops are closed, but when they reopen, it will be a disaster if everyone drives as there are no parking spaces,” a traffic policeman told Arab News.
A bus driver with only two people on board told Arab News: “I can accommodate only 10 passengers. Usually I could take up to 70.”
One of the passengers, 21-year-old Giovanni, told Arab News while wearing a mask and gloves: “I have no car but I want to see my girlfriend. We haven’t seen each other for 52 days.”
Restaurant owner Michele Bertucci told Arab News: “I’m worried about the reopening. The authorities seem very undecided about how to proceed. For the moment I’m financially destroyed, and so are the 12 staff I used to employ.”
Arab News saw plenty of people running in Villa Borghese, the biggest park in the center of Rome, which reopened on Monday.
Federica Pellegrina, a swimmer who holds the women’s 200-meter freestyle world record (long course), and won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, resumed her training on Monday after six weeks. “In the water I felt like a baby,” she told Arab News.
Little Caterina wants to go to the park after her croissant, “but I’ll be careful,” she said. “I’ll wear my mask and won’t touch anything so that the big bad virus doesn’t come.”