With an estimated 40,000 families of Italian descent in the East of England – with the majority living in and around Bedford – many have been directly affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the country.
Italy currently has over 12,000 cases of the coronavirus and the government has placed the entire country on lockdown.
This has invovled closing schools, public spaces and tourist attractions, plus canceling events and restricting travel until at least 3 April.
“From what I know many families in Bedford have been affected by what is going on in Italy and they are keeping in touch with developments and what is happening to their families over there,” Luigi Reale, teacher and former councillor, told the Bedford Independent.
“Of course there are a number of families who will not be visiting Italy over the Easter holidays and none of the Italians who work in the north of Italy, and normally travel south to be with their families at Easter, will be able to do so at the moment.
“Italy has a disproportionately high population of older people and you can imagine that some of our Bedford Italians have elderly parents that live in Italy so they are a particular worry for them.
“It is more the everyday life that has changed for Italians. Many are criticizing Italy for having imposed what they see as draconian measures but I think that many other countries are just not acting fast enough to slow down the peak of the pandemic.”
It’s not just Bedford’s Italian community that has been affected.
Bedford School has boarders from many countries that have imposed travel restrictions, and the school has been inundated with offers from local people, offering to welcome the international boarders into their homes over the Easter holidays.
“We are working with the advice of Public Health England and the Boarding Schools Association to support all our families involved and have taken the decision to open our boarding houses for an additional week straight after Easter – a full week before term starts – for boarders who are unable to return home,” said a spokesperson for Bedford School.
“As we share the challenges of the ongoing situation with all our parents, we will continue to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and adapt our plans as necessary.”