-I will not close

A sign on a café in Venezia reads “I have always complied with the regulations and the decrees. I have always enforced social distancing, masks and hand-sanitizer. I will not close”.

As the inevitable second wave of the coronavirus pandemic gathers pace in Italy and escalating restrictions are imposed by the government, the disintegration of our society caused by social distancing is nowhere more apparent than in the choir of voices by the various sectors calling on the authorities to shut down everything else but them.

Restaurant owners say that they respect the rules while the real issue is kids hanging out in the streets; teachers and parents argue that schools should be the priority; theatre workers remind us of the importance of culture; gym owners point out the importance of physical activity during a pandemic; and so on and so on.

“You don’t understand the seriousness of the situation”, is the answer of our culture minister, “our goal is to prevent people from moving and meeting each other”. As long as social distancing remains the central element of our response to the pandemic, those who argue that “schools are safe” or that “only 1 out of 347.262 people who went to a theatre got infected” remain trapped in the very logic that now demands their closure.

While this sad show takes place, some hospitals are deducting the “covid bonus” given to nurses for their work in March and April from their wages for November and December, and China extinguishes one outbreak of the virus after the other by carrying out more tests in one day than several European countries put together have done since the beginning of the pandemic.

More than eight months into this crisis, the contrast between our limited investment in systemic solutions that are known to work, such as nurses and testing capabilities, and our persistent obsession with individual behavior and a fundamental negation of human nature that is impossible to achieve without destroying society is more striking than ever, and is beginning to look suspicious to say the least.