New Brunswick

Saint John woman living in Rome describes life during lockdown

Fawn Wilson White is used to the sound of honking horns and the lively chatter of tourists outside of her apartment window located in the centre of Rome, Italy. But Rome, a city that never sleeps, has become eerily quiet, she said. 

'The statistics are much like the whole population of Gagetown disappearing overnight'

A view of an empty street, in Rome on March 21. People living in Rome are only allowed outside their home to purchase groceries or pharmaceuticals. (Andrew Medichini/Associated Press)

Fawn Wilson White is used to the sound of honking horns and the lively chatter of tourists outside of her apartment window located in the centre of Rome, Italy. 

But Rome, a city that never sleeps, has become eerily quiet, she said. 

"You hear birdsong now, which you never heard before, punctuated occasionally by the wail of a siren," Wilson White said. 

Italy is one of the places hardest hit by COVID-19. On Sunday the country reported more than 750 deaths, sending its total skyrocketing to 10,800. 

As of Monday, the country has a total of more than 98,000 infections. 

Wilson White isn't among those infected, but she has watched the virus shutdown the city around her. She and her husband are headed into their fourth week of self-isolating.

"Every day we wake up, the statistics are much like the whole population of Gagetown disappearing overnight," Wilson White said. 

Wilson White is the international chairman of Friends of the Certosa di Capri, an organization restoring a 14th-century monastery in Capri, Italy. 

She returns to Saint John for about three months every year to visit her mom. She's hoping she'll be able to make the trip when flight restrictions are lifted. 

Fawn Wilson White is a Saint Johner working in Rome, Italy. (Submitted by Fawn Wilson White)

For now, Wilson White can't even leave her own region. 

Like many European countries, Italy has imposed restrictions on movement outside of the home. Italians can only leave their home once per day. It requires a permit with a time stamp on it. People are only permitted to leave their home to pick up groceries or pharmaceuticals. 

Those with a dog are allowed one extra trip outside per day to walk it. 

"People with dogs … They're fighting over who gets to take the dog out because that gives you an excuse to go out twice," she said. 

Saint Johner Fawn Wilson White lives with her husband in Rome. They are entering the fourth week of mandatory, country-wide quarantine. On Sunday alone, 756 Italians died of COVID-19. 12:50

Fines are significant for those who go outside without a permit — up to €400, equivalent to about $625 Canadian.

Those who have COVID-19 and choose to leave their home face a fine of up to €3,000, or be sent to prison, depending on the severity of their symptoms. 

Wilson White and other Italians have had to find ways to pass the time — like hosting virtual dinner parties and learning new indoor exercises with household items. 

Wilson White said she's not sure how long it will take for Italy to get back to normal. Italian officials are concerned the virus will move down the peninsula to Naples, Sicily and Bari.

"The truth is we don't know and I don't think the government knows because when it gets down farther to the south it could change character," Wilson White said. 

"I hope that Saint John doesn't have to experience anything like this."

With files from Information Morning Saint John

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