A PhD student from Halifax who saw first-hand how the pandemic played out in Italy has a warning for those at home — complacency is dangerous in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.
“People’s attitudes are like 90 per cent of how you fight this virus,” Anthony Rosborough said, a Haligonian who travelled to Italy this summer to begin his PhD studies in law.
The experience may be instructive for Nova Scotians as the province’s top doctor announced on Tuesday that the province is at the beginning of the second wave.
“Clearly we are in the beginning of the second wave but the trajectory we take is up to us,” Dr. Robert Strang said at a provincial COVID-19 update.
Since the beginning of November, the province has had 42 cases. In September the province reported just three cases during the entire month.
Rosborough says when he arrived in Florence, Italy this summer he immediately began a 14-day isolation period.
During that time, he says he was aware that the country had eased restrictions that were mandated during the first wave of the virus.
He says after his two weeks were over and he eased his way back into daily life, he was surprised by the approach many people seemed to have to the pandemic.
“I saw kind of a certain kind of attitude that, you know, ‘we’ve earned this, we don’t need to care anymore, we don’t need to wear our masks, we had one of the toughest lockdowns, we can relax now.’ And, I saw what happens when you do that – it doesn’t end well,” Rosborough said.
Italy is once again grappling with a surge in coronavirus cases that have led to an increase in deaths and hospitalizations.
Months after Italy eased one of the globe’s toughest lockdowns, the country is now recording well over 5,000 new infections a day — eerily close to the highs of the spring.
Doctors have said they’ve seen a disheartening lack of concern from individuals. Massimo Galli, the director of the infection disease ward at Milan’s Sacco Hospital, told The Associated Press, “The whole country acted as if they infections never existed, and was no longer among us.”
Similar to efforts being enacted across Canada, the Italian government has tightened nationwide restrictions banning casual pickup sports while bars and restaurants face a midnight curfew, and private celebrations in public venues are not allowed. Masks are mandatory outdoors.
Rosborough says when he returned to Nova Scotia about seven weeks ago, he was surprised by the lack of ‘checking in’ he received by officials to ensure he was isolating himself properly.
“No one called me, no one checked on me. I know that after I finished my quarantine apparently a police officer had come to my place to check on me but I had finished at that point,” he said.
In Nova Scotia, those who are self-isolating are supposed to complete a digital check-in every day in order to prove they are actually self-isolating.
Failure to check-in could result in police visiting the address provided to the province for self-isolation in order to ensure they are actually doing what is necessary.
Fines for violating the province’s self-isolation rules could go as high as $1,000 for an individual’s first offence or a fine up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for one year.
Rosborough feels that his experience with a lack of follow-up speaks to the critical role self-responsibility plays in containing the spread of the virus.
Now that he’s home and cases and potential exposures are continuing to increase, he feels it’s more crucial than ever for Nova Scotians to realize that nobody is immune from the impacts COVID-19 can have, and to follow public health orders.
“That sense of entitlement, or that we are a model for the country, that we should deserve credit or recognition, I think is like the absolute wrong way to think. And, we have to continue to keep working and keep making sacrifices,” Rosborough said.
–With files from Colleen Barry of The Associated Press