coronavirus italy
© Keystone / Andrea Fasani
A man in Casalpusterlengo, one the northern Italian towns placed under lockdown, and not far from the Swiss border
Quarantined Italian towns are buckling under the strain, major cities are emptying out and some of those infected say they are being stigmatised as Europe's worst outbreak of coronavirus takes hold.

Comment: Stigmatization?! If that's even the word. New Yorkers were beating up Chinese-looking people 6 weeks ago. Fights are breaking out on Japanese streets over face masks. Police manhunts are underway in most countries for escaped 'positive cases'. Large swathes of people globally have absolutely lost their marbles over this.

As of Thursday night, 3,916 cases had been detected as Italy aggressively tests for the virus. Out of that number, 197 people have died.

Comment: As old, sick people do every year from the flu.

Eleven towns are under lockdown - 10 in Lombardy and one in Veneto - and schools have been closed across the country as the government tries to contain a virus about which there are still many unknowns.

Comment: The understatement of the year! For starters, it's as clear as mud just how many people already 'have' it. We're thinking it's way more than officially claimed, which significantly dents the mortality rate.

Stories that have emerged since the outbreak began reflect the contrasting nature of the virus's impact, from the reassuring accounts of people cured to the suffering of those who have died or are in a critical condition. The heavily pregnant wife of "patient one", the 38-year-old man who was Italy's first confirmed locally transmitted case, was dismissed from hospital on Thursday; her husband, a marathon runner and amateur footballer, remains in intensive care.

The dead, mostly elderly and with underlying health problems, are buried quickly without ceremony to mitigate the risk of infection posed by their corpses. The living have become wary of those with even the slightest cough.

Nowhere is the situation more acute than in the areas under quarantine. In Castiglione d'Adda, a town of 4,600 in Lombardy, 18 people have died within the past two weeks and, as of Thursday, 121 inhabitants were infected. The youngest victim was a 55-year-old man; it is unclear whether he had an underlying illness. With three of the town's five doctors in quarantine and two hospitalised with the virus, there is nobody to tend to the sick at home.

"We have many people with a fever who are at home and who are unable to be visited by a doctor," Costantino Pesatori, the mayor of Castiglione d'Adda, told the Guardian. "A substitute doctor came but he wasn't provided with protective clothing and so, justifiably, refused to see people at home."

Comment: If they won't tend to people for such a mild illness, what use would such doctors be to anyone if people really started dying in droves because of a plague-like (actual) pandemic??

Pesatori is yet to learn whether the 14-day quarantine period, due to end on Sunday, will be extended. "This is such a surreal situation as the virus is difficult to comprehend; it's like living in a film," he said. "People are also getting fed up of staying at home and some are starting to break the quarantine rules."

Comment: Indeed it's like living in a fictional film directed by corrupted authorities and performed by deluded actors.

Stefano Lovisetto, a 58-year-old from Vo' Euganeo, the only quarantined town in Veneto, was dismissed from hospital on Monday after being given the all-clear.

"I had no symptoms, not even a cough," he said. "People are saying this is the plague, but it isn't. At least for me, it was only slightly more aggressive than a normal flu. The hospital staff were so kind and reassuring, despite having to deal with so many cases."

Morena Colombi, 59, is also among the recovered, but said she was being treated by fellow inhabitants in Truccazzano, a town of almost 6,000 near Milan, as if she had the plague. Colombi is the only confirmed case in the town, which is not under lockdown.

Comment: Notice that, in this case, the government doesn't even need to enact or enforce a 'lockdown', but people are in such a state that they're spontaneously doing it themselves.

"They are speaking badly about me, it's as if I did a robbery or something," she said. "But all it is is a virus that just so happened to affect me. When people hear the words 'virus' or 'quarantine' and 'there is no cure' they get frightened. For me, I had hardly any symptoms. Others are suffering badly, but most of those have other pathologies."

Comment: People didn't used to freak out like this. Even in '09 when the CDC, WHO and media were drumming up hysteria about 'Mexican swine flu', we didn't see such apocalyptic behavior from people. Something is definitely 'in the air', and this virus is the last of it.

With 1,777 confirmed cases as of Thursday, Lombardy is the worst-affected region, followed by Emilia-Romagna (658) and Veneto (380). The number of those infected across Italy's other 17 regions so far totals 481. Italy has so far tested 32,262 people.

Comment: How are they 'testing', with specific lab tests of blood samples, or with 'diagnoses of flu-like symptoms'? Did the tests yield false positives? False negatives? Was anyone re-tested days later and found to in fact be 'positive'? And which version of the virus do they have (there seem to be four 'types' at this point)?

All of this, and more, has occurred in China and elsewhere since this madness began. There is NO RELIABLE BASELINE NUMBER!

Beyond the outbreak zones, everyday life has also changed dramatically. Venice, usually overflowing with tourists, is empty. As are the normally busy shops, bars and restaurants in Milan and Rome. Holidaymakers have cancelled trips and several airlines suspended flights amid warnings the tourism sector could suffer €7.4bn of losses. All major sporting events, including Serie A football, will be played behind closed doors until 3 April.

"There's no tourism," said Simona Susanu, who works in a bar close to the Trevi fountain. "You only have to see how empty it is around the fountain to understand what is happening."