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Singaporean studying in Italy said that he was called a virus

The Independent logo The Independent 11/3/2020 Nicole
Ponte Vecchio over a body of water with a city in the background © The Independent Singapore

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A 32-year old Singaporean studying in Florence, Italy shares his apprehension over the latest lockdown of the country that was put in place in the past week. Although he was already concerned over the news, it was only on Tuesday (March 10) when the lockdown in the town of Florence was truly enforced.

Mr James Khoo shares, “There’s a lot of anxiety going on in Florence.” He continued, “I’m very frightened about the racism against Asian people and it has been increasingly tense. I was called a ‘virus’ on the street by some (French-speaking) tourists,” explaining that he was upset over their ignorance.

Despite the shutdown of the town, and Italy choosing to close all their universities and schools until April 3, the school where Khoo studies has yet to close its doors. Although his Italian language course is a private class that caters to small groups, according to Khoo, “I’ve told the owner of the school I don’t feel safe.” He also said, “I went to my private lesson last week, but the teachers were insisting the virus only affects old people, and not the young.”

He made the decision to stop attending class altogether, explaining, “Why must I jeopardise my health?” Apparently, Mr Khoo is also diabetic, which means that he is at a higher risk if he should get infected.

Not only did his doctor’s appointment got cancelled, but he is also worried that it’ll cost him too much if he needs to go to a private specialist. He’s also concerned over a possible lack of food and supplies. He shared, “If you go to pharmacies, you can’t find any surgical masks and some supermarkets have run out of toiletries. I’ve gone out to every single pharmacy in town – in the city centre and in the suburbs.”

In the wake of these terrifying times, Khoo is now considering leaving the country like many other foreign students. He’ll either go to another European country or possibly back home to Singapore while Italy remains under lockdown. He stated, “A lot of Singaporeans I know are leaving for other European countries. For the current lockdown, we aren’t sure what to do next.” He added, “A lot of foreign students are just leaving the country.”

Part of his reason for wanting to leave is that he feels that the country lacks proper management. He iterated, “I don’t think things are going to improve in Italy because measures were introduced quite late. There is no sense of organization.”

Although it is not yet known whether Mr Khoo has made a decision to leave Italy or not, if things continue as they do, he might not be able to make it out if they put travel restrictions up. Much like everywhere else in the world, it would seem that Italy is scrambling to keep the virus under control, despite the 10,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and almost 500 deaths that the country has experienced so far.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte recently announced, “It is prohibited to gather in and outside bars open to the public… We cannot allow ourselves any more these occasions of meeting, which become occasions of contagion.”

While Italy is considered to be the worst-hit European country so far, it is yet to be seen just how far spread this epidemic will become.

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Singapore considers school closures to fight virus

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Italy has put 60M people under lockdown. Here's what it looks like

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When everyone stays home: Empty public spaces during coronavirus

(content provided by The Atlantic)

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