ITALY — There used to be an expression in local television news that said “If it bleeds, it leads.” By the same token, in the south in the United States any meteorologist who mentions the word ‘snow’ knows what transpires from the moment that word leaves his mouth. It’s only a matter of hours before it becomes virtually impossible to find bread or milk at a local grocery store. In the Italian viewpoint, in many ways, the semi-pseudo hysteria over growing coronavirus issues in Italy demonstrates a similar effect on reporting.
That is not to say that Italian press reports on the Wuhan coronavirus (Covid-19) invasion of that country are inaccurate. Nor does it prove that information services are lying or even distorting the news. On the other hand, media outlets are in the business of reporting current events. For that reason, it’s to their advantage to perpetuate a story for as long as possible.
Putting it another way, as former Barack Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once noted, as did Winston Churchill before him, you should “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” I.e., “If it bleeds, it leads.”
Coronavirus issues: An unpleasant surprise for a country and its tourists
When Covid-19 suddenly showed up in Italy a few weeks ago, it caught the country by surprise. Worse, the unwelcome appearance of the coronavirus on the cusp of the heaviest part of Italy’s upcoming tourist season set off a mini-panic that continues even now.
But there are usually two sides to every story. To date, the Italian viewpoint on coronavirus issues and their impact on the nation and on its vital tourism industry has gone largely underreported or distorted in many ways.
For starters, nowhere in the American press has the media noted that, in the unlikely event that a visitor to Italy does come down with the coronavirus, this country is highly regarded throughout Europe for the quality of its healthcare and medical professionals.
Second, and again not reported: Italy provides free healthcare services for foreigners.
Coronavirus issues: The reality of the situation in Italy
Initial reports of the coronavirus and its spread came out of Lombardy and the Veneto in the north of Italy. Covid-19 is, for the most part, contained within that region. Yet the media seems less inclined to report that the largest at-risk group for the disease happens to be senior citizens who already struggle with some form of respiratory ailment.
As of this writing, there have been 3,089 documented cases of Coronavirus in Italy, with 276 cases that are closed. Thus far, since the outbreak began in Italy, 107 people have died.
Compare that number to the average DAILY toll of more than 90 motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. Do those significantly higher numbers prevent you from driving your car? In fact, have statistics like the one above EVER even crossed your mind before you got behind the wheel of your car? We’re guessing the answer is ‘no.’
Yet another unreported fact: most of Italy’s Coronavirus victims received treatment at home without need for hospitalization.
The Italian viewpoint: Media reports on coronavirus issues lack accuracy and balance
Regarding the coronavirus, the sense that things are worse than they really are arises when the press reports a preventive program that can easily be misinterpreted. For example, earlier this week. Italy took pro-active measures to further isolate the disease by closing all the schools in the country. Though the measure was positive, one can easily perceive it in a negative light. Which the media tends to do.
Hotels and other hospitality businesses outside of northern Italy are scrambling to reassure visitors that the impact and spread of the coronavirus is not as severe as it appears. In fact, many experts believe that the arrival of warmer weather will significantly diminish the Covid-19 threat.
Roberto E. Wirth is the owner and general manager of the Hassler Roma, one of the most prestigious hotel properties in Rome. He numbers himself among those who are highly optimistic about the outcome of the coronavirus crisis. Wirth tells fellow Italians to “ignore alarmism and to follow the protection rules issued by the Ministry of Health.”
Preventing coronavirus problems in advance when traveling to Italy
For travelers, three simple precautions can prevent a high percentage of potential future problems.
- Wash your hands frequently
- Keep your away from your face as much as possible
- Use Clorox Wipes to clean airplane tray tables, etc.
The travel industry always involves dealing with countless variables. To deal with the current set of variables, the best and most positive things travelers can do:
- Avoid knee-jerk reactions; and
- Spend a little more time than usual to obtain the best and most reliable current information.
- Also, avoid hearsay and media-based websites because they may prove misleading.
It’s generally a better idea to rely on government internet links on both sides of the Atlantic to obtain the most accurate and up-to-the-minute information.
Another wise move: contact your hotel to speak with the concierge or someone in management. They will answer any questions honestly, because they know only too well that the accuracy of their input can directly impact their current and future business. True, such advance research requires a little more effort for travelers than usual. But it usually pays off in the end. (For additional advice, follow this link.)
Avoiding coronavirus issues: Remain calm but vigilant at all times
Above all, remain vigilant. Whenever possible, the absolute best situation for travelers and suppliers alike is to let the status remain quo for as long as possible.
Clearly, changes can have an unanticipated negative domino effect that ultimately could prove worse than your original itinerary. That’s not say you shouldn’t consider any contingencies at all. But on the other hand, don’t be too quick on the trigger with a “ready, fire, aim” approach to your travels.
A little homework can sometimes prove a bit time consuming. But in the final analysis, if you can possibly keep your original itinerary as planned, you may likely come out ahead financially and experience less aggravated in the long run.
— Headline image: Coronaviirus issues are taking their toll on tourism to Italy. The Italian viewpoint is a practical one.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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