BEIRUT: The coronavirus pandemic has induced a state of panic and fear around the world as the number of cases increases massively and the death toll rises.
Italy, in particular, has lamentably witnessed more coronavirus fatalities than any other country. And as the country enters its fifth week of lockdown, Annahar interviewed some Lebanese students pursuing their higher education in Italy and who are currently quarantined there.
Abdallah Hamdar, a 22-year-old Lebanese pursuing his M.Sc. in Energy Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano, explained that while he had the opportunity to return to Lebanon in the first week of March, he preferred to stay in Milan during the lockdown.
“Since we shifted to online courses and Lebanon still suffers from a considerably slow Internet connection and unexpected power cuts, I thought it would be best to remain here with high-speed Internet. I’m also learning Italian online, so my time is being put to good use,” he noted.
Hamdar also told Annahar that when the coronavirus outbreak reached Italy, most people took the matter lightly and ignored the provisions set to halt the spread of the virus.
“I used to go out normally, only covering my face with a headscarf; so, you can imagine how reckless everyone was,” he said.
Leen Chatila who’s majoring in fine arts at the American University of Rome also lamented Italy’s current state of calamity.
“My friend’s mother caught the virus from a careless coworker and passed away a week ago, and all we’ve been doing for the past weeks is praying for a miracle to put an end to this plight,” she remarked sorrowfully.
The hospitality and kindness the Italians have shown to foreign students is also a reason behind their decision to stay there for support.
Ahmad Harb Hussein, another Lebanese pursuing a master’s degree in engineering in Italy, expressed that although the pandemic has shown no mercy, Italians are trying to maintain a positive mindset in the face of adversity.
“Everyone is in quarantine and following the orders of the government to halt the spread of the virus; while I did not manage to return to Lebanon before the lockdown, I know the people here care for me as my own family does,” he elaborated.
Other students like Mohamad Khalil, who is pursuing his master’s degree in hydrography and oceanography in CIHEAM Bari, were dismayed by their inability to return to Lebanon.
“I’m here on a full scholarship funded by the institute, and when the coronavirus outbreak escalated, the institute booked me a flight back home. However, Alitalia’s sudden flight cancellations left me stranded here away from any family members,” he told Annahar.
He then added that although the containment measures enforced by the Italian government may seem drastic to some, they remain the only means towards preventing further health catastrophes in Italy.
They all urge and implore their family and friends back home in Lebanon to refrain from leaving the house unless for urgent matters and to adhere to the lockdown measures so that the affliction endured in Italy does not come knocking on Lebanon’s doors.
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