On April 26th 1920, in Washington, the Great Debate between Heber Curtis and Harlow Shapley launched the modern astrophysics. The topic of the competition was the universe, in particular its composition and size. At that time, as still today, the crucial query was how many universes actually exist?

A hundred years later we are dealing with two separate metaphorical universes: they are opposite, almost parallel, and they both reside right here, within the Earth.

Once more we are talking about the Covid-19, or Covid nitton as it is called by our Swedish counterpart, referring to one of the universes we are going to delve into. Our topic is the reaction to the undergoing pandemic.

In this moment Sweden finds itself countertrend compared to all the other countries, which are tackling this same issue.

The Stockholm‘s Government, in fact, has been focusing on a common-sense approach since the beginning of the whole sanitarian problem: they decided to take care of the elders and the risk categories, by however letting the virus spread as more sustainably as possible; they did not impose severe limitations, but instead confided in the individual’s sense of responsibility.

Shops, restaurants, public spaces and elementary schools remain open to the public. Secondary schools and universities are instead closed, and gatherings superior to 50 people are still prohibited.

Meanwhile, the Government is not only urging its citizens to employ the so-called smart working as much as possible, but it is also fostering several information campaigns both upon the virus and the preventative measures to avoid the infection.

It is very remarkable the fact that this whole strategy is not about a mere economic choice.

The country’s financial situation certainly benefits from these undertaken measures, for Sweden will not suffer the dire consequences of a lockdown and it shall not directly brave an economic crisis.

The most surprising fact is that this decision comes from neither the Interior Ministry, nor from the Minister for Economy, but it was directly emanated by the Public Health Agency, which under these circumstances results to be more powerful than any other Ministries.

In other words, the assumption that these measures are sufficient to combat the outbreak is supported by not only political and economic facets, as it had initially happened both in the UK and the US, but also by authorities within the medical field.

Swedish epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Swedish Public Health Agency gives updates on the situation about COVID-19, on April 9 2020 in Solna, Sweden
Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand

Nevertheless, the approach per se remains fairly debatable.

We could have, or rather we should have done more. Analytics and datas are rather telltale upon this matter: the mortality rate in Denmark, Norway or Finland is neatly inferior to the Swedish one, and despite the so far sustainable situation within hospitals, the infection’s impact reaches levels more and more worrying on a daily basis.

Let’s now focus on our second universe.

In Italy there apparently is a far more packed context, which does not enable the Government to apply the Swedish strategy.

Sweden, unlike the Bel Paese, is scarcely populated and it has a very low population density: citizenry is bunched up within tiny villages very distant one from another and large cities, comparable to Milan or Rome, never arose throughout the ages.

The restrictions, which Sweden can perhaps dodge, has so far been saving lives of loads of people within our country. Were these actions not being promulgated, the effects of the pandemic would have been inconceivable… probably cataclysmic.

The Italian President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella lays a laurel wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on the 75th anniversary of the Liberation, April 25 2020
Photo by Paolo Giandotti

What is undoubtedly relevant from an Italian point of view is not the set of carried out measures per se, but the strict relationship of trust between the Government and its citizens which it implies. Sadly, upon this peculiar matter we still have a LOT to learn.

In Sweden the Government wholly trusts its citizen and vice versa. Italy is ar the other end of the spectrum.

The average Italian feels the necessity to find another way to legality, to perpetually criticise the politician of the moment, and to play the part of the expert in whatsoever matter, always doing things their own way. Displaying in a quite a destructive way an unspecified critical sense is all the rage now, whereas very few actually stop to observe and attempt to comprehend, in order for them to then develop their own opinion.

Social media sadly foments the conveyance of these beer talks, making this whole issue far more perilous.

On the other hand, members of our Government are becoming more and more suspicious because of the confrontation with this culture of hate. It is decided that we cannot do anything, but take on the worst and consequently act, by augmenting the sense of mistrust within citizens and so on in an infinite senseless loop.

This vicious circle, which has been going on untethered throughout the years, has by now wormed its way into our veins.

Can this Phase Two actually be the turning point we need?

Sure is that we cannot be in lockdown forever. Once the sanitarian crisis will be overcome, it is paramount that not only the Government ultimately trusts its citizens’ sense of responsibility, but that we, citizens, entrust the Government too, by respecting its disposals.

Let’s prove the world we can measure up!

Francesca Biglia

Translated by Lorenzo Tarchi