Bergamo in Italy, known for its cobblestone streets, its Venetian walls, and it’s stylish city Milan, is in mourning.
The once-bustling thoroughfares have gone quiet, as the province grieves for the almost 100 (at the time of writing) people who have died from Covid-19.
The Italian army has been drafted in to ferry coffins to remote cremation sites because local morgues can’t cope.
The local paper had 12 pages of obituaries in one day.
Bergamo has around the same population as Cork, at around 120,000, and it has lost entire generations of families, families who loved, and laughed and had pasts and futures, like we do, like our families do.
Sergio Gandi, the deputy mayor of the Italian city has given us a stark warning, to prepare hospitals and for our way of life to change.
Mr Gandi told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that while the figures show 4,645 in Bergamo are infected with Covid-19, the real number could be higher.
Italian people are patient, he says, and the only important thing is to see relatives and friends stay well.
“We wait for a better time,” he said. “Irish people should be cautious and stay at home.”
We would be foolish to ignore his warning.
You may be fit and healthy, you have no symptoms, you’ve never had a respiratory issue, but it’s not about you.
Social distancing is for the good of the whole, not just your part.
This outbreak cannot be stopped, but it can be slowed through the implementation of distancing measures, and it’s been proven that limiting human contact, paired with regular hand washing, reduces transmission rates.
We must think, act, talk and behave for the good of not just our country, but our families, our friends, our grandparents, neighbours and children.
The closure of a pub does not mean we should instead have a house party, the closure of a school does not mean we send our children to an overcrowded playgroup, and does not mean taking essential groceries away from those more in need just because you can.
We must view this as an overhaul, not a call to seek out alternatives that pose almost identical dangers to the sacrifices we’ve been forced to make.
Stories of teenagers gathering to play football, cramped queues in supermarkets and groups of children playing in parks, are an affront to the backbreaking work being undertaken by our health service staff, and the sacrifices being made by their families.
Our small island is being fed mixed messages due to leaders in the UK not heeding the advice from health experts, where children who live on that side of the Border have still been attending school, while their neighbours, perhaps 200m away have been urged to stay at home.
Politics notwithstanding, we should not be waiting for direction from those who do not know what it is like to share a border, and politicking over who is in charge of handling the crisis.
The fact is, we don’t know more than the medical experts, and they don’t say these things to scare us into submission.
If we do not heed the warnings of Sergio Gandi, it’s entirely possible we too could see our own Defence Forces in our hospitals, on our streets, and obituaries in this paper increasing.
Social distancing works, it reduces the possible spread of a virus that has already taken the lives of thousands, and more to come.
No one wants to stand apart in public, our hands red raw from anti-bacterial soap as we avoid our elderly relatives, but what we do today matters all the more tomorrow.
When you look back on this time in a year, the trip to the gym, the bookies, the chipper, or shaking hands with a neighbour won’t be missed, but your loved ones will be.