The last time Mariarosa Margini saw her father was on March 13, as he was being driven away in an ambulance. Renato Margini was in good health for his age. He was like an 89-year-old boy, says Mariarosa – he’d been a hiker and a climber, and would go on daily two or three mile walks around his neighbourhood in Brescia, Lombardy until late February, when the coronavirus crisis erupted, and his daughters recommended that he stay at home.
That night, when the ambulance arrived to take him to hospital, he was still relatively well – he only had a temperature of 38 Celsius, and was able to get into the vehicle without help. Over the next four days, Renato was confined to a hospital room with hardly anyone to talk to, his condition worsened, and he died without ever seeing his family members again. All they got was a phone call.
Their case is far from unique. With Italy under lockdown, social restrictions to fight the spread of coronavirus are leaving both the sick and the bereaved to face death alone. With the UK and many other countries seemingly following the same upward curve of infections, these strange new rituals could soon become the norm here, too. The pandemic has changed the way people live, the way they die, and the way their loved ones are able – or unable – to say goodbye.
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