“I have always said, don’t panic, let’s fight. Now more than ever, I’ll set a good example by following to the letter the indications given by doctors and science, trying to help from home as much as possible, and I am fighting, as that’s the right thing to do at this time, for each of us and for the country,” Nicola Zingaretti said in a Facebook video on Saturday morning in which he announced that he had tested positive on the swab test for coronavirus infection. “It’s here, I have the coronavirus, too. I will follow all the protocols that must be followed in such cases, and I will be monitored accordingly.”
The protocol, which obviously applies for the PD secretary just like for any other citizen, calls for voluntary quarantine at home for 14 days with the monitoring of symptoms. Zingaretti flashed a smile, his usual means of calming people’s nerves. “I’m fine,” he reassured everyone. His family will also be in isolation together with him—in separate rooms, as the doctors require in such cases.
Until Friday night, he had been working hard at the PD headquarters in Via Nazareno in Rome. Just the day before, he had held a press conference to launch the campaign “Italia che combatte” (“The Italy that fights”), aiming to make citizens aware of the need to strictly observe the official prescriptions to contain the spread of the contagion. He himself had observed all these precautions in his many political meetings. However, as epidemiologists from the north to the south of Italy have been explaining, “the known links of contagion have been passed over.” Simply avoiding people who come from the “red zones” is no longer sufficient.
Zingaretti chose to keep a low profile when announcing his new situation. This is in line with what he has always preached: prudence and responsibility, without any panic or alarmism. The virus had already affected politicians: from the Lombardy Councilman Mattinzoli to one of Matteo Salvini’s security personnel (who didn’t come into close contact with the Lega leader, who in turn decided not to go into quarantine).
The infamous Feb. 26 video of Lombardy President Fontana was seen around the world, in which, although his swab test was negative, Fontana put on a face mask (which happened to be of the wrong kind) live on Facebook to theatrically announce that he was going into precautionary quarantine at the headquarters of the regional administration after learning that one of his co-workers had become infected. The Minister of Economic Development, Stefano Patuanelli, also had a negative swab test, but went into self-quarantine anyway, locking himself in his office as a precautionary measure after he had met with Councilman Mattinzoli.
This time, however, the coronavirus has arrived at the very heart of the headquarters of Italy’s central institutions. Expressions of solidarity with the PD secretary came swiftly from all sides of the political spectrum: from Matteo Renzi (“Be strong Nicola, we’re all with you!”) to Silvio Berlusconi (“Our warmest and most sincere well-wishes to Nicola Zingaretti. Be strong and push on ahead!”), Matteo Salvini (“I wish him the best, when health is at stake there’s no room for conflict”), acting M5S leader Crimi, the Lega’s Calderoli and Giorgia Meloni.
The latter’s party did call for Prime Minister Conte and Minister Gualtieri, who had met with Zingaretti in recent days, to undergo the test themselves. Zingaretti received best wishes and warm encouragement from all members of the PD, as well as from EU Commissioner Gentiloni.
The fact remains that over the last few days, the PD leader had made extraordinary efforts, as president of the Lazio region and party leader, to support the government’s work to stop the contagion and gradually put together the necessary decrees to deal with the situation in the country. As a result, on Saturday afternoon, all those who met with him and who spent time with him at close quarters were also tested. The Lazio Regional Councilor for Health, Alessio D’Amato, Zingaretti’s right hand man in the regional administration, announced that he had tested negative.
But not all asymptomatic people can undergo the swab test: this is not allowed by the national protocol, with some exceptions. As a result, PD vice-president Anna Ascani, who had held a press conference alongside Zingaretti on Thursday, announced that she was going into voluntary house quarantine, the same as the mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, the president of Sicily, Nello Musumeci, and the president of the Abruzzo region, Marco Marsilio (FdI), who met with the PD secretary in his capacity as president of Lazio to sign joint protocols. In the evening, Andrea Orlando, the deputy secretary who was supposed to act as interim leader in Zingaretti’s absence, also announced he was going into self-quarantine.
By Saturday evening, other close collaborators and leading figures of the PD had taken the same decision, also in order to give an example to the citizens of how seriously one must take the responsibility to stop the contagion.
The PD headquarters underwent thorough disinfection during the weekend, a decision that had been taken before the news that the secretary had become infected. However, as a result of these events, it may not open at all in the next few days. The PD will certainly be working, but remotely—something that other institutions in Rome might have to resort to as well in the coming days.