Italy has been by far the worst-hit Western country during the coronavirus outbreak. The country quickly became the epicenter of the virus in Europe, sparking a government shutdown of the country that at the time seemed overly drastic, but which was subsequently followed by numerous countries around the world. That didn’t really help things, as Italy has had over 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and over 11,000 deaths.
With the country entering the fourth week of its shutdown, many Italian residents are running low on money, and tensions are rising. There have been numerous reports of impoverished residents raiding stores for food, and criminal gangs taking advantage of the shutdown to burglarize businesses. It may only be a matter of time before the country sees significant social unrest. And if that happens, might we see the same thing here in the US too?
So far just about every state in the union has issued a stay at home order, requiring residents to stay at their homes except for essential travel such as buying food or attaining medical services. And thus far, aside from drastically lower traffic volumes on most streets, it doesn’t seem like life has changed too much, at least as far as activity at grocery and home improvement stores is concerned. Many Americans are taking advantage of the opportunity to stay at home and go for walks in their neighborhoods, enjoying the springtime weather. But will this acceptance of the new status quo last?
What happens when clothes start to wear out, but clothing stores are still closed? What happens when supply chains for automobile parts start to break down and cars can’t be repaired, leaving people stranded? What happens when the millions of newly unemployed run through their unemployment and government stimulus checks and no longer have money to put food on the table? What will happen then?
We like to think that we’re a civilized society, but we’re really only a few meals away from complete chaos. And the longer this shutdown lasts, the closer we’ll get towards total societal breakdown.