Rwanda: How a Rwandan Student Is Surviving in Italy Amid the COVID-19 Carnage

It all seemed like a phase that would pass in a few weeks but as events began to unfold, Ariel Muyango, a young Rwandan studying in Italy, feared for the worst.

Turin, a city in which he resides in the northern part of Italy was hit hard by the outbreak of Coronavirus.

What followed since then has been a dramatic turn of events.

Within days of the outbreak, cases of people who had contracted the virus began to surge and it was alarming how people lost their lives in such a short period of time.

Currently, Italy has the highest death toll from the virus, with over 10,000 people dead, and it is the second in terms of prevalence with over 97,000 cases.

Muyango recalls that at the outbreak, some people took the virus seriously while others (the bigger part) continued to write it off as an illness that was only a bit more serious than flu.

"There was confusion however, my friends and I were all in shock and didn't know what to do. We wondered if we could get vaccines or even leave the house. I immediately spoke to my parents in Rwanda and we agreed that stockpiling a few essentials might be a good idea," he recounts.

Life had come to a standstill, schools were closed and the entire city was closing down gradually.

He wished he could return home but all that seemed to be in the far future. The situation seemed to return to normal, for the most part, life carried on as normal until an abrupt change on March 8 when deaths from Covid-19 leapt by more than 50%.

Panic and anxiety among people

"As days went by, and the numbers of deaths rose, my behaviour changed. I was scared, I also stopped going out unless I had specific things to do. As I saw it, there was no more point in taking risks".

He was shocked at how many people were not following any safety measures.

"What I found striking was the lack of masks, gloves, distancing among other safety measures. Since the start of this outbreak, I can count the number of people I've seen observe all these safety and prevention measures - and this is in the epicentre of the Italian outbreak," he says.

New cases and deaths seemed to be spiking with each day that went by and everything looked so uncertain.

"I really noticed a change, I tried to reach out to my friends but the city was empty. A few people could be seen walking out on the streets but I couldn't count more than six people that I passed by. Most shops were closed. It was at this point that I really got scared. The virus had been spreading at an alarming rate and I was concerned about my loved ones. I started thinking about the possibility of not being able to return home," he says.

The current situation

As the worst-hit European country, Muyango says the country is still on edge and the only people who move out are those going to hospitals or stores for groceries.

"We are still on lockdown in our apartments and houses either working, studying or watching shows. The city is very empty, in some avenues however, people only go out at night. They sit by the balconies and play some music to cheer each other in these hard and challenging times."

He says their biggest fear is to test positive with the virus

"There's that feeling of not being in your home country with your family at a time like this when things are very scary," he mused.

However, he revealed that most people were now complying now as they have seen the deadliness of the virus.

"Actually, there is no time to think about tiredness, because when you look at Covid-19 patients and how they are living with the disease in solitude, you realise how your mother, father or grandfather could also be in that bed. On the other hand, when people see how patients die, I have noticed that mental torment worries more people than physical fatigue."

Muyango says the biggest issue they are facing as students during this pandemic is not being home with their families and that this is causing a problem with most of them for they can no longer concentrate and it's very difficult.

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