March 31, 2020 0

COVID-19: From the front line in Italy

This OPI item has interviews with GIU and Office Distribution. Follow the link, with your membership to read this article.

OPI say:

For the Hot Topic in the April issue of OPI magazine, we spoke with some leading office products executives in Italy, the first country in Western Europe to go into lockdown mode.

With the coronavirus crisis evolving literally by the hour, below is an adapted extract of OPI’s April Hot Topic. When the article was written in mid-March, the international response to the crisis was in various stages of development: Italy, itself, was already a few days into a national lockdown, with France and Spain having just followed suit; the US had recently introduced its ban on travellers from Europe and declared a state of emergency; Germany was closing some of its borders; and the UK was controversially still playing a ‘wait and see’ game, for a short while favouring the so-called ‘herd immunity’ approach.

How things have changed in the space of a couple of weeks.

Italy, though, remains something of a test case, as observers from around the world study its coronavirus ‘curve’ and try to make assumptions about the state of the pandemic in their own nations and what that could mean going forward.

Here, then, are some ‘eye-witness’ reports from the office products sector in Italy, as of 14 March. Thanks to Bi-silque’s Danny Berendsen, Buffetti’s Francesco Villa, In Ufficio’s Adriano Alessio and Office Distribution’s Andrea Ghidini for their contributions in what are testing times.

Italian lessons

Italy was the first European country to go into lockdown mode in an effort to stop COVID-19 infections spiralling out of control and paralysing its already under pressure health system. Despite this, there is a feeling in office products circles that these types of measures were not taken soon enough and that other nations should have acted more quickly.

“This is a very serious situation. The reaction of the [Italian] government was too late and not enough, and I am very concerned that other countries are making the same mistakes,” says Buffetti General Manager Francesco Villa, shocked by the increasing number of deaths announced on local TV each evening.

It is a point echoed by Andrea Ghidini, CEO of wholesaler Office Distribution. “Please do not underestimate this virus,” he pleads. “You can say what you like about Italian people, but we are not idiots. Everyone must take the appropriate precautions; this is something I feel very strongly about and I cannot stress the gravity of the situation enough to OPI readers.”

Ghidini likens the coronavirus crisis to a tsunami. “Is it a case of that we have just had the earthquake, but we are still waiting for the tsunami to arrive?” he asks. “If so, when will it hit the beach? In two weeks, in two months?”

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Business Products Group International LLP ®