Summer is upon us, which means that in normal years hoards of Italians head for the United Kingdom to do summer English courses.
Some of the Italians who head for the UK will be twenty five plus, whereas many more are teenagers who are shipped off to perfidious Albion to brush up on their English language skills.
This year, however, is not a normal year. The swine flu pandemic still appears to be raging, albeit somewhat silently. So far it has not led to any loss of life here in Italy, whereas the number of deaths which have resulted from around 7,500 confirmed cases of A/H1N1 in the UK stood at 3, according to an Italian Health Ministry communication dated 6 July, 2009. The death toll has now increased to 29, according to a BBC report dated 17 July, and the number of confirmed cases in the UK has reached 55,000.
People in Italy are worried by the situation in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Rumours have even been flying around that the Italian government was planning to delay the re-opening of Italian schools after their summer break on account of Swine Flu fears. To dispel such rumours, the Italian Health Ministry issued a press release on the 18 July stating categorically that schools would open as planned after the summer holidays, and that there were no plans to delay their re-opening.
The big news, though, is that the Italian government is trying to discourage, albeit indirectly, Italians from spending time in the United Kingdom this summer.
Italian Government Advises Against Travelling to Countries with High Incidences of Swine Flu
Another recent press release from the Italian government recommends that Italians avoid travelling to places with high number of Swine Flu infections. Seeing as the UK has had by far the highest number of confirmed cases of Swine Flu in Europe, this means that effectively Italy is telling its citizens to avoid the United Kingdom this summer. In view of the number of cases in Great Britain, this is probably sound advice.
One wonders how many trips to the UK have been put off as a result of the swine flu problem, and the English language teaching business in the UK must be feeling the pinch as a result.
A recent report in the Italian press that some 50 Italian students between the ages of 12 and 17 contracted Swine Flu while studying, presumably English, in London, Oxford Birmingham and Norwich, will not serve to allay the fears of doting Italian parents.
Despite the relatively low level of mortality attributed to Swine Flu, it appears that the Italian government is still seriously concerned that the situation in Italy could take a turn for the worse.
More worryingly, the UK government is predicting that the swine flu pandemic may lead to as many as 65,000 deaths in the coming winter. In the face of a report such as this, the Italian Health Ministry has every right to be concerned.
I hope I didn’t manage to bring back anything nasty with me after my recent trip to tourist filled Rome last week.
Italian Health Ministry press release 6th July, 2009 – link to a .rtf text file in Italian: Comunicato n. 341
Italian Health Ministry press release 18th July, 2009 – link to a .rtf text file in Italian: Comunicato n. 342
Italian Health Ministry press release 6th July, 2009 – link to a .rtf text file in Italian: Comunicato n. 322
L’influenza spaventa i college inglesi “Cinquanta ragazzi italiani contagiati” – ‘Flu frightens English colleges – Fifty Italian Kids Infected’ – La Stampa 16 July 2009 – in Italian
UK swine flu deaths jump to 29 – BBC 17 July, 2009 – in English