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‘This is war here’


‘WE ARE LIVING IN FEAR’ Ballina native Jacintha McCarthy.

Mayo woman in Italy implores Irish people to act now

Edwin McGreal

Irish people need to act decisively if they do not want Ireland to become the war zone that is northern Italy.
That is the plea of a Ballina woman who lives in Bergamo – the current epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe.
Jacintha McCarthy has not left her home in the city of Bergamo in six weeks, but has watched on with anguish and despair as all around her generations are being wiped out.
“We listen to wailing ambulances going down the road, helicopters flying over your head and you don’t get used to it. You know that person in the ambulance is sucking for air or really in a very bad way.
“We’re living in fear here. We are in your future. We’re telling ye, this is what is going to happen if people don’t respect the social distancing,” she told The Mayo News.
Jacintha, a daughter of Jim and Anne McGarry from Ballina, lives in Bergamo with her husband, Billy, from Kerry, and their three children. What they are witnessing ‘is the stuff of sci-fi movies’, except it is very real.
“This is war here. The doctors are fighting a battle that they are not winning right now. They’re running short of medical equipment, protective equipment, oxygen, ventilators and they have to chose who lives and who dies not due to whose life can be saved.
“The cemeteries are completely full here. Army convoys are now bringing the coffins every night to other cities to be cremated,” she said.

‘My heart is broken’
By last Friday the official number of deaths in the province of Bergamo was 1,878 but there are fears that the actual toll may be four times higher. The province – situated in the region of Lombardy – is the most affected area in the worst-hit country in Europe. There are just over 1 million people in the province and over 100,000 in the city of Bergamo itself. Life there will never be the same again.
Jacintha McCarthy is living in the midst of the terrible reality of Covid-19, and she is sending a stark message to everyone in this country:
“Here if someone makes the Italian equivalent of a 999 call to the ambulance service to collect their loved one who is sick, that loved one travels on their own to the hospital, that loved one stays on their own in the hospital. If he or she doesn’t make it, they die alone and they’re brought by army to another city to be cremated, alone.
“This is what it will be like if it gets out of control in Ireland. Ireland has time to act.
“We have to stop that sadness because this is wiping out generations here. I’m not from Bergamo, and my heart is broken into a thousand pieces.
“We’re suspicious of everyone and everything. We’re safe in our house. We’re not safe out on that street. Staying at home is a small sacrifice to make to stay safe.
“Don’t be waiting for the Government to tell you to put on gloves, masks and telling you to stay at home. Just do it.
“Irish people are brilliant. There’s such a great spirit about them, they pull together. This is the chance to really slow it down.
“We’re the problem and the solution. We have the power to slow this down, particularly in Ireland.”