Jeremy lives in Rome and recently wrote about some of the changes that have come about to his everyday routine since the Italian government instituted all kinds of rules in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. It’s easy to appreciate the luxuries we take for granted when we’re denied access to them. Things like morning cappuccinos, proximity to others, and the freedom to head outside without carrying any form of documentation are not the sort of liberties we expect to be deprived of in our modern world of plenty, but here we are. Jeremy’s biggest challenge, however, stems from Mayor Virginia Raggi‘s decision to deny access to all of the parks in the city.

Yesterday evening it really struck me how much this one small change had affected me. For the first time, I felt really depressed about the whole business. I need my walks, morning and evening. They are what make working at home doable. It isn’t just the exercise or the change of scene, because the scene on my walks remains the same, bar the changing seasons. No, it is something deeper than that, something about over-reacting, something about not understanding what at least some locked-down people need.

Indeed. Here in Japan we’re still permitted to use the public parks, though there has been talk about limiting access to these green areas … somehow1. Given the other restrictions that are in place, and given the number of parks in the neighbourhood2, closure of these green spaces would be devastating. Not only because Nozomi needs a good green space in order to stretch her legs and answer the call of nature, but because I need the green spaces as a reprieve from the day-to-day.

Without access to the various parks in the area there would be a great many more joggers on the paved walking paths that wind through the four local neighbourhoods, which would put more people in close proximity to each other. There would also be fewer places to sit and watch the world go by. There would be fewer (designated) places for kids to be kids. The consequences would be felt almost immediately.

Hopefully the various levels of government elect to keep the parks open. The constraints and restrictions that people are expected to endure already have a lot of neighbours looking for some sort of escape. Fewer options will lead to nothing good.

  1. Public parks generally have a large number of entrances with no gates or other means of preventing access. If a government were to try and close them, city workers would be limited to using thin ropes tied around trees and traffic cones with laminated notices taped to them. It’s been a while since I was a young boy, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t an able-bodied child anywhere in the country who,wouldn’t just walk around the rudimentary obstruction.

  2. There are 8 really good parks in the area; five of which are within 350 metres.

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Jeremy Cherfas
Funny to feel a close affinity with what is happening to a friend half a world away, and interesting that Jason too needs his parks and open spaces. The biggest park here is the remnants of an old established family villa, and so is surrounded by high walls. That is how they manage to close it off. Another big park on the other side of town is much more open, and the rumours are that the city cops are just hanging out around the perimeter, trying to keep people out.