Lacuna Coil‘s Cristina Scabbia has hit out at media portrayals of her native Italy, which is struggling to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus.
Speaking to NME from her hometown of Milan, the frontwoman of the Italian gothic metallers said the scenes in the country weren’t as bad as the media might portray – despite last night’s emergency quarantine of the whole nation due to covid-19.
“What I want to do is reassure our fans that we are OK,” she told NME. “Right after the first news of coronavirus, I got tonnes of messages from fans asking me in panic: ‘Are you OK? Are you sick? Is the fever high? Can you stand up? Are you dying?’ And I’m like: ‘What the hell are you talking about? I’m doing just fine. I’m home, I’m watching TV, I’m relaxing after the South American tour.’ But everybody thinks that Italy is this Resident Evil country and everybody was close to death.
“So what myself and other Italian bands are doing is try to use our social media to reassure everyone that the situation is not as insane as some media is painting.”
On Monday (9 March), Italy extended its emergency measures – which include travel restrictions and a ban on public gatherings such as gigs – to the entire country, placing more than 60 million people under lockdown. Italy’s coronavirus death toll is 463, making it the second worst-hit country after China.
Of the atmosphere in Italy, Scabbia said: “After the absolute craziness at the beginning, it feels quieter now because at least we know what to do. It’s a little better. Watching the news, the initial panic is moving to other countries because we experienced it before.
“There is still a little bit of fear – which I totally understand – but from what I perceive, a lot less than before. People are keeping on living. We’re being more careful as people, but people are still living and going about their day-to-day lives.”
Scabbia said she is “trying to stay informed”, only consulting official government websites and reputable news outlets for information. “I’ve seen so much fake news shared by stupid people online, which has resulted in people going into grocery stores and buying everything, like we’re in some kind of food and toilet paper crisis, which we’re not.”
Last week, the band cancelled a slew of upcoming shows in Dubai, Bangkok, Melbourne, Sydney, Tokyo, Osaka, Singapore and Jakara due to travel and health concerns.
“It was a difficult decision, because of course, it doesn’t just affect the band and fans – there’s a lot of people affected by this that people don’t take into account, including promoters and roadies,” said Scabbia. “But there was no other way unfortunately because too many flights were at risk, too many countries decided to contain everything by not letting Italians in, so logistically it would be impossible for us to play in every territory and hold a tour together.”
She added: “There’s no way you can play a concert if you can’t enter the country that you’re playing in, so it’s not a choice. It’s not that you don’t want to play because you’re drunk from the evening before or you’re tired. This is a world emergency and customs are closing and they’re cancelling flights, so it’s absolutely impossible for some artists to play shows – it’s not just a moral choice.”
All cultural venues in Italy are closed, as well as cinemas, nightclubs and theatres, while “all forms of gatherings in public places or sites open to the public” are prohibited – including music concerts.
“Every event which involves the public gathering has been cancelled, so every musician and artist, promoter and gig venue is going through this,” explained Scabbia. Asked the financial impact, she admitted: “At the moment, we don’t know.”
“What’s more important is that we have to act now. The emergency is now, so I agree with all this because it’s the only way to contain this. Coronavirus doesn’t automatically mean death, but it’s dangerous for people with pre-existing health conditions such as those with weakened immune systems or those who have underlying chronic conditions such as heart disease.
“As long as we stay calm and obey some simple civic rules – like hand-washing and avoiding hugs and kisses – I’m confident that we’ll get out of this.”
However, she repeated her caution for social media users to avoid spreading disinformation, which has real on-the-ground consequences.
For example, in a bid to encourage people to stay in, bars and restaurants are only allowed to open between 6am and 6pm, and only if it is possible to maintain a distance of at least a metre between customers.
“In people’s minds, that translated as ‘going out at night is dangerous but going out during the day time is fine’, with social media users saying the time of day had something to do with the spread of the virus -which obviously isn’t true,” she said. “I’ve seen fucking craziness like people in countries refusing Italian food products – and the virus can’t be carried from food!
“So it’s important right now for the media to inform us properly and make everyone calm in this situation because we need to recollect all our thoughts, not panic and get out of this.”
Scabbia added: “It will be OK soon – I’m confident that we’ll survive the best we can.”
Miley Cyrus, Pearl Jam, and Madonna are among the latest high-profile artists to cancel live shows due to coronavirus fears, after Texas music showcase South By South West was pulled last week – leaving many new bands and rising artists out of pocket. It has since emerged that the festival wasn’t covered by insurance, and that SXSW has since been forced to lay off employees due to losses.
Last week, a senior government medical adviser said that there was no need yet to ban music events in the UK, while reports have now emerged that promoters are working to postpone Coachella in the US due to coronavirus spreading.