A West Cork woman fears her wedding plans are in jeopardy as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Emer Downing, who is originally from Skibbereen, is living in the city of Bergamo where she works as a primary school teacher.
Emer was due to return home in three weeks for her hen party but says she has taken the decision to cancel the trip over fears that she could inadvertently put other people at risk of contracting COVID-19.
“I just don’t think it would be fair to fly,” she said.
More than 3,000 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Italy since the beginning of the outbreak, with 107 deaths reported as of March 5.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has now warned against all non-essential travel to the regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna.
Since February 23, more than 50,000 people have been confined to 10 towns.
Emer is due to marry her Italian partner Luca Longhi in May, in an area affected by the travel advisory.
“We were expecting around 40 people from Ireland would be attending,” she says.
“We are currently considering the possibility that it may not happen though, but we are hopeful things will change.”
Like many others in the city of Bergamo, Emer’s life has changed dramatically in the last fortnight.
Working in the international primary school in Bergamo city, Emer is used to a busy work schedule.
She teaches a group of children which is equivalent to third class in an Irish school. Restrictions introduced two weeks ago mean that students are not currently attending the school.
Instead, Emer is delivering a pared-back curriculum via Google Classroom from her home.
“It’s been a huge change, but our school has been quite ahead of the game,” she said.
The Cork woman creates a daily plan using the technology and she connects with her students at least twice a day by video chat.
Emer sets assignments daily in the main subjects, which are completed electronically.
In recent days the school has commenced the process of allowing a small number of staff back into the facility, but for now, at least classes will be delivered online.
The streets of Bergamo city are significantly quieter too.
“You do see a lot of people wearing masks, but there are lots of others without masks too,” said Emer.
Some restrictions had been put in place at bars and cafés which meant that people could not visit them after 6pm, a time when Emer says many people traditionally would often socialise over a drink and a buffet.
This decision was changed and people can now attend the bars and cafés, but they must stay a metre apart and there is table service only.
“I suspect this decision was to stop small business owners losing money,” Emer explained.
Police are patrolling streets.
Emer says people are visiting friends more often or staying home, but people are definitely keeping their distance.
Supplies at shops were hit for a few days, but the West Cork teacher said that these have improved again.
“I’m still shopping, you have to. Staff in shops are wearing masks now though and latex gloves,” she explained.
There is little chance of purchasing hand sanitiser or masks though.
“My family said they would try to send me over some masks and hand sanitiser from Cork, but they couldn’t get it either," she said.
Emer is closely monitoring developments in Italy and in West Cork.
She says there is some concern that the city will be put under what is being described as a “red zone”.
“It’s unclear what this could mean, but it could include restrictions about leaving your home,” she says.
For now, she remains hopeful restrictions will be relaxed, and that her wedding can go ahead this summer.