COVID-19: British Doctor Practising Inside Italy Lockdown  

Tim Locke

March 10, 2020

The whole of Italy is now 'locked down' to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Dr Stephen Kerr

The UK Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel to the country. People are being allowed to return to the UK from Italy but instructed to self-isolate when they get home – even if they have no symptoms.

Dr Stephen Kerr is a UK-trained GP practising in Florence for 21 years, whose wife is Italian.

He spoke to Medscape News UK about life under lockdown.


This lockdown is a bit of a surprise to everyone. Extending this 'red zone' from Northern Italy to the whole of Italy was a bit of a surprise and I think a lot of people will be more panicked now. It brings it home if it applies to everybody.

Did any of your patients test positive for coronavirus.

A lot of them have gone home. A lot of them are American tourists, American students studying here, and they've all been recalled.

The tourists have cancelled, gone home, and then the American students, thousands and thousands of them, their programmes have been closed. More or less all of them.

Were you able to access all the protective equipment and supplies that you needed?

Yes, but now things like masks and stuff are sold out. That's tricky.

Did the Italian authorities make all the right moves soon enough?

I think so. I think they tested a lot of people. So they got these really high numbers. I'm sure if the other countries, like Germany and France, did the same, they'd probably pick up quite a lot of people as well.

I don’t think they can look back and be criticised.

Some experts are suggesting that the situation in the UK now is where Italy was a couple of weeks ago. Does that seem right to you?

Yes. I'm not an infectious diseases epidemiologist, but I think it must follow the same path.

What's it like being under lockdown?

It's only the first day now. The streets are empty and the roads are empty. You have to be able to show documentation if you're travelling from one town to another, that you've got to work or there's another very specific reason.

[Dr Kerr didn’t offer home visits so that isn’t part of his practice that's affected.]

What about practical daily life?

The important thing is that you stay local. You're using your local supermarkets in your own town and it's not a problem. If you decide you want to go to a big shopping mall somewhere then at some point there'll be restrictions I imagine.

What would your message be to doctors who may end up in similar situations to you back home? Are there preparations you wish you'd made?

In hindsight, I wouldn't do anything differently. The rules here now are that if somebody has fever, flu-like symptoms, they're told not to go to the doctor's office. Phone the doctor. And then he says, right listen, you're at risk don't come to the office and infect everyone else. Phone the Government helpline and they'll decide to send someone out, pick you up, bring you in, get you swabbed.

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