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Newark couple lift the lid on life under coronavirus lockdown in Rome, Italy

A Newark woman who surprised her husband with a birthday trip to Rome has lifted the lid on life under coronavirus lockdown.

Natasha Pearson, 39, said all seemed fine when she set off to Rome on Sunday morning, but by the time her British Airways flight from Heathrow had landed, a national quarantine had been declared.

“When we left it was deemed safe to fly, but things seemed to get really out of control when we were in the air,” said Natasha.

Natasha Pearson and her partner sit diagonal to each other for food because of the coronavirus. (31314890)
Natasha Pearson and her partner sit diagonal to each other for food because of the coronavirus. (31314890)

“As soon as we landed we heard about the 16 million people being put on lockdown in the north and it seemed crazy.

“We landed to that as breaking news.”

Just 18 passengers were on board the couple's flight, which was booked by Natasha as a surprise present to celebrate her husband’s 40th birthday.

The couple are scheduled to return from their trip today, however there was initial confusion between British Airways and their customers after the Italian government declared a national emergency.

They were told they would be flown home a day earlier than planned (on Tuesday, March 10) but that flight was cancelled, only for it to be rearranged for today (Wednesday, March 11).

“We heard rumours yesterday that everywhere in the city would be shut down after 2pm, so we went out to have our final pizza,” said Natasha.

“We aren’t really into museums and other tourist attractions, it was more about the food and the atmosphere for us, so we managed to get in a lot of walking.

“The weather was fantastic so we didn't use the metro, which was a good thing because of how crowded it might have been.

"We kept outside in the fresh air and travelled the city by foot.”

She said the city had a notably different atmosphere and a vibe of sadness filled the streets.

“It was a bit eerie at times, which was so sad because we loved Rome and we have been going to Italy for years,” she said.

“We have seen that sort of feeling of sadness on people’s faces.

“They must be thinking they need to keep the tourists in, and the city alive.

“You get the feeling they are really worried because people could stop going to Italy ­— that this could be an even bigger problem.

“It’s so sad because Italy is an amazing country but the people are so cautious here.

“Everybody was using anti-bacteria hand gel and they brought in measures where you can’t sit closer than a metre to anybody in restaurants, even your family.

“Last night it got a bit more extreme because they had printed it out on tables so people knew, but it showed they were doing a good job and trying their hardest to keep things going, but in a safe way.”

Natasha said the biggest shock of the holiday was on Tuesday, when everybody was sent back to their hotels by police.

“It was crazy,” Natasha said. “We went to the shop to buy some drinks to take back to our room and the man behind the till pointed at us to say we had crossed the line.

“They had painted a corona line on the floor.

“As I put the money on the till he asked me if I was scared and told me 60 people in Rome had it.

“Before, I wasn’t scared, but it was a scary moment. It wasn’t what you wanted to hear, but it makes you realise you are lucky to be safe.”

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