‘My escape from Italy lockdown through ghostly airport and surreal flight’

Italy is in the grip of a major coronavirus outbreak.

Italians are being told to stay at home as the crisis unfolds, with the number of cases topping 10,100.

Authorities have confirmed that 631 people have died after contacting the virus.

Official advice states people must keep "at least one metre" away from anyone else at all times – outlined in a decree issued by the Government's special scientific committee on coronavirus.

Mirror Online video journalist Hannah Dodd went on holiday to Rome in the middle of the outbreak and days before she left the lockdown was announced.

Our Roman holiday was coming to an end, and at this point our thoughts turned from leisurely travel to ‘get out of Italy as quickly and as safely as we can’ mode following the lock down.

Don’t get me wrong, we’d had a fantastic trip even if it was rather surreal, but we were scared we’d pay heavily for every time we took our masks off, or every time we stood in a crowd.

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For us the ‘escape’ from the city involved leaving the Vatican to board the ‘Leonardo Express,’ a 30-minutes-or-so train ride which takes you to Da Vinci airport.

To do this we’d need to take the Metro to Roma Termini station (where the train is stationed). Luckily public transport continued to run.

On our way to the Metro we read the news alerts about flights, seeing one by one as airlines cancelled flights home.

I think it was shameful that airlines would simply expect passengers with so much money invested in flights to figure out alternative routes home.



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Just days earlier it was only really tourists wearing masks on the platform, by Monday nearly all travellers had masks or were using scarfs to cover their faces.

We built up a routine over the course of the trip whenever we used the Metro, it was like: ‘mask up on entry, get inside the carriage but don’t touch the railings, get out of the metro station first, wash hands immediately’.

We developed better habits, never putting our fingers near our face or mouth, not eating or drinking in these more enclosed spaces. But even ice that’s been handled by an infected person, or surfaces, it all plays on your mind.


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We managed to get the metro over to Roma Termini without disruption, but things had changed dramatically from Saturday 7th to Tuesday 10th.

The station was now guarded by police in masks. All those buying tickets needed paperwork, like exemptions to allow movement over the ‘checkpoints’ in the lockdown.

Police appeared to look over passports for these passengers, to check that nobody was trying to sneak out.

It seemed more threatening than before. We showed police our ticket, they asked us if we were English and then we were waved through and onto the platform.

At this point I felt very lucky.


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We took the train over to the airport, and we were told to get checked in through security as soon as possible.

On Saturday checking in at Heathrow only a handful of staff had masks, but on Tuesday every single member of staff had a mask near enough.

And the airport trays were being heavily sanitized, passengers had to go through two at a time to give staff chance to individually sanitize each one.

I didn’t encounter many Brits, and the staff were keen to get us through the security gate as quickly as possible.

But I did see some holiday makers crying in the entry way to the airport, after their flight was cancelled. I cried hoping I’d get home too.


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Our flight remained unchanged, but as we moved through security, we had our passport checked around four times.

Staff had us remove our masks, and we’d hand over our passport and they’d check us over.

Making sure we weren’t trying to sneak out. But I also got the impression at the border these additional passport checks were about seeing if you had symptoms based off photographs of you looking well.



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All around were signs saying if you show symptoms alert the staff immediately and there’s the NHS abroad 112 number. I was worried if I coughed would I be taken off somewhere.

The airport was really empty, and the lounges were pretty deserted.

When it came time to board our flight was packed, mostly full of other nationalities who’d been holidaying in Italy and had their flights cancelled and were trying to travel to Heathrow as a gateway point, then on to Stansted, and then back abroad.

At this point all airline staff wore gloves and masks, and a fourth passport check was completed here too to check we weren’t Italian nationals trying to ‘escape lockdown’.

We boarded the surreal flight, where airline staff refused to take their masks off, even during the in-flight safety announcement.


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Staff seemed to linger in the aisle more than usual, and an announcement told us “as you know everyone aboard this flight must now isolate for 14 days”.

We were handed pamphlets on the plane that were out of date, and simply referred to the Northern Italy guidelines, with no reference to the current lockdown.

Finally, we touched down at Heathrow and the relief just washed over us.

As we exited the plane we were given a new pamphlet telling us to go straight home, wash our hands, and self-isolate for 14 days.


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We drove straight home, but picking our car up from valets we had to keep our masks on, not touch their hands, leave through automatic doors and not linger around.

Now we’re home, we couldn’t even get a food delivery slot.

A family member who is amazing and has ordered us food but it can only get to us Friday.

And once we use up the slightly out of date supplies in our fridge we’re stuck.

I’m glad to be out of Italy, from a personal safety point of view, but now I know me or my partner could be incubating a fatal virus we picked up in Italy.

I hope our precautions paid off, but I kick myself for every time I stood in a crowd there, we just don’t know yet how this spreads.

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