NAPLES, ITALY - 14 APRIL 2020: Arianna Esposito (27), who lost both parents due to complications from the coronavirus, poses for a portrait in Naples, Italy, on April 14th 2020. Arianna Esposito spent days trying to get her mother hospitalized but health workers repeatedly told her her mother wasn’t sick enough to be tested. When her mother’s condition deteriorated, dispatchers on the coronavirus emergency line said she didn’t sound out of breath enough. Her lips turned purple and the ambulances finally came, but she died en route to the emergency room. Ms. Esposito’s father died in an intensive care ward days later. They left behind a shuttered store that sold detergent and cleaning products.
“Now we can use what is left in the house to eat, but we don’t have much,” said Ms. Esposito, 27, whose parents had provided a home and the only income for her and her year-old son. The boy’s father only worked off the books in another shop that had closed too. “Now we are even more scared because we know that nobody helps you.”
Southern Italians are facing a war on two fronts. Italy’s coronavirus epidemic, among the deadliest in the world with nearly 20,000 deaths, exploded in the country’s wealthy north, where it stretched one of Europe’s most sophisticated healthcare systems to the limits and shut down the country’s economic engine. But it is the country’s poorer, less developed south that has loomed over the entire crisis and which figured prominently in the government’s decision to lock down all of Italy last month.
The south is facing economic carnage not seen since the post-war era. The region’s poor, used to scraping by with temporary contracts or off-the-books jobs, are now increasingly dependent on handouts. Scattered, but troubling, reports of unrest at supermarkets puncture the Italian narrative of patriotic sacrifice. And officials are concerned that criminal organizations that have long infiltrated the black market, the health