IMAGINE being fined £300 for travelling to a neighbouring town. Or being stopped by police and threatened with arrest if you walk more than 200 metres from your home.

This is the reality of lockdown that people in Italy have been living with for two months.

Bradford music teacher Rino Grice is in Italy’s Liguria region with his Italian wife and their two children. Largely based in Milan, the family moved to their home in Albisola Superiore on the Ligurian coast the day before the Italian coronavirus lockdown came into force on March 9. The first lockdowns began in some provinces in February, later expanding to the entire country.

Italy has relaxed some restrictions, and this week saw a return to work for many people, but police checks are still in place and people face fines if they leave the area where they live.

With ONS figures showing that the UK coronavirus death toll has risen to over 32,000, overtaking Italy (just over 29,000 deaths) as the worst-hit European country, has our approach to lockdown been too relaxed?

“It had been fairly relaxed in Albisola until the Prime Minister made the whole of Italy a Red Zone. That changed everything,” says Rino. “Nobody was allowed to leave home without an official document and ID. Trips for the first six weeks were limited to getting food or if you had to work.

“During that time, going out of the house was incredibly stressful. I was stopped by police several times, and on one occasion when I took my children for a walk to the beach I was threatened with arrest because we were sitting down. Since then I have stayed in the house except for when there’s the need to buy food.

“Albisola is a bit like Bingley; a small town with a main street, shops and a couple of mini-markets. Lockdown here means you can’t leave the area where you live, so when you reach the border of the next town - say what Crossflatts is to Bingley - you can’t enter or you’d be subject to a fine of 300 euros.

“We thought those restrictions were only when you were on foot. In recent weeks Ive been shopping at a supermarket in the main town, Savona, but this week I was stopped by police, they asked me to show my documents and asked what I was doing. After telling them I was going to do some shopping they asked if there were shops in my town, I said yes and they said, ‘So you have to shop there’. They said if they were to stop me again I’d be fined.”

Until now, Italians have only been allowed to walk as far as 200 metres from their homes. Rino says this has relaxed, albeit with stringent rules still in place: “In the last couple of days we’ve been told we can walk on the lungomare (promenade), but the walk is always interrupted by police, checking where you’re from and making sure you’re in the correct area.”

Contrast all of this with lockdown in the UK. In theory, unless a key worker with permission to travel to work, people are only supposed to leave their homes for up to one hour of daily exercise and essential shopping - but we haven’t been issued with official papers for this, nor do we face regular police checks or fines if we stray further than we should.

While most people here appear to be adhering to Government guidelines and staying at home, the reality is that there is more freedom to bend the rules.

“I have contact with a lot of people in the UK and you have what would appear to be such a relaxed lockdown, with bike rides on the canal, camping away from home, travelling to different areas,” says Rino. “Part of me says that the UK is not taking this seriously, but that may just be jealousy on my part.

“Imagine having to stay within the confines Bingley - not being able to go for walk with your family, finding the parks closed, encountering police at every turn, being threatened with arrest for not understanding the rules.

“But on the whole, it has been handled well in Italy. It has been taken very seriously. The problem is there are three levels of government - Rome, region, city - so any directive from Rome can be interpreted in several ways. For example, where we are we can go out without mask or gloves, but enter a shop we have to put them on. Also the advice is that if we encounter a lot of people in the town, we put masks on. However in Milan you can’t leave the house without masks and gloves. The contagion has been greater there.

“The approach currently is bit by bit; we are now allowed to travel within our region, but we’re not allowed to leave it, therefore going back to Milan is prohibited. We are now allowed to go for walks but not on the beaches. Ice-cream shops and restaurants have opened but only for a takeaway service. By the end of the month we may be able to go inside restaurants, they’re all working on seating arrangements to comply with the law.”

Rino, his wife Veruska, who is from Milan, and sons Thomas and William have lived in Milan for five years, and usually fly to the UK every month. Rino owns the Yorkshire Music School in Saltaire.

“The school has transitioned online and the teachers have managed admirably with the changeover, so much so that we’ve had new students starting. Our admin team have managed to keep reception services open, having transferred them to their homes,” he says.

“My wife’s music school in Milan now has permission to open, to individual students only, but before then she must install a protective barrier in reception, give a clear definition of distance between students and teachers and change lesson timings so reception doesn’t get congested.”