A former Ilfracombe man living in Italy has urged people in Devon to follow advice and stay at home to avoid a repeat of the devastating scenes sweeping his adopted country.

Elena Norman, granddaughter of ex-pat Devonian Stanley Norman, at work in hospital in Italy duirng the coronavirus crisis. Picture: Norman familyElena Norman, granddaughter of ex-pat Devonian Stanley Norman, at work in hospital in Italy duirng the coronavirus crisis. Picture: Norman family

Stanley Norman lives in Peschiera Borromeo, in the province of Milan, quite near the red zone of Lombardy.

The 77-year-old is confined to his home but has reported how Italian television shows deserted streets, intensive care units full and churches and schools full of coffins.

Police and soldiers patrol the streets, there are roadblocks at every intersection and residents are allowed out only to buy food or go to the chemist.

Mr Norman contacted the Gazette, saying: “I hope this will show you how important your articles will be to keep people informed and safe.

Devonian Stanley Norman's Italian daughter-in-law, who is currently looking after 15 coronavirus patients in intensive care in Italy. Picture: Norman familyDevonian Stanley Norman's Italian daughter-in-law, who is currently looking after 15 coronavirus patients in intensive care in Italy. Picture: Norman family

“I hate to think that what is happening here in Lombardy could happen in Devon.

“My daughter who is a specialist in intensive therapy works in one of the main hospitals in Milan. From what she has told me, many patients are over 60 years of age. Few will survive. There are also young people. They too can die.

“Streets are completely deserted now. Only essential workers can move about and police and army patrol the streets. There are road blocks at all inter sections.”

Mr Norman, who married an Italian and moved to Italy in 1965, but was born and bred in Ilfracombe, said as on Monday, March 23 the total infected with coronavirus in Italy was 46,638 people, with 19,846 hospitalised with symptoms, 23,783 isolated in their homes, 3,009 in intensive therapy.

Italian soldiers patrol downtown Milan, Italy. Picture: AP/Antonio CalanniItalian soldiers patrol downtown Milan, Italy. Picture: AP/Antonio Calanni

More than 5,500 have died. In an old peoples’ home in the borough next to where his family lives, 52 have died.

He said: “Experience in Italy has shown the only answer to slowing down infections and saving lives is staying at home, only going out to buying food, or medicines. Only essential activities should continue to operate.

“All other manufacturing activities should stop, no sport, no jogging. Parks should be closed. Once a village, town or city has a few cases entrance to and from it should be stopped except for essential workers and entrance of foodstuffs.

“I trust I have not been too dramatic but after hearing the news conference of Boris Johnson on sky news last night his restrictions seem inadequate.

Carabinieri (Italian paramilitary police) officer stops a car in downtown Milan, Italy, Sunday, March 22. Picture: AP/Antonio Calanni)Carabinieri (Italian paramilitary police) officer stops a car in downtown Milan, Italy, Sunday, March 22. Picture: AP/Antonio Calanni)

“I hope what I have said can be of some use. All lives are precious and should be safeguarded.”

Mr Norman has three children and seven grandchildren. He has worked extensively as a translator including translating medical texts into Italian and later in his career he was asked to manage the Italian edition of the prestigious medical journal Pediatrics of the American Academy of Pediatrics.