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'Much worse than you thought': Italians share messages warning others of coronavirus impacts

Italy has been hit particularly hard, with the second-highest number of deaths.

March 18, 2020, 2:24 PM

The videos came from hundreds of Italians across the country as they observed a nationwide lockdown, but the message for other countries was the same: Don't underestimate this.

Italy has been particularly hard-hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic, with more than 35,000 confirmed cases and the second-highest number of fatalities behind China. Freelance filmmaker Olmo Parenti had those staggering numbers in mind when he collected messages from Italians to warn those in other countries what they could be facing if they don't get serious about self-isolating and social distancing.

Parenti asked them to record themselves and share what they wished they would have told themselves 10 days ago, knowing what they know now.

"I'm sure you've heard about coronavirus. And I'm sure you're underestimating it," one woman told her former self.

"Yes, 'cause infections in Italy will continue to increase, proving [to] you this all wasn't bulls--- like you thought," another said.

Parenti said he wanted to record the messages for people in the U.S., England and France, where he feared people weren't taking the pandemic as seriously as they should.

"Up until nine, 10 days ago, we were behaving the same way," said Parenti, who lives in Milan. "We were going outside saying, 'It's just a flu. We get it ... why should we worry?' But the thing is, we didn't realize how little we know."

"We make assumptions that not only put us in danger, but others in danger," Parenti said.

PHOTO: A general view shows the fishmarket in Venice, March 18, 2020, during the country's lockdown within the new coronavirus crisis.
A general view shows the fishmarket in Venice, March 18, 2020, during the country's lockdown within the new coronavirus crisis.
Andrea Pattaro/AFP via Getty Images

Working with the film collective "A Thing By," Parenti received hundreds of videos for the project. He said he edited the whole thing in one night to get the message out as quickly as possible.

"What is happening is much worse than you thought it was," a woman named Paola Costa said in her message. "You'll realize that even just being able to breathe air in your own house, it's something you should already be grateful for."

A woman who works at a hospital in Italy said she's now working "deadly shifts."

"We took it lightly," she added.

"Maybe rethink your Saturday night plans," another man told his former self. "And who knows? Maybe had you stayed home I wouldn't have to be home now."

Parenti hopes the sobering warnings will be a wake-up call.

"It's almost become cool to be a skeptic of things, but there's nothing cool about taking risks at this time," he said. "We have so little to gain from risking it, but we have so much to lose by not being patient, not being prudent."

What to know about the coronavirus:

Tune into ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live at 4 p.m. ET every weekday for special coverage of the novel coronavirus with the full ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.

ABC News' Alice Chambers contributed to this report.

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