A woman looks at a banner reading 'Amuchina gel and respiratory mask sold out' on the window of a pharmacy at Piazza del Duomo in central Milan, on February 24, 2020, following security measures taken in northern Italy against the COVID-19 the novel coronavirus. (AFP/Andreas Solaro)
Crack that prosecco, it's aperivirus time. And why not accompany your bubbly with a slice of virus ice-cream cake, fresh from the area of Italy worst hit by the disease?
Italy has the most coronavirus cases in Europe and highest death toll but rather than succumb to fear, wisecracking Italians have opted to laugh in the face of danger with a slew of parodies, jokes and general sillyness.
In the economic capital Milan, just 60 kilometers down the road from the main outbreak, bars have transformed "happy hour" into "aperitiviruses", where aperitifs and snacks can be bought at a discount.
At the Gelateria Infinito shop on the outskirts of Cremona -- another area of the Lombardy region reporting many cases -- customers can get a "Corona Cake", which features the typical crown-like spikes of the COVID-19 virus.
"We know that this is a serious issue, but problems can't be solved with sadness and fear," owners Andrea Schirali and his wife Daniela told the Repubblica daily.
"The important thing is to follow instructions and stay calm. If we eat a good ice cream in the meantime, it certainly can't hurt," they said.
There's fun to be had even by those in obligatory isolation in red zones, with only their social media feeds for company.
Virus jokes have gone viral, and as per tradition they target Italy's famous flaws, from its public transport to its mafia.
One gag shows a city mayor boasting that the metro's delays are actually helping keep his citizens safe, because "the waiting time is longer than the (14-day) incubation period!"
Another has a drug dealer offering hashish or cocaine, but his client demands "Amuchina" -- the most famous hand sanitizer gel in Italy.
The mafia's reputation for latching on to new trends is also a target for the online jokers.
One mock-up video shows a Naples mobster proposing to a fellow gangster that they switch from cocaine smuggling to Amuchina.
"Demand is skyrocketing for Amuchina, it's been nicknamed 'transparent gold', and colleagues in Honduras are transforming their labs to produce Amuchina," he says.
The jump in the gel's price on some internet marketplaces since the virus hit Italy prompted several joke adverts, with one offering to swap "five liters of Amuchina for a 2019 Audi RS5", a vehicle costing some 100,000 euros.
Fun has also been poked at measures put in place to prevent the virus from spreading, derided by some as draconian.
In one video doing the rounds an elderly woman sneezes. A second later, a special forces team breaks into her house through the door, window and roof.
Not all buffoonery has hit the mark. Police were investigating a man in northern Italy Thursday who had claimed on social media to have the virus and advised all those he knew to get tested -- before finally admitting it had been a joke.
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