As Covid-19 spreads across the globe, LCC students from many countries are keeping journals of their own experiences and those of their family and friends. Their stories paint a picture of this extraordinary time in the UK, Europe, the Americas, Asia and beyond.
Viktoria Bielawa (Polish student living in London): March 23 – 29
Monday 23rd March
At 8.30pm, my family and I, as well as the rest of the British public, sat intently in front of our TVs listening to the conference given by our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. The PM announced an “un”-official lockdown of the country with strict rules of staying at home for the safety of everyone. We all felt like we are currently living in a very badly written sci-fi thriller, where the whole world is fighting for survival and it is the fittest who will make it through.
During the previous weekend (21st-22nd March) many gatherings and individuals were spotted across the country enjoying the warmth and sunshine of the coming spring – which, as some of you may know, nice weather is not very common in the UK. Yet, due to ignorance about the pandemic and foolishness of the British public, the government had to implement tough measures to ensure the flattening of the curve and to prevent mass spread of the virus.
These measures are the most extreme the country has ever seen. Never in the British history has such guidelines been enforced by the government and, particularly, never with the ability for the Police forces to interfere. The Metropolitan Police has been given the authority to issue fines (of up to £60) to anyone in breach of the lockdown rules, in particular to groups of people who are evidently not taking the pandemic seriously.
Tuesday 24th March
Happy Birthday to me… I guess.
Everything is still very surreal. The news of last night’s lockdown still echoes at the back of my head, yet I can’t really get around it. My best friend was supposed to visit me today – we were supposed to have wine, some pizza, even make drunk TikTok videos that we’re obviously too old for. But that obviously went down the drain. It is not the birthday I had planned, yet I am very grateful for being able to spend it with my family. At least, I am not alone.
Despite it being a very miserable day for me, my friends and family did their absolute best to lighten up my mood. My mum and my sisters spent the day making me a very beautiful and delicious cake, which we enjoyed entirely in the sunrays on the spring London sun. We live in the ‘suburbs’ of the city, so we are lucky enough to be able to enjoy the weather in our garden. We played games, annoyed my cat and, overall, enjoyed our family time. I almost forgot the whole world was in a state of a pandemic – which was rather freeing.
Wednesday 25th March
I slept until the afternoon, waking up a little hungover from all the wine I had last night (which I must say was slightly too much). I stayed up very late into the night on various video chats with my friends from all over the globe. It made me feel so much better to have so many people care for my mental and physical wellbeing. It made my heart so full.
Thursday 26th March
I woke up early to work on various projects that are still running for my university. Writing articles, editing content and thinking of new photography projects that I may do from the comfort of my own home. I need to prepare and pitch content ideas, writing and photography to Unsettled Magazine, that I have been involved with since October 2019.
I had the first webcam meeting with the magazine team this evening, discussing the current situation of moving with print and compiling ideas for the new publication (which was supposed to be released in May). Due to the closure of the university and no access to any of its facilities we are forced to push the deadline of the release and changing many of the plans we had coming up to it.
At 8pm the whole nation united to show the NHS medical staff, workers and carers around the UK our appreciation of all their hard work, sacrifice and bravery with the COVID-19 battle. Britons across the island clapped, screamed, whistled as loudly as it was possible, saluting the underappreciated heroes of our nation. It was such a beautiful moment of solidarity that filled any heart with joy and the nation’s landmarks blue.
Friday 27th – Saturday 28th March
After doing a spring cleaning of my room, I have found my old collection of The Sims 3 games, with various of expansions packs and features. Curious to see whether it would still work, I fired up my old Windows laptop and inserted the scratched-up disc.
It is safe to say I have discovered my ‘new’ addiction and a perfect way to kill time. (I really recommend it).
Sunday 29th March
I have received an email from my company saying that they would pay me and other associates currently under the COVID-19 law an 80% wage of our usual monthly salary. Considering I work in retail, on a part-time and zero hours contract basis, I was pleasantly surprised to receive this news. It might not be much, yet it will definitely pay for the basic necessities, prescriptions and bills for the next few weeks.
This current week of isolation ended on a rather positive note, with my friends getting together on Netflix Party to watch a film, whilst simultaneously video-calling each other on our phones. I have to say I am slowly getting used to this new way of living, yet the distance between my friends is still painful. Hopefully as we enter the second week of lockdown there will be brighter news to hear about the pandemic, but until then I hope that we all stay safe.
Lucy Haydon (English student living in Horsham): March 21-26
Day 7 – 21.03.20
So, I don’t think I have a job. But I can’t look for another one, just in case I do still have a job, and my boss decides to tell me what is going on. Along with the other guys at the pub, I have received two emails both saying as little as the other.
The online shopping is getting worse. Every day I think of a new item I absolutely need in my capsule wardrobe. I’m using so many beauty products my face is breaking out. I have callouses again from playing guitar, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. So far today I had one pack of ASDA cookies for breakfast and another for lunch. Maybe I should just sit back and take the certain death that Facebook ads and the BBC assure me is coming. I will need a good outfit though, to be remembered well in.
Day 8 – 22.03.20
I spent an hour or two applying for jobs. I think I could be a good tree surgeon? I didn’t know they were key workers, but hey, if the shoe fits…
We are having church in the living room, which is a strange first. I think it will take some practice personally. In a moment of emotion, I text my cousin for the first time ever (he tends to keep to himself and I am not one to pester people with my existence). He replied by telling me to stay safe and definitely not visit our family in Yorkshire, in case I make them ill. We have a great relationship.
Day 9 – 23.03.20
665 new cases in the UK as of today… Supposedly, 27 of these are in my area. I suspect there are many more than that, given that the advice if you show symptoms has been to stay at home and avoid everyone. This number seems quite small to me, but then I remember Italy having the same kind of jumps in case numbers. I hope the situation doesn’t get that bad.
I have turned to playing volleyball with the wall and hoping this doesn’t annoy the neighbours, who are (unusually) in.
I go to the corner shop for a few supplies. It is surprisingly full – I have never seen more than three people in there at once, including myself and staff. Everybody tries to keep two metres apart when they first go in. But it only takes one glance at the crammed aisles of staff restocking shelves, wheelchairs and pets to realise that it’s not going to happen if you want to get your shopping done. Even more unusually, I see a lady I know. Her daughter, she tells me, is upset because she could not say goodbye to any of her school friends. She is in year 11 at the local girl’s school. I am told she won’t be able to sit any of the exams she has been studying for. I imagine if that had been my school year… Leaving education was a strange enough experience already, let alone without any sort of closure. But they are all healthy, she reassures me.
Day 10 – 24.03.20
In one of our shorter phone conversations, my mum tells me the police are patrolling the beach at home. Probably not necessary in a town of 4000 inhabitants, mostly over the age of 70, and are definitely staying well inside the confines of their purpose built bungalows.
I decided to take a walk and get some air. The weather is distinctly warm for this time of year. I’ve never seen so many other people out and about in this part of my neighbourhood! Many are at work in their gardens, washing cars, or taking a stroll like me. Time is passing by in an ethereal and subconscious way. I stop.
Day 11 – 25.03.20
I can’t help but wonder how this virus must affect the homeless. It is not really spoken about. They don’t have the privilege of staying stuck inside their homes and ward off the disease. The food banks I follow on social media are all warning that stocks are low. But what can the average Joe do about that? Many are facing financial difficulties, with little to no help for people on zero hours contracts (like myself) or who are self – employed. On top of that, I have heard stories of people being evicted from their homes, unable to pay rent through no fault of their own. Even one of my flatmates is in that position, though our landlord is known to be an understanding guy… I doubt she will be thrown out on the streets before she finds a job.
My phone pings. It’s a friend my age, who is a nurse. She asks us to pray for her because she is scared to go in to work at the moment. Honestly, this is very unlike her, but everything is out of kilter now. She is not the only NHS worker I know who is worried. I know a couple who are a bit older, who also worry they could get COVID 19 and become seriously ill. Others are unqualified students, worried they will make a life threatening mistake on a long shift, with the immense pressure they are under. I just listen attentively and hope for the best.
Day 12 – 26.03.20
I am having a ‘house party’ (a form of video chat) with a family who I have known my entire life. At 8pm we all go to our windows and celebrate the NHS. Or at least that is the pretence. I think at this point it is just a celebration of anything positive, an opportunity for us neighbours to wave at each other across the street, and remind ourselves of human interaction.
I miss the voices of London, the rush, the late night ice cream and shopping trips with random people from my course I’ve never had more than one conversation with before. I know that all this will carry on as if nothing happened soon enough. But for now I will wait and enjoy these memories from the comfort of my sofa.
Diane Theunissen (Belgian in Brussels): March 23-27
My name is Diane. Born and raised in Brussels, I moved to London in September 2015 to pursue a bachelor in Music Business. After completing my degree, I enrolled at LCC and started a master in Arts and Lifestyle Journalism. I handed in my Final Major Project in December, and, after weeks of job hunting (and shamelessly re-watching every single episode of Gossip Girl), I have just started working as an editorial assistant.
Two weeks ago, my mother called me to explain that the situation back home was changing: a series of rules had been implemented to fight the spread of the coronavirus, and Belgium was probably going to close its borders. After discussion, we agreed that it was safer for me and my brother (whom I live with) to go back home. I had a chat with my manager about the possibility of remote working, and he instantly agreed. My boyfriend – another Belgian expat in London – also decided to leave the UK and head back to Belgium.
On Tuesday 17th March, the three of us took the Eurostar back to Brussels. I don’t think I had ever seen this few people at St Pancras station. At arrival, my boyfriend took another train to his hometown, while my brother and I went back to our parents’ house. We got there ‘right on time’, Belgium went onto lockdown the day after.
My family and I, like everyone else in the country, have been locked down for the past five days. Everyone in the house is healthy so far, yet extremely tired. I wonder why we are experiencing such fatigue. Is it due to the stress indulged by the current situation, or do we unconsciously perceive this strange period as an opportunity to stop and recharge our batteries?
We celebrated my mum’s birthday today. We ate cake after dinner, and watched a movie. No need to say this was the highlight of my day, having been working for nine hours straight in my childhood’s bedroom.
My mum is sewing masks in the living room. She will bring them to local nursing homes and home care nurses in the afternoon. There has been a genuine solidarity in regard to the current situation: many charities and organizations have been created to provide material support to healthcare services, and facing the current shortage of FFP2 masks.
This spirit of solidarity goes further down the line: engineers and creative hubs from various parts of Belgium have worked on designing prototypes for artificial respirators, putting their 3D printers at the service of the country.
Unfortunately, the virus keeps spreading across the country: 1,298 new cases have been confirmed today, which means the total of persons infected has now reached 6,235. The lockdown was initially set to terminate on the 5th of April, although an important meeting will be held tomorrow afternoon to discuss a potential extension.
A series of rules has been implemented by the government at the beginning of the lockdown period. This includes embracing social distancing, prioritizing remote working, and avoiding being outside for too long. Even though most people are obeying these rules, there is still a significant part of the population who tends to ignore them: the youth, especially people aged between 18 and 21. According to a local survey, 44% of this age group doesn’t respect the regulations enforced to fight the propagation of the virus.
The verdict just fell: the Belgian government has decided to extend the lockdown period for two extra weeks – at least. I feel down and anxious, but this is probably what the country needs in order to face the current situation.
Even though most supermarkets and corner shops are short on toilet paper (who would have guessed?), there hasn’t been much shortages in regard to food supplies. It feels like people have quickly come to their senses and stopped panic buying.
Every night at 8pm, citizens from each part of the country go to their balconies, and applaud loudly – or bang frying pans – to support hospital and healthcare services. I try to join as much as I can, it creates a nice atmosphere in the neighbourhood and god knows we need it now. Also, I recognize some faces I haven’t seen in years. It helps me feel at home.
Dina Zubi (Norwegian student in Oslo): March 21-26
This restricted lifestyle has become the new normal now, and I can’t help but wonder how long this is going to go on for. Some reports say a year or more, which is terrifying. So many people have already lost their jobs and another year of this would surely break the economy completely. Like most places, the Norwegian stock market has crashed and our currency, Norwegian Kroner, is also very weak. This is an added challenge for Norwegian students like me (and surely many other nationalities), who are studying abroad and have had their rent and bills significantly increased because of the drop in the value of our currency. It’s not a good feeling to be paying rent for a flat in London that I’m probably not going to be able to use for weeks or months, especially when I’m now paying a lot more than before.
My friend’s brother most likely has the Coronavirus, as his girlfriend works with several people who have tested positive. They are both experiencing flu-like symptoms, but are in general good health, so they’re not very worried from what I hear. My friend does their shopping and walks their dog for them, without entering their flat. However, the other day my friend’s colleague said that she was endangering the whole workplace by helping her brother, and demanded that my friend would stop coming in to work. This would mean that she would not get paid, as she’s not on a set contract, and that the complaining colleague would take her shifts instead. Though I understand that the colleague is concerned, my friend is reliant on those shifts as a source of income and she takes great care not to be in direct contact with her brother. Also, someone has to bring them food and walk their dog. These types of dilemmas are difficult, because there’s not a definitive answer as far as I see it. People with the virus need help from others, so there’s always going to be a certain risk with that.
I’ve been quarantined for over a week now and I think it’s going surprisingly well, considering that I’m usually a very social person and get energized from being around others. If anything, there is so much texting and calling and facetiming that I’m more social than ever. I do miss physical closeness though. Yesterday, I was on a walk and ran into a friend, and it was so difficult to resist the urge to give them a hug.
There was a news story today about someone that had tested positive for coronavirus and still went to a party, and have now been fined 20 000kr (about £1500). If they fail to pay that fine, they risk 40 days in prison. Personally, I think it’s a good thing that the police are taking this more seriously, because it means that people are going to be more cautious.
They announced today that they are cancelling all middle school and high school written exams, which a lot of students seemed happy with. The current restrictions have also been extended for a few more weeks, though I fear it’s going to be more than that. I’m anxious to know when I would be able to go back to the UK, but I realize that it’s difficult for anyone to estimate exactly how long this crisis could go on for.
My best friend just told me that she’s experiencing some of the Coronavirus symptoms, like a cough and fever, which makes me quite worried for her. She is young and in good health, but she does have asthma, which puts her more at risk. It’s hard to know that we can’t see each other either, even though she is just a short walk away from me.
Anna Komitska (Bulgarian student living in London): March 22-27
This past Tuesday, March 24th, Boris Johnson announced that ‘all must stay at home’, which marked the beginning of a national lockdown to last for, at least, three weeks. The decision was made at a time when articles reporting on crowds gathering in public parks and tube carriages emerged, pointing to the impossibility of social distancing. Back in Bulgaria, state officials appear to be at a standstill following criticism that drastic restrictions serve as a cover-up for an inadequate healthcare system.
It seems that the UK’s alleged hopeful prospects of a herd immunity strategy have fallen through. Lockdown has not meant much news to me, as I had already been self-isolating for a week prior to Tuesday’s announcements. The only inconvenience I am still battling through is the empty shelves in food shops. It seems that all home delivery time slots offered by supermarkets have been booked for the next month and a half, which leaves me wondering whether we really are past the period of panic buying.
The fact that I am forced to plan my day within my house is not particularly bothering me. I am slightly pleased with the abundant spare time I now have to dedicate to activities I am otherwise too busy to enjoy. I get to work on my projects for university without the stress of being rushed, I can read a book from cover to cover without skipping paragraphs, I can paint, watch a film or do yoga just for fun, etc – not because ‘I have to’, but because I can be mindful of what I am doing whilst I am doing it. I have also reconnected with friends online I had not heard of for months. Thus, I have come to realize what a widespread effect the virus has had on so many within the matter of days.
A colleague of mine, native of Italy, finally boarded a flight back to Rome on Monday after cancelling two others. This last plane was intended for Italian nationals trying to return to their home country. He successfully reached his hometown after a lengthy trip on the train, followed by a subsequent bus journey. Another friend of mine spent the week leading up to lockdown in Scotland, in an effort to run to the countryside and away from the virus. Together, we listened to Johnson’s Tuesday announcement on the BBC. The following day, she fled from the, now closed, hotel to evacuate to somebody’s home in Edinburgh. She expressed her concerns about possible crowded carriages if she were to take the train back here.
A mutual friend of ours residing in Paris reported that President Emmanuel Macron appears on television almost every evening to remind the French citizens that going out for picnics along the sunny bank of the Seine is strictly forbidden. Open markets are similarly a no-go place, as people care little about queuing at a distance from one another. Across the Channel, restrictions are more severe than our own – people are only allowed to walk outside for no more than a few hundred meters away from their homes while also carrying an official document, dated and signed, which lists the specific reasons for leaving one’s house. Apparently, cyclists have been found in the wrong neighbourhoods and brought back home by police – and have probably been advised to abandon their bikes unless they are willing to go round in circles. My friend mentioned the piles of wilting flowers leaning against the windows of closed shops, and her family business shutting down back in England. We wondered about the possibility of a crumbling economy at the end of the tunnel.
Perhaps the most unsettling event I was confronted with this week was my flatmate rushing back from work to pack her bags last minute before heading back home the following morning – to stay with her family after her dad, a doctor, had contracted Covid-19 at work. It was striking purely because the virus seemed as though it was creeping in, now closer than ever. This was the first instance somebody that I personally knew has had to fight against it. Meanwhile, our landlady implored us to stock up on bottled water, as ‘contaminated tap water is the way for this “thing” to get into our homes.’
In Bulgaria, the government restricted the free access to public parks for the elderly and children on Saturday, green spaces remain open only to dog walkers. Sofia looks deserted, except for the children cycling along the sidewalks. People end up hiking in the nearby mountain, Vitosha, in search of fresh air and a quiet time in nature. As a result, all transportation to the woods is seized, despite an influx of written complaints by citizens against the stricter measures. Police cars are dispatched to check whether the measures are being followed, especially in the districts populated by gypsies. The latter prove particularly difficult, as thousands of migrant working minority groups return from Western countries.
It is decided that all shops are to be open to those above the age of 60 between 8:30 and 10:30am. No shortage of products is seen. People below said age are forced to queue outside until 10:30am sharp, even when the shops have no elderly customers. Online, a group of social media accounts spread fake news about the aerial disinfection against the virus throughout the night. They encourage people to stay at home with their windows shut.
All movement in and out of cities is happening under police surveillance. Travelers must provide proof of address, if heading home, or a document from their employer as evidence. The news reports of the growing rate of infected individuals. No announcements are made regarding those who have already been cured, of which there are such successful cases. Certain media platforms address the fact that news concerning around 300 daily deaths due to car accidents, which are very common nationally, are no longer being reported.
A conflict between the President and the government started. The President vetoes all bills to be discussed in Parliament with the motive that basic rights of freedom are being violated. Stricter measures are not supposed to compensate for the weak health system. It is an open secret that hospitals are severely lacking in respiratory machines.
March 23rd – 27th
Despite spring being at everybody’s doorstep, Bulgaria wakes up covered in snow. Covid-19 patients are being treated with medicine used against malaria consisting of quinine. US statisticians have praised the Bulgarian government for the adequate handling of the situation. The latter confess that the severe decisions to restrict physical contact have been for the most part indeed motivated by the lack of medicines, hospital staff and specialist equipment. Meanwhile, a group of specialists and epidemiologists were called to advise government officials, answer the public’s pressing questions and relieve their concerns. There are 202 registered Covid-19 cases.
The leader of the government’s Crisis Headquarters appears anxious and impatient towards the journalists’ questions during official briefings, refusing to answer to some, whilst he is being criticized that the country’s borders cannot remain closed for a full year and a half. It is decided and submitted to the EU for 1,000 patients to be examined using quick Covid-19 tests, so that more accurate statistics may be carried out. While the European Council discusses possible ways of opening businesses, Bulgaria is currently refusing to follow them as long as the virus is still spreading.
Nobody yet knows how long lockdown will be going on for…
Mathilda Frotscher (German student in Hamburg): Week 2 – March 20-27
Hamburg. 1700 infected people, 25.000€ fines and when you got a take-away from your favorite Indian place, you better walk 50 meters before you snack the first Samosa, otherwise you’ll get fined. Okay not 25.000€ but 250€. 25.000€ is only when you repeatedly refuse to obey these rules.
Numbers like these are the only information I am taking in at this moment and the only thing shocking me. The biggest change since last week is that I got used to the situation, I accepted it and adapted to it by changing my routines, processes and methods. That’s probably because I reduced my Corona updates input by approximately 70%. I perfected the system: One newsletter from London, one from Germany and, of course, the World Health Organization WhatsApp service. I also chose two people from my close circle whom I speak to about the situation every now and then, because I trust their research skills and judgement calls. Also, I am starting to see the positives of this virus, blue skies and studies show that Mother Nature is recovering right now!
Besides that? I work out a lot more than I did before and have an incredible amount of work to do. I write articles for business coaches, consultants and personality test developers who obviously have a lot of business opportunities at the moment so they need content for their social media channels and newsletters to make companies aware of their services.
Oh and I’ve got loads of new subscriptions now: Duolingo to learn Spanish, Gymondo for home workouts, LinkedIn Premium to work on my digital networking skills and so on and on. Please everyone: remind me to cancel all of these because no free is forever!
However, what will last forever though is my love for my hometown Hamburg. We are developing a sense of neighbourhood and community in St. Pauli not just by copying the Italians and singing from our balconies. We are also working out together, since one Personal Trainer started standing on the streets animating people to train with him. Also, musicians have been walking through the streets playing music and collecting money that’s being thrown towards them. Everyone seems to be growing closer together. It’s in our nature as Germans to enjoy sticking to rules so the atmosphere in the supermarkets and parks is respectful, calm and enjoyable.
The country is locked down but we are not limited to one outdoor exercise a day. Apparently, people have been sneaky with getting together for exercising and eating though. Because what’s legally forbidden now is picnics unless you want to pay 250€ to the police on top of the 20€ you paid at Aldi for grapes and skewers. My favourite is that you’re legally not allowed to start eating your take-away closer than 50 meters to the restaurant that made the food. (I personally can’t wait to see a police officer kneeling on the street with a ruler).
Besides that little beef us Hamburgers (haha) have with our police every now and then, people are quite pleased with the higher authorities! Angela Merkel’s speech is definitely going to appear in our children’s history books. What Boris did in his “speech” was to tell his folks for five boring minutes what they’re not allowed to do for the foreseeable future. Merkel managed to do that whilst referring to our countries’ history and strengths. She created hope and the feeling of “being looked after” in the German society. It does not happen often, but I got a little proud of my country here, which, thinking in the long-term, is a really big impact that Corona has already!
Speaking of impacts, I might actually have the virus myself. Just when I arrived in Hamburg (meaning, after I spent hours and hours at airports surrounded by thousands of people) I lost my sense for taste and smell. Luckily, no other symptoms showed besides my bad mood, because food is bae! But that’s back to normal now, it’s only the dry cough that’s worrying my mum but it’s become difficult to get tested so we are just isolating and hoping for the best.
I’ve got three friends back in London who definitely have the virus: fever, cough, short of breath, no smell or taste. But they are trying to focus on the positive aspects that Corona is bringing and to not just deal with the changes but to see an opportunity and make the most of it.
For me, personally, as a gym addict and nutrition nerd, it’s great to see how the overall topic of health has been receiving attention! Regarding both us human beings and planet earth: How to strengthen the immune system and protect yourself from the virus? Healthy diet and regular exercise. Forced to be around your family 24/7? Deal with that nasty fight. What are all these yoga and meditation app ads on Instagram? Maybe they deserve a shot – TikTok has been getting boring anyway.
To summarize, it’s good to see how this situation is bringing people closer together and makes them exchange their knowledge and skills. Whilst the silence is also making everyone spend more time breathing, reflecting and communicating.
Iona Gibson (Scottish student living in Canterbury): March 27
I am demotivated. Not because I don’t want to do things, but because my reasons for doing things have been removed by government force. Since the lockdown was put in place, the pursuit of pleasure has shifted by default: where I used to walk to a local cafe to buy a coffee and study with a friend, I now walk across the hallway of an empty house and make tea for myself before sitting back down, alone, in the same room that I woke up in. And while that is a good change for my bank account, it seems now that every moment passed is a lesson in gratitude for humanity’s overarching greed. It’s a rather heavy feeling. This weight is our collective grief over the loss of social liberty, and it is immeasurably costlier than the usual extra shot of espresso.
Human energy is the new capital, it seems. I happened to read a rather controversial article on the topic just this morning, urging companies to focus on making money rather than communicating empathy, using examples from McDonalds ‘split arch’ logo as a metaphor for social distancing. It claimed that seeing the Coronavirus circumstances as an opportunity for expansion and innovation, rather than reminding consumers about its existence, is ultimately what will keep businesses afloat. Interesting. The digital world which once was a data-driven, dystopian terror is now the guardian angel to which we turn – but make no mistake, our present is hardly a utopia – it simply begs the question of perspective, situation, and satisfaction.
It can be easy to get caught up in your own world during crisis. There is always too much going on to leave room for expanded consideration. Today, Boris Johnson was every news headline, a media mockery on his ironic diagnosis of the virus following his late action against its spread. While it is important to keep in mind that half of Coronavirus carriers show no symptoms, it is also important people understand their shared responsibility in prevention. The case numbers are reaching 15,000 (40% in the last 24 hours, and around 200 are in Kent) and the death toll is almost 800 (it’s sharpest overnight increase so far). Public service workers, particularly in London, are said to be ‘dropping like flies’. But there’s good news too: global air pollution has seen massive decline, the elusive ‘social distancing’ and other related terms have been clearly defined, and last night at 8pm, people from across the nation took part in an applause for NHS workers, from their windows, doors & balconies. A moment of solidarity connected millions through sound alone, but will the fresh foods on supermarket shelves go to waste while canned goods remain more desirable? Selfishness is stronger than an anti-bacterial wipe.
What has been on my mind lately is that normality has been put on pause as if we can press play and resume as usual later, the same way in which people switched off their televisions to join in on the applause. Too bad life doesn’t have a remote that allows social change to happen instantaneously. How will changes in our social life now shape the future of our socialising? Maybe we should ask the astronauts who only had the stars and each other.
Hanna Modder (German student in Kreis Soest, North Rhine-Westphalia): Week 2
An acute fit of corona anxiety
My brother has developed a fever. His symptoms look like tonsillitis but our thoughts go around access to medical care much more than around Covid-19.
Even though Germany’s healthcare is well-funded, it took him an entire day to get through to a doctor’s phone. To get his diagnose and antibiotics, he had to take a 30 minute drive at 10p.m.
For us, who are used to having access to health care every day and with minimal to no waiting time, it shows how thinly stretched the system is already.
Whilst I whole-heartedly believe in our health care, I cannot help but wonder when it has reached its capacity. We are already relying on our medical staff’s will to make sacrifices and work deadly shifts. And life, albeit in reduced form, goes on. Mundane things like accidents and appendicitis are still going to happen. So, will there be resources to take care of that? How long will the ambulance take? I try and push the thoughts away. But once again, it drastically shows how fragile the sense of security is that comes with our healthcare system.
My grandma says the situation reminds her of wartime when, eventually, everybody had to step in to support the basic infrastructure. And she has a point: volunteering programs are already put in place to support hospitals that struggle to care for all their patients.
So, maybe, this is our generation’s big task and, most likely, these days are going to create the memories we are going to bore our grandchildren with. But it is hard to look at it as a mission or challenge when friends and loved ones are in fear for their families. We look at Spain and Italy with horror, sadness, deep compassion and secretly believe it’s never going to be that bad for us – but can we be sure?
Ilse Blanquet (Mexican living in Mexico City): Week 2
After the President and City Major remarks during last week, the whole country has transformed. We are not in a lockdown (yet), borders are still open and flights are coming in and out. Nevertheless, the streets and avenues are empty and the traffic, which is distinctive from the city, has decreased. Since stores, restaurants, bars, cafes and other public spaces have been forced to close, Mexico has a different vibe. Despite most people having moved into a home-office organization, there are some others that are not able to do it due to their possibilities and conditions. Windshield-cleaners, people on the food markets and that sell items on the streets still wander around with an anxious hope to get money at least to survive through the day. My mother was moved when she asked to one windshield-cleaner, really young, what he was doing at almost 9 pm on the street and he answered: “Because now there are not many cars on the streets, we haven’t gathered the money to buy food and the next week, we will have to pay our rent. We just need to work extra hours… we either will die from the virus or from starving. We rather die due the first one”.
At home, we are trying to follow all the preventive measures such as washing our hands constantly and self-isolating. My grandfather is a baker, he sells special bread only for the Jewish community and, despite most synagogues being now closed, small stores are still asking him for his products. He wakes up at 1 am to bake and prepare the fresh pastries so he can deliver them later to the different branches. My mother, who helps him at his business and who takes cares of him, has adopted some initiatives to keep everyone safe. My grandfather is very stubborn and doesn’t want to stop working because he’s completely compromised with his customers and, also, the fact of not working means he can’t get enough income for the house.
Mexican society is more stressed and anxious since cases of people infected have increased during this last week. Most of these are from people that returned from trips in Europe (Spain, Italy, France mainly) and that were negligent enough to keep themselves at home for at least 15 days after their holidays. Now more people are showing the symptoms so the government and hospitals are expecting a rising number of patients in high risk within the next weeks. Given the situation, this last week there have been enforced not only rules of social distancing but also the closure of public spaces and recreational places. The City Major has highlighted the importance of staying at home the most as possible for people. Some governmental offices even asked to their workers only to come once a week.
As not all people can do home office and need to commute, there has been an implementation of clean buses and subways with sanitizer on the entrances, the trains and all of the areas where people are mostly gathered. Supermarkets now are starting to run out of essential items and people are still buying toilet paper control toilet paper. Because there has been frenzy and panic-shopping, all super markets have been forced to send home their elderly workers who help on the checkouts. In this sense, panic has been an effective way to make society more aware that this is not about them or even about the government, but is about each one making the right thing.
My mother is worried about the people on the streets, so, every time she can, she gives some money or food to young people who are working on the avenues. Also, in my neighbourhood, there have been some people that are collecting food items for elderly houses. These actions help to restore my faith in human beings and make me wonder why is in the darkest moments when we light out the best of ourselves? Not trying to get hippie-ish or corny either to fall on utopian expectations, but why do we need to face chaos to be conscious that togetherness, cooperation and kindness are lifesavers?
Eve Hebron (Welsh student in Llandudno): March 21-26
Saturday 21st March
I spent the day inside, which makes me sad considering it is so sunny outside. The weather seems crisp and fresh, and I can see the daffodils in the garden are fully bloomed. It’s perfect spring weather, which makes the whole experience even more strange. On average, it rains 156.2 days a year in the United Kingdom, and I swear many of those days are usually during March and April. Not this year though. It’s as though nature knows man is going through a bizarrely bleak period and is trying to lure us outside knowing we can’t go, like a child staring at the window of a sweet shop. Yet, if we didn’t have the sun, I feel the experience would be a lot worse. Perhaps the sun is shining down on us as a sign of solidarity instead.
Sunday 22nd March
Today is Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom, but it’ll be a year unlike any before. Many people can’t visit family members today, which will likely leave some feeling very lonely. My parents and I go for a drive in the Welsh countryside as it’s sunny. As we drive by the hills, basking in the golden rays of sunshine, I think of how calm everything looks in contrast to the chaos currently occurring. In previous days, I’ve heard that people have been travelling to the countryside from the city to quarantine. As we pass through certain villages, we see signs demanding, “TOURISTS LEAVE” and “WALES IS CLOSED”. It’s not just the virus that will have an everlasting impact on society, but the domino effect on society that the virus will have created.
Monday 23rd March
Today, I helped my Mum complete a food shop for an elderly neighbour. We must circulate the supermarket in a particular fashion and wear latex gloves. The supermarket is giving away bouquets of flowers for free, likely unsold from yesterday’s Mother’s Day. We drop the shopping off at our neighbour’s doorstep, along with the flowers, and as we reach the gate, she waves at us through the window. It makes me realise how strange life has become. Later that day, my friend calls to let me know she’s just got engaged. I tell her this is the best time for such news, it’s like a light of hope within a room of darkness. That evening, Boris Johnson announces the country is officially going into lockdown. We are able to leave our houses for essential goods and daily exercise, but the directions are vague and we are left questioning how exactly this will work.
Tuesday 24th March
I receive a text from the government, explaining that I should remain at home, unless it is for daily exercise or essential goods, but there is still a lack of further information. I’m confused as to how this will be patrolled, and it seems as though for this lockdown to work successfully, stronger regulations are needed. I agree that we should be entitled to daily exercise, as long as we keep two meters from one another, but I can’t help thinking some individuals will abuse this allowance unless slightly stricter rules are enforced. My friends in France have told me that the streets of Paris are guarded by the gendarmerie, an institution we don’t have in the United Kingdom. With such massive cuts to the police force in recent years, it’s unlikely there will even be enough officers to guard the streets in this country.
Wednesday 25th March
Today it was 15 degrees Celsius outside. I decide to walk to the beach with my Dad, and we sit and enjoy the view. When the weather is getting warmer, my little seaside town is usually bustling with people, but today there’s a handful of people scattered along the promenade. I later walk up the Great Orme, a hill that overlooks my town. The streets are silent below, and the sound of a bus going down the high street echoes. I sit on the grass and listen to the birds singing, and the rabbits dashing in and out of the nearby bushes, sounds of nature I’ve usually taken for granted.
Thursday 26th March
Today I wake up feeling anxious and demotivated. We’re only a few days into a lockdown and it’s important to stay positive. But it’s hard. I can’t help thinking about the series of knockbacks we have and will all experience through this pandemic. I have friends who have lost jobs, who know people with the virus, who are quarantined in one country whilst their family are in another. I’m unsure when or if I will be moving back to London any time soon, and therefore I am paying rent for an empty room. To cheer myself up, I FaceTime two friends who manage to lift my spirits. I’m thankful we have the ability to virtually hang out, but I do miss life before bad connections and pixel faces.
Wojciech Synak (Polish student living in London): Week 2
Poland, as a country that still vividly remembers the communist government of the late ’80s, seemed almost too ready for the pandemic of coronavirus. Serious on following the official rules, Poles obeyed the guidelines introduced on the 13th of March marking the beginning of a bit surrealistic period for the entire country. This Friday marked the end of the second week of the lockdown which turned out to be significantly more peaceful than the first one. After a little bit of initial panic, the dust of uncertainty settled down and people started to find some resemblance of routine and comfort in the current situation.
Even though I wouldn’t say Polish people are necessarily unfriendly, I believe social distancing, for many, turned out to be surprisingly natural. Over the past week, I have received plenty of photos showing quite an impressive amount of social organization from consumers politely queuing in front of grocery shops, save distance kept between each individual person. With similar respect to the self-isolation rule, most people are currently staying at home, trying to keep themselves busy, mostly giving in to the holy trinity of domestic bliss – TV, internet and avoiding arguing with your family. Education and work shift to the remote mode when possible, efficiently proving that most meetings can be, in fact, an email.
What I find the most interesting in the current situation is a noticeable increase in human connection despite the aspect of physical self-isolation. People seem to crave virtual interactions via social platforms more than ever. I find it most transparent with my friends who are currently scattered across the country and, despite living in different cities for a few years, only now started to engage in semi-regular Skype calls. At this point in my life, I have been living in London for almost three years and coronavirus hasn’t yet impacted the frequency of my visits to Poland (I tend to go three times a year). Yet, I found myself talking to family and friends more often.
I have to say, knowing about other countries response to the threat of coronavirus, I’m a little bit proud of how efficient Poland turned out to be. It will be interesting to see how they choose to deal with the upcoming events, such as the presidential election or the celebration of significant national holidays approaching this May.
Stella Schmieder (German student in Werder): Week 2
Another week of battling COVID-19 has begun.
“It is a matter of life and death”, said Armin Laschet, minister-president of the German federal state of Nord Rhine Westphalia. Those words stuck with me for the remaining days of week two.
To be honest, I questioned the regulations that have been set up by the government a lot. It has been said that a lockdown might not be the solution to the problem. However, a strongly regulated contact prohibition for two weeks seems to be a suitable way to tackle the virus.
The virus underlines the weaknesses and strengths of humanity. People start to acknowledge you more, show solidarity and understanding. Unfortunately, many foolish and selfish people do not think about those at risk. It is important not to lose hope and like in Italy. Germans started singing and playing the European Anthem ‘Ode to Joy’ on the streets, even in my little hometown. Several sports clubs offer online training for children to keep them active during isolation and creative trends on social media keep people busy.
According to the news, our chancellor Angela Merkel has to go into quarantine because she had contact with an infected doctor. Nevertheless, the first two tests turned out negative. Still, she has to remain in domestic quarantine for two weeks and has to undergo more tests. During this time, Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz is representing her.
Munich opens a third “Drive-In” test station for medical staff, firefighters and police. The other test stations in Munich are for people that have an appointment.
At the beginning of the week, we thought that the exponential curve would flatten out. Unfortunately, that is still not the case as more people get infected with every day. By the end of the week, more than 43.700 people are infected.
47 Italians that require intensive care are treated in Germany. All countries need to help each other, especially those who are profoundly affected by the virus, like Italy or Spain.
Many TV stations in Germany report on coronavirus consistently and I feel very reassured watching the discussion with virologists, psychologists, medical staff, economists, scientists and politicians.
Every day seems to be the same, and I try to find something to do to not lose my mind. However, I keep on singing ‘Break Free’ by Queen.
I heavily rely on the internet to talk to my friends from around the world, and I know that they feel the same. A garden at home seems like a luxury during this time, and it is my only chance to spend as much time as possible outside.
I know when all of this ends, many, including me, will appreciate every moment with friends and family, every vacation and every day at school more.
Rosie Bossert (English student living in London): Week 2
This week’s entry is a mix between outlines of government policies and my own emotions. But despite being slightly all over the place, I feel it shows the reality of the situation.
Since last week, the most substantial political action in terms of slowing the spread of the virus has been an announcement from Boris Johnson ordering the public to stay at home by any means other than to:
- Go to work when it’s absolutely impossible for you to do so from home;
- Buy groceries or medicine;
- Seek medical assistance;
- Care for an elderly/vulnerable person;
- Get one form of outside exercise per day.
The policy can be enforced by police officers by telling people to return home or, if needed, issuing a fine.
Among the public, there seems to be at least some level of obedience but, still, there is quite a lot of people not taking the situation seriously. Honestly, it is very frustrating for me to see this as I am trying my hardest to isolate at home.
Any places where people go to meet, such as restaurants, pubs, galleries, venues and non-essential stores, have now been ordered to shut. Places offering a delivery service can remain open. This seems to not make much sense, of course there is not a large gathering of people in place but to be honest I don’t see chefs (as talented as they are) as offering an essential service at the moment.
I am a Labour supporter and didn’t vote for Boris. I don’t agree with his general policies outside of the pandemic and, regarding our current situation, I feel that we need more enforcement to STAY AT HOME. But, at the moment, political preferences need to be put aside along with everything else that is not helping the effort against coronavirus. The situation is unreal and nobody knows what to do, including the government (as much as they try to hide it), so everybody just needs to follow the guidelines and do what they can, disregarding any personal feelings towards the government.
NOW IT’S NOT THE TIME FOR REBELION, IT IS A TIME FOR UNITY!!
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who seemed to appear out of thin air, has been coming up with ‘financial packages’ of every kind, working ways around benefit criteria and offering cash to businesses in an appeal for them not to make harsh redundancies. For both employees and business owners, a weight has been lifted about their financial situation at this time.
This diary seems to keep me sane and talking about my personal experience is helping me work myself through this situation. Hopefully, it can help normalise what really would not be normal at any other time.
Until last night, I thought that my anxiety had settled since last week. Then, when at 8pm most of London came to their windows to show appreciation for the NHS, it was so overwhelming and sobering that we really are in the footsteps of Italy and there really is nothing that we can do about it. But I guess every day comes as it does and we can’t know how we are going to feel in the next ten minutes, let alone a day. This morning, I thought I was fine and then my sister went to the shop wearing latex gloves and forgot to take it off before coming in, which led me to burst into tears. I don’t know why, the only way to describe this feeling is terrified and overwhelmed. I’m sure everybody is feeling something like this and being patient with each other and lifting each other up is so important at a time when even the most stable people are swaying with a whirlwind of emotions.
Ellen Lund-Peterson (Danish student living in London): Week 2
Bringing us to the 11th day of isolation in total. The theme of this week has been realising the severity of the situation. Not that we took it lightly before, but with the new lockdown in place, there is an eerie feel that was not quite there before.
My Dad has had all the symptoms for the last week and has been kept, not only in isolation completely ever since they showed, but also kept it from me, to prevent further anxiety about the situation. But, as the week went on, he had to get groceries somehow, so he called me and I experienced how odd and difficult a contact free delivery is to perform.
The front door of his house has a little staircase leading up to it, so after leaving the delivery on the doorstep, I sat on the step the furthest away, leaving three meters in between us. We then had a chat like that for a while. He is all good and recovering from the symptoms, and the isolation period is over this week. However, the memory of the contact delivery I suspect will last me for a lifetime.
At 8:30pm BoJo speaks to the nation – calling our prime minister BoJo instead of Boris Johnson makes me feel a little bit happier about hearing him speak, bear with me.
Isolation is real now, and has now reached the same stage as in Denmark – and a little further than that. The police have started giving out fines in Denmark to all venues that are still open, and to individuals who do not keep to the rule of no gatherings over 10 people. As far as I have understood, the rule here is maximum two people gathered. Now, I know that my English is not perfect, but I wonder if I was the only one left not quite understanding what the exact rules were.
On a brighter note, we have started the big project of renovating our bathroom. We have little skill and knowledge, but so far nothing has gone wrong yet. We (finally) installed our toilet roll holder and cleaned out our shower completely and added new silicone. Hopefully we will come out of this isolation strong from the yoga and as independent women due to all the handywork we are self-teaching at the moment.
The 12th day of isolation, which I suppose is actually the first for many in this country.
I received my gov.uk text message today. Although I completely support the measures taken and honestly been anticipating when that would happen, the wording of the text is dramatic.
We’ve started to spend as much time in the sun as possible, which involves moving around a lot to follow the sunshine. At least it passes some time.
We woke up in a bad mood. It may be the breaking point of our positivity, and that is unsettling. However, life goes on and we have decided to build a table for our tiny garden, so we can soak up as much sun as possible, while still staying in isolation. We hope that our landlord doesn’t mind that we used an old headboard from a bed and a chair to make it, let’s see.
As for our renovation project, I called my previous manager, who is quite the handyman, to ask about how to seal up our shower properly. We had a long chat about the situation. His family is in Lithuania and, as the demand for products keeps falling, his family is losing money which worried him a lot. My previous company, his current, is now providing the 80% of salary that the government provided for the hospitality industry. My years in the industry has taught me that any kind of salary without service charge included is not sufficient, and my heart really goes out to all the people who have now been moved to zero hour contracts and have no idea how to make rent.
I really am beginning to struggle with keeping a healthy mind through this. Also, I woke up today and could not actually remember my last shower. I emerge myself more in information about our economy and long lasting effects on society, than the virus itself. I feel myself becoming more and more annoyed at construction sites, and construction workers ignoring social distancing rules. I have concluded that it is due to a strain of toxic masculinity that they continue, and encourage anyone to change my mind. I may or may not be looking for a discussion.
The difference between measures taken in Denmark and the UK is tiny by now. The main headline in Copenhagen right now seems to be that they have made the paths around the inner lakes (that’s where you’ll find every single person in Copenhagen as soon as there is a ray of sunshine) a one way path, which is outrageous for a lot of people. Safe to say that everyone is suffering from quarantine brains.
We do as well, days are becoming a blur, but we try to keep up with uni work, pitching, painting and other creative outlets now that both our campuses are shut down. Silver lining of all of this is that we’ve become really close friends in our flat. Potentially, this could have gone in the complete opposite direction, so I’ll let that be my positive thought of the week.
Sylphia Basak (Canadian student in Toronto): March 20-26
It doesn’t feel like a week has passed since my last entry. I feel like I’ve been living one long, continuous day. Someone said that this quarantine feels like the few days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, where you’re not really sure what to do with yourself besides wait for the next holiday. That’s where I’m at right now, except I’m just waiting for life to start again. It feels like the world has been put on pause.
In Canada, they’ve cracked down even more on social gatherings and businesses in an effort to slow the spread. As of yesterday, they’ve implemented a mandatory 14 day quarantine for those who have travelled outside of Canada, which is confusing because I was made to believe that it was already mandatory judging by the way I was greeted at the airport, but I guess it was just a “strong suggestion.”
Either way, I’m grateful to have returned when I did. Playgrounds are also now off limits and people who violate that regulation face a fine of up to $5,000 (£2,872). It makes sense seeing as there are now 858 cases and 15 deaths in the province of Ontario as I write this. That number is going to go up and so are the regulations.
There is definitely a sense of worry in the air, though, thankfully, the amount of panic-buying in Toronto has significantly declined. But our collective anxiety is only made worse by the comment sections on Instagram news articles, which are feeding ground for fear mongering.
I’m still trying to find ways to fight off my fear and anxiety, but with the rising numbers and uncertainty, it’s hard to see the glass as half full. My grandma is in India, where they have just implemented a complete shutdown and I’m almost afraid to talk to her, as if hearing about what it’s like there will force me to believe this situation really is that bad.
One of my friends is sick and while he hasn’t gotten tested, given his circumstances and symptoms, it’s highly likely that he has it. He’s been confined to his room for the past two weeks and I’m not sure what I can do to help besides just check in on him, and that scares me. For the past week we’ve called and texted and his symptoms are stagnant. They haven’t gotten better or worse, so, for now, that’s a good sign.
When we talk I try to focus on other things to distract both of us from our ever present anxiety, but just as coronavirus has consumed the media, it’s also consumed our minds. It’s hard to find other things to talk about. If it isn’t the virus itself, it’s the aftermath, it’s the way the government is dealing with it, it’s the recession we’re headed for after this is over.
There’s a point where I feel like I have to stop looking at the news because, while it’s important to be informed, it doesn’t do much for our mental health, being constantly exposed to fear of the unknown, and being confined without physical affection.
My mental health is already suffering as it is. But still, I find myself refreshing the news every day, hoping it’ll be something different. Right now, there is nothing very new about this situation, nothing we haven’t already seen, and it’s all we can do to just isolate ourselves and wait for better news.
In the meantime, we’re all trying to stay positive and find the fun in this situation, if there is any to be found. Some of my friends and I have started doing movie nights over FaceTime, and so far we’ve gone through all four Hunger Games movies and tonight we’re starting the Twilight series. My neighbours have taken to playing music every evening and having dance parties from our balconies. The people I know who are musicians (as well as many celebrities) have taken to livestreaming performances on Instagram as opposed to in-person concerts.
Being in lockdown reminded me to re-read some of my favourite old books, as well as start some new ones. I’ve discovered fantasy novels work best for my current situation as they provide a bit of escapism. I’m learning more songs on the guitar, and discovering I’m perhaps better than I thought I was. Many of my friends have also chosen to dye/cut their hair out of boredom at this point in the quarantine and, in my second week, I’ve purchased a stick ‘n’ poke kit and plan on giving myself a tattoo. So at the very least, I’ve found small joys, and I’ll try to find more as this quarantine continues.
I think I can also speak for everyone when I say I’ve learned to be grateful for what I have. It’s hard, I don’t like being confined to my house and I miss my friends but at least I can say I have a comfortable house to be confined to and friends so lovely that I miss them dearly (even if we do FaceTime every day). We still have food, jobs for my parents and no sick people in the house, which is all anyone can hope for.
What keeps me going is knowing that this isn’t for forever, even though it may seem like it. And, despite all the jokes on Twitter about this being the end times, I can’t help but notice everyone else talking about “when this is all over” too, as if they know deep down there is an end to this somewhere. It really is hard to be hopeful sometimes, and it feels lonely and sad and boring to be so isolated, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing this.
Writing this journal right now is reminding me that despite my frustration, it’ll be worth it when we flatten the curve and our healthcare system can manage the amount of cases at the viruses’ peak. In the meantime, I’m still daydreaming about going back into the world but finding small joys in the situation I’m now, and reminding myself that it could be a lot worse.
Samuel Zhang (student from Shanghai living in London): March 27
In this diary, I’m going to make a comparison between life in London and in Shanghai affected by Coronavirus, and will give some of the insights indicating a deeper consideration of where we, human beings, go further.
A week of self-isolation in London passed by, everything seems back to the normal. In other words, I just got used to it to some extent, only a lot of things couldn’t be done at home. I’ve followed the UK government’s daily press briefing. More strict rules and more detailed policies are being introduced almost every day, which aims on delaying the outbreak as late as possible, prevent the Covid-19 from spreading fast and ensure its civilians’ welfare.
If you’re familiar with the process of legal system in the UK, you’d be shocked with how fast it went while normally one piece will take even years. By today, the government promised to pay self-employees up to £2,000 monthly for three months, which constitutes 95% of the majority, to let them stay at home, by encouraging even ‘beggaring’.
Yesterday, I went out for a personal check-up. On the bus along the way what I saw as I passed was like nothing happened. People were gathering around walking or jogging. It’s very rare for people from China to see this sort of thing since our society is completely different. Of course I was shocked, again. Is the Covid-19 guidance the government made not clear enough or are the British people too liberal? I asked myself, and had no answer.
My family and girlfriend are living in Shanghai. Depending on what they have shared with me, self-isolating, rather than a ‘negotiation/ suggestion’ to stay at home, it is an order that everyone should obey. Besides, there’s a fundamental cultural difference, and Asians are more aware of its danger. To do so, the government launched the strictest measures, including one of the most popular techniques – individual positioning tracking – to block any possibility of virus spreading.
Specifically, if you want to access venues like buildings, parks or even your home, you have to make sure you’re holding a ‘Green Pass’, which refers to ‘safe, not a virus-suspicion’, by applying for an ‘individual pass’ on the phone containing any information about you, like the bank accounts, ID, residency, etc.
Otherwise, you’re not allowed to go anywhere or you’ll be prosecuted if you have the rest of them – the ‘yellow’ (‘people from infecting areas who haven’t been quarantined for 14 days’) and the ‘red’ (‘infected’). By using meta-date as a cutting edge technique in this way, to make sure EVERY INDIVIDUAL in China is under omnipresent ‘surveillance’, hence, China got control of the Covid-19 as the first country in the world by now. Without any doubt, it’s super effective and efficient in this case.
However, many would argue that it does invade individual privacy in a long-term prospect (some countries in the last century launched some very tight/ special policies to fight touch issues but they didn’t withdraw after that). A lot of questions can be raised: does Democracy really work in this kind of situation? Is centralized-power the only alternative in extreme circumstance? Why doesn’t the UK government combine the two systems together and set a line to balance one over another one?
In my opinion, it is a dilemma due to the different situation, different legal system, and social structure, which all matter. Presumably, the most difficult thing is ‘how much is too much’, and we don’t have too much time to discuss it since the virus is spreading so fast. We can see countries, like Italy, that have already order its people to stay at home by strict laws, and the backfire is very obvious.
If there’re people still going out and gathering, would the UK government really impose strict law like Italy did? According to the previous live press, the prime minister gave the answer that it will happen. Is it just wasting time to test human behavior because sooner or later the law will be imposed? I don’t know.
Another shocking thing I have to mention is that one of my friends’ father is a doctor working in the front line in Barcelona. Because they don’t have enough medical masks and caps to protect themselves, she is now sewing them for her father’s team. It is a tragedy to hear that. In this case, I have to say UK is bloody lucky because the virus breakout is behind the EU by two weeks.
The UK learned from others and acknowledged that the NHS is the most important part. I don’t understand why, in such an urgent situation relating to ‘human extinction’, so many countries don’t share each other’s resources to cope with the disaster? The American President Trump is still playing the ‘blame game’ with China through the media. It is the time to RE-consider about global cooperation. Otherwise, we don’t know how far we human beings will go.
Ifan Barber (Welsh student in Llaneli): Week 2
I made a swift escape from London to kick off the week, heading up with my father to move out of my flat after receiving confirmation last Friday that my classes would be moving online indefinitely after the spring break. Having been back in Llanelli since March 13, where confirmed cases in our Health Board’s vicinity were standing at 45 as of Thursday, for what I anticipated to only be four weeks, there was a lot of stuff to pack into the back of the car, but I was more than relieved the following day when a lockdown in all but name was announced by the Prime Minister.
On Twitter, former politics editor for the BBC, Nick Robinson, proclaimed that Boris Johnson’s address to the nation would be something we would remember for the rest of our lives, something to tell our children and our grandchildren. I, personally, was sat at home waiting for Coronation Street to start on ITV, and in the age of social media, everything Boris said had already been pre-empted by Downing Street sources and Twitter speculation hours earlier. So, the speech itself left many, myself included, unfazed.
The events of the preceding weekend were indication enough that we’d all be forced to stay in our homes eventually, especially here in South Wales. Beaches were full of people acting like it was a summer holiday, and the nearby Brecon Beacons National Park, much like its North Walian counterpart Snowdonia, saw record numbers turn out to take in the natural beauty despite warnings of social distancing from authorities of every level.
I, being the law abiding citizen I pride myself in being, have remained home consistently since Monday, leaving only for a lap around the nearby cycle path for a run as part of the recommended one exercise per day allowed by the government. And, trust me, it’s not been an easy feat to manage. As an extrovert, I like to go out and be amongst people, be it meeting with friends or just visiting public spaces, being home and twiddling my thumbs has my mind spinning.
FaceTime and the new “House Party” app have kept me occupied for a few hours out of the day, and I have thrown myself back into reading, but being confined to the house and the garden leave me feeling unsatisfied, and makes a day feel wasted that I haven’t done something more fulfilling or exciting. But it is for the greater good, and is protecting my friends and family in the long run.
On my lap around the surrounding area on Thursday, I happened to pass my old primary school on what would’ve been the students’ lunch break. Usually the yard is full of children laughing and running, but today it was deserted, a strange and eerie sight. I mentioned last week that I had applied for a job at a local supermarket, and I am yet to hear back, so I’ll be sure to provide another update next week.
Natalia Zmarzlik (Polish student living in London): March 20-26
I received an email from my language school with an announcement that today was our last face-to-face class. The rest of my French classes will be delivered online. It was followed by another email saying that the courses starting in April will be online only and because of that I was given extra 20% off – I booked the course immediately.
Around 10:00am I got the message from my manager saying that the CEO of our company decided to close all the stores in London and Ireland until further notice. I was told that my contracted hours will be paid during the non-trading period. My manager called me to make sure I’m safe and I knew how to take care of myself during this difficult time.
Second day of my self-isolation. I’m apparently finding it very calm and easy, especially after I realized that the last time I spent two days in a row at home was summer 2016. Yes, I truly am a workaholic. I finally found the time to read all the magazines piling up on my shelves, deep clean my room and write an article for my personal blog in two languages.
Apparently recalling the nicest memories from my so-called previous life and writing about them made me feel more connected with the life I am living now.
I’m still enjoying my home alone time. I finally have enough time to do all the homework my French teacher gave me. Together with my parents, we decided that there is no point for me to go back to Poland any time soon because the situation at the Chopin Airport in Poland is anything but safe. Tens of flights coming there from all around the world every day, people in panic, hours-long queues to the border control as everyone needs to give the address where they will be staying for the next two weeks. It is impossible to keep the recommended two metre distance from another human.
In May 2020, Poland is supposed to have the presidential elections. Common sense would opt for re-scheduling them, but the leading party clams that everything will take place as planned and that all the doctors and experts raising their voices against that decision are ‘against the current government’.
First time in three days I went outside, for a short walk. It made me laugh that it took me longer to choose an outfit and dress up for that occasion than the walk itself. The streets of Brixton are emptier than I’ve ever seen them, the sound of that vibrant district has changed. I even switched off music in my headphones to listen to that unexpected and unprecedented silence.
I don’t read news, out of choice, but I’m regularly checking Instagram to check up on how others are dealing with self-isolation. One of the people I follow posted someone else’s tweet on her Insta story. That really made me think deeper about the whole issue of Corona Virus:
“Kinda feeling like the Earth just sent us all to our rooms to think about what we’ve done…”
Another quotation that made me think is from the song Things We Lost In The Fire by Bastille:
“Do you understand that we will never be the same again. The future’s in our hands and
we will never be the same again”.
This is the most productive day I had so far during the self-isolation. I created a perfect workout routine, planned my meals for weeks ahead to minimize the times I have to leave my flat, answered all the emails from my three mail boxes, studied French for a couple of hours, had an online French class and wrote an article for my uni project. That would be it for the good news.
At the same time my friend, the one that decided to go back to Poland in one of the flights organised by the government, texted me and said that he got a call from the LOT Airline and they informed him that there was a person infected with COVID-19 on board.
Another friend of mine, who studies at Keele University, called me and said that she is taking the first flight available from Edinburgh to go back to Poland. And, with that, said I am the last Polish person I know who made a conscious decision to stay in the UK for the ‘Corona’ period.
I listened to Boris Johnson’s speech with relief that any action is finally being taken. At the same time, I hope that people will take the new restrictions into consideration and stop going outside in large groups, even if the weather is as gorgeous as it is.
I have spent a good few hours on the phone with my parents and two best friends, trying to lift each other up and help with going through all the madness around us. I realised how grateful I am for my life and for the fact that even on daily basis I have my closest people on the phone – at least that aspect of social distancing doesn’t make my mental health any less unstable.
I got a phone call from my boss and she told me that the offer to buy the entire company came to the head office earlier on that day and that the owners are taking it into consideration. She couldn’t answer my question whether I will have my job after the Corona period or not.
I realised that I need more and more sleep every day and that staying at home for so many hours made me very tired. On a regular basis, when my to-do lists are never ending and I always have a place to go, I can easily manage weeks with five hours of sleep per day, but, with myself being forced to be at home 24/7, I need at least 7-8 hours of sleep per day. What an interesting and illogical correlation.
Today is a big day because I have ‘grocery shopping’ on my to-do list. Again, choosing an outfit accurate to the spring weather, my mental health condition and a burning desire to dress up after several days wearing only my loungewear was a very exciting part of the day.
First time in my life I was so happy to go to Lidl. I swear, Christmas gifts last year didn’t cause me so much joy as allowing myself to go out today. Also, for the first time I have experienced queuing in front of the supermarket by keeping two metres distance from another human. Luckily, all the shelves were full and I was able to buy everything I planned for the next 10 days.
I got an email from the WizzAir Airline (the one I always use for going back to my home city in Poland) saying that my flight scheduled for 28/04 and the return one for 08/05 got cancelled and I can claim for a 120% refund. Well, money is not the point. Regarding my mental health state, that trip, the vision of going to my countryside summer house with my parents and taking a few horse-riding classes kept me going for the past weeks. Now it’s all gone.
At the same time, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that Polish borders will be closed for another two weeks (until April 13).
The self-quarantine period also made me spent more time with my flatmates. Even though I moved into my current place in late January we never managed to talk for longer than five minutes – we all work full time and have side hustles, as uni in my case and dance courses in theirs. On the top of that ‘Corona mess’, I’m happy that I’m stuck in my flat with them and not with someone I have nothing in common with.
Today I decided to join the Peer Mentoring team at LCC to provide online support to those first year students who feel anxious and insecure about the whole Coronavirus situation, who may need the guidance and help to go through the rest of the academic year or just want to hear about my personal experience.
I believe it was a good decision because even though I am personally going through a lot over the past few weeks I think I’m doing way better than many others are and I can be very helpful as an online supporter for the younger students.
Ana Rosário (Portuguese living in London): March 22 and 26
March 22 (Sunday)
It’s now been a week since I’ve started social distancing and staying at home and I’ve not gone mad yet. In fact it’s been quite a calm and pleasant week. Today was such a nice sunny day outside (wow London) that I’ve spent a couple of hours in the house terrace just enjoying the sun and listening to some music. So, for now, I’m coping very well with this, but let’s check again in a few weeks (I hope it’s not that long). Ironically, I was more stressed the few times I went out in the streets to buy food, paranoid that everyone I crossed paths with might carry the disease unknowingly. I’ve even decided to venture outside with a mask for the first time (better safe than sorry).
Here in the UK measures were finally taken to start controlling the spread of Covid-19. Schools closed and restaurants and bars too. I’ve heard stories of areas of London that are authentic ghost towns, but I think Angel is not one of them. I went there for some grocery shopping on Friday morning and, while not the usual buzz, it was still a bit busy for a supposed quarantine time.
Inside supermarkets, the safe distance was not being respected a lot. Speaking of grocery shopping, what a great treasure hunt this now is, going from shop to shop in the hopes of getting every item in the list on the bag. I swear it felt like finding gold when I bought a pack of toilet paper this week and I haven’t seen a full aisle of canned food in a week and a half. A friend of mine reassures me about the supermarket turmoil by saying that the panic buying in Portugal has calmed and shelves are getting less and less empty. Soon, it will happen here.
More about Portugal: well, the number of cases there is now over 1,500. Not one of the worst countries, but still very scary. It hasn’t gone into severe lockdown as in countries like Spain and France, but people have been warned that measures would have to be more extreme if people didn’t respect the quarantining period.
The stories of caravans being parked in my region, specially close to the border with Spain, finally halted since the border is now closed (people were going there because it was one of the safest areas). Controls in airports seem to vary. My parents told me in Faro the only people allowed inside the airport are people going to or returning from flights. Families and friends have to wait outside. People who’ve been to the Lisbon one say there’s no control on people arriving. No health checks at all.
I’ve had a group chat where friends were telling me of the insane conditions doctors and nurses have been working back home. From 24 hours shifts with 12 hours breaks to starting a shift without knowing when it will end, using the same mask for different patients.
Even undergrads from health-related courses are being urged to volunteer for our national health services phone lines, because the demand is way too big for the people working there. Our health minister has been making speeches practically every day.
Very bizarre is the reaction of the elderly there. They are really underestimating the situation and continuing to follow their lives as nothing was happening. Pictures of groups of older man playing cards in Lisbon are not rare and an elderly woman was interviewed on the news in front of a pharmacy. She said she was there to buy some ibuprofen for her daughter who is the one usually paranoid about diseases and she was not worried because the only thing she ever had in her life was mumps.
At least the chaotic energy of that interview caused a good laugh in our family video call. Glad we can keep ourselves sane in this time, even my grandma, who’s surprisingly calm. I called on her birthday and she said when I’m back, we’ll celebrate mine, her’s and my Mum’s birthdays together. She promised she will order a big cake and we’ll join “three days with three nights”. I’ll hold her to that promise!
March 26 (Thursday)
My flight on the 30th got cancelled! I thought it would be the end of my problems, it was actually the beginning. On my booking page, EasyJet said I could change my flights or ask for a refund. Refund, of course! But when I went to request it, no place to do it. No button on the flight management, no information on the website, live chat is closed, tried to call and it went off after playing the recorded message.
Everyone on Twitter was complaining about the same thing for almost two weeks now. I left an inquiry; the site says it might take 28 days to get an answer, so fingers crossed. If worse comes to worse, I lose my money and they lose a client.
It has been now two days since the government declared lockdown here in the UK. Coincidentally, I went grocery shopping on the first day. The difference between before and after was noticeable. The number of people was minimal, just a few shoppers and the occasional runner. On the road only buses and commercial vehicles, very few cars. It didn’t even seem London. Some shelves are still bare. I wonder if now that the lockdown was implemented things will start to calm down.
I’ve been paying attention to the daily updates of the number of cases in Portugal, over 3,000 now. A few days ago, on the map of cases per region, next to the red square of cases and the black one of deaths, a green square appeared for the first. It was with the number of cured cases. It was such a small thing, but it a little light of hope that things are starting to get better, even if it might take a while.
Today president cancelled the celebration of June 10, the day of Portugal, and the organisers of the April 25 rally did it as well. How ironic that April 25, the Portuguese holiday that celebrates our freedom and the end of the dictatorship, having to be celebrated from isolation and social distancing.
How is it going to be after all is well and everything is over? I was talking with some friends about this. Are we all going to be afraid of social gathering because of panic of these months? Is everyone going to run around absolutely batshit crazy to make up for the time in quarantine? I’m really curious to see how these months are going to shape us in the future.
I’ve just returned from my window, people were clapping for the NHS workers, someone even played music from their house. I don’t know any of my street neighbours (I’ve been living here for less than half a year), but this little act made me feel a little connected to them. We’re all going through the same, even if inside our own homes. And to do it for the health workers, the real heroes in these times. They deserve all the love. I hope they get the proper support through this and the proper recognition when this is over.
Ysabel S. Vitangcol (Filipina student living in Manila): March 20-25
March 20 – Manila time
I arrived in Manila at four in the afternoon. I was tasked to fill up a quarantine form, where I have to indicate where I lived abroad, where I lived in the Philippines, my contact details and the countries I was last in for the past 30 days, including transit. My fingers crossed that the country’s Department of Health would hold this information dearly, should anyone on my flight be tested positive so tighter health precautions be conducted ASAP!
Every personnel in the airport, including the immigration officers, wore masks. It was upsetting to see that in the luggage collection area passengers continued to CROWD around the carousel eyeing for their belongings. Others even hugged goodbye before going separate ways! So much for practicing social distancing! I found my bags from a far distance, ran to the only open corner near the carousel and carried both 20 kg bags immediately, disregarding its heavy weight. Adrenaline rush, I suppose.
My dad picked me up from the airport, with the Philippine government only allowing one person per vehicle for fetching at the arrivals (some areas with a mandatory check-point). I immediately changed a new set of clothing provided and prepared by my mum folded neatly on the seat, and immediately sealed the plastic bag of clothes I used for travel. My anxieties weren’t over yet as I needed to be isolated at home for the next fourteen days, following protocol.
I live in a house with my parents, two brothers, our maid and two poodles. For the next fourteen days, food will be brought on a tray outside my room for breakfast and lunch (I no longer eat dinner). With three bathrooms available, one would be for our maid, the other would be exclusive for my use while my brothers (whom I normally share with) would be using my parents’. I had to stay physically away from everyone at home as much as possible. I was under observation and isolation; coming from abroad. My mother wanted to follow strict protocol on sanitation and quarantining at home, following the orders of the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health in the Philippines.
Adjusting was difficult. I felt claustrophobic in my room and, being the extrovert that I was, I hated staying in one place not having anyone to talk to. I opened my window twice a day, spraying Lysol and rubbing alcohol to every surface I touched. I could only exit my room to use the bathroom, but that was pretty much my pattern. I stayed occupied by exercising, reading books and sleeping constantly.
My mom sought health advice from her sister who was a nurse if I was allowed to go outside our house with the garage door open. Thankfully, I was permitted. I set a time at 11:00am starting today to continue for the next thirteen days to exercise and catch some sun just outside the house, the brink of summer roaring in the tropical skies of the Philippines.
I just had to wear a mask and gloves heading out from my room, and spraying each surface I touch, such as doorknobs. I was happier with this setting than having to be locked in my room for most of the day. It was a privilege I was humbled to have.
I only communicated with my family through Facetime, and distant face-to-face interaction at home. This setting was unusual for everyone but we had to adhere to it for our own health and safety.
It was reported that the first three Filipino doctors succumbed to corona virus, having been infected by their exposure to the hospitals that held these patients. Reports released that one of them lied about his travel history, and was not treated immediately. The news continued to bring me anxiety and anger, including corrupt government officials that try to take advantage of the dire situation.
I continued the day in my room or the garage, hoping to temporarily escape from stress by not logging in on social media.
It’s my birthday tomorrow and if there were another hue for blue, it would be darker and ‘bluer’ than ever to describe my emotions.
The marginalized sectors of the Philippines continue to suffer, lacking food and supplies because work is suspended nationwide, therefore not having funds to provide for families. The top private hospitals are no longer accepting patients because of the overwhelming surplus of confined patients.
At this point, the front-liners are now relying on donation drives conducted by public and private sectors. I chip in to support these brave, modern day heroes.
Back in the UK, Boris Johnson declares a ‘national emergency lockdown’. Most of my Filipino friends who are students can no longer go home here to Manila. Travels and heading out are more restricted now than ever, so I suppose I was lucky to get home before Johnson’s orders.
At midnight, everyone at home surprises me cupcakes and food on the table, with 24 lighted candles. As I closed my eyes to make a wish, I thought of the world suffering at the hands of COVID-19. I wished for this nightmare to be over for everyone.
I caught the sunrise at 5:39 am, the time I was born 24 years ago. The sunrise peeping from my window reminded me that light comes after darkness. Perhaps it’s a hypothetical way of the sky telling me that things would be okay in the end.
Health protocol continues to be followed at home. It makes me sad that I cannot even come in contact with my dogs that I missed badly while I was in London. I was more than determined to get this all over-with, praying to the heavens that I did not contract the virus during my travel.
It seems the bad news cannot be filtered – a Filipino senator was tested positive of COVID, and was spotted in a private hospital roaming around after accompanying his wife who is pregnant and scheduled to give birth at the height of the news. Understandably so, Filipinos in the cyberspace were infuriated with his carelessness.
It’s now my sixth day in isolation, but looking outside my window gives me hope that light and positivity will help us get through this ordeal.
Stuti Khetan (Indian student in Mumbai): March 20-26
March 20 – The women of my society went crazy
As soon as people around me found out I had just come back from the UK, rumours began and people started treating me like I was untouchable. I get that everyone is concerned about their own health but in one day things went out of hand. A woman, a doctor too, announced in the society group that “Stuti Khetan has just come back from the UK, hasn’t gotten herself tested and roams around the streets freely every day”.
This became a big issue and everybody started telling my parents to do the right thing and keep me locked up, etc. It was dramatic and we were lost, since none of it was true. It was already frustrating to be home suddenly and now it was almost like being caged. We decided to not be seen even in the balconies or windows of our house, fearing a potential arrest if there were any more complaints. However, other people still went about on walks and drives and some even to work, which felt a little silly and unfair.
March 22 – Curfew drama
Our honourable Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, announced a one day curfew for the people. This meant that there would be legal implications including arrest or ‘lathi charge’ (permission for the police to beat up people) if anybody was found outside on the streets on this day.
It started at 7:00am and went on till 9:00pm. Looking at the international conditions, we knew this would come upon us soon. But it wasn’t as dry as that. Modi announced that at 5:00pm, for five minutes he expected all of us to come to our balconies and windows to clap for the people who still have to go to work to keep the country safe. This included doctors, cleaners, pharmacists, public transport drivers etc.
To my surprise the whole nation participated in this, not just with claps, but also by hitting plates and pans with spoons, blowing into shells, playing the drums, etc. People also respected nature and the stray animals and stopped exactly within five minutes. Social media was filled with memes and videos of this nationwide occurrence.
March 24 – The big announcement
Things were already getting quieter by the day, but, on March 24, a complete lockdown was announced that would last for 21 days till April 14. My return ticket to London was booked for April 10, so this was a bit concerning. Another concern was the accommodation in London that I had already paid a bomb for. Now I’d have to be away for yet another month, which means another month of rent wasted, with all my stuff still in my London room, so there’s no way they’d be able to give it out to somebody else either.
It was giving me massive anxiety, wondering what a terrible year it was to invest in an education abroad. In India, only grocery rounds and medical emergencies would be allowed by the police that would be patrolling the streets to make sure people are home.
The government officials also started spraying the roads, railings, vehicles with disinfectants to clean up the streets while the people stayed indoors. I’ve decided to take this positively. 21 days is the exact amount of time it takes to form a habit. In this high time the fast pace of Mumbai comes to a halt.
March 26 – The new life
I had assumed that, by now, my family would have killed each other for the lack of anything else to do, but it’s actually a rejuvenating time. We hear the birds since sunrise all the way up to sunset with no car honks or construction building to obstruct it. The air is noticeably cleaner and it actually feels less polluted even when we just stand in the balcony.
We’ve started working out, hoping to come out of this absolutely fit and shredded. My grandparents have taught me card games from when they were kids, it’s like opening up a box of lost childhood memories. My dad has started inviting me to drink with him for the first time in the 22 years of my life. I’m also learning belly dancing off of YouTube. It seems like we’ll sustain, after all. Only time will tell.
Martina Canales (Spanish student living in Barcelona)
I had never imagined a life like this.
I see myself in a different world.
A world where the value of life is suddenly questioned.
A world where individual liberties are diminished in the search of a universal good.
I had never encountered a situation of this kind.
I used to think I had control of my life,
Over my decisions,
Over my actions.
Now I realise I never did, never have and never will.
Who are we really?
Are we really that unique, that special?
Who brought us here?
Why are we in this situation?
Questions flow from inside of me outwards, like they are in search of a definitive answer.
Like there’s a magical phrase that will make me understand the reasons why.
Why are we here?
Why are the monsters under the bed awake?
Why do we see ourselves in a conundrum, in a labyrinth without exit, in an undiscovered path?
Never had I ever seen how the search for individual power can turn into a global catastrophe.
How the pursuit of what the hawk and the dragon wish for is driving us into chaos.
Individual liberties, millions of lives changed, thousands taken away to the great unknown.
Why is this?
Who is this for?
And, most importantly,
What do they want from us?
Feautured image by Ifan Barber.