Coronavirus Diaries: Live Blog – Week 3

The locked gates in Victoria Park after it closed this week

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.

Read Coronavirus Diaries Week 1 and Week 2


Zonaira Chaudry (Saudi student living in London): Weeks 2 and 3

Week 2:

This week, the UK government officially announced a lockdown, a situation which was inevitable. My housing manager thinks that the Prime Minister didn’t say anything new. We are all following these rules already and it was just an announcement, but I feel that maybe it had to be said for maximum effect.

In Saudi Arabia, travel restrictions initially were supposed to be for two weeks, but the government extended them till further notice. Supermarkets are fully stocked and no form of panic buying is seen. People are staying at home, praying for the Corona crisis to end, and grateful that they are safe. I can’t help but to notice fear alongside resilience in them.

Social media, like Facebook and Instagram, are bombarded with posts about staying home and being safe. Famous celebrities are sharing what are they are up to during quarantine and influencers are not far behind by giving ideas on how to survive it.

I see panic posts from people as if it’s the end of the world and religious posts to be patient and that God will make it easy for us. I get crazy text messages from paranoid friends back home about being safe and not going out, showing concern, maybe much more than needed. We are all in it together and trying to connect with each other through some way.

Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to be confined to four walls. I mean Nelson Mandela did it for 27 years! As long as we are quarantined, why not make the most of it? My quarantine challenge includes learning to eat with chopsticks and brushing up my cooking skills. My flat mate told me that the trending playlist during quarantine life is “lo-fi chill”, which has been playing on repeat on my computer.

Life in London is overwhelming and fast paced. Maybe staying at home, spending time alone or with family and having the time to do the things which we promised ourselves to make time for just might be what we all needed. A well-deserved staycation or a break from life.

Week 3:

With the rising pandemic, every week you hear or read of some change happening. A curfew has been imposed in Saudi Arabia, a country where Covid-19 is still under control, but the government is still placing strict measures. During the curfew hours, if authorities see someone outside, they are fined 10,000 riyals (£2,000). The government has also instructed to check temperatures of people who enter supermarkets.

The Hajj, which is an important pillar of Muslim faith, takes place every year and attracts 2.5 million pilgrims from all over the world.  The Saudi Government is urging Muslims to cancel or postpone their Hajj plans this year because of Covid-19.

Qatif district, where the first case of corona was recorded, has been under lockdown for nearly four weeks. Major cities, like Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah and Medina, have limited entry. The latest number of infections is 1885 and 21 deaths.

The Saudi King has offered free medical treatment for corona patients. It has been announced that the British embassy has arranged for British citizens to fly back home but Saudi citizens and residents are still stuck all over the world due to the strict travel restrictions imposed three weeks ago.

One of my friends has contracted the virus and has been ill for almost two weeks. Her symptoms were mild, which saved her from going to the hospital. She has been in self-isolation for almost two weeks, constantly complaining of having fever and breathing problems. Even after 12 days of self-isolation, she fears that her symptoms are getting worse.

While discussing her condition, we didn’t even use the word “Coronavirus” or “Covid-19” as if it is some kind of taboo. She just said that she needs to self-isolate herself for seven days and is feeling feverish.   Nothing can prepare you for the illness till you experience it. It’s hard to see people who you are close to go through what you only view on media channels.

All in all, if nothing else, Covid-19 will teach us mortals to be more humble, not to take the little things for granted, be more considerate about nature and, above all, the simple fact that we may come from different continents, but, in the eyes of a catastrophe, we are all the same.

 


Eve Hebron (Welsh student in Llandudno): March 30-April 3

March 30

The clocks went forward one hour over the weekend, which seems like the universe is rubbing salt in the wound. Days are now longer and it will probably be the only time in my life that I’m not thankful for more hours of sunlight. It’s true that seeing the sunshine through the window lifts the mood and it really does feel like the beginning of spring. But the idea of the weather showing off in front of our eyes evokes a bittersweet feeling.

March 31

goat in llandudno

Goat in Llandudno

I wake up to a number of texts from friends asking if I’ve “seen the goats”, which leaves me somewhat confused. After clicking on various links to The Guardian and Time, I soon realise that they are referring to the goats that inhabit the large hill that overlooks my home town, and these goats appear to have taken over the place due to the lockdown.

Anyone that lives in Llandudno knows the goats. They’re a sort of eccentric addition which we take for granted. They regularly descend upon the town during the winter months, strolling through the streets and holding up traffic, or eating the flowers in people’s gardens. Last week, they were outside my house attempting to munch on a bush, when my elderly neighbour tried to herd them with a pea stick. They looked at him indifferently. It’s nice to think my little sleepy town is cheering up the world.

April 1

Today, the sky is grey and gloomy. It’s the first day I’ve felt really out of control with regards to the current situation, almost as though until this point, I have tried gluing together my feelings with positivity and looking on the bright side. But this afternoon everything falls apart. One of the most daunting things about this global situation is not knowing when it will end, and the domino affect it will have on our lives. How many things will change? How many plans will come undone? Things that seemed so cement in happening before, that were going to happen without a question. It made me realise that sometimes things really are just out of our control, and somehow just accepting this makes me feel calmer.

April 2

I don’t leave my house today, but I also don’t seem to get much done at all. During this period, I’ve realised that obsessively watching the news isn’t very good for your mental health. I’ve also realised that flicking between social media platforms and obsessively scrolling through them isn’t very healthy either, despite humans seemingly thinking this is the go-to cure for boredom. Through my screen, influencers are lecturing me on how to use this time wisely, to be creative, to sew together a face mask from old fabric, to write a novel. I find it all rather overwhelming.

April 3

I wake up, have breakfast, take a shower, and get changed. I have noticed that during this period, I feel a lot better when I start the day off as I usually would in ‘real life’. I sit down at my laptop and try to do some work, but I find it exceptionally hard to concentrate as my cat decided to jump onto the table and meow through the window. As I look out, there is a chubby looking female blackbird perched on the branch of a sprouting apple tree in the garden. She is singing, and it’s really loud. I realise that, perhaps, I haven’t heard a bird singing with such force in my entire life.

 


Hanna Modder (German student in Kreis Soest, North Rhine-Westphalia): Week 3

HELP! Coping with Corona stress and anxiety

As always in unprecedented times, people go a bit mad – whether that be hoarding toilet paper or clinging onto Corona conspiracy theories.  But, for many, the lockdown holds a real threat. Tight budgets, being away from one’s degree and having to pay rent can shoot stress levels through the roof.

I have definitely experienced some Covid-19 anxiety in the last weeks and it seems like I am in good company as researchers already see slight spikes in anxiety and depression. Although that will have to be confirmed in further research. But because there is no shame in seeking help, I asked my friend Corinne for her best advice against feeling overwhelmed and anxious in lockdown. Corinne is a psychotherapist and she provided me with some fundamental and insightful knowledge on anxiety and how to cope – so let’s dive right in.

Fear and feeling anxious occur when we feel like we are losing control and power over a situation. So for tackling it, Corinne’s main point is: Compensate the feeling of helplessness, but in a constructive way. Constructive means not searching the internet for new information around the clock – set timeframes yourself. Constructive also means sticking to trusted sources and not drifting off into the world of conspiracy, hate and fake news.

Coping is also about acceptance. The virus is real and it will change life for a while, but connecting back to reality is crucial. Focusing on the small scale and realising that, through staying home and washing your hands, you already do what is in your power and it can give a sense of empowerment – after all, you are doing your part.

For financial and educational worries, she recommends relying on the power of many – millions of people are now bound by the same problems: paying bills, getting work done, doing their degree from home.  So, there is a great interest in solving these problems, as it has already partly happened with courses shifting to online or credit card payments being frozen. And, as we are many, the help will continue – or we can demand it.

And, lastly, she stresses how important it is to regain control over your perception. Even if a day is overwhelming or simply sad, we can control what we take away from it. By actively zooming into the positive things, as little as they might be, a bad day doesn’t have to turn into a bad week. So, whilst it is a scary situation, it helps to acknowledge that. To pause every once in a while and check whether what you are doing is helping or weighing you down.

 


Mathilda Frotscher (German student in Hamburg): Week 3 – March 27-April 3

Who else feels drained and numb? Because I definitely do. In order to connect with myself again and feel fulfilled, I have been distancing myself from the news, the internet, and my social contacts and I am reflecting on the Corona situation – regarding my personal feelings and also looking at the bigger context. In the end, it’s all about trying to stay active and contribute towards the greater good! Because we’re all starting to appreciate what was taken for granted.

That’s why we have started a chili sauce business in the kitchenette of our studio flat this week. Because the chili sauce is essential in times like these, right? My boyfriend cooks the sauces at home in London and I develop the brand and do brand communication in Hamburg. (Are we all praying for the servers not to crash?) The day we went live, we sold more bottles than we even had, so it’s a race against time, especially since deliveries take weeks to arrive at the moment.

We were always planning on doing this, but the timing never seemed right. It’s perfect right now! Everyone is at home, eating and developing solidarity. “Let’s support the local businesses.”

The mood in Germany is similar: reflecting in silence, appreciating, trying to find the good in this situation and make the best of it. For example, the harvest of strawberries and asparagus are a big topic because roughly 300.000 workers from Eastern Europe were supposed to start harvesting this month. An independent campaign was started called daslandhilft.de (The Country Helps) with the Ministry of Agriculture participating and, within a couple of days, 42,000 Germans have already registered. That might just be because the cult series called “Lindenstraße” stopped releasing episodes and now the Germans don’t know what to do with their lives for the first time after 35 years and 1758 episodes of pure cheesiness.

No, but seriously, Germany’s response to the Corona crisis is great, both the government’s actions and the society’s reactions and attitude in general.

Merkel has announced an extension of the lockdown to April 19 and €50 billion (£43.56 bn) for artists and small businesses.

Also, Germany supports the neighbours and again welcomes Covid-19 patients from Northern Italy and France, because the capacities in their intensive care units are almost exhausted. It’s a “sign of solidarity” and something for the UK to think about, because this is a situation where being in the European Union is more than just beneficial for trading.

Is it just me or is appreciation becoming a big thing in the western world right now? I am most definitely enjoying that influence of the virus. Eckhart Tolle plays a big part in that thought, because I picked up his great work A New Earth once again and I’m enjoying how smoothly he combines the wisdom of Jesus, Buddha, and other spiritual leaders all in one publication.

A review in The Independent by Santa Montefiore summarizes the main statement of the book really well: “Boiled down to its essence, The New Earth is about living in the moment, because fear inhabits the gap between the Now, which is all there is, and our imagined future or past. Any moment other than the Now is only in our thoughts – memory in the past, fantasy in the future – and fear arises because of hurtful memories replayed in our thoughts, or imagined scenarios in the future.“

So that’s what I am trying to live and, from what I can tell, the majority of people around me are as well, which is very inspiring. What also inspires and motivates are good news, of course:

Scientists in Frankfurt developed a test that makes it possible to test a lot of people within a short period AND the number of new cases in Germany is becoming smaller every day. That is the Now I want to focus on.

 


Lucy Haydon (English student living in Horsham): March 28-April 1

March 28

Well, it seems Zoom shareholders must be doing well out of the ‘crisis’. Or apparently not, as the FT tells that people have been buying shares in the wrong app with a similar name. Humanity never ceases to amaze me.

Still, the company can’t be doing badly. I feel as just about every person I know is using that app at the moment. A friend, Fikayo, who is working from home, told me the other day that she even had to have a ‘virtual lunch’ with her colleagues, which involved them all having to eat on camera at the same time. Her husband, who normally works remotely anyway, added that he had never been in so many meetings!

March 29

Women in the UK can now have home abortions after just an ‘e-consultation’, because of the shutting of services due to Coronavirus. Wales is set to follow suit. The supermarkets have now been adorned with red tape on the floor so we all know how to stand and they’re playing depressing acoustic songs in Sainsbury’s. We now have an incredible 38,168 cases in the UK and 197 in my area! There is a moment of hope every evening at 8pm when we all tiptoe over the threshold of our newly cleaned homes to ‘clap the NHS’. And I say hello to Bluebell, the excitable lab, from next door of course.

March 31

I am speaking to a close friend from my A-level French class. She has just had her first baby, and now finds herself as a single mum in the midst of a global pandemic. My own mum has been carefully knitting shoes, a jacket, and a hat for said baby boy for weeks now, which have been carefully left on the door handle, clean and ready for opening. Not your typical baby shower. My friend tells me she is worried. None of the shops have formula and her baby is not latching on. I don’t think she ever imagined being unable to feed her new-born child.

April 01                                                                                                                                                        

After what feels like a million Zoom meetings and various Q&As on Instagram Live with my favourite artists, I eat a bowl of cereal at 9.30pm. I know I am not alone in this. I text my mum just to check whether we actually spoke on the phone today or not, as all my days are merging together in one clump of squandered time.

 


Ally Wan (a student from Hong Kong in Hong Kong): 27th Mar- 2nd Apr

Growing up in Hong Kong and Delta River region of Guangdong China, coronavirus is the fourth pandemic I have experienced. Before Coronavirus, there were H5N1 in 1997, SARS in 2003 and H1N1 in 2008. I remember the scene of the entire estate locked down when an outbreak of SARS occurred among residents of a 10.000-populated housing estate. I recall how ignorant I was when I was living in the joy of class suspensions seven times over the past 15 years in my teens.

I was too young to panic. As I didn’t need to face when I was not the one to push elbows in order to fight for a pack of fresh chicken, neither did I have to face to the all-of-a-sudden unemployed situation or the risk of commuting to work. I am frightened now, as I have aged and ticked all the boxes.

My hygiene knowledge is largely based on pandemic experience. In schools, teachers told us wearing masks when feeling unwell is everyone’s civic duty. I put on a mask when I have flu, hay fever or the day after I call in a fake sick leave. Wearing a mask is a gesture of manner. However, I feel like an alien to do so in London.

March 27

A day after Boris Johnson was tested positive, I flew back to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is in partial lockdown since 25th March. Any non-Hong Kong citizens are not allowed to enter the city, other than citizens from Macau, Taiwan and mainland China. Self-quarantine is compulsory for all arriving citizens and visitors. In the first time of Hong Kong history, transfer service is suspended.

At 8pm, my flight started boarding. The moment I step into the boarding lounge, I immediately felt home. People were getting themselves ready for the plane. They were putting on goggle, gloves and protecting clothing. Almost all passengers on my flight wore masks, more than half of them wore raincoats or protecting clothing. For the first time since the outbreak in London, I felt no shame and was understood.

After singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, I washed my hand thoroughly. I took off my contact lenses, put on glasses. I tided my hair up and twisted it into a bun to limit its exposure under bacteria and virus. Next step is my mask. A normal surgical mask can do the job but the Korean KF94 is a better choice as it is designed to fit the bone structure. The curve in the nose area creates a space between the nose and mouth. It’s much more breathable especially for a self-contained space like planes.

What was up next was gloves, I used a pair of disposable gloves which was bought from a tattoo supplies store (go get them if you need to fly or commute, they come in boxes). Last but not least, a raincoat that I luckily found in Boots. There you go; you know you’ll be safe when you’re only showing your forehead and eyes.  Accessory: an extra pair of goggle to switch with eyeglasses when I was about to sleep.

There was a ceremony attached to flying in this particular climate.  Comfort definitely came second.

March 28

I was specifically warned not to eat anything or use the loo on the plane. Only drink a little amount of water from a sippy cup. As a plane is a very self-contained space, there could be potential patient in it or from the previous flight whose droplets still stay in the aircraft. The more time I expose myself without protection, the bigger the danger. I knew the theory but I failed, I ate on the plane.

It was going to be 18-hour fasting, counting from the moment I step out of my house in London till the minute I finish disinfection in the hotel I booked for self-quarantine in Hong Kong. But as soon as I arrived to Heathrow, a bad sign occurred: my stomach started growling.

All restaurants in the airport were closed; the only operating store in Terminal 3 was Boots. Yet, there was a long queue outside as it was practicing crowd control. One-in one-out. The plane was the only place to offer food.

I thought I would stick to the “comfort comes second” rule. However, I changed my mind after seeing a group of highly self-conscious passengers. Especially as we were sitting one in a row, pretty well isolated. “If everyone is breathing through masks and not eating, then shouldn’t it be safe for someone to eat?” The most dangerous place is the safest place, huh? I’ll tell you the truth in 14 days.

What came after landing was another long journey. Three full-geared teams from the Department of Health of Hong Kong were waiting for inbound travellers. Every single one of them wore a transparent face shield, a surgical mask and gloves. For someone who just travelled from London, where not even a quarter of the airport staff wore surgical masks, it was an intimidating presence.

The three teams are for: specimen collection, forms collection and sending wristband.

On the midnight March 26, the Department of Health carried out an Enhanced Laboratory Surveillance Programme to provide free testing for Covid-19 to asymptomatic inbound travellers arriving from the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe. I could choose to do the test on the day of arrival in the temporary lab in Airport Expo, which is 20min by shuttle bus and get the result on the same day or go home with a specimen collection container and hand in the sample to 13 designated chest clinics or dermatological clinics under the Department of Health. The result would come out within three working days. I chose the latter option as I didn’t have any symptoms and was feeling fine.

The next step was to fill in my travel information in a few copies of the form. Staff from the Health Department entered it right at the site and then I was given a wristband and requested to download an app called “StayHomeSafe” to report my location during the 14-day self-quarantine.

wristband

All outbound travellers are required to put on wristband during 14-day self-quarantine, mainland Chinese travellers and Hong Kongers who come from mainland China are excluded

All outbound travellers are subject to 14-day compulsory quarantine. The number of people undergoing their 14-day self-quarantine has exceeded 50,000. Leaving dwelling places without permission is a criminal offence and offenders are subject to a maximum imprisonment of six months and a fine of HK$25,000 (£2,580). Since the regulation was implemented from March 19, a total of 24 people have been sent to the quarantine centres due to breaches of quarantine orders.

The app works by detaching the wifi, Bluetooth and GPS signal of located phones. To finish the wristband activation, users are requested by the app to walk around their accommodations for one minute. By reading the changes of signal level, the app can then judge whether quarantiners have left their accommodations. According to Victor Lam, the government chief information officer, the app does not collect personal information and read household addresses of users. It only reads the signal changes.

I have no complaints for the regulation. I was impressed by the discipline and the high awareness of hygiene and admired their dedication. However, not all inbound travellers need to be isolated. The regulation does not cover travellers from Taiwan, Macau and mainland China, not even Wuhan. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, explained in a press conference that it was because mainland China and Wuhan were now low-risk areas. She quoted the number and said there haven’t been new death cases in Wuhan and many parts of mainland China.  In fact, the express train in between Wuhan and Hong Kong will be operating again on April 1 and the tickets are sold out. Meanwhile, Downing Street says China coronavirus cases could be “40 times” higher than it claims.

Fleeing seems no use when a government trusts the Chinese number. By 7:30pm, I arrived at the hotel. I entered my room and locked the door, hoping to keep myself off the global walking dead.

March 29

It was the first day of my self-quarantine. The “StayHomeSafe” vibrates every a couple of hours to request for wristband scans. Today, two locals were sentenced a six-week and ten-day jail time, respectively, as they violated the regulation and travelled to mainland China during their compulsory quarantine. I am determined to not leave my room for the entire 14 days. But I cannot do that on my own; I need an extra pair of hands and feet as well.

My family drops their supplies at my door in the afternoon. To prepare for the worst, we agreed to not meet each other during the quarantine. They knocked at the door and rang me up for collection. After they were gone, I opened the door to pick up the supplies. They brought me snacks, some instant ramen, hot meals, a re-heater, a big kettle for simple cooking, milk and some fruit. I set up a simple cooking station in my room: a re-heater for steaming, reheating cooked food, a big kettle for cooking instant ramen, soft boiling food, and a normal size kettle provided by the hotel to boil hot water for my coffee.

cooking station

My “cooking station” in my hotel room for self-quarantine. From left to right: a steamer, a big kettle and a normal size kettle

Hotel stops room services and cleaning services for customers who are staying for quarantine purposes. But essential supplies such as tissues, towels and water bottles can be provided at the door under requests. Rubbish needs to be left at the door for collection.

As one of the earliest cities to experience the coronavirus outbreak, industries in Hong Kong are sophisticated in living in the coronavirus climate. Uber Eats and an online shopping platform HKTV Mall launched special delivery arrangements for people in quarantine. Meals and products can be left at the door to eliminate possible contacts. 14 days won’t be too long if I can eat through them.

March 30

At 4:00am, I gasped and woke up in a panic. “I didn’t wear a mask when I was talking to the taxi driver. The cup of tea I drunk in the plane came straight from a teapot. What if there was the virus in the teapot? Why am I gasping? Does that mean I got the virus?”  As I thought of the news report of last night, 6 out of 17 new confirmed local coronavirus cases were outbound international students who studied in the UK, I quickly scanned the past two weeks in my head. The gasp went bigger. I needed some air.

I was at the edge of hyperventilation. My room does not have air-conditioning and fresh air. Last night, I turned off the central air-conditioning as I worried about droplets and virus from the potential patients can be circulated through the air-conditioning system like the Diamond Princess case. All the windows in my room were sealed. The only source of fresh air was those that came from door seam.

When I was staying alone, my inhales were light and brief. While I was plunged deep in my contemplation, my breath went rapid without noticing. A stuffy room made everything worse.

To calm myself down, I got up to turned on the ventilation fan in the bathroom. I took out a bottle of perfume from my suitcase and sprayed all over me. I took a big sniff of my hair. I could feel the oxygen along with aroma from the fragrance slip through my throat, into my lung. I was able to breathe again.

When I was finally chill, without a second thought, I turned on my phone, was about to check the news. “Oh no!” I flipped my phone over as if I’ve seen a ghost. “Come on, not today,” I told myself so and went back to bed.

March 31

What I have learned from yesterday was the need for me to distract myself from coronavirus news. It has dominated my everyday life since March. I was keeping up with the epidemic in the UK and how the Hong Kong government reacted to it, such as fly regulations, isolation policy and ticket rate etc.

Now, since I finally made it home, I need to develop a different lifestyle. Keeping up with epidemic is no longer benefits me.

I decided to dedicate the first five minutes in the remaining mornings to brewing coffee. It is magically relieving to watch the water swirl around the coffee, to listen to the coffee drops from the filter. It brings a sense of living to the room.

Working hour starts in the afternoon. I work as a part-time Cantonese and Mandarin teacher back in London. Currently, all classes have switched into Zoom since the lockdown. Self-quarantine made little difference to my work. Some students even requested for more teaching hour as they would like to take the opportunity to boost their language skills.

Evenings end with a 30ish-minute stretching and workout. Apparently 30 minutes do little for fat burning but a little me-time definitely helps in calming myself down.  It may be funny to say staying alone does not always mean spending time with myself. There were constant contacts with the outside world: reporting my body conditions with family, working, doing self-admin work. Brewing coffee and workout are like the Yin and Yang in my self-quarantine; maintain the balance in my void.

April 2

During self-quarantine, no news is good news.  It was my sixth day in self-quarantine, fourth working day. I was confirmed I was clear from coronavirus.  On the next morning of my arrival, I did a deep throat saliva sample, the compulsory test for all outbound travelers to Hong Kong. According to the instructions, anyone who is diagnosed positive with coronavirus will receive a phone call from the Health Department. If people hear nothing from the department, that means a negative.

I was relieved and started to plan for meetups and excursions with friends. Finishing self-quarantine does not mean completed freedom. Under the new social-distancing law carried on March 29, people in Hong Kong are no longer allowed to assemble in groups of more than four, and leisure venues for public gatherings will be closed. The public venues affected include cinemas, gyms, saunas, party venues, gaming centres and places of amusement.

It will last a fortnight until April 11, while another rule on halving the capacity of restaurants and closing six types of leisure premises took effect at 6:00pm on March 28, also for 14 days. Under the law, restaurants are to limit the number of diners at each table to four, with each table 1.5 metres apart, starting Saturday night. Bars and restaurants will only be allowed to operate at half their capacity and must check patrons’ temperature and provide hand sanitizers for them.

Coming back from London, which has introduced social-distancing laws weeks ago, the above regulations do not seem unfamiliar. However, Hong Kong is now a Police State where abuse of public power is becoming the norm of the city: foreign journalists were being expelled; citizens who shared anti-government/police news on social media were arrested. In such a climate, a further outbreak could lead to more strict social-distancing laws such as curfew and martial laws empowered by Emergency Law.

“Let just stay home for two more weeks”, me and my friends reached an agreement. Now we can still choose to be self-restraint, soon we may lose that choice.

 


Anna Komitska (Bulgarian student living in London): March 31-April 3

We are nearing the end of a third week spent in isolation, which has predominantly been marked by the merging of one day into the next; we will most likely be stuck in a loop until May. Most recently, the UK announced that the coronavirus peak is expected to come in the following few weeks. About 3,000km to the East from here, Bulgaria’s nation is worried that unemployment will have more ravaging effects than the pandemic.

Just this morning, April 3, it was announced that Prince Charles has unveiled the UK’s first coronavirus field hospital in London in a bid to give the NHS more capacity to combat Covid-19. The news came after the number of death cases nation-wide surged by another 1,000, while the total still remains unknown. Just as the announcement was made, health secretary, Matt Hancock, was criticized by health experts after his proposition of immunity certificates to be issued to people who have recovered from coronavirus as a way to get them back to normal life as soon as possible. According to The Independent, ‘Eleanor Riley, a professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, said scientists did not know yet if people with antibodies for Covid-19 were immune to the virus.’

Over the past few days, I have done my best to stay away from social media and purposefully avoided watching the news; there is no point in spending hours on end reading about the little evidence that the world is moving at all. The few articles I have read focused on train operators suspending their services; Ryanair expected to carry “minimal if any” traffic for the next two months – which will likely mean I will have to postpone my flight home for the second time; various organizations and trade unions appealing to benefactors, so as to support freelancers in the creative industries – which has made me feel hopeful that my beloved theatres may be able to survive the crisis; and that infected hospital patients are being charged with deliberately coughing in the faces of staff – which is a great reminder that people may be capable of showing great empathy and kindness in times of crisis, but also equal amounts of ruin and viciousness.

A bit of positive news have managed to reach my Twitter feed, such as photographs released by the London Zoo of workers caring for its animals, as well as the story of Bill Lapschies, a World War Two veteran who celebrated his 104th birthday after overcoming coronavirus. Additionally, my flatmate’s family, who contracted the virus over a week ago now, are doing well; my friend in France, however, was hospitalized after complaining of short breath and lack of smell. She is in her mid-twenties and perfectly healthy otherwise, which is yet another confirmation of the virus’ severity.

As of March 30, back in Bulgaria, the media keeps discussing the enforced regulations and the people’s refusal to abide by them. It is said that over some 400 individuals have seen their stroll in the park cut short after an encounter with the police and the subsequent fine of 5,000 lev, or £2,250. According to my family and friends, however, the city is completely deserted and nobody seems willing to break any rules. That evening, the health minister, Kiril Ananiev, announced that the wearing of face masks has now been made compulsory.

Meanwhile, the government assures the public of their concern for local businesses; they have allegedly requested a loan of 10 billion lev, or £4.5 billion, in the fight against the economic crisis. The loan is aimed at supporting employees in the private sector, unable to work from home – 60% is to be paid by the government and 40% to be paid by the employer. It is revealed, however, that the majority of workers have been fired for the duration of the crisis. At the same time, the National Assembly stopped working, whilst still being on full pay – which is to be modified each month according to the inflation. The step is deemed outrageous, as a member of the Assembly receives a starting pay of 9,000 lev, or £4,000, per month with a generous subsequent pay rise soon after, whilst the country has a minimal pay of £220 and an average pay on a national level of £500. The latter two are rarely the subject of increase.

March 31

That morning, the Crisis Head Office reminds the public that the country is following in the footsteps of China, Israel and Austria by making the wearing of masks mandatory. The leader, Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, forgets to mention, nonetheless, that masks in those countries are given out for free to citizens in shops, pharmacies etc.; needless to say, this is not the case in Bulgaria. Moreover, pharmacies have run out of such equipment. For the past couple of weeks, Facebook users have publicly mocked Mutafchiyski by making him part of an endless list of memes online. Paradoxically, this may have played a role in the increase of his rating voted by the public, as he is now seen partly as a source of entertainment.

Just 19 hours later, the health minister declares that the above-mentioned regulation is no longer being enforced due to a lack of unanimous response by the masses. A lack of consensus is also observed amongst medical staff, where the necessity of one-time wearing of masks by healthy individuals is being discussed. The fines for those who do not wear them are to be removed. At the same time, the government is in the process of importing one million masks from abroad to be given to the poor and minority groups. The minister is quick to remind them that this will likely lead to stricter regulations which will all be delivered only after an agreement has been reached by the public – which has reportedly not been the case up until that point, and most likely will not happen at all.

April 1-3

The number of unemployed individuals is growing. People are raising complaints that the state is not doing enough to support small businesses. In addition, the state of emergency has just been prolonged until May 13, which the President, Rumen Radev, will presumably veto. It is known that three members of the National Assembly have contracted the virus; the Assembly must find a way to vote for the newly announced regulations.

During his address to the nation, the President warns against the strict measures which may lead to more severe consequences than the pandemic in a country hit by growing levels of unemployment.

 


Iona Gibson (Scottish student living in Canterbury): April 3

April 3

I lost my job today, and I don’t know what that means, nor am I sure how I feel about it. My team meetings in the morning are what have been keeping my circadian rhythm in check. I’ll have to find another reason to get out of bed. Rediscovered a mysterious tab I’ve had open in the background of my computer, turns out it’s a ‘join’ button for an online hackathon. Click. Maybe this is my new calling.

It’s still cold outside, but the sun is out. Canterbury is one of those picturesque, countryside escapes that London residents travel to during the Easter. I live behind a beautiful park, surrounded by rich history and architecture, and, in this time of the year, I would expect to hear the songs of ice cream vans, the laughter of young families, and the barking of dogs.

Instead, I hear the rumbling of my refrigerator. Didn’t even register that it made so much noise until recently. It’s weird the things you start to notice when you’re left alone. Human interaction with their selves and the world has been put on hold until further notice, and not being able to set everyday social goals has induced a depressive state in everyone. We have been stripped of certain purposes which rely on other people to exist. Time to make friends with inanimate objects!

Socialising online is a temporary solution. It satisfies the need for communication and company, so it’s working. But labour isn’t free, and the only two currencies screens accept are personal data and eyeball fatigue in combination. How many blood vessels have to pop until we realise the excessive reliance we have on our gadgets to carry us through the self-isolation period will only do more damage than good? Internet consumption can be likened to that of the fast food industry: cheap, convenient, enjoyable, unhealthy, addictive. And even though everyone knows it’s bad in excess, we still get frustrated when our Netflix film starts buffering.

The global number of cases has topped a million, and deaths have passed 50,000. It’s worrying, realising that the UK accounts for about 10% of that last figure. The cases and deaths have doubled since last week; the rate of spread is alarming; the NHS is overwhelmed, with many healthcare staff too scared to go into work, and proper testing only in its Beta stages. We get scared as we get older, because not only are we closer to the end, but because we are reminded of the inevitable future every day through our responsibilities; whereas children don’t have those kinds of expectations on their shoulders. They have the luxury of obliviousness, always living in the present. Not having to think ahead.

After all, we learned the alphabet so we can read, not so we can make plans.

 


Wojciech Synak (Polish student living in London): Week 3

The first week of April so far has brought even more regulations and laws aiming at containing the further spread of the virus in Poland. After seemingly uneventful few days of relative peace, these new legislations spike the level of anxiety for many of my friends, making them feel like the façade of confidence the Polish government puts on is, in fact, made out of glass and can be surprisingly easily shattered. Although this atrocious tendency to spiral into most gloomy and obscure scenarios isn’t something that couldn’t be stopped with a few episodes of “Sex and the City” and reassuring phone calls with your friends and family, for many, April 1 arrived dressed in all different shades of blue.

Łódź Poland

Łódź Poland [Marianna Wróblewska]

The new laws concern mostly the general rules of transportation, quarantine, disposal of goods, work, mass gatherings and public events. Most of those have been already moderated, which made the adjusting process less painful and easier to accept, e.g. the restriction concerning the number of people allowed in shops at the same time. The ones that have been freshly introduced, on the other hand, received a bit more attention. There are especially two that I find worth mentioning.

All minors in Poland are now prohibited to leave their houses without adult supervision. This decision gave birth to arguable the most varied reaction I have seen yet. From expected rage and disbelief of the group in question to sarcastic comments about new services of escorts for those needing supervision, Poland left me oddly confused, equally ready to laugh and cry at the current state of the affairs unfolding in front of me. However, it’s the other law, or rather the attempt at enforcing it, that finally made me smile in the most bitter-sweet way possible.

The Polish government has officially locked down the parks as well as other similar public spaces and although the decision is a completely valid and understandable as another step in stopping spreading the virus, the images sent to me by my friends render the situation ridiculous and somewhat sad. I’m fully aware that the red tape is a simple reminder of the new law rather than a serious method of preventing anyone from entering the park. However, I can’t help but feel like this image depicts the world’s struggle of protecting itself from the virus in quite a brutally accurate fashion.

 


Dina Zubi (Norwegian student in Oslo): March 28-April 3

March 28

A positive thing about this quarantine lifestyle is that you get a lot of time to do things that you normally wouldn’t. So far, I’ve baked banana bread and cinnamon buns, made jewelry, seen countless shows on my Netflix watch list, discovered new streets and buildings in my city and finally finished a somewhat dry book I’ve been reading for months. I might have to start watching all eight Game of Thrones seasons again soon. That’s over 60 hours of entertainment, which should get me through the next week.

March 31

I’ve had one of the most social days I’ve had in ages today, though all through my phone. If I thought I was an extrovert before, I’ve definitely had it confirmed through this solitary period. It gives me so much energy to talk to friends, laugh, play games, do whatever really, as long as I’m speaking to the people I care about. Properly socializing is definitely what I miss the most right now, closely followed by actually having places to be.

April 01

It seems to me that the measures against coronavirus in Norway are a lot less strict than in the UK and most other European countries. Though schools, universities, bars, restaurants and cultural events are cancelled or closed, a lot of non-essential shops are still open. We are also permitted to walk in groups of up to five people outdoors, and there is no limit on the amount of walks per day as there is in the UK. So far, there has been 43 deaths caused by Covid-19 in Norway, which is quite a low number compared to countries similar to us. I’m very curious as to why that is, there doesn’t seem to be any verifiable theories so far.

April 02

Today, the number of people that have tested positive for coronavirus passed one million globally. I can’t even begin to imagine the actual number of infected people that haven’t been tested. For me, it doesn’t seem that long ago since the virus appeared to be a local thing happening in Wuhan, it’s almost unbelievable how quickly it has changed everything. It’s scary to think about the virus taking a hold over areas where they don’t have medical facilities and the resources to combat it. Being able to socially distance, having access to running water and living in a country that will help you if you lose your job are definitely privileges that I’ve thought about a lot more these past weeks.

April 03

It’s been almost three weeks since I came home to Oslo, and I’m getting quite used to my (very relaxed) routine here. I’m curious as to how long this will last, when I will be able to go back to London and what’s going to happen throughout the summer. My plan was to get an internship over the summer, but that seems to be a bit difficult at the minute. At least I spend almost no money when I’m staying with my family, apart from the rent for my flat in London, but I can’t really get away from that.

 


Ifan Barber (Welsh student in Llaneli): Week 3

It’s been a long week.

Due to someone in my household showing mild symptoms for Covid-19, this is the first week of this crisis where I haven’t once left the four walls of my house here in Llanelli, excluding the garden obviously. Keeping myself occupied in this limited space has been tough, and it seems to have become a routine rotating between my books, my Nintendo, my phone, television and my new hobby, drawing.

Yes, this week I have taken to closing my laptop, switching off my phone and following guides to drawing cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse and Shrek, to name a few. It is a welcome distraction from the growing troubles that the novel coronavirus has brought to Wales, with 2,121 confirmed cases in my nation, which has, sadly, resulted in 117 deaths as of Thursday April 2.

Luckily, my friends and family are following government guidelines and staying at home, only leaving for essentials or work if necessary. While I am still in self-isolation for five more days, my mother has gotten over her symptoms and has been able to leave the house again. She went shopping on Wednesday and I was glad to hear that the supermarkets are adhering to social distancing guidelines and limiting the customer capacity of the store, operating a one-in-one-out policy, and any queues that form have markers showing six feet in distance between each customer in the queue. It is policies like these that will drastically reduce the spread of Covid in our area and ultimately allow the lockdown to end sooner, which I’m sure is something everyone would welcome.

As an avid baker, the lockdown has given me an opportunity to start mastering my skills in areas of cooking I hadn’t previously explored, particularly bread. This week I have seen myself bake three loaves of white bread, and a baker’s dozen of cinnamon rolls, all of which were positively received and eaten up quite quickly, and of course it’s a productive and fun pass time for me.

Another thing that I have found to be a good way to spend time during these times is the popular video and music creation app TikTok. Anyone who follows me on social media will have seen that I have become an avid user of this app, both as a consumer and creator. Learning dances to popular songs or lip syncing to iconic scenes from television and film and posting them to social media has become a fun little hobby, but I haven’t quite hit the threshold of “TikTok famous” that a lot of my generation seem to be destined for. But, as the lockdown continues, you never know.

I still haven’t heard back from the supermarket I applied for a job to, so it’s likely safe to assume that I haven’t got that job, but something may crop up down the line. As ever, I will be sure to keep you all updated.

 


Ana Rosário (Portuguese living in London): March 30 and April 2

March 30 (Monday)

Had not the virus blew up like this, by now I would either be on a plane or already landed in Portugal. My parents would be waiting for me at arrivals and we would drive from Algarve to my home town. I would spend the next three weeks hanging out with family and friends and then return to London after my mum’s birthday. But I couldn’t go to Algarve nor did I try to, unlike other people.

Yes, because not everyone is grasping the real severity of this problem and the Portuguese newscasts on Saturday were inundated with news of the congestion created by the huge amount of cars on the main bridge that connects Lisbon to the south. These people thought they could enjoy a nice sunny weekend on the beaches of Algarve (cue facepalm).

There are 6408 cases in the country and 140 deaths and these people first thought was going on a little vacation. Guys, I know Portugal is not one of the worst countries by far, but it’s not because of attitudes like this.

I really don’t get what they thought they would find there, considering everything is closed AND WE’RE FACING A PANDEMIC! It’s because of people like these the quarantines and lockdowns are probably going to take longer than they should. It got to the point where the Portuguese government had to forbid any sort of travel inside the country on the Easter week.

Those with no conscience would probably try to go back to their hometowns to “celebrate” it with their families. The thing is most of these home towns are in rural areas where the population is only elderly people, those more at risk, and Easter week would imply big gatherings. Imagine having a huge flux of travellers from city areas, where the Covid-19 is hitting harder, going to rural areas that are still holding themselves (barely, but still) and then have everyone completely disregarding the rules of social distancing.

But there were also good things happening in my small sunny country in the south. A few days ago, it was announced that all migrants and asylum-seekers were given full citizenship rights there during the outbreak. Obviously, it would be better if this had happen during a normal time. But, at least those would ended up in a more complicated situation during these times are being treated with the decency they deserve. How amazing it would be if it was kept after this finished? It’s a long shot, but, for now, hope is really all we got. It might be a cliché, but it’s still true.

I try to hold on to this, even when things are bleaker. I was absolutely destroyed with the news that it is possible that it might take six months for the UK to go back to normal. If this continues like this, I’m putting my chances of going to Portugal around Christmas time, if I’m lucky. It’s not so much the long time without seeing my family and friends back home that is being so hard to me, I was aware that would come with the decision of moving abroad, it’s the uncertainty of when I might see or hug them again. It’s not knowing for when I can book a ticket back.

April 2 (Thursday)

As I’m almost entering the fourth week of quarantine I’m finding harder to have things to diary about. Days are starting to look almost interchangeable, Groundhog Day-like. So much, that when me and two friends of mine set a date for a video call on Saturday, both of them forgot because one thought it was Thursday and the other thought it was Friday.

I think I’m handling it pretty well, despite it all. I’m quite privileged in the sense that I can stay safe at home. It’s not a palace or anything, but has a nice enough size to not feel claustrophobic and with a terrace when I need to get some fresh air (since I’m not making use of my daily outdoor exercise moment and only leaving once or twice a week to buy food). I’ve been having great Netflix sessions. They added Perks of Being a Wallflower this month, so I’ve watched today again after some years. I was feeling all warm and fuzzy afterwards and with a big want to re-read the book as soon as can get my hands on my copy (which is in my parents’ house). I might even do a weekly session of feel good movies. So, all in all, I’m not bad at all.

But yesterday I was hit with the news of the first Covid case in my home town back in Portugal with four more cases in one of our municipality’s villages. It might not seem much on the bigger scale. I mean, just the borough I live in London has around 150, overall Portugal is almost approaching 10.000 cases and there’s one million worldwide. However, my municipality doesn’t even get to 20.000 people and many of them are elderly, so many are at risk. Even just one case in the town I’m from or one of the surrounding small villages, in an area so rural, could be the start of a domino effect. Seeing my municipality’s name on the daily national report of cases for the first time was a bit disheartening.

Hopefully, this is just me being an ultra-pessimist.  It’s just my family is there and it’s human to start thinking the worse. Seeing the numbers still growing (even without paying attention to percentages) makes it seem like the end of this is still so far. Also, I think my period is coming which really doesn’t help my mood.

I just thought of something new that happened. There’s a new cat in the house. My landlady is taking care of a kitten because the owner had to fly back home last minute. Four cats in the house, plus the family, plus me, still quite a full house. All great company! Luckily, one of the few things I can’t complain about is loneliness.

 


Ellen Lund-Peterson (Danish student living in London): Week 3

March 30

I’m going to start this diary on Monday, as we really did not manage to do anything over the weekend.

We woke up late, did our yoga and then the day somehow just went by. In the evening, we decided that it was time to get out of the flat for a bit.

We have a little communal garden behind our flat, and in that, there is a round bush. Equipped with a camera, blitz and a lot of glitter, we worked on a piece for Louise’s portfolio in the freezing cold and wondered if our neighbours are starting to worry about our sanity.

One of the pictures we took on Monday night

One of the pictures we took on Monday night

We don’t really speak to a lot of them, only our immediate neighbours and a lovely woman called Pam who has lived in the building in what seems to be forever. She has all the gossip, and informed us that she was very pleased that we have moved in to the flat, because the previous tenants apparently had the police called out a few times.

We also had to drain our washing machine, which, in perfect London style is, placed on wooden floor in the kitchen, making it almost impossible to do so. BUT thanks to our landlord, who bought us a ridiculously large vacuum cleaner a while ago, we could solve that – it can empty a bucket of water in less than 20 sec according to the YouTube videos we had to watch to make sense of the monstrosity.

March 31

Briefly summed up, we went for a very long walk and started speaking Swedish to each other. Almost as we reached home, we heard music coming from a nearby street, so we went in that direction, like moths to a flame. Two people on their balcony were doing a bit of karaoke, and it sounded terrible, but alas, it was entertaining and they took requests.

People started coming out of their houses as well to see what was going on and with 2m/6ft between us, it was a nice little twist to everyday life.

We also managed to get a free egg from a nearby Italian shop! We have been out of eggs for weeks, and, in desperation, we were willing to pay artisan prices for them. Turns out they had exactly one egg left, and we got it for free, which was very lovely.

Louise with the one free egg from the Italian shop

Louise with the one free egg from the Italian shop

I have fallen a bit behind on catching up on what is going on politically in the world. I’m aware that Denmark has received help from the owner of Ali Baba and everyone fears what will be asked in return, that BoJo has corona and empathy from the Brits apparently reaches a limit there. Italy has also officially reached out to Denmark for help.

April 1

I managed to walk all the way to Elephant and Castle and back home along the river, my legs are tired but at least I saw something other than my own neighbourhood. Catching up on podcasts gave me a little bit more energy, even if they all touch on Covid-19 somehow.

Albert Bridge on one of our evening walks

Albert Bridge on one of our evening walks

We bake a lot of ryebread these days, and it is nice to finally have proper bread again, but turns out baking bread is boring and really isn’t a time consuming project.

We have also had a brief chat with the maintenance guys who have been cleaning the roof the last weeks. Two things came out of the conversation: there is a key that can get us to the roof to sunbathe – hardly needed now anyway – but it is not allowed and also they were quite pleased that they could still work, so they didn’t have to listen to their wives all the time. I’ll leave that with you.

April 2

I finally touched the mat with flat feet doing a downward dog pose in this morning’s yoga session. It was quite nice having a positive experience before we had to go get groceries, as shopping these days is quite a task. Slowly trying to adjust to people shouting a lot and not thinking logically, e.g. If you stand in front of the store entrance it is almost impossible for people to exit AND be 2m away from you and you should have seen that coming. At least they finally had eggs again!

The Queen of Denmark has requested that, for her birthday, on April 16, she would like everyone to send flowers to people they know who are isolating alone or struggling somehow during this pandemic, rather than send them to her.

Today we finally counted how many days we have been isolated and it is 20 now.

 


Sylphia Basak (Canadian student in Toronto): March 27- April 2

I think now might be a good time to start therapy again. I’ve discovered being alone with my thoughts for this long isn’t doing me any favours mental health-wise. But maybe I just need to talk to more than the same five people. On the other hand, therapy is something I needed well before the pandemic and now that I don’t have anything else to do, I might as well try and fix myself, right? I’ve never tried online therapy before, so I’m curious to see how this works. I hope I’m not the only one who feels this way.

However, I will say that I’m much more adjusted to this reality than I was for the last two weeks. Might have something to do with the fact that I am now allowed to leave the house (my 14 days isolation ended). I currently alternate between biking and walking around my neighbourhood for my allotted outside time. The one silver lining is that the weather has actually been really nice.

Normally, at this time of year in Toronto, the last of the slush is still on the ground, but, this year, spring arrived on time. It makes the daily walks very pleasant. The air and water feel cleaner, too. I live near the beach and recently Lake Ontario has been looking like the Mediterranean Sea. Ducks and loons are now always gathered on the lake, which is something I’ve never seen before. I don’t know whether that has anything to do with Covid-19 effectively shutting down water transportation, but it’s a nice change to see wildlife openly thrive in their habitats.

The number of cases in Canada is still increasing. Which is scary, yes, but it’s also something that was expected given that our state of emergency just passed 14 days, and many of the cases were contracted from before Canada went into lockdown. That, combined with an increased amount of testing, means that the number of confirmed cases is going to go up.

Many provincial governments are beginning to enforce fines for people violating social distancing rules. One man in Brampton (an Ontario suburb) faces a fine of up to CA$100,000 (£56,790) for hosting a backyard party of 20 (the group limit input province is five). We can only hope that the rest of the population isn’t that wilfully ignorant, so we can flatten our country’s curve as much and as quickly as possible.

With more uncertainty than ever about when this is supposed to end, I find it helps to not count the days. Which works because they all feel the same to me. I also found my perception of time has been really off. I’m one of the lucky people who still has a normal sleep schedule, but hour-to-hour, time really has lost all meaning to me. Not necessarily in a bad way, it’s just something that’s there but pretty insignificant. Now my time perception is just “before dark, after dark”. The numbers are arbitrary. But at least the days are much longer.

I’m still reading all the books I started and trying to find new ways to pass the time. But I’ve limited myself to only looking at coronavirus related news once a day, for my own wellbeing. It’s hard to watch all the numbers go up, and, as bleak as it is, I have to remind myself that things will get worse before they get better.

 


Samuel Zhang (student from Shanghai living in London): April 2

It’s been the third week since everything surrounding me gradually became ‘normal’. I cut off my time spent on Coronavirus’ news deliberately in case of information overloading. In the meantime, I forced myself to accept the reality that this is going to go on for a long time and I’ve learned a lesson: we can’t just take everything we had before for granted and blame that things now are changing.

For me, I usually go out for a daily stroll for just 10 minutes to get some fresh air near my flat and once a week for food shopping. The rest of the time I ‘do’ enjoy keeping myself in the house. As time goes by, I see less and less people in the street gathering. However, instead of walking, there are much more vehicles and cycles; and because of the restrictions implemented by the government to protect the NHS and to keep social distancing in buildings, panic-buying has effectively been reduced. But, still, you have to go early if you’re going to buy ‘popular products’ like eggs and toilet paper. Obviously, the situation is turning around to be controllable, I suppose.

Looking at the bright side of self-isolation under Coronavirus, I treat it like a special period of time to slow down and focus on what I can do alone. I can now start some personal items which have long been postponed, such as reading. But , on the other side, it drives me crazy the tremendous loss of face-to-face connection with others. It has a huge impact on almost everyone especially for who lives alone. Besides our body fighting for the Covid-19, there’s also our mental health, which is highly likely to be overlooked.

The only way to get in touch with friends and family is social media, which I hate so much, even the time difference only makes everything so difficult. Being isolated, it’s like I’m walking between the two worlds. No matter how hard I have tried, no matter how many efforts I made to force myself to greet and chat with the receptionist, shop cashier and neighbors actively whenever I’m out, I’m still feeling detached from the whole world, here, which ironically reminds me of Lacanian Reality.

Not only is the Covid-19 super urgent, but any other fatal disease is urgent as well. The day before yesterday, I suffered a severe stomach-ache for the whole night until the next afternoon, and the pills, which I usually take for stomach-ache, have expired. I was in despair and didn’t dare to call NHS, considering their very little sources for ‘patients’ like me. I didn’t want to put any pressure on them and, finally, got over it myself. I hope I won’t get any sick in the future, seriously, it was a nightmare. I was almost beaten down through the loneliness and the extreme pain.

Luckily, I stand up again.

We’ve received at least one email every week from the university administrators and department staff keeping us informed what the course and assessment are going to be. I know how hard they’re working around trying to find a solution. Yet, I’m still sad, so sad. As long as I can’t access to the facilities, I can no longer do my physical practices that relying on the equipment at all. Undoubtedly, everyone is suffering from similar feelings as I am. In order to cope with this touch situation, I have to make a relatively productive schedule for my everyday life: do exercise, read, alternative art practice, eat and sleep well, and have somebody to talk. Seems like the last one is the most difficult for me. Anyway, I’ll do my best.

 


Stella Schmieder (German student in Werder): Week 3

Week three. The scariest week for me so far.

The Ernst-von-Bergmann hospital in Potsdam announced that they won’t take in new patients, except for emergencies. 64 people are treated there, and eight have died due to consequences of the virus, including one elderly man from my hometown.

Potsdam is the closest big city and the two hospitals located there have the necessary equipment to treat infected people. Nurses and doctors are the heroes, but also those that are at a higher risk. Unfortunately, more than 2.300 clinicians in Germany are currently infected.

My concern about the possible level of enormity is rising and the uncertainty is not helping.

Nevertheless, Germany is taking high measures to tackle the virus. Since the pandemic started, we stocked up on more hospital beds and went from 20.000 to about 40.000. Also, the number of ventilators increased. Gerald Gaß, President of the German Hospital Federation, announced that he is ‘confident that within the next two weeks, every Covid-19 patient that needs a ventilator will have access to a machine”.

Jena, a city in Thuringia, and other cities within different federal states want to introduce a rule that makes mandatory the use of face masks inside supermarkets and public transports.

Earlier this week, the Government discussed if it should be mandatory to wear a face mask in the whole country. Medical staff and care workers need to wear masks as they work closely with a variety of people that are potentially at risk. If every German has to wear a mask, this could lead to an insufficient supply to hospitals and care homes.

Standard masks do not protect yourself, but, if you are a carrier of the virus, then it reduces the risk of spreading the coronavirus to other individuals. Because of those factors, the government decided against it.

Our Chancellor thinks that the schools will not re-open after Easter. This would continue the pressure for parents that need to balance their work-life and providing care and education for their children.

The economic wellbeing of Germany after the coronavirus pandemic is another problem. People are worried about the future of their jobs and businesses. They are supported by the government, but it is unclear how much the economy can take and how long it would take us to face a severe financial crisis. I hope it will not come to that point, but, hopefully, there will be more clarity in the next few weeks.

 


Natalia Zmarzlik (Polish student living in London): March 27- April 2

March 27

Due to the maintenance works in the building I live in, the main locks have been changed and the tenants needed to be given out the new keys. No need to comment how bad the timing is for doing any work of this kind. The office coordinating the buildings in the area was opened only for one hour for everyone to come and collect the new fobs. I arrived there and I was surprised by how responsible people were with keeping at least 2m distance from each other. What surprised me was the fact that I was the only one wearing disposable gloves; the rest of the people in the queue chose face masks as a source of protection.

I am proud of myself that I have built a habit of daily workouts and eating healthy. Those, combined with the massive workload I scheduled for myself, are what keeps me going and what keeps me away from overthinking.

Later that day, I received an email from my Head Tutor saying that we will not have any face-to-face teaching until the end of the academic year. On one hand, I know that it is the right decision and that for our own health and safety it is best to avoid human contact as much as possible, but, on the other hand, the idea of not being there for long months makes me feel sad. I am the happiest and the most satisfied when I can spend all the time I have to work and my university building is one of the places in which I’m reaching my highest levels of creativity.

March 28

With the routine I created for myself there is no difference between a Monday and Saturday. There are no weekdays and no weekends until I get all my uni work done.

One good thing that Coronavirus actually did was making many people more empathetic and caring about each other. During self-isolation, I got back in touch with people I haven’t spoken to for years, nowadays everyone has more time to reflect on friendships from the past and how we have treated people around us in past years. Hopefully, we will keep in touch long after the ‘Corona time’ is over.

I am positively surprised how many people are calling and messaging me to make sure I am okay and that I’m safe. Not only my parents and closest friends, but also my colleagues, fellow students and collaborators, even the people I know only from Instagram. It is very uplifting and gives me hope for a better future.

March 29

My dad updated me on a situation in Poland this morning. The conservative government pushed new election law regulations in the middle of the night that would enable May’s presidential elections to happen, even despite the Coronavirus and the fact that vast majority of the society is self-isolating.

With that said, Poland is remaining the only EU country that hasn’t cancelled the general election and they are already receiving a lot of backlash for that, not only from the media and international authorities, but mostly from the society. People are shocked that the politicians representing them can act so irresponsibly.

Moreover, the government introduced even stronger restrictions on the reasons that allow people to leave their homes. They are permitted to leave only to get to work and to do necessary grocery shopping. One outdoor activity per day is not allowed anymore.

I have read some news stories related to the #LotdoDomu project organised by the Polish government aiming to bring the Poles who got stuck abroad home. The flight from Sydney to Warsaw turned out to be overbooked and the passengers who got to the airport and were not given a seat on board must stay at the airport for another few days and wait for the next flight to Poland.

Another situation that caught my attention was the way people travelling from Bali and Indonesia have been transported from the airport to one of the major cities in Poland. According to the health and safety regulations, half of the seats in a bus must remain empty, to prevent potential Coronavirus molecules from spreading. What the company that owns the bus did was close the first half on the bus and telling all the passengers to seat next to each other at the back of the bus.

I do understand that the whole project is very broad, unprecedented and requires a lot of people to collaborate. But situations like the ones I have described above could have been easily avoided.

March 30

Polish president Andrzej Duda posted on his official Twitter account that, from today on, he will be on TikTok and promised to regularly post in order to lift people up in these difficult times. I talked about it with my friends and we all believe that there are more important things for a president to do than record ‘funny’ videos.

Until today I haven’t read any news stories and articles about Coronavirus, out of choice. But while doing research for one of my uni assessments I found a report on Financial Times website that is updated every couple of hours with the most recent numbers of confirmed cases, deaths and number of people who recovered. The statistics absolutely shocked me.

Even though I try to live my normal life and I keep myself very busy every day I caught myself fantasising about doing groceries later this week, as this is the only time I plan to leave my flat this week. Not to mention that when my flatmate, that is currently in Finland, asked me to send her something by post I literally panicked and started creating a plan for that ‘expedition’.

A lot of time will pass before the world comes back to normal and people on the streets stop suspiciously looking at each other or treating another human as a potential Covid-19 spreader. I do hope that we’ll get out of this unusual time changed and better than ever before.

March 31

Today was the first day when I really allowed myself to take some rest. Since the self-isolation started, I have been working at least 10h every single day. But not today. I watched a few episodes of my favourite childhood’s cartoon – Totally Spies-, read a lot, called my parents, my best friend and I started creating a set of mood boards.

What really surprised me was when I found out that the less I do the more tired I am. It is mind-blowing for me that I can have a full-time job, full-time uni, side projects, language course, social life and a lot of self-development time on the top of that, barely 5h of sleep per day and still have the energy to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. At the same time, I can be at home for days and I would wake up tired every morning.

April 01

I woke up to information that the government’s regulations about quarantine for ‘returners from abroad’ in Poland has changed. A Pole coming home from outside is either supposed to stay somewhere alone for 14 days or, if he/she wanted to stay somewhere where other people already live, all of them would need to stay indoors for 14 days.

For example, if I decided to go Poland tomorrow, me and my parents wouldn’t be allowed to leave our one bedroom flat for 14 days. I added this rule to my personal list of reasons why I should still be in London.

I am happy that a lot of the magazine editors, entrepreneurs and professionals I follow on social media decided to remain proactive during these difficult times and they are live streaming a lot on Instagram.

Today I watched two ‘lectures’ of this kind: the editor-in-chief of Glamour Poland was talking with a psychologist who tried to explain what is happening with our minds and bodies during the quarantine, what we can do to stay sane and what are the symptoms of being overstressed- yes, low sleep quality and the inability to concentrate were on the list too. Second ‘lecture’ was a discussion between PCC ICF Coach and a trendwatcher who tried to answer the question ‘Should we make plans for 2021 without knowing what tomorrow can bring?’ I have learnt a lot about different business models and how much will change in the work market after Corona time will be a memory.

My dad told me a story about a man in Poland who escaped from the hospital to go to the nearest corner shop to get himself a bottle of vodka and then came back to the hospital, knowing that he is infected by Coronavirus. This one is so stereotypically Polish that I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.

April 02

Self-isolation hit me hard when I noticed I’m planning an outfit for grocery shopping one day in advance. No, I still can’t stop laughing at myself. I think I got used to the new reality and the fact that it is not going to change any time soon.

In the meantime, I noticed one more thing: I really improved my cooking skills. And sometimes I even get excited about trying a new recipe. I will add this to the list of things self-isolation actually did well.

I got back in touch with one of my colleagues from my previous work place who now works as a Teacher Assistant, she told me that they are working a one working week on/four weeks off-system and stay longer hours to take care of children whose parents work for NHS, and I found it absolutely adorable.

 


Stevie Deale (American Student living in London): Week 3

Photo Diary

 


Featured image by Stevie Deale.

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