Coronavirus Diaries: Live Blog – Week 4

open letter

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 Week One, Two and Three


Eve Hebron (Welsh student in Llandudno): April 6-10

April 6

At the beginning of this bizarre period, I sometimes experienced waves of optimism regarding how I would go ahead and deal with it all. However, as the weeks slowly pass by, I have noticed this optimism fading. It all sounds rather dramatic and self-indulgent, but I’ve started to realise the importance of letting ourselves bask in negativity if needs must, and not allowing guilt to build up as a result of this. There is a lot of toxic negativity about, particularly on the internet, and it is overwhelming. People from behind their screens ordering us to “remain positive” and “be creative!”. I am starting to come to terms with the fact we are all suffering through this in one way or another, and we owe it to ourselves to not bottle this up – no matter how big or small our suffering may be.

April 7

Today, I took a walk along Llandudno’s north shore promenade, past the empty hotels and scarce beach. I reached the town’s theatre, Venue Cymru, and noticed it was lit up in lights resembling a rainbow. Upon researching why this was case, I discovered that the theatre is to be turned into a temporary hospital – Ysbyty Enfys (Rainbow Hospital). A place usually associated with pantomimes and plays, it was an uncomfortable discovery, but clearly compulsory. The full moon shone down on the building that night, reflecting in its windows.

April 8

On Sunday evening, it was reported that the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was admitted to hospital with the virus. Since then, his developments have been reported by the press with intricate attention. “Boris sits up in bed” one outlet wrote, whilst others describe him as “our country’s hero”. I am tired of hearing about how he is a “fighter” for dealing with such a thing, how his fiancée must be having the worst time, how great he is for making progress. Obviously, I wish him a full recovery, but it is as though the nation have forgotten about the thousands of ‘normal’ people dealing with the virus, as though they are not trying as hard through their suffering. I have to stop reading and watching the news for a while.

April 9

Despite my need to occasionally wallow in my negative feelings, the little positive perks keep me going. The sun is shining again, I have a garden to sit in, I am with my family. Connecting with my friends through apps such as HouseParty and WhatsApp video have become habitual behaviours in my daily life. My friends and I decided to go for a virtual drink tonight. We play games and talk about the Tiger King documentary on Netflix, discuss the tiny things that keep us going. I realise just how important maintaining these relationships are, and I’m glad we can.

 


Mathilda Frotscher (German student in Hamburg): Week 4 – April 3-10

Last week I wrote about German health-workers picking up people from Italy and Spain who are suffering from COVID-19 and taking care of them in German hospitals. This week we’re talking about the EU putting half a billion Euros together in order to support companies and employers in the Corona crisis. It’s incredible how much help is being offered and how quickly political decisions are being made in these times.

On the other hand, the high taxpayers living in EU countries are going to feel the long-term effects of this decision with their stock investments, the worth of properties decreasing and so on. Public discussion has already started in Germany which shows that EU’s finance ministers really do have a hard job. But what they are considering now – the tried-and-tested short-work model of Germany – is hopefully going to relieve them and all the employers as well as employees.

Other than that, everything is becoming more and more normal, as if we’ve been living under these circumstances forever. There’s just one thing that no one can get used to. The fact that I am fantasizing of a guest list system for supermarkets. After living in London for almost three years, I got used to queuing to cross a street, queuing to get into a museum, queuing to get on a tube. Everything but queuing for essential groceries, especially in the much quieter Germany. But there’s no one to blame because, at the end of the day, this crisis is self-made, just like the thousand banana breads showing all over the internet. What’s up with that baking thing? There’s no flour left in any of the supermarkets, I seriously had to order it on amazon.

Well, it shows how people are choosing to spend their time which is good! Living after the ‘one day or day one’ philosophy.

The Australians are doing that too, with sex toys! The online orders for that have been going up by 75%. Can’t wait for the next generation to be born in nine months. The “quaranteens”? Or the “coronials”? I can’t decide.

Is this generation going to grow up wearing masks? It’s so hard to imagine what life is going to be like by the end of the year. So far, the lockdown is announced to be postponed till the end of April, but the restrictions will likely be loosened up and a mask requirement will apply. That is going to cause a rise in the sales of eye make-up and an increase in clicks on the content of beauty influencers.

Can’t wait for all the studies that are going to appear after the crisis, about how the social media algorithms have changed, what hilarious questions were googled the most and so on.

The most important thing though is that we are helping each other right now and appreciating our governments for trying their very best in finding quick solutions.

Let’s not rant but bake more banana bread, shall we?

 


Hanna Modder (German student in Kreis Soest, North Rhine-Westphalia): Week 4

Helping from home

While the first three weeks in lockdown were a process of adjustment, this week, for the first time, I was able to establish a routine. And that had to do with a journalistic project we started:

During a chat with fellow students, we thought about the impact the virus has on vulnerable groups, such as refugees in camps, victims of domestic violence and rough sleepers. So, we wanted to use our journalistic skills to provide some easily accessible information on the new challenges that occurred with the outbreak of Covid-19.

The project we picked, an NGO helping the refugee camp Moria on Lesbos, came up when we watched the news and saw how hard it would be to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the densely populated area. In a matter of hours, we came up with a concept and created the campaign #helpisolate that connects information on our focus issues with a fundraiser for the selected cause we want to benefit.

Despite the fact that we currently are in three different countries, the workflow feels oddly normal. I attended a press conference via Zoom, where the organization announced they would set up an isolation facility with 200 beds. Jana, who is going to produce the written content for the website, gathered research in Google Docs instead of passing note sheets.

She wrote up a timeline of how the camp, which was meant to house 3,000 refugees, became a political scandal because of the living conditions that the now over 20,000 inhabitants live in. Annie, taking over the social media, created a website and social channels to spread the word – sharing her screen with us for the design process.

All the technical possibilities were there before and we used them. But now that we depend on them, I appreciate them so much more.

Whilst we couldn’t see each other in person, it felt like we had a mission that combined doing what we love with doing something we felt was important – a very rewarding feeling! And we are not the only ones: Alice, a friend of mine and student at the London School of Economics, created a fundraiser that already went up to the incredible amount of about £35,000 for the work of Doctors without Borders. By spreading the word through her contacts at other universities, she was able to create a successful fundraising campaign via virtual connection, boosting her #studentsunite campaign to great success.

All of these examples of long-distance projects, and there are many more, like the Corona Diaries, are incredibly empowering for me! They prove that there is a way to keep up teamwork and collaboration. Even in times of physical distance.

 


Lucy Haydon (English student living in Horsham): April 4-10

April 4

The time is six minutes past six and my flat mate hasn’t surfaced once today. We all know she likes a lie in, but this is impressive even for her. I wonder for a while if isolation has taken its toll once and for all. Until I hear her belting out Disney songs from her room – hinting that she has survived to see another day.

My excitement of the day is an interview with a local care home. I think it would be positive to actually help someone and, to be honest, I just want to get out. The thought of not earning any money for the best part of 2020 does not fill me with joy either. One of my pre-Covid employers offered me the privilege of one whole hour of work from home last week.  I took her up on the offer.

April 5

Today I am having another long run. Well, I have the time and there is a lovely river nearby. Along my path I come across several families and dog walkers, out embracing the sunshine. People are on bikes, children are seeing grass snakes for the first time and fathers are lifting up their children high in the sky. It is a beautiful sight.  This is life as it should be, I think to myself.

April 6

One of my closest friends from LCC flew back to Singapore last week. She just messaged to say she was out of her two week quarantine, in which the government paid for her to stay in a top hotel. I don’t know if that’s creepy or sweet, but she had a great time!

The news this evening – the leader of our own government has been admitted to hospital. I don’t think the nation has much sympathy for Boris in this situation, as many blame him for not enforcing a lockdown sooner. Yet, I imagine for a moment if he were to pass away. The kind of worry this would bring. He is still the leader of our nation. He is the one who decides how we navigate through this yet.

April 9

Concern among friends who work for the NHS is growing.  I think they expected to have tests and masks by now, but no. For most people, we are just sitting out the storm and enjoying an early summer holiday. Today, it was 24 degrees in my back garden. For NHS staff, now referred to mostly in the media as ‘the front line’, every day brings the threat of coming into contact with someone who has Covid-19, and not being properly protected.

A friend who is a psychiatrist arrives at our door delivering something to my flatmate. She says they are being scorned by other doctors and nurses because they have been given stricter measures by their governing body. You get the impression others think they had the same luxury.

April 10

Today, I decided is an indoors day. I glance out the window. The young couple from a few doors up are stood in front of their cars, each looking as dumbfounded as the other. He is holding jump leads in one hand, an instruction manual in the other and she is on the phone, listening to instructions. I look out again a couple of hours later; they seem to be finishing up. This is today’s entertainment.

For the first time ever we are at home, streaming an Easter church service online. I still have my trusty Easter chocolate, but it doesn’t taste the same this year, seeing as I haven’t’ done any exercise all day and the only effort it took to acquire was the queue at the supermarket.  The service I watched was lengthened by a few minutes while they worked out how to end a live stream, rather than just turning the camera around. It is a time for us all to learn new things, not just us students.

 


Ana Rosário (Portuguese living in London): April 6 and 10

April 6 (Monday)

Yesterday evening, the last thing I saw on my phone before turning it off to sleep was a picture my mum sent me. It was of the mother of one of her students, who is a nurse and is part of the team taking care of Corona patients in the region’s hospital, with two of her colleagues. My mum then wrote:

“This is the team in service on Beja’s hospital. One of them is the mother of one of my pupils. For now, it’s only three nurses per shift. There are few cases there, thank God.”

I spent a long time looking at the photo. The three are so covered in protective material you can’t even see their faces. Protective plastic boiler suit covering them from head to toe, hair and all, gloves, shoes covered in plastic as well, disposable face mask and a plastic visor covering the face. It seemed something so far removed, like one of those images in films where the characters have to tackle something massively toxic. But it’s happening right now, in this day and age, people I know or just crossed on the street once might be dealing with it.

There might be few cases there, but the number had a weird growth during the week, 11 new cases just in my municipality. Five had already been notified, the others were found later. All because of a birthday lunch in a village someone decided to organize after the lockdown had started; a slightly bigger gathering that included people that had been in Spain. A bit irresponsible, in my humble opinion. The mayor of my town had to activate the Emergency Municipal Plan of the Organization of Civil Protection. I haven’t heard of any new cases ever since and let’s hope it stays that way. All in all, the whole district only has 17, I think.

I watched the Queen’s speech yesterday (“it’s historical, only the fourth time she addresses the people outside of Christmas in 60 years,” my mum told me when I called during the afternoon). It was so astonishing to hear her make reference of a speech she did during World War II. It made me think of how we’re living one of those times that I would learn about on History class.

I thought something similar the first time I had to stand on a line to go grocery shopping a few weeks ago, while looking around at people seeming so careful just to walk on the street, some with masks some without. I thought about of how in the future some student would have to do an exam with a question along the lines of ‘Name three social distancing measure people had to do during the Coronavirus pandemic. Explain how the measure avoided the spread of the virus’. At least we’re lucky that this is not the war part of History classes and we can still roam the streets without the danger of bombs over our heads. In this case, all protection is in our own hands, we ourselves can do something to prevent the danger.

I went shopping today. Had to stand in line again, but at least the shelves are getting back to normal. I guess we finally are past the days of panic buying! The 20 minute walk back home with a heavy backpack and a heavy sac was not so fun. I was almost tempted to get the bus and my back is killing me right now. Back pain is actually being my biggest complaint these past few weeks. My posture has been terrible and I can’t even go on my long walks to try and stretch a bit. I know I’m allowed, but I know I’ll probably exaggerate. Also, I feel safer at home.

When all of this is over, the first thing I’ll do is just go on a really long walk. Maybe I’ll do the Thames path all the way to Battersea. I’ve never been there.

April 10 (Friday)

As I ventured outside this morning to go buy food, I was shocked with the quantity of people outside. The queues for all stores along the way were extremely long as were the passers-by on the sidewalks. I wonder if it was because of Easter weekend and people want to prepare a nice holiday meal despite the situation, or if it is because of the wonderful weather and people used shopping as an excuse to enjoy the sun.

I do hope that this will also be the weather post quarantine. I don’t know how long this is going to take, but, with the usual luck, I bet rain will be back the moment we can finally set foot outside. I have been reading and wearing about how potential it will be possible to set an end date for the lockdown very soon in certain countries. A friend of mine back home said that Portugal was starting to aim for May, but it wasn’t certain. I don’t if it will be very wise to set dates now. A few days ago a Portuguese mathematician was talking about how they had already reached the peak and then cases went up again.

However government has already prepared schools for the case of a long lockdown. Yesterday, I watched a press conference given by António Costa, the Portuguese Prime Minister, about the decisions taken by the Ministry of Education for the third term of this school year.

Elementary (first through fourth grades) and middle (fifth through ninth grades) will have all classes online and all National and Midterm exams will be suspended for those years. There will also be complementary classes for those years recorded by the Ministry in partnership with the RTP (the public television) and transmitted in one of the open service channel during week days, starting April 20.

High school will have a different system. 10th grade will exclusively have online classes and 11th and 12th grades will be the only years with in-school classes, but only for the subjects that have exams. This is because these exams are needed for university applications. But all safety measures will be taken, the ministry will provide masks and gloves for students, teachers and staff that have to go to school and the number of students per class and in school at each moment will be downsized to avoid gatherings.

Exam season has also been changed to allow the high school students to better prepare. The first phase (that would usually be in the second half of June), will now be between July 6 and 23, and the second (in mid-July, after the release of the results of the first one) will now be in the beginning of September. This will also change the dates for university applications, since the exams grades are necessary for the process. Instead of late July till early August, it will be early through mid-August, with the results coming in late September (instead of early). This will likely affect the dates of the school years for university, obviously.

The Prime Minister finished the conference with a special note dedicated to Kindergarten pupils and teachers, as they unfortunately will not be able to resume classes due to the nature of the activities. My mum is one of these teachers. She has been doing her best to try to keep her pupils and their parents involved. She does Facebook posts aimed at the parents for them to update on what the kids have been doing and even created a group chat for everyone to stay in touch. She absolutely loves her job and has been doing all she can to not be deprived of the best part of it (since reunions still happen).

I wonder what it would be like to have to be a student during this time and with these conditions. Being in the classroom and the back and forth between teacher and students was so important for me to learn and understand the subjects. How big of a toll will this have in the students learning?

 


Anna Komitska (Bulgarian student living in London): April 10

Yesterday, it was announced that the UK coronavirus death toll is expected to continue to rise for, at least, another two weeks, despite encouraging signs about the rate of infections and hospital admissions. The number of people to have died in UK hospitals have allegedly reached 7,978; the highest daily total was recorded this past Wednesday at 938 deaths. In Bulgaria, strict regulations are still being imposed, despite the low number of Covid-19 patients.

Sunday evening seemed to be perhaps the most eventful day of the week. A televised address by the Queen was broadcast on TV that evening. While her Christmas Day message is an annual event, rarely has she similarly addressed the nation throughout its history, and it has predominantly happened at times of crisis and grief.

In her speech, the Queen recalled the sacrifices families made during World War II and likened those circumstances to the enforced separation of Britain’s lockdown as a defining moment for modern Britain. She urged the country to commit itself to the cause, given that many have approached these measures with some nonchalance. Her address was filmed at Windsor Castle, where she has remained isolated from the virus that infected her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, and other senior British officials.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among those hospitalized that day, after testing positive for coronavirus. On Monday, he was transferred to the intensive care unit after developing symptoms of shortness of breath. While notable public figures expressed their sympathy and wishes for recovery to Johnson’s family, I heard people around me saying that the news was all a hoax, part of a bigger media scheme to manipulate society, and that Johnson, if ill at all, was most probably being treated in a private room instead of the hospital ward shared with other patients, as it was being reported by journalists.

Throughout the week, charities have been set up to support dressing medics on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic. Costume staff – for example, that of the English National Opera, and film and TV crews – have worked on scrubs and face masks to donate to the NHS. The practice is encouraged on a larger scale amongst anyone who has access to a sewing machine. In fact, I first learnt about this through a fashion student at UAL who is also ‘doing [my] bit to help.’ Charities have also aimed at offering additional protection, services and support to the homeless, as rough sleepers have been identified as one of the most at-risk groups.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that hundreds of people are dying in care homes from confirmed or suspected coronavirus without yet being officially added to the statistics. In addition, people have complained that GPs are refusing to visit and examine them. The Royal College of GPs subsequently issued a statement ‘to insist GPs would visit patients where necessary but confirmed the pandemic had led to a significant shift towards telephone and video consultations’.

In Bulgaria, the public has been in agreement with the regulations decided upon by the Crisis Head Office; there have been very few cases of Covid-19 patients. Some argue that nobody has developed an immunity towards it and that may lead to a second wave of the pandemic in the future. There are no plans to loosen up the strict measures, despite the low numbers of patients. Online users have been quick to mock Prime Minister Boyko Borissov by comparing him to Todor Zhivkov, the leader of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria from 1954 until 1989 as General Secretary of the Bulgarian Communist Party.

The number of people becoming unemployed is growing rapidly; businesses prefer to fire their employees, so as not to pay their benefits. Such prospect is starkly different to Britain, where the government introduced the furlough worker status back in March – a two-way binding agreement would be signed between the company and the employee, ensuring that the former gets paid 80% of their salary whilst promising not to quit their position.

Politicians are discussing potential solutions to support the national production of goods, especially in agriculture. People have learnt to go out with their cars, driving predominantly at nighttime – traffic is no longer sparse, and road incidents are common. Up until this week, all members of the National Assembly were on full pay. Following the fervent reaction on behalf of the public, the former have surprisingly decided to donate their salaries to further support the fight against the epidemic.

My day-to-day life is still the same and I only go out for groceries – wearing a mask when I do. Despite those who say it is a useless prevention, in my mind, it works as barrier in case somebody sneezes or coughs in the aisle next to mine, especially after hearing that some would call their GPs to say they completely refuse to follow the regulations.

There is still no prospect of life going back to normal soon and I am missing parts of my life which at times seemed too much, even unbearable. I can confirm that being sequestered from the world has given me heaps to think about and reevaluate what is important. As this should be my last entry reflecting on the situation, I leave it with the hope that humans are wise and strong enough to get through it all together and as soon as possible, and that they will channel whatever experience they have been through into something good in the future.

 


Samuel Zhang (student from Shanghai living in London): April 10

This week has passed so quickly since I spent much more time on myself rather than keeping updated with Coronavirus news at all times.

Sometimes, I even hope the lockdown could be extended for a while. Therefore, I don’t have any chance to go out shopping as I did in the past, like buying clothes or eating out, to save money while keeping a low-carbon lifestyle. Indeed it sounds crazy, because long-term lockdown would definitely cause financial crisis and unemployment. But, let’s think positively, what if it changes our buying habits and lifestyle a little bit after the Coronavirus ends, is it worth thinking?

Somehow, I found that something inside me is changed; I no longer go to bed after 11pm and I get up as earlier as I can. This is the first time I live life as a human being. In Taoism, there’s a saying ‘日出而作,日入而息’, which means ‘work in the day and rest at night’ instead of extending to much daytime by using lamps to work. Depending on the law of conservation of energy, that’s only an overdraft of life.

There’s only a couple of days left before the new semester. Under this tough situation, I’m kind of open to the new way – the online teaching system – to take class, besides the loss of ‘interest’, I’m more looking forward to the different thoughts sparkling in the class. I believe that lots of issues can be discussed under this circumstance, like humanitarian, social responsibility, democracy, globalization, politics, state apparatus, economics, surveillance, technology, etc. It’s also the time to put my energy into art practice in the current context.

Speaking about mask wearing, all of us know there’s a huge debate all over the world. Of course, wearing a mask could effectively protect yourself and others despite the fact that Covid-19 doesn’t transmit via air, they do it through your droplets when you talk to someone. Here, as I noticed, that two-meters social distancing is not always been followed. However, there is a precondition for mask wearing: the society has to have ENOUGH masks for everyone, especially medical staff. Otherwise, I won’t suggest because it will cause a lot of problems. I understand the government officials advocate for not wearing masks. In this case, do not blame and hate, respect some wear masks and vice versa.

The news that the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been taken to intensive care quite shocked me. I’m so sorry for him, but, on the one hand, it really says: people are dying, and everyone can get infected if you don’t follow the government guidance. Stay home, save lives. One the other hand, unluckily, even if you get infected, don’t be afraid, the government and the NHS are all contributing and making efforts to fix it. I always believe that all the chaos in society created by human beings can only be fixed by them at the end of the day.

Here’s a photograph taken in Morrison yesterday, toilet paper is back!

toilet paper

Toilet paper back on the shelves in one branch of Morrisons

Stay positive, stay safe.

 


Iona Gibson (Scottish student living in Canterbury): April 10

April 10

Boris Johnson sent me a letter yesterday. Sounds like the beginning of a forbidden romance story and, believe me, the reality is a much worse joke.

After some research, it was revealed that only 1.5 million people received this letter, despite it being sent to all 30 million households, and it was supposed to have arrived over a week ago. Or perhaps this is part of a second wave. Or a third.

Many of my friends have not received it, so why have I? Why am I a part of this 10%? Perhaps I should be feeling special – privileged, even – but instead I am left with a heavy head. Scared, because in all the complexity of calculating who should receive this letter, it must have included those who are either most at risk or who pose most risk to others.

Disgusted, because surely if a letter must be sent, it should favour the whole over a select few. Confused, because despite the fact it encourages jobs to be kept, how much did tax contribute to the production and delivery bill? More importantly, endearing gesture aside, what is the true cost on the environment?

When people think of Great Britain, they think of tea, queueing, posh accents, the royal family. I think of education, railway networks, and efficient postal service. Sending a letter could not be a more British response to the state of things: it is the embodiment of nationalistic pride and honours the cultural need for indirect communication.

It seems a ridiculous scenario that a nation of reserved people should need reminding to keep their social distance. It is equally ridiculous that a nation of people known for their good etiquette continue to thoughtlessly break the rules. But, perhaps, most ridiculous of all, is that a nation of hypocritical rule-breakers have the audacity to complain about how bad the situation is getting without realising the weight of their own actions. Perhaps public outrage is responding less to the law, and more to the fact that we can’t enjoy the sunny days there seldom are throughout the year.

At least there was a super-moon on Wednesday night. It gave my neighbours and I something to admire and bond over, individually, between the fences. I suppose this concept must have been inspiring, because, last night, someone had the bright idea to set off some fireworks. These are the kinds of digital detoxes the world needs.

Last week, I cleaned a mysterious BBQ which has been sitting outside since the beginning of my tenancy. On Sunday, I put kebabs on the grill for me, myself and I. When telling my friends, they wondered how I am coping with hosting what is, usually, a group activity, all my myself. Upon reflection, it may be that self-isolation is a re-evaluation of not only social norms, but also self-care. Doing group activities by myself and learning to enjoy my own company has been deeply meaningful, and empowering.

Being active and taking the initiative to do things has become increasingly important, especially considering that sitting down has become more of a shore than standing up. I haven’t left my house for 24 days, and I have no complaints. At this point, I am indifferent.

Popular research states it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Personally, it’s a grey area. Yes, I want to be able to go for a walk without a particular reason. Yes, I want to sit in the sunshine with a book by the river. Yes, I want to be able to travel and see my family. Yes, I want this all to be over. But, recently, I’ve been thinking how selfish it would be if I were upset, when the truth of the matter is that I’m lucky to even have a garden.

The more patient I am with compliance, the quicker normality will ensue. That is a mindset I hope the world will adopt, so that I can return to the warm embrace of my family and friends and express a renewed gratitude for their presence. Although, I’m curious to see how the hangover of social distancing will phase out. Perhaps the hyper-awareness of personal space will make it difficult to reconnect.

 


Wojciech Synak (Polish student living in London): Week 4

In Poland, there are 5742 infected and 175 dead. The educational program “School with TVP”, broadcasted by national TV, is getting a lot of media attention and caused controversy for its rubbish production value and occasional mistakes made by teachers participating in the audition.

school with tvp

School with TVP

 


Natalia Zmarzlik (Polish student living in London): April 3-9

April 03

First time in my life I woke up stressed, because I knew I had to leave my flat today. I started asking myself all sort of questions I wouldn’t normally ask myself: Which place I should go to first to avoid crowds? How many people I will meet on my way? If one pair of gloves is enough for post office and a grocery store? I think it will take me a long while after the Corona period is over to go back to normal.

I left my flat for the first time in eight days that morning and the streets were the strangest I’ve ever seen them – empty pavements and long queues to all the services that remained open. I spent over half an hour waiting outside the post office before I was allowed to enter the building, and even inside a lady was explaining me how I should post an international parcel from 2m distance.

While going out I said, “I really respect and appreciate your work, stay safe”. The smile I saw on her face was worth all the time I spent waiting in the queue.

Despite these hard times, I try to stay productive and learn as much as I can, so many entrepreneurs and influencers I follow started lives on Instagram that I had to make a separate schedule for my online classes- today I had four of them! And I couldn’t be happier about it, you can never be over-educated.

For the first time in a long while, I allowed myself to have an evening off. First Friday evening off this year, it was great. I watched one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen – my favourite Polish journalist was talking to my favourite musicians. It made me realise how much work still needs to be done for me to get to that level of journalism. But it will be a fascinating journey.

April 04

I discovered that Johns Hopkins University (one of the best medical schools in the U.S.) released a free short course about epidemiology and Covid-19, available for everyone to access. I literally spend five hours today studying about various types of outbreaks, how they can be measured and much other information I would never know about other way.

The last time I studied science was in 2015 and I was shocked at how hard it was for me to come back to it. But, rather than giving up, I took it as a challenge and completed half of the course.

I was texting some of my friends today asking how they are doing and most of them told me they are doing absolutely nothing but chilling and eating during the quarantine. I am not judging, everyone has its own way to deal with that difficult situation, but I’m glad that I have chosen a different way.

I started thinking about the ‘after Corona time’ and one thing came up to my mind. What if employers recruiting for jobs started asking ‘what have you been doing during the self-isolation?’ as one of the interview questions. And based on the answer they will conclude what type of person you are – I do believe that it would be an accurate measurement.

April 05

My daily schedule has completely changed during self-isolation. I went from being in bed at 11:00pm and waking up around 6:00am to going to bed between 2:00am and 4:00am and waking up before 10:00am. What was even more unexpected for me was my lack of focus – I cannot concentrate on anything before 8:00pm, even a ray of sun can be a distraction, so most of my work happens overnight. No need to discuss how unhealthy it is for a natural morning person but, in these circumstances, I should be grateful that my brain hasn’t stopped at all.

Being stuck at home for so long kind of forced me to get more creative in the kitchen. After an hour-long fight, I can proudly say that I won over vegan potatoes pancakes, my biggest achievement in the kitchen so far. And, since the lockdown will still be on for no one knows how long, I guess I haven’t said the last word yet.

Highlight of the day? An hour-long video call with my parents. We are supporting each other every day and I do believe that being separated in these hard times made our connection even stronger and harder to break. I am sure that not knowing when I’ll see them again will make that meeting the best and most emotional in our lives.

April 06

It made me really upset when I heard about people in the UK and in Italy who, despite the global pandemic and absolutely tragic situations in both countries, took great and sunny weather during the weekend as an excuse to go to parks, beaches and massively left their homes.

An Italian man was asked why he is ignoring the government advice and decided to go outside. He said that ‘rules were made to be broken’. It left me speechless.

I finished my online course about epidemiology and Covid-19 pandemic provided by Johns Hopkins University. It was an interesting experience to spend a few hours studying something from the area so distant from my comfort zone. Yes, science still gives me headaches, but the sense of accomplishment here was so big and my 20 pages of notes were so satisfying that I decided I’ll be leaving my comfort zone more often. I booked two webinars about promoting business on social media for tomorrow.

In the afternoon I got an email from my course leader saying that our deadlines have been postponed for two weeks and I have mixed feelings about it. I still plan to submit my work within the previous deadlines in order not to ruin my monthly schedule. I made myself a promise I won’t stop actively using my planner and I will continue making every day matter. I really want to do as much as I can during the pandemic- it may be the one and only chance in my life to spend time with myself alone and to fully focus only on self-development without feeling guilty about it.

I may be refused the right to leave my home unless necessary, to buy seven bags of pasta in Sainsbury’s at a time or to go on holidays this summer, but gaining new knowledge and new skills gives me back all the freedom I have lost.

April 07

I got kind of a phobia of going outside. The weather was beautiful from early morning and I planned to go for groceries today since Sunday. What I did was persuading myself that two bananas and a small bowl of pasta with pesto is enough for a day and that I can wait until tomorrow.

I had a video call with a friend I haven’t seen since December and it really made my day. I only realised how much I missed her when I saw her, and all our memories together came back to me. We started planning our next meeting and all the things we will be doing, unfortunately without setting a date.

April 08

It was one of the, if not the, busiest of my self-isolation days. Since early morning, I had a video conference about my ongoing uni group project, then I checked up on a few friends who were not doing well lately, went outside, I was teaching my mum English over the phone, answered all the emails, had two webinars and a French class.

Biggest achievement of the day? I WENT TO DO MY GROCERIES. I really did. 20 minutes’ walk one way to get to Lidl and, when I arrived, I say a queue of about 50 people that ended far away from the store doors. When I finally entered the store, first thing I noticed was that there is no fresh pastry and bakery. The only bread available is the toast bread and tortilla wraps. What about my vegan wholegrain loaf? Well, maybe in another lifetime.

What positively surprised me was the fact that people stopped panic buying – there was loads of pasta in the store, same with the toilet roll and the frozen products. I also noticed that quite a few people are wearing masks, and, if not masks, scarves. But sadly, Lidl staff are not wearing any protective equipment, and they are exposed to so many people every day!

April 09

I got the information today that presidential elections in May in Poland aren’t going to be cancelled – people will be voting via post. No comment on that. The leading party completely ignored the voices of the opposition suggesting that people without a permanent address and those millions(!) of Poles who are in a quarantine living abroad will not be able to vote. It is even sadder for me to think about when I see that the only thing ‘our’ current president has done was setting up a TikTok account.

Together with my parents, we decided that we’ll have our Easter breakfast together on Sunday and I’m really looking forward to it. My parents realised that it will be their first ever Easter alone (I had mine last year) and I am curious to see which one of us will handle it better.

I also had to go out today to finish my groceries. I am happy to see that people are really taking into consideration the 2m distance rule and that no one is crowding in between the shelves. But what really made me feel upset is the way customers talk to staff members.

I saw a lady that was shouting on a store manager because her debit card has been declined and she didn’t want to try to use the machine again, so she went to the top of the regular queue and insisted on being served first. Another customer was complaining about the fact that cash is not being accepted anymore and over-reacted on another staff member.

I work in retail; I did experience horrible customers and I feel sorry for people who must work in such difficult conditions. A security guard in my local Sainsbury’s made my day today – he noticed that I didn’t take a basket and made the effort to take the basket, find me inside the store and give it to me. I was so shocked and so positively surprised that some people didn’t become arrogant because of the current situation.

It got me thinking that quarantine takes off all the masks we’re wearing daily and revealed our true selves. I saw it so clearly when I compared these customers with the security guard.

I listen to the Polish Prime Minister’s speech about the latest Covid-19 regulations. He asked the public to stay at home and do not visit family over Easter, schools will remain closed for another two weeks, shopping centres and services until April 19, international flights are likely to start running from April 26. I have mixed feelings about these dates; they seem to be too soon for everyone to stay safe.

 


Ellen Lund-Peterson (Danish student living in London): Week 4

I have learned a very important lesson in working from home: you cannot do any work in bed. I will repeat this over and over again because I have not done anything this week. Therefore I am now sitting by Putney Bridge. Apparently, I need to be away from home to get anything done.

putney bridge

View from writing at Putney Bridge

I’m also noticing how lazy my cooking has become. In the beginning of all this, I enjoyed having time to cook and plan meals, but now I’m eating hummus and crackers most of the time.

This week, I’ll skip over trying to divide this into days, as I have completely lost the count of weekdays. Instead, I’ll just pop in some anecdotes, because as my flatmate says ‘sometimes you just have to do things for the sake of the anecdotes’.

So, let’s start with our neighbours, a lovely family of three – from Albania. We painted their garden furniture, inspired by what the Danish Prime Minister calls “samfundssind”. In return, they gave us a cup of herbal tea that we absolutely hated, it was honestly grim. A few days after, we sat outside our flat and our lovely neighbour arrives with tea again and we had to drink it with her. We are slowly realising that this quarantine will be full of cups of tea that we have to politely drink.

In Denmark they have decided to slowly open up the country after Easter. Not in the way where everyone is let loose again, but they will open up day-cares for children and people in further or higher education will be able to attend their exams, albeit in a different way than usually.

She also said that she doesn’t think that Denmark will return to what it was before the Covid-19 crisis. Surely, I’ve been thinking the same, as it is hard to imagine, but it’s different coming from an authority.

So, in Denmark, the isolation will slowly be phased out in the next few weeks, but there is no guarantee that the measures taken won’t be put back into place. As for the UK, the prospect of being free to roam around seems a bit further away. I try not to think about how long it will be, but I imagine that this whole summer will be spent in quarantine. I try not to worry about what a society will look like post-pandemic.

I went on a walk by Hammersmith Bridge and police men were tapping people who were sitting down on the shoulder to keep them moving. This was the same day as my friend from Hungary told me that he’d had his first police check-in since he returned home from London. They check on you during the 14 day mandatory quarantine when entering the country.

I believe there’s still a disagreement around wearing masks and whether it serves any purpose. I’m sure it gives a sense of security for a lot of people – regardless of it being false. For me, it reminds me of being better at social distancing when I see people wearing them on the streets. Honestly, it’s hard to do when you’re on the street – we’re creatures of habit and usually you can’t walk in London without constantly bumping into people.

However, it does seem silly to see people wearing them when you hear that a small medical fetish company has had to donate their stocks to hospitals due to lack of PPE.

 


Dina Zubi (Norwegian student in Oslo): April 6-9

April 06

The Norwegian health minister made a statement that we have the virus ‘under control’, because the latest figures show that, on average, one infected person passes on the virus to 0.7 others. The figure was, apparently, 2.5 before all the restrictions were put in place. Although it is obviously comforting to hear that lockdown measures are helping to slow the spread, I can’t quite bring myself to believe that the situation is under control. Looking at other countries, this can’t be the peak for Norway, that’s just not possible.

April 07

The Norwegian Prime Minister held a press conference today and announced that kindergarteners and children up to the fourth grade will be able to attend school again in two weeks. She said they are continually monitoring the situation and might have to close the schools again if the situation worsens. Even so, this is the first sign of something opening up again. University students reliant on labs or specific equipment are also allowed back into campus, which is vital if the graduating classes are going to get their degrees.

April 08

As was to be expected, all cultural and sporting events up until June 15 have been cancelled. This is obviously necessary, but also devastating for a lot of these companies that rely mainly on ticket sales and audience spending to survive. I wonder what the cultural landscape is going to look like after this period is over, whether festivals, events and venues are going to still be there.

April 09

Some days, when it’s warm and sunny, like today, it almost feels like summer holiday used to feel when I was younger. When I’m lying in the sun reading a book or listening to a podcast, I forget about everything that’s happening for a while. Although it feels good not to think about coronavirus for a few moments, it also makes me feel a bit guilty when I remember it again.

The nice weather we’re having and the fact that the Easter holiday has begun in Norway means that everyone wants to go for walks in the woods around Oslo. The parking lots were reportedly so full that they had to turn people away and tell them to park somewhere else. Easter in Norway is usually a time when a lot of people go to the mountains to ski, or hike if there isn’t enough snow, but this year we are prohibited from staying in a county outside of our own. The result, apparently, is overcrowded parking lots in Oslo, which can’t be ideal for social distancing purposes.

 


Feautured image by Iona Gibson.

Font size
Contrast mode