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.
Eve Hebron (Welsh student in Llandudno): April 27-30
Monday 27h April 2020
I decide that being in lockdown means it’s a good time to sort out any ‘life admin’, as in all the bits and bobs you need to do in life, but never get the chance to. One of those things is organising the 3,000 photographs I have stored on my computer and iPhone. I begin the mission and come across photos from a trip I took with some friends to Barcelona in summer 2018. Images of us on the beach, eating tapas and drinking sangria seem like a lifetime ago, and I wonder when I’ll next be able to sit on a beach with friends doing the same thing.
Tuesday 28th April 2020
Today, France’s Prime Minister, Edouard Phillipe announces how France will ease their lockdown. I have friends in France who have been waiting for good news, hoping that they’ll be given clear and precise advice on how things will work from mid-May. It is announced that, from the 11th May, primary schools will reopen, as well as certain shops. Key workers must wear masks and it will be compulsory to wear them on public transport. Cafes, restaurants and bars will remain shut. It’s progress.
Wednesday 29th April 2020
I attempt to focus on some university work, but it’s difficult to concentrate. From this experience, I’ve discovered that, no matter what routine you force upon yourself, controlling your concentration is a skill. Over the past few days, I had the worst brain fog, and expelling it is so much easier said than done. I’ve never been able to focus that well, but the current situation of the world certainly doesn’t make it any easier.
Thursday 30h April 2020
It’s the last day of the month, which means we have officially been in lock down for the entirety of April 2020. How funny it will be to look back on this period of our lives. Another month of the same thing means we’re another month closer to freedom, I like to think. It’s thinking positively that will help get us through these times. And the sun, which is likely to make more of an appearance now we’re edging into the summer months. That’s something to be thankful for.
Mathilda Frotscher (German student in Hamburg): April 24 – May 1
Week 7. Or 8? I lost count.
The number of active Covid19 cases in Hamburg is steadily decreasing: 20-50 cases are currently being added every day. 37 were reported on Thursday the 30th of April, but the number of people recovering is increasing by around 100 every day.
The diagnostic and therapeutic options in hospitals and medical scientists are very different than a few weeks ago. The period between scientific research, publication and applied knowledge has become exceptionally short, which leads to the first possible antidote being tested in Germany now. And I think that’s good timing, since there haven’t been significantly good news lately. On contrary, restrictions are being loosened every couple of days. A clear direction is missing; right now the situation is polarizing.
I am under the impression that half of the news I am receiving are about the situation becoming worse and the other half of the situation soothing out. For example, face masks are mandatory in public transport and shops now and the number of unemployed people is escalating but, on the other hand, schools, churches and playgrounds are being reopened.
However, there is no common statement that is being repeated by politicians, doctors and economists.
That means that we have to maintain patience, accept the circumstances and go with the flow, without having any realistic vision of the future. I don’t like admitting it, but I am 100% a German when it comes to my choice of pace and rhythm in life. Everything has to be as efficient as possible and, if something disturbs that concept, it’ll be removed. But I can’t remove a global pandemic now, can I?! So, this is therapeutic to me, converting the focus from productivity and efficiency to a day-by-day mindset and just switch down a gear.
It helps to have my friends around, and, when I’m saying “having them around”, I mean sitting in a big circle with a two-meter distance between each other.
We have been discussing certain news that are uplifting, such as pilots from a struggling German airline called Lufthansa offering to dispense from 45% of their wages in the next years in order for the company to survive. Also, a politician from the left-winged party in Hamburg suggested for retailers and all sorts of shops to sell 250€ vouchers, so that loyal customers could support them in the fight against bankruptcy. More of that direction please!
I am grateful for people behaving this way and I am even more grateful that I can talk to my friends about that without looking into a camera. I don’t know how I’d be holding up without this luxury.
Anyway, Week 7 (or 8, I am still not sure) has evidently left me confused, I’ll go practice not being productive.
Anna Komitska (Bulgarian student living in London): Week 7
‘It’s May Day like no other,’ as the BBC announced this morning. There will be no marches highlighting the rights of workers today.
I feel as if the week has been dragging on forever. We’ve stepped into May and, looking back, the entire month of April seems to have slipped by and left me with just a few weeks until my deadlines. The past few days have been semi-productive. I have yet to begin writing my essay, as the research has proven more daunting than usual to go through under the circumstances. On the other hand, I have had enough time to experiment creatively with new mediums and refocus my attention onto my project.
In between reading and shooting, I’ve been working out every other morning. My manager joked that we would all go back to work fitter than we could have ever imagined. I’ve also joined UAL Social Programme for their guided meditation workshops. They’ve been successful at taking my mind off all the pent-up anxiety and the occasional low energy levels. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve also missed being at home for my mom’s birthday and Orthodox Easter. I somehow ignored to mention this in my previous entry – perhaps I didn’t want to think about it too much.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had a hard time going through this term’s academic research. I would rather study at the library or at a café with a friend, as being around other people would help me focus. Since lockdown started, myself and a couple of other girls have been studying together – we’d have silent Skype video calls where each of us would be reading together. We would also catch up once every three days when we would set ourselves personal goals to possibly accomplish before the next call. Among other things, I managed to put away my winter wardrobe and take my summer clothes out at the beginning of this week!
More than anything, I’ve recently been following the news on governmental support for the arts industries. The National Theatre now organizes a weekly online quiz as a way to appeal to its viewers for donations. The BBC is set to remake Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’ monologues whilst finding ways to film and entertain viewers in new ways, considering social distancing. In France, some of its most prominent artists published an open letter, as part of a signed petition, in the newspaper Le Monde, criticizing President Emmanuel Macron for mentioning planned state support to every industry in his briefing on April 19th, except for the arts. They have requested that the President of Culture makes official announcements with regards to the economic crisis, as well as an extension to the intermittent workers’ rights.
In the UK, articles discussing the possibilities of working from home and online education have extensively circulated the web. Flight companies have warned that social distancing on planes would reduce capacities by more than 50%, which would mean steep ticket prices. Royal Mail has unveiled five post-boxes near hospitals across the UK that have been painted blue in support of NHS staff during the coronavirus crisis. And Captain Tom Moore’s appeal has now helped raise over £32 million. He has been promoted to Colonel.
In Bulgaria, those who have recovered from Coronavirus are now donating blood plasma to patients currently battling against it. The country is an essential producer of vaccines against tuberculosis for the WHO; the vaccine is currently being produced in larger quantities, as it has been reported to aid against Covid-19.
On TV, panel discussions are broadcast featuring experts and public speakers asserting that Bulgaria had overreacted and the decisions had been made in haste and out of fear and lack of competency. There have been discussions that part of the budget given by the EU has not been used for its supposed purposes but instead invested in offshore companies and the grey economy. Some have argued that the situation has been wrongly manipulated for economic and political reasons.
Natalia Zmarzlik (Polish student living in London): April 24-30
Highlight of the day? The parcel I received from my parents. A box filled will a few new books, my favourite snacks, cosmetics and a bunch of my summer clothes, which I hoped to collect in person. Well, not this time.
I nearly cried when I saw my new books. I’ve been craving to read ‘Wolf of the Wall Street’ (all three parts) for years. Now I will finally have time for them.
The weather was so good today I decided to take buying hummus as an excuse to go for a walk. I feel like I tried to get to my local Sainsbury’s in Brixton by Luton Airport because I made almost 5K steps… usually it takes less than 1K both ways.
One more time I witnessed rude customers in the store. One man tried to argue with sales assistants and then with the store manager that he won’t be standing in the queue and he was approaching all the people in the line with less than one-foot distance. I was so scared and so shocked, luckily, I always choose self-service tills and that man didn’t come to me at all.
I finally submitted the assignment I was working on for over four weeks. I was so fed up with that project, I spent so many hours writing and researching it that I didn’t even feel proud of myself when I finished. I was just so happy that it’s over.
I read today that all flights to Poland are cancelled until 10th May for LOT Airlines (the national ones) and until 10th May for Wizz Air flights. I am not sure if the dates are somehow connected with the date of presidential elections on 10th May, but all the Poles I spoke to about it said it’s horrendous that we’re even having these elections. Hopefully, Senate will stop them and pick up a new date.
While talking to my parents for the first time, I spotted the difference between Polish and British people and the way they act during the quarantine.
I haven’t seen many people in London wearing disposable gloves, while in Poland barely anyone doesn’t wear them. Similar with face masks – maybe half of people in my area wear them, while in Poland everyone must wear them due to the new government regulations.
Not to mention that Polish streets are still quite empty while roads of Brixton are not much less lively than usual.
I wore a face mask for the first time today. My mum sent me a few of them in the parcel – beautiful cotton masks with white and blue stripes. It is a weird feeling to constantly have something so close to the mouth and having the nose covered. I felt like it takes much more effort to breathe, which I think should be effortless.
I kept smiling to people as I usually do and out of nowhere no one was smiling back to me. It really took me a good 15 minutes to figure out that my smile doesn’t shine through my facemask.
It was a tough day for me because I had my flight to Poland scheduled for today. After uni I was supposed to go home, change, take my luggage and head out straight to the Luton airport. Around 1AM Polish time my dad would pick me up from Pyrzowice airport in my home city.
We would be driving while listening to our playlist and probably we would get lost at the same stage of the journey as we usually do. I was waiting for that trip for so long (since mid-February), I cried my eyes out when it turned out that my flights got cancelled and now, I am still getting upset every time I think about it.
Corona changed everything. I see my Instagram friends posting every now and then screenshots of flight cancellations – honeymoon in Brazil, 40th birthday in Mykonos or dream trip to NYC, none of them is going to happen any time soon.
For how long has the UK been under the lockdown? At least for a few weeks. Today was the first time I saw Lidl staff members wearing face masks and gloves. I think they should have been supplied with that weeks ago. They are at the frontline too, alongside the NHS workers. I feel like everyone forgot about that, grocery stores workers are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, potentially infected people and they are given so little support. Not to say that also some customers are extremely aggressive towards them.
I heard stories, both from Polish and British sources, that NFZ (Poland) and NHS (UK) workers are harassed by their neighbours who don’t want to live around them, as they might be bringing Corona to the building. One nurse in Poland was even pushed to move out from her flat.
Another case was that children of nurses and doctors were refused places in nurseries (Poland) because teachers were scared that they will infect other children. And, the most bizarre case I heard about, a store owner didn’t allow the nurse to do groceries in his store and when she refused to leave, she was carried away from the store by two other customers. Unbelievably disrespectful!
I wish everyone became kinder and more empathetic towards other people because of current circumstances, but I feel like we started dividing into camps that are more and more malevolent towards each other. The productive ones vs ‘let me chill and do nothing’ ones. Keep on track with diet vs ‘let me treat myself with all that food because I deserve it’. Llet’s help each other, we’re all in this together’ vs ‘minding my own business and worrying only about myself’.
Yes, I do understand that everyone is different, and we find different ways to deal with social distancing, quarantine and staying sane, but I will never understand why people became so unsympathetic towards each other. It’s not how we should act – support and mutual respect should be the thing.
Let me tell you something, being made redundant is not the best way you can start your day. The company I worked for went into administration some time ago. We were supposed to be on a furlough leave, but the administrators decided that stores won’t re-open and none of us will be re-employed.
I had a gut feeling that it might happen, but it was still shocking to hear someone telling me that over the phone. I still can’t believe I might never see some of my colleagues (well, now ex-colleagues) again, no more shifts together, no lunch breaks, no more uniform choosing.
Even though it wasn’t my dream job, I learnt everything I know about retail there, I made friends, I made some beautiful memories. No, I didn’t want this story to have such a tragic ending.
The Corona restrictions are steadily easing. I read that Wizz Air started flying to a few European countries from the Luton Airport.
In Poland, people are permitted to leave their houses and meet others, of course they must wear masks and gloves, but it is a significant change and I am sure it gave people hope that everything will come back to normal soon. Shopping centres are supposed to re-open from Monday, I am curious to see how it will look like in terms of health & safety and if people will massively start shopping.
Anything positive about today? We had such heavy rain in London that when it was over, we were blessed with two rainbows at the same time. And I found enough motivation to try out a new recipe – vegan pasta with aubergine and tomatoes.
Before the lockdown, I would be way too busy to appreciate little things like these two, but now? They are highlights of my days. I must admit that these ‘less hectic’ days helped me become more present in my life and are opening my eyes for things I wasn’t noticing before.
Ana Rosário (Portuguese living in London): May 1
1st May (Friday)
After weeks of mostly binge watching and trying to find things to fill my days, I’ve started a temp job. I’m so excited to get back to research and interview and write. I’m also really motivated because I had now spent a couple of months looking for a job, so, despite not being permanent work, it is still very welcome.
I’ve also received some news from back home that I received with mixed feelings. Portugal is going to lift the emergency state this weekend and transition to calamity state (which, apparently, is less strict, even if the word “calamity” strikes me as more severe than “emergency”). The government announced that is going to lift restrictions by phases, but analysing the results every 15 days in case they have to change their approach. The first three designated phases start at 3rd May, 18th May and 1st June, if I’m not mistaken. All citizens also have to abide to safety and hygiene rules, like wearing masks and gloves, keep the safety distance between people and the limited number of customers in stores.
On one hand, I’m happy that we can start to conceive the possibility of the end of this lockdown (I know that the case in Portugal and the UK are very different, but it’s still a hope). I can’t wait to book a flight and visit my family and friends, even with all safety measures. It might be a weird Summer, without music festivals or beach trips, but I’m very lucky to come from a rural small town. So, walks in the fields with my parents and drives in the lonely roads with the radio booming will be enough for me after these peculiar months.
On the other hand, I still feel it might be a little too early to start lifting restrictions, even in a country with a smaller number of cases like Portugal. I know that having to put country to a halt all these months is going to take a tool in the future, but I’m so afraid that the numbers might start going up again. Not everyone took the recommended cautions during lockdown time, so imagine now that the emergency state is going to be lifted. Trust me, a lot of people are going to start living life like nothing happened, because they will think “everything is back to normal”.
And I would like if someone explained to me why it is so urgent for the Portuguese football league to be back by the end of the month. Why is it the only sport to have that happen? Why only the main league? Ok, I obviously know the answer. Football is the main sport in the country and there are a lot of interests behind it that go beyond the sport itself. However, 22 man in the same space, sweaty and, at times, less than two meters from each other? It might not end well. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
I also hope that the UK might also have conditions to start lifting the restrictions sooner rather than later. I’m sure that the rainy week might have made people stay at home and reduce contact and virus transmission. But, sometimes, I’m over optimistic…
Dina Zubi (Norwegian student in Oslo): April 25-30
Our previously sunny weather has now turned to grey skies and rain. It’s even expected to snow again later in the week. Though I spend most of my time indoors anyway, it does make a difference on my mood. On the other hand, there’s no better excuse for binging Netflix in bed than a rainy day.
Some businesses were allowed to open up again today, and it feels like we’re getting closer to normality. Hairdressers in particular were sorely needed for some people apparently, as there were long queues in some places. The health minister even had a haircut while being interviewed on TV, which was quite an awkward situation.
The 17th of May, Norway’s constitution day, is coming up in a couple of weeks and people are already starting to make plans. Usually one of the biggest events of the year in Norway, with parades, marching bands and parties all over the country, this year will be very different. There are plans of a boat parade along the bay, which I suppose is a viable option under the circumstances, although it won’t feel the same. The 17th of May is one of my absolute favourite days of the years, so hopefully we’ll be able to do something fun anyway, even if there won’t be any crowds or parties. The guidelines for the national holiday are expected to be announced sometime next week.
At a press conference today, new guidelines were announced. The recommended distance between people has gone down from two meters to one meter, and organized events with up to 50 people can be held again! This means that cinemas, theatres and concerts can be arranged as long as they follow social distancing measures and safety procedures, which I am incredibly happy about. Hopefully some interesting, innovative events will take place soon, although it might be more costly for some venues to only be able to sell a few tickets than to stay shut. I’ve been worried that the culture sector would lose so many businesses that make Oslo a nice, interesting and fun place to live, but hopefully opening up again could help some of these places get back on their feet.
It’s strange to see the country starting to open back up again when so many other countries are still in desperate situations. Still, things are starting look better for several other places too, and there’s even been some news about vaccines that might be ready earlier than expected.
Iona Gibson (Scottish student living in Canterbury): May 1
There are 30 different Covid strains in 210 countries, making up 3.2 million global cases. A third of them are from the USA alone. There is, on average, one death for every 10 people infected. That’s only statistics the public knows. How do we account for the statistics we don’t? How many people are suffering in their homes? Alone? When are they found? How is it all calculated? In the UK, there are almost 200,000 cases and a 15% mortality rate. That’s higher than most places. Why are people discussing that rather than the fact that we’re missing a recovery rate? The British public are perpetuating their own fear of the bigger picture by hiding it. The numbers have changed location from Public Health England to the Government website. Who controls the data? Don’t we all have a right to see it?
Smokers have demonstrated immunity against Coronavirus. Not to encourage it, but, to survive smoking, one would surely need strong lungs in the first place. The logic is there. The sky is clearer without industrial air pollution, but it also means the temptation of going outdoors is high. If it were dark and wintery and full of fumes, would we be more content with staying inside? Yet, people are filling up grassy parks with picnic baskets full of ignorance. Birds cry in the background, mourning for the Amazonian habitat loss with logging twice as fast as usual thanks to supply shortages.
Processed natural resources are fed into society, so normally that shameless profiteering is overlooked by the blindness of blatant selfishness, and it was wrong to expect that crisis would bring any kind of resolve through ration except to those who disproportionately suffer the most hardship already. We have reached a materialistic peak over the last century, where satisfaction is no longer good enough. Our expectations have become our standards, and it will take more than a pandemic to eliminate man’s greed; for greed is deeply embedded in our survival instincts and insecurities, which keep us in constant conflict with each other and within ourselves. And whilst distracted by all these innate thoughts, we accept that the UN Climate Summit has been postponed (despite 2020 being the ‘Year of Climate Action’), President Trump wants to inject people with disinfectant, and Brexit will still be taking place. There are holes in world leadership larger than those in the Ozone. But it is not a matter of who the finger points to when everyone has their part to play. We have reached a global state of exception and our collective uncertainty has put emergency power into the hands of those who are making quick decisions over informed ones.
That’s not all. Employees on furlough are complaining, despite treating their paid time off as an extended holiday (what has happened to countries whose economy relies on tourism?); all the while, key workers put their self and their loved ones at risk for the sake of tending to the needs of others (is there a way to safeguard them?). If anything, this pandemic begs the question of minimum wage altogether: should workers deemed ‘essential’ not be on the living wage at least? Thankfulness is tough to express, but financial reward is an easy means of recognition. It allows someone to grasp their value and have the freedom to afford a better life. Let’s just hope the appreciation for public service staff finds a permanent place in our society once we return to some kind of normal (what stores will be first to open their doors on the high street?).
Then, there are unique cases like mine, where I cannot access additional funding because I’m already on a fraction of a student loan which hardly covers my tuition. Or my Father, who cannot apply for the self-employed grant because he is the sole employer of a company he set up himself which can no longer run. Or my many freelancer friends, who cannot access funding because they sit just outside of the criteria. Why should anyone have to prove their hardship at a time like this? How degrading. Yes, a safety net is built to hold the majority, so a minority will inevitably fall through the gaps. But surely in realising such cases, there should be other means of catching society members before they’re plunged back into the depths of their struggle.
One size does not fit all. Grief is not an equaliser. Looking away does not erase the problem. But, perhaps, reality has shifted into a parallel falling tree thought experiment: if we don’t see it, is it really happening?
Feautured image by Lucy Haydon.