The Coronavirus has left a devastating mark on almost every corner of the world, tearing families from one another, destroying businesses and most devastatingly of all, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. In the wake of COVID-19, whole populations have been forced to shield themselves from the stark realities of a virus with no known cure, shedding civil liberties in a manner not seen since the Second World War.
What is increasingly clear however, is that we live in a world united by a common struggle. And while approaches have differed, with varying levels of success, there is no nation that doesn’t have a very real relationship with the Coronavirus.
But how have people across the world been affected? What have been the differences in approach? And what experiences can we all relate to? I spoke to people across the world who shared their COVID-19 stories with me.
Charlotte Gagnier, a Canadian program assistant at Agnes Etherington Art Centre, talking to me from her apartment in Kingston, Ontario, tells me about the struggles of COVID-19 in her province.
‘’I could feel, early on, how the lockdown exacerbated negative feelings. I can be quite a homebody, I enjoy being in my space. So it wasn’t so hard the first few days. But after a while, knowing that I couldn’t go out really started to make me feel restless and I found any problem or negative thought was made so much worse.
They shut down all outdoor amenities. I’m lucky, where I am there’s lots of space so I never felt trapped and could easily get out for a run or a walk and maintain a good distance from others. But in other cities I know it’s a lot harder to do that.”
Betty Verre-Deux, a French student living in Berlin, has been living alone in her apartment in the usually vibrant Neukoelln. Betty explains how the information-led approach from the municipal government made her feel informed and gave her a sense of control.
‘’At the beginning, we (every legal citizen with an address) received a letter from the government that explained the situation and all the information was put online on the government’s website. We were able to get the information if we wanted (as long as you had internet access). I followed the situation on social media, mainly on Twitter, but also YouTube for live retransmissions. I followed the official accounts of the government and of the Health Ministry.
Now a “traffic light” system has been put in place, to inform us about the status of the situation. It evaluates the multiplication factor of the virus, the number of new infections, and the number of free beds in the hospitals. The numbers are given by the RKI (an independent health institution). So I do feel as if I’ve been kept in the loop and since the traffic lights are all green, I also would say that the situation is under control.
I found that keeping some form of routine, and a clean place helped. I noticed, fairly rapidly, that alcohol wasn’t helping me, so I stopped drinking, or only allowed myself a small glass for special occasions’’
Tessa, a lawyer in Sydney, has had a different experience from many. Much like their neighbours in New Zealand, the Australian approach was speedy and coherent.
‘’We have a small population and we closed our borders early, forcing a quarantine on anyone coming into the country. They were sent to hotels and kept under close supervision for 2 weeks. It was quite shocking but necessary. They have been extensively tested here and developed a track-and-trace app relatively quickly, so people have felt like there was some control over the situation, even in the early stages of the virus when we were all concerned about how it would behave. The states have handled the situation well and formed a national governance body; so it felt coordinated and unified.’’
Andrew, a British expat business owner explains his financial fears as lockdown became a reality in Mexico City.
‘’The city is shut though still busy. One of my good friends had to close up but we have managed to weather the storm by offering home deliveries. Just before lockdown we had built a larger bakery and at first I was very concerned about revenues. But it’s actually been a real asset to have the larger capacity. So, I feel very fortunate that I have been able to keep the business afloat despite the lockdown.’’
Karl, who works as a financial adviser in Mumbai, has been experiencing one of the heaviest lockdowns in the world as the Mohdi administration tackles a densely populated country.
‘’For the last month Mumbai has been in total lockdown. We are not able to go out to the shops to buy any food at all. I only learnt this when I was shopping in a supermarket queue and was accosted by police officers shouting at me, telling me I was banned from leaving the house. I had absolutely no idea. So the communication of the message over here has not been great.
We have felt a little lost, to tell the truth. The restrictions were similar to those I have read about in the United Kingdom. I was able to go out and buy food and essentials. But then we started witnessing people being hit with sticks and suddenly the reality of the situation became very stark. Since then, I have felt very isolated.’’
Now as we enter a new phase of lockdowns across the world, the question is now how nations can unify in the next stage of COVID-19.
By Joseph Costello