Panic-Buying. Infections. Quarantine. „Wash your hands.“ Toilet paper. These are all things we’ve heard multiple times in just a couple of months and thus it is reasonable to feel overwhelmed. Is it really that bad or is it mostly scare stories? Read more to find out about the personal experiences of friends in the USA, Italy, South Korea, Mexico, Spain and Honduras.
The Corona-Virus, also known as COVID-19, is causing turmoil around the world. What started as unusual cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China, has grown to be a pandemic that has driven many governments to make compelling demands in order to protect their residents.
Chaos is happening pretty much everywhere around the world. It is typical to panic when there is lack of honest information, so in order to separate the reality from the scaremongering I’ve decided to contact some of my friends around the world and ask them about their local situation.
“We need to stay calm and follow a hygienic way of life so that our chances of contamination get slimmer.”
Diego Arocha, a 20 year old male majoring in Biochemistry at the University of Navarra (UNAV) agreed to share a bit about his experience being quarantined in Pamplona, Spain, away from home.
Diego explained that the government called upon an “Emergency State” in regards to the Corona-Virus a few weeks back. People are not allowed to wander the streets until the end of March. The only way to go out is by having a valid justification. The 20 year old further clarified that valid cases to go out include going out for food and medical supplies, seeking medical attention and going to work.
However, a fine up to €30,000 will be applied if one does not identify him/herself with the police. Diego admits that the first days were hard. He says: “In less than three days there was a shortage of food in supermarkets”. Nonetheless he claims that now crowds are avoided, and in general, people tend to stay home.
Diego personally feels like these are the right measures to be taken and claims that people carrying the virus and those suspicious should be isolated to avoid the spread. He advises that the best way to decrease the consternation caused by the pandemic is to be well informed. “Not every publication is real so you can’t believe everything you read,” he says. “We need to stay calm and follow a hygienic way of life so that our chances of contamination get slimmer.”
„I believe it’s our responsibility to help improve the situation. After all, all we are being asked to do is to stay inside.”
Angela Velásquez, 30, is currently in the midst of the italian turmoil. She recently came back to Italy from vacation, and had to fill a form that must be registered in the Italian Health Ministry. With this form, travelers commit to follow a 14-day self-quarantine and to monitor their day-to-day health.
We have all read and heard about the alarming data in Italy. The country has overpassed China’s death toll already. In response to that Angela states, that “the situation keeps deteriorating by the minute.” Just like in Spain, the Italian government enforced a national lockdown. Only those with an identification and a valid, printed justification, also known as ‘Autodichiarizione’ are allowed to go out. According to Angela, most abide by the rules, however there are still others who are not taking the virus seriously. She argues: “Although we can go out to workout, I strongly believe we can all live without ‘working-out outside’ until everything comes to normal… it won’t kill anyone not to do so, but the Corona-Virus can in fact kill.”
Angela fully agrees with the implemented measures in the country but she believes they should be stricter: “Since the pandemic is not subsiding, we must do something else.” Angela is doing her part by limiting her time out to its minimum and by working from home. She claims, “I’ve learnt how to cope with it…I believe it’s our responsibility to help improve the situation. After all, all we’re being asked to do is to stay indoors.”
When asked about how the panic is shown in Italy she replied that people were ‘panic buying’ when the situation began. However everything is nowadays better: “Supermarkets are well stocked up, people line up keeping a 1-meter distance in between and wait in an orderly fashion for their turn to enter.”
From both of our stories in Europe we can conclude one thing: Covid-19 is clearly something serious and it is common to feel fear and confusion with such strict rules. However the alarm is slowly going away and people are starting to act accordingly. If we all abide by the rules the number of cases can be reduced and we can flatten the curve. This is already happening in various Asian countries such as Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
„People should not focus too much on the negative news and should take a break from them when needed.”
Go Eun Lee, a gap year student living in Siheung, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, explains how her country has stabilized the situation: “The government of South Korea has created ‘drive-thru’ checkup stations in many hospitals and community health centers” she says. “These centers are based on a thorough order system and the service is supported by the national medical insurance, so it is at a low cost.”
Go Eun claims that the government has provided clear and thorough instructions on what to do and where to go when the virus is detected. Furthermore, the government has worked with factories that produce respiratory masks to create a “faster producing process” and has created a method of distribution using resident numbers so that everyone can have a “fair chance at buying masks.” Finally, schools have been pushed back to mid-April due to these circumstances.
Even though this has affected many people — including working parents, who do not have a place to take care of their children; businesses, which have experienced a decrease in customers and thus resulting in less yield or closing down temporarily; and employees, that have not worked for a month and are not being paid — statistics show that the country has been stabilizing from the virus.
Everyone is doing their part to make it work. Hand sanitizers, which many are free of use, have been installed and sold everywhere, which encourages people to be more hygienic and aware. The government is also doing a good job informing its people and preventing the virus from spreading. Go Eun also thinks the best method to reduce scaremongering is “to have the news and broadcasting systems deliver honest and reliable information to the public.” She also believes that people should not focus too much on the negative news and should take a break from them when needed. One thing she would advise countries being striked by the pandemic is to wear masks. She explains, “I believe wearing masks does have a positive result in preventing the disease from spreading.”
“I hope that when a cure or ‘shot’ to prevent the spread is created, the world will bond together and make it available to all.”
We also heard stories from people in the USA, Mexico and Honduras:
Aaron Burns, 42, lives on an isolated island in Alaska with 12 to 15,000 people. The panic is shown similarly as other countries. According to Aaron, even before the virus came to Ketchikan, uninformed people were already hysterical and the toilet paper was sold out. The situation seems to be getting slowly worse, as the community is now running out of food supplies as well.
The US-Government has imposed travel bans to several countries in order to avoid additional cases entering its borders. When asked about how he feels about the government’s travel bans, Aaron claimed they were “extreme, but not unreasonable.” He finished the interview by giving a message to the world: “I hope that when a cure or ‘shot’ to prevent the spread is created, the world will bond together and make it available to all.” We all certainly have a responsibility in this fight.
„[World leaders] should stop gloating about unnecessary constructions and fancy security systems and instead focus on the health of their people.“
Just south of the United States, in Mexico, cases have also been reported. Lara Lara, a second-year Communications student at the Anáhuac University in Puebla, Mexico, shares her experience: “The majority of Puebla is still not overly alarmed but misinformed people are starting to feel uneasy”, she reports. Just like in other countries, educational institutions have closed and have turned to online teaching. Students have also been forced to leave their dorms and head back home. This is however complicated for many, especially foreigners and Lara is one of them.
She comments that she has two Venezuelan friends which cannot go back for obvious political reasons. She and another Honduran also have difficulties getting back because Honduras recently closed its borders, meaning no one can travel to or from the country until further notice. Due to this, foreigners wrote a letter to the university asking to stay because it is too hard and too risky to leave. They are still waiting for a response.
Lara further expresses that misinformation and misconceptions about the virus are being overly dispersed. She says that we should really think about protecting ourselves because even if we do not get it, there is a group of people which are most victimized by the virus, meaning the elderly and those with compromised immune systems: “We need to protect them,” she states. Lara adds that one of the things that is happening right now is media terrorism, which is basically when people fear and panic about inaccurate or illegitimate information and despite it all, still choose to pass it on to others.
She feels nervous about her parents in Honduras because they do fit the age range and their immune systems are somewhat weak. The condition in Honduras is more risky since the country does not have the resources to fight a situation of this magnitude. She finally calls world leaders to act and says they should “stop gloating about unnecessary constructions and fancy security systems and instead focus on the health of their people.” “We need good health systems, more ventilators and we need to make sure that what’s coming won’t take us by surprise”, she declares.
Angie Bulnes, a single mother of three, further comments on the situation in Honduras saying that people there are “taking it lightly” and they don’t see it as a real threat. Angie claims that the reason why everyone is so calm about the virus is because people are saying that there’s a “50% or higher chance that they will get cured so there’s no need to panic.” She justifies her claim with her personal experiences.
A week ago, Angie ordered medicines online from the pharmacy in order to avoid going out for them. When the delivery guy handed her the medicines, she kindly asked him about his health protocol regarding the situation, as he is constantly dealing with customers. To her surprise, the delivery guy replied that he did not know how to protect himself and that it was not “a big deal.” This was clearly shocking for Angie. “I thought he should carry a hand sanitizer at least… it’s quite distressing that a person working at a pharmacy doesn´t know how to prepare or sanitize himself after having so much contact with people”, she claimed.
Angie shared another story in which she spoke to a woman at the tire shop. The woman uses public transportation on a daily basis and generally takes two different buses to move between two cities. This woman argued that she is not afraid of what’s happening and assured that she will not get infected. However, the woman also informed that she does not really pay attention to what is currently being discussed in the news and the media, so she does not know what is going on. Angie reacted to these experiences by stressing, “it’s upsetting to know that workers are moving around without any kind of protection. It’s sad that they are not aware of how serious the situation is.”
Days later statistics from the Health Ministry of Honduras came in. In just a matter of days the number of infections soared from 3 cases to 52. For this reason, the government of Honduras also issued a national Red Alert and mandatory curfew until the 29th of March. If the circumstances worsen, however, the curfew shall be extended.
Because of this situation, the lives of many have changed. Angie, who works as a freight forwarder, claims her business in particular is going slow due to the restrictions and because the global market is being affected. She is however grateful because these new conditions give her more time to spend with her daughters.
„Now is the time for solidarity, togetherness and support; not greed, discouragement and alarm.“
Thanks to these six people we are able to have a more holistic view of the situation around the world. It is a fact that the measures imposed in many countries are strict but we must remember one very important thing: we need to keep calm. Now is the time for solidarity, togetherness and support; not greed, discouragement and alarm.
Quarantine can be frustrating but we can definitely find a bright side to it. For starters, the world is cleaner than ever. According to data from the European Environment Agency (EEA), air pollutant concentrations have decreased substantially. Also, families and couples have sought to bond together in different ways, friends have reconnected and people around the world have united through social media. Not to mention that medical teams around the world are spending countless hours of their lives to protect ours. They are exposing themselves to the dangers of the virus. These are the true heroes; the backbone of our society in these times of crisis.
Even though the news can be overwhelming, we need to remember that our efforts make the difference. We are sacrificing our jobs, our education and our social life in order to save lives one at a time. The more we stay at home and thus help flatten the curve, the sooner this will all go away. It will get better for us, so do not give up. For now, count your blessings, call your relatives and friends, enjoy time for yourself and let the world heal. We will push through and this, too, shall pass.