I'm starting this diary blog series to remember the testimonies, log the extreme changes and record the situation we're experiencing ever since Covid19 outbreak in December 2019 and up until the point it ends (currently we're at the peek, with record level infected and the highest death number so far).
Looking backwards, I've never thought it would reach the mind-boggling dimensions it's reaching. I remember the first time I've heard about this virus in December 2019...It was like hearing about some sci-fi novel: "A deadly, extremely contagious disease with flu-like symptoms is mass-killing elderly people in China." It didn't feel real.
In December, our life was as usual. We went on a family vacation abroad, combining Christmas holidays with the New Year's Eve, unintentionally shutting off those horrible news from our minds.
Nobody around us, including the country we vacationed in and our own government, showed any deep worry. The whole news of the virus felt exaggerated, far away, and as sad as it sounded, for people around us it felt something that "won't concern us". Now we understand how underestimated the whole horror was.
We came from our winter vacation in the beginning of January 2020 and work, school and the general daily routine has resumed as usual. We heard about the #lockdown of Wuhan, we watched how countries urge their citizens to return from China, we saw vlogs and footage of empty Chinese streets. I remember thinking "how scary and bizarre it must feel to have a curfew, to not be able to freely go outside". It was scary to think about it, yet in France, on the contrary, everything felt very much normal.
Later on in January the pandemic was confirmed to have spread to Japan. That put the long-awaited 2020 Olympics under a big question. Japan began taking precautions.
Meanwhile for us, end of January meant pondering over short travel destinations for the upcoming 2 weeks school break. Typically, during this season, many french people love going to ski resorts, with Italy being an extremely popular destination. After researching different leisure options for a weekend of ski in the northern Italian alps and a relaxed alternative getaway to the beaches in southern France, we settled for the latter.
Early February note: Unfortunately, since the beginning of its outbreak, CoronaVirus is causing many individuals to behave rudely and racist. I understand that they are afraid to be infected, but they literally cover their nose with their hand while hurriedly passing an Asian-looking person on the street. Absurd.
7th of February: News reports of discovered corona virus cases onboard a large ship docked in Yokohama, Japan.
People were told to quarantine - confine themselves to their cabins for two weeks, without the ability to go out (meals and water was delivered to each cabin by staff) and despite the infection cases growing among the crew and passengers, nobody was allowed to leave.
A number of countries, such as Israel, have requested to allow them to evacuate their citizens off the ship, however common sense kept that decision at bay and, instead, both governmental and privately organized aid was provided in the means of food and other essentials.
It was impossible for us to put ourselves in the passengers' shoes. We could only imagine, from the far distance of our comfy homes, the panic that those on the ship must be feeling; the fear of not knowing what will happen next, the anxiety during their lengthy confinement in their small rooms, their worry over who's infected, whether they may have been infected, them hearing of new deaths on right on their ship's board...It all sounded so surreal.
Sadly, many of the passengers who returned to their homes two weeks later, didn't respect the quarantine instructions. Upon returning to their countries, many went out and about, thus spreading the virus further (often without knowing they are in fact infected.)
Each new information coming from the east shocked and shook us here in France...but not long enough for us to stop our usual routines.
School break in France has started on February 8th and we took our scheduled (and fully booked) train to the south. I remember feeling a tangle of concern during our trip. I understood that the spreading virus is due to spread in France, but, somehow, I suppressed my urges to enter hysteria or take any drastic precautions. All around us people were actively traveling, it was the high season even for the least popular destinations with hotel prices as bloated as always and crowd pretty much everywhere.
Nobody seemed to fear Corona virus to the slightest and I've personally witnessed how a smart-looking man in a fancy suit had accidentally dropped a peanut on the dirty train's floor, picked it up and popped it right into his mouth without a second thought. That man's ideas of hygiene were probably rather an exception, yet this is a good example of how far-away the situation was from today's reality: eating peanuts right off the dirty floor VS a month later not daring to touch the peanuts' package with bare hands (only after wearing disposable gloves and sanitizing the hell out of it.)
During our mini-trip to southern France, I heard the heart breaking news of #CoronaVirus cases in northern Italy.
Still, nothing changed in the daily life in France. People didn't wear mask, nor globes. Didn't limit their outing and active social life. Plenty of exhibitions and parties, restaurants buzzing with fun, crowded public transportation, kids playing in parks...
We were one of those oblivious people. Why did we behave like that? Didn't we hear about the dangers? Weren't this catastrophe sobering our senses? It's ridiculous, but no. All this madness still felt for people around us like light years away. I think those feelings are exactly why many people who could escape war stay put and become casualties. Our self-preservation instincts have weakened - we can't grasp the whole gravity of a disaster until it hits us too close.