Is it just me or does anyone else out there feel like today is the first day of a really weird holiday? We’re in the midst of a worldwide crisis, united in a mutual fascination and fear of COVID-19.
Here in Austria the government announced this week that from Monday more extreme measures will be put in place to help contain the spread – inessential shops will be closed along with schools and universities, restaurants must close at 3pm, visits to hospitals and elderly homes are off the cards, medicine can be prescribed over the phone, and certain areas and towns are locked in quarantine. Along with that are the strong recommendations that social contact should be kept to a minimum and anyone who can work from home should.
The company I work for announced strict regulations – almost everyone is to work from home until further notice. With an internet connection this is no problem for me – I work from home quite often anyway so that part of things hasn’t changed.
Yet it still feels like an odd kind of surreal. Yes, I will have to work next week, but it will be strange that everyone is working from home, that my husband will be working from home along with me, that we won’t be visiting anyone, going out to dinner or even buying groceries.
In the valley where I live, despite our proximity to Italy, we have no reported cases, and only a handful of confirmed cases in our state (right now). All around us borders are in varying degrees of closure… so now it’s about minimising spread within.
Some weeks ago I arrived home from work to find hubby stacking food into the cellar – he’d gone out and bought a heap of tinned food, long life milk and other essentials. Now this was right at the beginning of the COVOID-19 pandemic, and I’ll admit I thought he was a bit mad. There was no need to panic about some virus in China… right? Turns out he was right. And what he told me later made sense. He said his decision to stock up came when he saw footage of China building a brand new hospital in one week to deal with the number of infected patients.
Yes, it could have all stopped there. But it didn’t. And when I say he stocked up, he did not go overboard and buy ridiculous amounts of toilet paper. He just purchased a two week supply of emergency rations that wouldn’t go off in the near future.
As the crisis worsened, he made further preparations – we got extra stock of the most common medicines we use, and we made sure we had soap, detergent and hand sanitizer (this was back when you could still find it).
We did do a final shop yesterday, along with many others, some of which were stocking up for the first time. I bought fresh fruit and veggies, and some luxuries (yes, I might have gone overboard on chips, but I’ll absolutely eat them), but starting from today, we are not planning on seeing anyone or doing anything socially for as long as possible, or until the crisis ends. We are prepared. And yes, after a few weeks our meals might not be that fascinating, but we’ll survive, and that’s the intention.
We figure that if today is day one, by next Wednesday, assuming neither of us is sick, we’re good. And if we can stay in hiding until the worst is over (assuming this is possible, we have enough food for weeks… probably not months), then we can guarantee not becoming infected, or contributing to its spread.
So today is day one of our self-isolation. We had a small party planned to listen to the hottest 100 songs of the decade on Triple J. That party is still happening, it’s just a much smaller, two person party. It’s not what I wanted, but there are worse things.
I’m aware that I’m one of the lucky ones… I’m young (ish), I’m healthy, I can work from home, I have no dependents to look after and I can’t even do anything for my parents all the way over in Australia. I’m pretty chill about it – if I was to contract the virus, it is likely that my symptoms would be mild, but I’m still going to do whatever I can (without being a panicking idiot) to minimise the risk for myself and for those around me.
So to everyone out there, especially those who may not be as lucky as me, stay safe, be sensible, help out others where you can, and for goodness sakes, remember that if you run out of toilet paper you can wash your bits with water!