The whole world is now affected by coronavirus.
Physically, we need to stay separate and apart as never before in modern times. Mentally, however, the situation brings us together in a common effort to handle and control the contamination.
Here are 200 words from around the world.
We have received texts from the countries marked with red. Further testimonies will be added continuously.
Renato Sandoval Baciagalupo
Peru, 9th of April – by T.S. Eliot judged the cruellest month – after 25 days of being locked in between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m., with 5,500 infected and 138 deceased due to the treacherous corona virus.
Thirty three million Peruvians, a cabbalistic number threatening to diminish progressively and exponentially as they are more and more seized by disorder and fear.
The crisis is worsened by the fact that here (as in many materially undeveloped countries) 30 per cent do not have access to neither water nor drainage, and therefore cannot even wash their hands in order to reduce the immense risks which are attacking their lives or, simply, their survival.
Furthermore, the health care system is miserable, already was for a long time, and it gets worse with the pandemic.
Now many people die because of lack of hospitals, restrictions on the number of emergency admissions – and in case of admission, the few available ventilators (around 300) very soon will not be sufficient for the thousands of infected who will begin to strain the capacity.
Now seeing people die in the streets for this reason and that no one dares go near them to help is truly disheartening.
I fear that soon the same thing will happen here as in the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador, not far away, where the dead, not being picked up by authorities, are being cremated in the streets.
This is no doubt a burden on the entire world without exception.
It is no longer so much because of the coexistence of different stages of development but rather because of the lack of empathy in the relation between human beings and nature, and in their relation with the environment, and, in a wider sense, with ‘the others’ who belong to the same species.
It is a hard thing to realize that the imbalance at all levels partly explains what at this moment is questioning life itself; to put it more precisely, the kind of life, which is so infinitely individualistic, and not at all solidary that we are leading.
But for the time being, if one does not want to be the next victim, one should stay at home, lean out the window from time to time, in the hope that there are no dead people on the pavement, or that you yourself, not knowing how, will stay alive in the midst of all the disgrace and sorrow.
Todos Santos, Mexico
My little multicultural paradise by the Pacific Ocean, known as Todos Santos (all saints), with only 7,000 residents has been shut down. You can only enter if you are resident, and out of the many small restaurants, there is now a handful that offers delivery or take-away. Most people here come from all over the world. They have filled up their pantries and their freezers while waiting for good news. If nothing else, the sun is shining, and the view of the Pacific inspires some comfort while we wait.
An hour’s drive away in the area known as Los Cabos, which covers Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, the authorities have gone the whole way, closing all hotels and shop except for supermarkets. It is known as an international holiday paradise visited by six million tourists every year, including the countless cruise ships that call at the bay. Yesterday the 300,000 residents were told they can only drive to work and to hospitals if it is strictly necessary. Violations will lead to fines.
50,000 people in Los Cabos earn a living from tourism. And since there is no help from the public sector, the situation is dire. We hope that these drastic measures will have an appreciable effect and end the crisis before long.
They now estimate that 26,000 people are infected in Mexico, yet many cannot be tested because of the bureaucratic and cumbersome public sector. Even though the heat appears to be keeping down the rate of infection, we fear that the number is much higher.
I am one of the lucky ones, as I am self-employed, and only one of my trips ended up being cancelled since the travel season ended in March. But a wedding event has been postponed and two trips to the US in July will most likely also be cancelled or postponed. In a country like Mexico where many live from hand to mouth and now face serious problems to feed their families, I am very, very lucky.
Corona rabbit in Chile
»Mom, does the corona virus come with tear gas?«; the seven-year-old asked when the school was closed down. His everyday life has already changed radically since unrest broke out in October. When the first reports about torture and killings trickled in, we went to our summer house. Away from the tear gas. Now we’’re here again. Privileged in country where the protests are driven by social inequality and where the support for the government is at six percent. Whose advice do you follow when everyone knows that the Minister of Health is liar who says: »Chile has the best health care system in the world.«?
We have a slight bit of the late summer left. We pretend as if we are in a European middle-class quarantine and joke on WhatsApp with other parents about the homeschooling assignments. I politely decline the offer of online mindfulness class for our two-year-old from our daycare institution. We hear on the news that the metro in Santiago once again was jam-packed during rush hour. People cannot afford to stay home. There is a buzz of uncertainty on social media. I teach my anthropology students remotely while the boy badgers me about a rabbit. Can you buy a dwarf rabbit online and have it delivered? The answer is yes.
»It’s soooo cute,« the child says in a falsetto as it now runs around in the living room. We’re having a good time. It is the quiet before ‘he perfect storm’.
I am 54 years old and I am a partner in a headhunting company, a mother of two sons aged 25 and 26 and a grandmother of a little girl, all but 14 months old.
My brother lives in Botswana where he works as a professor at a university. The first thing that happened in my corona lockdown life was my brother’s cancellation of his Easter visit to Denmark as a result of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen closing the borders on March 11. My brother recently updated me about covid-19 cases in Botswana: Three infected, one dead – which he said translates to a mortality rate of 33 percent. Gallows humour may occur these days.
My granddaughter had just been accepted to a day-care centre in mid-March. Then she was sent home to her pregnant mother and her father who had large screens set up at the dinner table to work from home with headphones and a computer – to the great amusement of their daughter who immediately put the headphones on her head, thrilled that daddy will be working from home.
The week before last, my daughter-in-law developed a persistent cough, fever and chest pains and the little one also had a fever. A call to the doctor revealed that they most likely had been infected with covid-19. She was told to call the emergency services if her condition worsened. Later she had to contact the doctor again who believed she suffered from pneumonia and prescribed penicillin. I had trouble sleeping for a week. I was worried about the side-effects. But everything turned out okay and there were no risks involved for the unborn baby. That helped me relax a bit.
As far as work goes, we are all set up. We have telephone conferences and contact companies to learn more about their status. My first call was to a major supplier whose turnover dropped 33 per cent because the United States stopped the air traffic to and from the EU. I proposed finding new possible sales channels. We are all in the same boat. After the lockdown, we all have to start from ground zero. New markets, customers, business partners, sales channels, contacts. Most importantly: I’ve primarily been living off take-away for a month now to support restaurants in my local area in Valby. My favourite is South Indian.
March 12 is usually a very special day on the Faroe Islands. A day where we celebrate spring. Even though we usually have rough weather on this day, March 12 is also the day where we meet for events hosted by scouts, brass band music and familiar musings about the arrival of Spring, symbolized by the return of our national bird, tjaldur, also known as the oyster caster. And it DOES return. Tjaldur cannot be bothered to spend the winter together with the rest of us in hurricane weather. It chooses to spend its winters under brighter skies in Northern Africa. Quite understandably!
This year March 12 became the day when the Faroe Islands shut down. Completely. I happened to be in the eye of the storm on that day, being both the editor and host of our television news. The first days were hectic and went by fast. We focused on informing the people, finding new angles and carrying out special broadcasts. But during these late evenings when I was walking under the quiet – very quiet – and clear night sky on my way home, I was struck by a wall every time. A wall of melancholy. A wall that spelled out that this is really happening – and we are all affected by it!
It has been three – or was it four? – weeks now. During my shifts at home – since we cannot work all work together at the same time – I have tried to be there for my family. Tried not to lose my mind. Tried to avoid that the children lose their minds. Tried to clean up, wash down and do practical things. But everything is in slow motion. As in very slow. The home office has become an essential part of life and everything has been cleared off, sorted and made comfortable.
Longing … Longing and a feeling of cooped up. That is what most of us are feeling now after four weeks of this. As I write this, I am alone in my now tidy home office while thinking that I was supposed to be in Copenhagen drinking gin and tonics together with one of my best friends. Someone who has meant a lot to me. I can picture his smile and hear us laugh in my thoughts. Instead, I have been drinking a glass of wine with their neighbour using a conference system. Not so bad!
Just like tjaldur comes back on March 12 every year, allowing us to celebrate the spring, life will come back as well. We will be missing people and longing to go out for quite some time. But hopefully, we will learn to appreciate the things we normally take for granted. I appreciate the solidarity! I hope you are as well!
Henrik Obbekaer Rasmussen
Epidemic in Paris
Until the very last moment before the French shutdown at 12 o’clock Tuesday March 17, there were families on the sidewalks, loading their cars and cramming children inside while others were on their way out with friends and backpacks. It made me think of the stories about the exodus ahead of the Germans’ arrival in 1940. My children’s great-grandmother biked with her three-year-old child on the back of the bike from Paris all the way down to Fourg near the Swiss border.
Even so, we have practically been enjoying ourselves for the past three weeks – aside from developing a dry cough. The children are out of school and everyone can sleep in. The Parisians have been on their best behaviour: polite and friendly. Doctors and nurses are have almost become heroes. But the atmosphere was tense until a few days ago. Sirens from ambulances and church bells from morning to evening. The hospitals in Ile-de-France and Eastern France were so overburdened that patients had to be transported in specially converted TGV trains to other regions. You can feel that a change is happening. But what comes next? The French were discontented before the corona virus, hence the Yellow Vests movement and the constant strikes. Will the voters opt for stability or will they be seduced by radical solutions? This has been the key question in French politics since the revolution in 1789.
It was almost as if the virus came from Denmark, not China. Don’t get me wrong, but Denmark closed its borders, and then Norway followed suit. The days are long and chaotic. With home-schooling and a full-time job. But we must not complain. After all, we live in the world’s wealthiest country and are the second-happiest nation. We know that the state has plenty of money and that we are better off than most. But when the streets are empty, friends behind a screen, and grandparents have to wave from afar, it almost feels like living in some dystopian future. I think the uncertainty is the worst part. How long can we continue like this? And then what will happen? Will there be a financial crisis for many years to come, and what will that mean for me, for my town, for my country?
When I try hard, I can see the positive sides to a slower pace. The joy of being able to be at home with my family. But I also long for life. The life we live now is a waiting life. Everything is put on hold and we have nothing to look forward to. Even our national holiday, May 17, has been cancelled. Well, not the date, but the annual celebration. The only day where we shout: »Hurra!« I would so hope that everything could go back to normal by then and our children could walk in the parade and shout together.
Sara Maritta Brasse
Here in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, we are lucky to have only a few cases of corona virus. The cases in Greenland are all in Nuuk, and the city is now quarantined. I have been in home quarantine for 17 days now with my two daughters aged ten and four. I have never spent so much time with my children as I do now. I see the details of their personalities, the freckles on their noses, how they have grown. I truly see them. We are TOGETHER even though we are at work, in school, and in kindergarten. It is great!
Life and the planet are so fragile and many people only realize now just how fragile everything is. The corona crisis affects people in many different ways. It is tragic, but it also means that we have to slow down and reflect on the human condition, on what gives our life and our daily existence meaning. And the climate. It is doing better than it has for many years. I think it is inspiring and thought-provoking how a crisis such as this affects us as humans, the world, and our society. In fact, we can change the world for the better if we keep sticking together and helping each other as we do now.
When I look out my window, the world seems unchanged. The trees are just starting to blossom. It is springtime. There is a plum tree outside my window. I can tell from the trunk that it is sick, but not dead yet. It still bears fruit every year. Plums that are inedible because they are invaded by leaf rollers. Tiny black pests that dig into the flesh and procreate.
Outside my window, the tree is gathering strength for another season of hosting parasites. From inside, I am looking at the tree. Thinking about the world. About the forests that burn and the oceans that are filled with plastic. I am thinking about humankind.
Humankind that is now threatened by a virus. Suddenly, we do not just talk. We are actually able to act. People are working very hard to get this virus under control. But what will the rescue of humankind be worth if the host, i.e. the planet, is sick? The planet must always come first. It is essential to our lives.
We have been like greedy parasites for too long. Mother Earth is tired. This year she is taking a well-deserved break. I hope that when we resume our normal lives, we won’t just continue where we left off.
Life. Paused. Go faster; harder; calmer; more careful; Tele-Projection. I am an epidemiologist by training, and filmmaker by choice. The past year I have helped to run a yoga studio for multi-level and varied bodies. The studio, as is, is dead; it’s future “may” be online. I, like most of the west, did not pay close enough attention in January, and was on a working vacation in February. When I saw the early growing numbers in my region, thinking about what China had to do, I knew it was too late and that all would shut and life would be permanently altered. This is due to the widespread nature of the disease and the need to develop new measures, and basically protocols for ‘everyday life’. Life as we knew it was over, or at least in a damaging coma, maybe it would or should die.
Regardless of whether people awoke or accepted it, the decision has already been made. I am sad for the world, and so many people I know in many countries. So much pain. I am trying to reconnect and share as much care and love as I can. I am personally invigorated because I feel I am in a position to help and do good in this crisis and the world to come.
Mexico City, Mexico
Before Covid19 disrupted us, each morning I used to hurry going for a nice one hour walk through some tree lined streets and parks near home. But then the bad news started to grow very present on local stories and that made me wonder if the stroll was still a good idea anymore or rather get careful about contagion.
A few days later, Mexico’s government anounced stage 2 scenario, with local transmission and lockdown started. Now days begin one hour later, with the only hurry to prepare the morning coffee and some fruit plate.
As I live by myself these days, all the chat and videoconferencing tools have become central to stay in touch with my twentysomething daughters that live with their mother, and to socialize for work or else.
I’ve become a frequent user of e-commerce and delivery services cause I’ve found the time to get better at my mexican cooking, a long time delayed yearning and a great way to mitigate some of the anxiety about the present and the future… Getting better at something! With some e-learning on work subjects too…
Much strength for those in need. Here I hope the virus don’t hit us hard or stays for long… as the dishes are getting better I want to share them with my people, my pants have to keep fitting me and I really miss my walks!