Women with a mask

Home alone – a pandemic diary (day 1 to day 4 – 11 to 14 March 2020)

What do you do, when you are stuck at home, in a half-self-imposed sort of quarantine, and you are going through something you never thought you would experience, not in your wildest – and more pessimistic – dreams? Well, since you are privileged to be a writer, or at least to think you are one, you do one of the things you love the most – you write. You write about this experience, what you are going through, what is happening outside on the almost deserted streets, how people are invading supermarkets and chemists and hoarding all sorts of products, from food to toilet paper, from Vitamin C to paracetamol. Yes, because regarding protection masks and disinfectant liquids and rubbing alcohol they have long been  gone, totally unavailable, even before panic struck Portugal only a few days ago.


Like the boy portrayed by Macauley Culkin in the famous movie Home alone, only for very different reasons, I will try to make the most of  my time alone at home by sharing my stories with my readers, and also stories I hear all around me, during this trying period that no one knows exactly when and how will end. Each day there is many news that scares us, and very few that reassure us, but we must keep going and avoid panic at all costs. As Dr. Bruce Lipton (author of the amazing book The biology of belief, that shows how our thoughts really affect our health), wrote a few days ago, “anxiety lowers our bodies’ defences”, so the more we panic about Covid-19, the more vulnerable we become.


Different reactions

This does not mean we should act nonchalantly regarding this pandemic. It is very serious and should be taken as such. Mostly in what concerns high-risk profiles such as the elderly and people with chronic illnesses. I believe people are reacting in three different ways to the pandemic: there are those who are absolutely terrified and have locked themselves at home – whenever possible – and spread panic among others like prophets of doom; others, insist on going on with their usual routines and say they don’t give a damn about the virus, such as the many people who crowded beaches around Lisbon only last week, to make the most of these days that feel like Summer, or those who went to enjoy the nightlife in downtown Lisbon only yesterday. These, I believe will soon have the nasty surprise to find out they were seriously wrong; and, finally, those in which I’m included, who are taking all precautions possible, but try to keep sane and positive, trying to go through this period as well – and safely – as possible.


Still, I’m not locked at home. It is not unadvisable to walk in open spaces, like public gardens or parks, where there are no agglomerations. Even this afternoon, I went for a walk in such a park with a friend. We did not greet with the usual kisses on the cheek or touch, kept some distance between us, and enjoyed the sun during a 1h30m walk, that I’m sure did us the world of good. Then each of us went to our respective homes, having gotten our dose of vitamin D,  fresh air and exercise.


High risk professions

I worry about the safety of health professionals, though. In the last days, I’ve seen people who work in pharmacies serving customers hour after hours without a mask or any protection device; I could see their worried look as they exchanged money or cards with clients. As for doctors and nurses, I heard a story – from a reliable source, a doctor’s wife – that I found appalling. According to her husband, in the Public Health Centre where he works, instructions for when a patient suspected of having the Covid-19 arrives are the following: to isolate him or her in a room already destined for that purpose; so far, so good. Then comes the bad news – the doctor responsible will be closeted with that patient in the same room, without any masks or protection as there are no available masks for health professionals, or very few; worst of all – as they will not be able to get out of that room to avoid contagion, not even to the toilet, a bucket is put inside the room in case they need to go before the ambulance for Coronavirus patients arrives, which means they will have to do whatever they need to do in front of each other… This is of course absurd, but more absurd is to lock a doctor with a sick patient in a closed space without protection. I do hope the story has been exaggerated, for the sake of all involved. Still, what I was told is exactly what I am sharing with you.


So that’s a short account of the first days after the pandemic was declarated by the World Health Organisation. Late last week most people of our company were told to work from home, as long as their work allows it. Most companies have done the same. In my case it’s perfectly possible so I’ll be most glad to do it; not so much for fear of contagion, but because talks at the office tended to make me crazy, as some fellow workers were verging on total panic and that is definitely highly contagious. I would come home exhausted from the apocalyptic visions I heard every time I ventured near the coffee machine!

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