Home alone – a pandemic diary (day thirty-two – 11.04.20)

A week has passed. Rain or shine, days are very much the same, and it’s a good sign. We are home, we work, we sleep, we eat, we see our friends during WhatsApp video calls… we should feel privileged to be home, healthy, comparatively safe, while other people are fighting this battle for us, in hospitals, risking their lives a million times so that one day this nightmare may pass. I cannot help picturing my cousin, the doctor, who sent me his photo in protective gear in a hospital corridor, and I can only imagine how it must be for him to leave work each day thinking he will  have to go back the next…and the next…and the next…

 

The day after

Now everyone is beginning to talk about the “comeback”. When, and mostly, how, it is going to be. I rarely watch news on TV these days – they stress me too much – but yesterday there was a good debate on these issues, and I watched it. Portugal is not doing badly– 15.987 confirmed cases and 470 deaths as of today – and the idea is to prepare for the “opening” by learning from those countries that have already began, such as Austria, the Czech Republic and some Nordic countries. All around us there is talk of us having reached the peak, but in my ignorance,  I cannot understand how this may be, because the number of cases is still going up every day.

 

All around us the prophets of doom warn about the worst economic crisis the world has ever seen; EU countries have agreed on a financial package for the member states after difficult discussions and, again, the rich countries not keen on  financing the poor ones. In the end they gave in, but once again showed the face of a divided European Union; what is left, or will be, after this crisis, remains to be seen. European dis-union, rather.

 

Everyone is now talking about the importance of doing massive immunity tests. Some say a very small percentage of the population will have been immunized, because of the confinement; others say, as people can be infected without symptoms, there may be more people immunized than expected. Doing these tests  massively would allow people who have this “natural protection” to go back to work, thus allowing countries to ease, slowly, the drastic quarantine measures that have destroyed countries’ economies in barely one month. Not to speak of people who are unemployed or in lay off. Not to mention some sectors of activity that were buoyant, and now have almost vanished. I’m sorry to say that my son Pedro, who is graduating in Hotel Management this summer, has gone from  a situation of 100% employment to… zero. In his case he’s young, he has time on his side, but there are entire families working in that sector, and they are terribly affected.

 

In Portugal our State of Emergency will continue until the 1st of May. I believe after that there will be huge pressure from the business sector for the beginning of some return to normality – whatever this word may mean from now on. Certainly not what it used to.

 

Hope… and creativity

Among news from Italy that numbers are really slowing down, some hope from Spain too, the tragedy of the US and the economic boom of China; among discussions of how and when and what and if we can only go back to the streets with protection masks. That, oddly,  were not recommended in the beginning; in my opinion, not because they should not be but simply because they were not available anywhere .

And then, in the midst of this all,  there are still some episodes that make you laugh, as they show that human adaptability has no limits.

Like my friend Gaby’s middle son birthday last week. Being in a high-risk group, she cannot go out or meet people who are not in her household. Her eldest son is going through this confinement period with his girlfriend, in her apartment – they are living a honeymoon, as Gaby says with her usual sense of humour – so he could not attend his brother’s birthday party. They decided to be creative, and opened the door to the elevator lobby. The eldest son and his girlfriend sat outside, by the elevators, while the rest of the family stayed on the other side of the door. The cake (baked by my friend) was put in the middle, with the twenty candles and all, and when the time came to sing Happy Birthday the grandparents (confined in their homes) and even Gaby’s ex-husband joined in by WhatsApp video call. A family separated but together; and even Gaby’s ex was, in the end, “invited” to his son’s birthday party at Gaby’s, which would not have happened in normal times. So, this virus may be contributing for more tolerance, for forgetting old grudges and being more inclusive.

 

Today it was a sunny day, a warm afternoon. I went for a walk with a friend who lives nearby, safeguarding distances. It was wonderful, mostly by the sea but then we went up to watch a magnificent view from a higher place. We talked about what we are living through, what may happen, how the summer will be, but everything has a big question mark. One thing we agreed is certain, though: after this, our lives will never be the same again. Nor will we.

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