Coronavirus (COVID-19): Living in Europe

This is such a weird time for the world, isn’t it? According to WHO, the Coronavirus is now considered a pandemic. Thus, what many people thought was just a problem in Asia and Europe, now affects the entire world in some way. If you’ve read some of my previous blog posts, you would know that I’m currently living in Europe. It’s been a strange situation trying to navigate living in Europe during this time. As of when I’m writing this post, Spain is one of the countries seeing the most rapid growth of cases of the coronavirus in Europe behind Italy and France.

In this post, I’m going to talk about what it’s been like for me living in Europe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For official and up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, please check out the WHO website.

Tips for protecting yourself and others

As I mentioned, the WHO website has a ton of information about the disease and how to protect yourself. These tips come from their website but I thought I’d share it also.

  1. Wash your hands frequently with warm soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. If using hand-sanitizer or gel to disinfect your hands, ensure has at least 60% alcohol.
  3. Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.
  4. Sneeze or cough into your elbow, or a tissue which you should discard immediately in a closed bin.
  5. If you have a cough, fever or respiratory issues and have traveled recently to areas affected, keep a social distance and seek medical attention.

The Panic and The Response

At first many people weren’t taking it very seriously. I did hear about it on the news. In fact, it was hard to turn on the TV and not find people talking about the Coronavirus. Still, in the streets everything went on as normal, even as the few cases in Spain started to rise. Many people criticized the lack or urgency by people in Spain and the government early on. And a lot of people just felt that if you were young it would be okay.

However, as the days went on and Madrid became the first place heavily affected is when a shift started to happen. That’s when I noticed more people wearing medical masks. Then talks of canceling planned trips at my job were being discussed. However, I feel I still saw people traveling, walking around, etc. It wasn’t until school closures started popping up around Spain that I noticed a true shift.

My Job

I am teaching English in Spain. Many of the students joked about the Coronavirus and felt like the hysteria was unwarranted. It was announced that in Catalonia schools would be suspended for a minimum of two weeks, potentially extending out after Spring Break. By this point I think many people in the city were freaking out. Grocery stores were emptying out, specifically toilet paper, hand sanitizers and alcohol. I saw more and more people walking around wearing masks and it just felt like people were realizing they should prepare for the worst to come.

Flights to and from Europe by non-citizens was banned for 30 days by President Trump. Soccer games went from being played without fans to being canceled altogether.

Back in the States

The Coronavirus is also disrupting life in my home state, New York

The U.S. for a while was simply bracing themselves for it and soon it did come with a bang. New Rochelle, New York (very close to where I’m from) was one of the first and biggest outbreaks in the U.S. This included sending the national guard there, school closures and lockdowns. But of course, with many people traveling to and from the U.S., it wasn’t long before most states reported cases of the Coronavirus.

Even at my former university, a student was confirmed to have the Coronavirus. Deaths were slowly but surely rising. And schools were closing. Also, just like soccer being canceled in Europe being a big deal, basketball in the U.S. was halted. The NBA suspended the rest of their season and the NCAA/March Madness canceled the rest of the season, leaving this popular tournament without a champion.

My Response and Thoughts

My thoughts on the Coronavirus

I’ll admit that at the outset of this I was one of the people that thought everyone was overreacting. Of course I knew it was serious and people should take precautions, but hearing stories of fights over toilet paper and masks being sold out due to fear (many of which bought by people not scared enough to stop traveling though) induced several eye rolls. However, when the entire world is talking about it at once it’s hard not to freak out a little.

Some people are touting the Coronavirus as “the new plague.” Whether this is a drastic overstatement is yet to be seen. With the current closure of schools, I will have to find new ways to fill my days and also keep my mind from thinking of the worst case scenarios. My daily routine is affected by the Coronavirus with no work, no gym and limited time outdoors. However, I know that I’m lucky that it’s not a lot worse for me.

Moving Forward

This is uncharted territory for everyone. All we can do is try to stay calm, follow the recommended guidelines and keep ourselves and others safe. This may come with sacrifices, like canceling trips, events, etc. But the health and the mitigation of the Coronavirus is much more important. I, myself, had a vacation planned which I am bummed about having to cancel. But with reflection, I realize it’s better to be safe than sorry. To everyone out there, do not travel. Do not go out to hang out with friends. Two weeks of your life could help save someone else’s life.

Quarantine and Lockdown

Everyday changes with news about the Coronavirus in Europe. On Friday March 13, 2020, the Spanish Prime Minister announced a lockdown. People should not (and could not) leave their homes unless it was to buy food, get medicine, care for an elderly person or go to work. The last one was only if your job still hasn’t shut down and you could not work from home. But because of the Coronavirus in Spain, many businesses are closed. Restaurants are takeout only. Gyms, movie theaters, etc. are not open. This is thought to last for two weeks to see if social distancing and isolation can help slow the spread. Some people think that it could last more than two weeks.

To everyone out there, stay safe and be cautious. However, at the same time do not let the hysteria cause you unnecessary stress and worry.

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