Because I apparently prefer asking other people questions over writing my own blog posts, and because I can’t offer any decent political, medical, sociological or economic analysis, I decided to gather some opinions about the COVID-19 pandemic that’s dominating headlines and lifestyles at the moment.
For me personally, life feels like one long fever dream. I spent 4 months preparing to travel in South America and after just one week away I returned home. That doesn’t sound like a big deal but I genuinely feel as though I left my heart on San Cristóbal Island – along with some of my wits! It definitely shouldn’t take this long to readjust to home life after such a short trip away.
As I travelled home I formulated a plan to road trip the National Parks of the UK during the remaining weeks that I had intended to be away, but this obviously was not possible. It would have been hard enough returning from a place of stunning natural beauty in any case, but going straight to being cooped up indoors is no easy transition.
So, that’s the kind of mindset I’m writing from here.
It was really great to gather so many different responses for this article. I’m especially glad that my mum got involved because, amongst other great insights, this was probably the most in-depth conversation I’ve had with her specifically regarding the virus. As always, it was an absolute pleasure to get so many responses to my call-out asking for input and I loved chatting to everyone who contributed to this article (you can find out who everyone is at the bottom of the post). Bloggers are such brilliant people and I found that this process took longer than expected because I wanted to properly converse with everyone instead of just interview them. I hope that sharing their thoughts and experiences will open your eyes to the multitude of ways that the pandemic has affected normal people like you and I!
(Includes the occasional embedded tweet for clarity and/or light comic relief).
Note: this article is opinion based and was written using the thoughts of individuals. The opinions expressed were not gathered scientifically and are anecdotal rather than representative of a population. No one quoted here is representing their company or an official government body and their views should not be used in place of official facts and guidance.
General feelings about the pandemic
The variety of situations that people have found themselves in since this whole thing kicked off is huge. Some of us are with family, some of us are alone. Some of us are out of work and some still have to commute every day just to earn enough to get by. As a travel blogger it makes sense that I follow a lot of other travellers and seeing them in various parts of the world as borders closed one by one was an eye opening experience.
Travel blogger Alex happened to be in Ecuador at the same time as me, as part of a longer trip that he intended to finish in the summer. For a few nervous days I kept up with his Twitter updates as he raced across the country to get back home . Now he is finally safe with family in Birmingham and, as we discussed in depth, still coming to terms with having had to cut his trip short.
Unwanted Life blog is halfway through fourteen days of isolation in their room in shared accommodation in London. Someone they live with came down ill and didn’t inform the other residents for several days. They are keeping to their room as much as possible as their housemates are not following hygiene recommendations which is problematic when sharing spaces such as bathrooms and kitchens.
Scout is from England but is currently in Budapest after arriving in Hungary in January. She sold her house to travel the world (by bike, no less – you’ve got to read her story) but has managed to sort two weeks of accommodation once she returns home on 31st March. Until then she is self isolating in her apartment, and is worried because she falls into the “high risk” category. In some ways, due to the strict lockdown enforced by the Prime Minister in Hungary, she feels safer there, at least as far as the virus is concerned. However, he wants to collapse parliament and rule by decree, and due to the rather more nationalist nature of the Hungarian authorities, she feels she would be treated better were she to become infected in England.
Paige lives in Atlanta with her fiance but flew to visit family in Cleveland for the spring break. During that week, her law school moved all classes online and since her medical insurance is more widely accepted in Cleveland, and there are less cases there, she has opted to remain for the time being. She fills her day with lectures and assignments and is glad to be with her family, although she misses her partner and dog.
Jobs and income
It goes without saying that the economic impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak are huge. Fly Be was the first major company I heard of going out of business and certainly won’t be the last. Airlines especially are at risk, but there’s been a lot of scrutiny on non-essential companies who have announced that employees won’t receive pay throughout this period, or which have remained open unnecessarily, endangering many people. Richard Branson has been criticised, along with Sports Direct and Wetherspoons management. As a regular customer of Wetherspoons I personally will be deciding in the coming weeks if that’s a place where I’d like to spend my money again. Apple and Jaguar are just two of the companies who have been affected by the reduction in products coming from China.
Oxford Economics warned that the spread of the virus to regions outside Asia would knock 1.3% off global growth this year, the equivalent of $1.1tn in lost income.Phillip Inman for the Guardian
Many people, such as Ryan Noakes, have been adjusting to working from home whilst others are simply out of work. My mum was lucky enough to be able to temporarily close her business – she’s a fused glass artist and runs workshops out of her studio in our garden. Although it was a shame because Mother’s Day weekend would have been a great one for business, it was the safest option. She’s acutely aware of her privilege as dad earns most of the income in our household, so she’s able to do that.
I work two casual jobs and hadn’t picked up shifts until I was due to be back in April so, although I’m glad to be able to stay home, I’m also not getting paid. I’m a lifeguard for the local council who eventually closed the pools (a few weeks too late in my opinion) but have offered us work in other key roles such as waste collection. Us casual workers are, for the time being, getting paid for any shifts already booked which is nice, but as a team our main focus is on our training. It’s a condition of employment that we complete two hours of staff training every month and those house are also required in order to do our retest every two years. I also work in a dental practice, which remains open for urgent procedures. Again, I wasn’t due to work until April and depending on the situation I may work as usual or give my shifts to colleagues who have families that they need to provide for. I don’t envy anyone who has to choose between reducing their potential exposure to the virus to protect family, or continuing to work in order to provide for them.
Darina is an English teacher in Athens, Greece and tells me about the country’s lockdown and how she’s adjusting to teaching online classes. She enjoys the perks of being self employed, meaning that she can choose not to work, but obviously that also means she doesn’t get paid. Her husband, luckily, is able to work form home. To stay productive, she’s enrolled in a few online courses.
For Vada, who is a UK based freelance social media manager and blogger, work is hugely stressful right now. Her client has cancelled her work and therefore she has no income. “I think only the people it affects know,” she says, about the struggles facing self-employed people. “Not many people have spoken up for us but someone did create a petition for self-employed people to also get benefits…I don’t think the government realise how much freelancers put into the economy.”
As I was editing this article, it was announced that self employed workers would be able to apply for a grant of up to £2500 a month in order to cope with the financial repercussions of the outbreak.
Justine is also a freelance writer and says that her income has reduced my as much as 90%. Luckily, her husband is being allowed to work from home. She says:
“Unfortunately the new schemes to help the self-employed in the UK don’t help those of us who became self-employed recently. I went full-time on my blog at the end of November 2019 and so am not eligible to apply as this would be my first year of submitting a self-assessment tax return. That said, I understand this decision. They simply have to prioritise those people who have contributed tax to the economy in this time of need.”
There has also been a lot of focus on workers in the healthcare sector – NHS staff can’t simply take unpaid leave, but there are so many other jobs that people don’t think about. Carers, for example, not only are exposed to vulnerable people but often have to carry out home visits, meaning that they’re travelling between several homes in one day. Steph, from Leeds, has to continue working for the NHS as she works on the live systems used in hospitals, but since she’s not frontline staff she can work from home. Her partner goes back to work on Saturday – he’s in the forces so he’s very much a key worker.
Kayleigh is a UK book blogger and lives with her boyfriend; they both work for high street chemists. She hasn’t had the time to worry in the last week because everyone is panicking about getting their medication so she’s been kept extremely busy. Now things are calming down a bit in store she says the tiredness is hitting them all hard!
Self isolating, social distancing and quarantine
Over in the blissful bubble on San Cristobal, I hadn’t even heard of the concept of social distancing and definitely didn’t know the difference between the three actions: self-isolation, social distancing and quarantine. If it’s still confusing you, here it is in layman’s terms:
Social distancing is about increasing the physical distance between people in order to avoid spreading the virus (e.g. keeping two metres apart, avoiding crowded spaces and large gatherings.
Self-isolation is keeping people who have tested positive away from anyone else to avoid the spread.
Quarantine is recommended for anyone who might have come into contact with the virus – for example through travel or an ill family member. It is suggested that fourteen days of quarantine should be enough for symptoms to show.
More information about the above definitions here.
Here are some great animations which demonstrate the importance of social distancing.
So, suddenly I had to trawl government pages to find out whether I had to quarantine myself upon my return to the UK. The first group of people affected back at the beginning of the year were travellers coming back from China – Wuhan province specifically then, later, the whole country. Next thing, Northern Italy was a hotspot and everyone returning from skiing trips over the February half term holiday was advised to isolate, including students from my old school who had been attending lessons for two days before the news broke of the sudden surge in cases in Italy. Despite this, I doubt that many people took the advice seriously and it’s likely that a lot of them stayed in school – apart from some very responsible teachers or pupils who wanted a two week holiday.
Before lockdowns were officially enforced, however, many people were practicing social distancing, which essentially aims limit your contact with people. Reducing trips outside, going to less busy places and only venturing out at certain times of the day. Public transport links are being cut down and people who deal with members of the public are donning personal protective equipment in an attempt to protect themselves. Interestingly, it is usually to protect themselves only and not to minimise the spread. For example, immigration officials wearing gloves whilst handling passports stops them from coming into direct contact with any pathogens on the passport but doesn’t stop them spreading them from traveller to traveller.
Since Monday 23rd of March the UK has essentially been under a loosely phrased lockdown, and the internet has boomed with ways to keep oneself busy and positive whilst staying home. I’m keeping myself busy by attempting to teach myself Dutch and Romanian and work on my Spanish, since my chance to practice over in South America got cut short. It’s a great time to train as I’m more grateful than ever to be able to get out and move around, and I don’t have to squeeze in a workout before rushing off anywhere. Blogging is also keeping me occupied since I decided to undertake the writing of this mammoth post.
I’ve seen a lot of people enjoying Disney+ at this time – YouTuber Abbey included. Unwanted Life is blogging, watching TV and doing some art. Katelyn and her boyfriend have been using the Wii Fit and she’s trying to stick to routine as much as possible in order to keep motivated. Carrie from Boutique or Busted, from Orange County, California, has a very productive approach – she’s written her to-do list on post-it notes and every day, with her eyes closed, picks one post-it note and does whatever job around the home is written there. She says that isolating alone is easier because she has less shopping and doesn’t have to worry about infecting a family member, or vice versa, but it’s definitely lonely with just her pug for company!
Just to remind ourselves of the numbers…
Coronavirus cases by country (top 10 worldwide by number of cases)
All figures approximate and time of writing and not updated. Source is updated
- China: over 80,000 cases and 3,200 deaths.
- Italy: 64,000 cases and 6,000 deaths
- USA: 46,000 cases and 600 deaths
- Spain: 40,000 cases and 2,600 deaths
- Germany: 31,000 cases and 130 deaths
- Iran: 25,000 cases and 2,000 deaths
- France: 20,000 cases and 860 deaths
- Switzerland: 9,000 cases and 120 deaths
- S. Korea: 9,000 cases and 120 deaths
- UK: 6,500 cases, 330 deaths
Although the scale of loss of life simply doesn’t bare thinking about, I’ve complained in the past that the media aren’t reporting the number of people who have recovered from the virus, so I won’t be a hypocrite:
- 73,000 people have recovered in China
- 7,500 people have recovered in Italy
- 300 have recovered in the USA
- 3,800 recovered in Spain
- 750 have recovered in Germany
- 8,900 recovered in Iran
- 2,200 in France
- 131 in Switzerland
- 3,507 in South Korea
- 135 in the UK
It’s worth noting that the highest proportion of total cases that are considered “serious” is in Italy and it’s around 50%. There are 56 cases in China per million of the population there. In Italy, there are 1,057 cases per million people. In the UK that number is 98. I’m not analysing these stats, just presenting them.
Government response and health services
I think we can all agree that of all the challenges facing world leaders, a pandemic was not what we were considering when we voted for them. It’s almost impossible for politics not to enter the conversation about how governments are responding. With everything going on I’ve found it easy to forget that the US presidential race is ongoing, and Brexit has certainly dropped from the headlines which only adds to the overwhelming feeling that we’re living in a simulation…
I agree with many people’s view that the UK government has been a bit slow to react. I travelled through countries that restricted movement and gatherings far earlier and as a result the number of cases is greatly reduced. As Alex puts it, “The NHS have been fantastic as ever. They’re working flat out, non-stop. I think the government has been quite laissez-faire in their attitude…there are too many people taking this as a joke…They clamped down on it so quickly in Ecuador.” He’s right. When I left the country, there were less than 40 reported cases and yet the lockdown was already rolling out – I spent the day in Guayaquil before flying home and couldn’t explore anywhere because the city centre was shut down. On the island, before a single case had been reported, tourist agencies were already limiting services. Alex says he could only leave his hostel to go to the supermarket or the pharmacy, and that the situation in shops was far calmer – none of the panic that we’ve seen in the UK.
Many people have also argued that the restrictions imposed by the PM were too vague – what businesses are allowed to remain open, and how is the “exercise once per day” rule going to be enforced? Through the week Boris has clarified some of these and a list has been compiled of the businesses allowed to continue trading. Police now have powers to enforce the lockdown lasting up to six months. The BBC reports that NHS dentists may be redeployed to help hospitals elsewhere.
Scout was able to offer an insight into the situation in Hungary. All bars, non-essential shops and coffee shops were closed and last week the streets were absolutely empty. However, this week she thinks people are getting complacent and the streets are filling up again. The government closed borders almost immediately, so the number of (known) cases remains under 300. She says they have been deporting foreigners who have the virus and knowingly break protocol, and the PM is threatening jail terms for people who spread misinformation about the virus (but hasn’t released specific details). She’s also disappointed with the response from the British embassy, who promised to contact her but haven’t, and simply said they couldn’t help in relation to the coronavirus outbreak when she contacted them.
I didn’t realise that the South Korean government have taken a very different approach with no official lockdown, but instead large numbers of drive-in test centres meaning that anyone who tests positive is isolated, and their recent movements traced in order to identify and isolate anyone else who may be at risk. This is a highly effective strategy but also constitutes what most people in the UK at least would consider an invasion of privacy. The BBC reports how the mobile phone alerts can also be embarrassing for some people.
Interestingly, Darina has similar things to say about the Greek authorities: “Well, I think the government should have taken measures way before the first cases appeared. The virus has been around in December and China officially declared it in January. However, here in Greece, the authorities didn’t take any measure before the first case appeared on the 26th of February.
“There were no checks for passengers arriving in the country which is how the first case landed…
“Unfortunately, the health system in Greece cannot handle an outbreak, not enough emergency beds, only 4 hospitals in Athens are dedicated to treating coronavirus patients and 9 in the rest of the country. The health workers, who are the ones on the front line, can only do so much when the actual system is not sufficient. They are the heroes keeping all of us safe.”
It’s worth noting that Darina was the first blogger that I saw address the outbreak with a post, way back on 2nd March.
Rachel Laws in Scotland has more positive things to say. “I believe that currently the response from the government is the best that they can do for us. They may have underestimated the virus and not realised it’s potential to grow and impact everyone’s lives. I think that the health services are doing an incredible job and I salute anyone who works their butt off to help us get through this.”
A note on face masks:
Unwanted Life blog comments on the concerning state of NHS funding and the lack of PPE for staff. The BBC have an article about why some countries are wearing face masks and some aren’t. I first read about the global shortage of masks back in February but wasn’t sure if it was true until it was confirmed for me at work. The official advice from the WHO is that masks should only be worn by people who know they are infected or who are caring for someone who is; this way plenty would be left for use by medical staff who need masks in their jobs anyway, not just for treating COVID-19 patients. It’s important to remember that healthcare professionals’ jobs exist outside the context of the outbreak – cancer patients and those awaiting surgery, for example, can’t just wait for this to pass.
As I was travelling I noticed that other countries are wearing masks far more than in England, and while I applaud people for taking their health so seriously, I nearly yelled at a fellow tourist who offered me a mask, stating that he had a whole box of them. I can’t criticise him for wanting to keep his family safe, especially on an aeroplane where hundreds of people are confined to a small space, but there are people who may need those masks more than he did. I did cringe multiple times on my flight from Guayaquil to Amsterdam – where I’d guess that 75% of passengers were wearing masks – when I spotted people still touching their faces, not wearing masks correctly, or adjusting the masks with their bare hands. PPE can only help when worn correctly.
Social media and the press
I never expected to say such positive things about Twitter, but at a time of such confusion I found it was a great place to keep up to date with border closures, and to check in on travelers at various stages of getting safely home. “Oh, Twitter has been more helpful than the bloody news!” Katelyn says when I mention this. She reminds me that, whilst there is negativity out there, the beauty is that we can choose what shows up in our feeds and that we have the freedom to block negative people online.
Some platforms, such as Pinterest, are limiting search results for keywords relating to the outbreak, and it’s possible that many other sites are doing the same. Several bloggers have reported being shadow banned or even having their accounts outright suspended for using Coronavirus hashtags. This is a great effort to reduce the spread of false information and panic, although I imagine it could be problematic for bloggers and independent journalists who rely on site traffic. At time of publication of this post, I have no idea how it will perform, given the subject matter, but I’ll be interested to find out.
I’ve mentioned to a few people the idea of limiting the press at times like this – is it responsible, or is it dangerously close to violating the right to free speech? Vada says, “They should only be giving the facts. Not scaremongering with clickbait headlines” and Travel vlogger Lucy Trotman points out that the early reports of the virus were riddled with inaccuracies. Paulina, a blogger and interior design student, also shared this sentiment, as it’s so difficult to stay away from reports of coronavirus. She commented on how important it is that people don’t believe everything they read online.
Of course, it’s not only the press that can be praised or criticised. Celebrities and anyone with a platform is under immense scrutiny, from Idris Elba revealing that he tested positive, to these celebrities singing, to even the royal family. Abbey applauds influencers who are still making content and trying to be positive, saying they’ve been “dealt a tough hand”.
Jokes online about people buying into fake news reports (especially some of the hilarious things shared by – typically – mothers through WhatsApp) have been hilarious to read, but the number of people who relate to them revealed how widespread the issue is. Parents often voice concern over their children finding false information on the internet but I think we could all do with realising that maybe no one is as good at identifying false reports as they think. Now more than ever it’s important to stop and think before sharing posts.
The second tweet leads to a whole thread which makes for insane reading!
Darina acknowledges the responsibility of the press to report the situation accurately and efficiently, but also suggests that people need to exercise their own judgement – and this goes both ways.
“For example,” she says, “my parents refuse to believe that this is serious and think that it affects only people over 60 years old because they saw it on some channel. This is pure ignorance.
“At the same time, I see people everywhere using masks even though they are not sick, wearing gloves and masks and then touching their face or the mask with the gloves, spraying people down with disinfectant and etc. This is fear.”
When you know the facts from reliable sources you act accordingly by taking the necessary measures and always keeping in mind the seriousness of the situation.Darina
Speaking to my mum, it’s clear that her biggest concern is the safety of her family and keeping us fed. She’s also trying to look out for other people and bring in shopping for them when she can. That said, the actual symptoms of the virus, such as difficulty breathing, are so unpleasant that the self-preservation instinct is strong for her. I’m also terrified of infecting my family. It’s not a problem while I’m staying indoors, but I’ve volunteered to help distribute medicines on behalf of the NHS and local pharmacies, and if I am indeed needed, I will be rethinking how much time I spend around my family in the house.
Ryan’s concerned about the many months that it could take to get the world back under control, which is a fear shared by a lot of people I spoke to. Justine adds to this the worry about the impacts on the economy of so many months under lockdown.
Katelyn is worried that she’ll waste this period of time by not doing anything productive, which I can understand, although I’m desperate to remind people that there’s no shame in doing nothing at all. Steph is in her second week of working from home and is struggling – the lovely weather is not helping. She’s worried that it’ll urge people to go outside more, rendering the lockdown ineffective.
At times like these, the balance between protecting physical health and preserving mental health is a tough one. The UK government reminds us that exercise is important for keeping positive and allows people out of the house to exercise once a day. When social distancing first started to be encouraged I remember I wondered how that would work with therapy appointments and such. Kayleigh has an interesting and vital perspective: she’s worked hard for many years to keep her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder under control but in the past week has been washing her hands up to eighty times per day. She can trace her OCD back to the swine flu outbreak as a teen and worries for other people who may develop obsessive and anxious disorders as a result of the encouragement to wash hands. It’s important to bear in mind how health advice can be triggering in ways that a lot of people can’t understand.
“I’ve got a lot of support from my managers who’ve claimed for gloves for me before everyone started wearing them and they’ve been really good about how one minute I’m fine and the next I’m not!” she tells me. “I’ve managed it myself mainly, but I’ve signed back up for CBT which I’m on the waiting list for which made me feel a bit more in control because I was being proactive and recognising the signs.”
Steph is also concerned for her own mental health and that of other people, especially as she prepares for her husband going away on deployment. The last time he was deployed she says her mental health took a hit and she’s worried about other people surviving isolation alone.
Interestingly, off-licences and shops specialising in the sale of alcohol have been added to the list of essential businesses in the UK which are allowed to remain open. I can’t find any reasoning for this published online – seemingly people are so relieved that they can still buy alcohol that they don’t care – but I’ve seen several comments on Twitter reminding people that if someone is dependent on alcohol it can be incredibly dangerous for them not to have access to it.
“Red wine!” says mum, when I ask her how she’s keeping positive. We laugh about that, but in reality she’s keeping as busy as possible, cleaning the house, caring for us and also helping vulnerable neighbours. At night, she finds it a lot harder to ignore the nagging worry.
A quick glance online will feed back tons of articles, social media posts, blogs and more about the importance of keeping a positive mindset. A lot of Brits are reminded of the so-called Blitz Spirit, which kept the UK on her feet through the Second World War. Linking back to social media, I’m loving this example of how it can be used for good and reading about people’s creative ways of occupying themselves has brought me a lot of joy. However, it’s clear that there is a fine line between soldiering on and simple stupidity. And where this line is changes day by day. If, a few short weeks ago, you’d shown me the video of spring breakers in Florida stubbornly refusing to pack in their holidays I’d have nodded at their ability to enjoy themselves regardless, but now, it’s clear that this kind of behaviour is stupid and downright dangerous. That said, it’s not just the young’uns. There are certain older members of society who, in an admirable but misguided attempt to stick to routine, are continuing with daily lives as normal. I don’t think anyone should be knocked for these efforts but it’s so important to understand how dangerous it can be to call in on your friend for a simple cup of tea. Part of the reason this is so difficult isn’t the fear or the risk, but the simple fact that isolation goes against human nature. We are an incredibly sociable species and need interaction and physical contact to thrive, and in some cases even to survive.
As Alex and I were lamenting having to cut our trips short, I asked him how he was seeing the positive side in all this. “I’m philosophical about why it was cut short,” he tells me. “Everything happens for a reason, and this is unprecedented. There’s no way I could control it and there are more serious things in the world like everybody’s health. Second, I don’t feel like I’ve come back jobless and am being left behind because everyone is in the same boat.” He’s channelling his energy into blogging and building up his platform.
Boutique or Busted found her anxiety levels increasing when she couldn’t get to the gym but she’s decided to focus on what she can do, not what she can’t. This includes yoga, home workouts and long walks. For Vada, baking helps keep her busy but she’s also trying to find ways she can continue to earn money. Lucy is finding the time away from her family tricky but reminds herself that she’s distancing herself for their safety, and that will surely be worth it.
Paul, from Too Much To See, discovered early on that working from home comes with its challenges, but enjoys having his wife and 6 month old daughter home to keep him entertained. He’s staying positive by researching places to add to his bucket list – for those interested, those places are India, Chile, Ecuador and Uganda. Obviously I couldn’t resist gushing about Ecuador for a moment. He adds, “there’s a lot to be said for not having the news on hard rotation as well.”
How long will this last and what are the long term impacts?
I could spend all day throwing numbers at you from experts all around the globe but the fact is that the world is suffering in a multitude of ways. That observation doesn’t earn anyone a gold star. How long it will take to recover in terms of resources, finances etc. is anyone’s guess, and since I really am anyone and not someone more qualified, I won’t put a number out there.
How do we define the end of this scenario? Practically speaking, once an outbreak becomes a pandemic (i.e. global) there isn’t really any coming back from that. It’s everywhere now. For a lot of people, the end of lockdowns seems to promise a return to normality. But first the rate of spread of the virus will have to reduce dramatically. Many people can’t see it lasting more than a few months – but whether this is due to an educated guess or simply because they can’t bear to think that a lockdown might last longer than that is not clear. Of course, we can’t just stop a pandemic because it’s inconvenient to us.
There’s one assumption that the heat of summer will reduce the spread, much like with the flu virus, but as ZME reports, it’s dangerous to compare COVID-19 to the flu. TIME reports that a lockdown would have to last 12-18 months in order to be effective. IT companies are reporting strain on their systems and staff as hundreds and thousands of people start to work from home, and providers of software such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have updated their online manuals in order to help businesses roll out the software as quickly as possible. Perhaps we’ll learn which meetings could be solved with just an email?
Regardless of how long the lockdown lasts, there’s then the question of how long it will take for life to return to normal. If the government says it’s safe to venture outside, how many people will take them up on that immediately? When will flights start up again? When – if ever – will businesses and individuals recover financially?
“The clear issue would be how many people end up with this virus and how much that takes a toll on the population, hospitals, etc.” was Paige’s response. “For me personally, I’m not sure what is going to happen with the Bar exam this summer, and I’m sure other professions are experiencing the same concern, so there’s a whole group of people who may not be able to be licensed to work in the field they’re studying to enter. Then there’s also the student debt issue: if nobody can go out and there’s limited online jobs, how will people in debt pay back loans?”
Rachel says, “The first thing that comes to mind is the people who are going to lose many loved ones before their time. Nobody deserves to die from this virus, but we can’t say that nobody will. I hope that we can all be a supportive community and help everyone dealing with loss throughout this time.”
I really appreciated Paul’s honest insight here and I’ve simply transcribed it, because he says it all:
“Long-term impacts of the global lockdown. That’s a question. I write my answers in no particular order – some are a little grisly, but unfortunately I think it is the reality. Stock markets around the world will tank (they already are); in time they will recover their value though (they always do). Some airlines will undoubtedly collapse in the meantime (probably the smaller ones) – the travel industry in general will probably take a short- to mid-term hit. Small businesses will be decimated, as a lot of them are only a few weeks of no business away from insolvency. Unless governments guarantee workers’ salaries, a lot of them will be laid off. Thankfully the UK government has done this up to 80%, which is a good thing – but in the US for instance they have acted too late and 3 million people have lost their jobs there already. That will lead to an increase in homelessness, mental health decline, even suicide, amongst the general population.
“There is a possibility that imports and exports will reduce. Some isolated countries are clamping down on exports, but that will inevitably depend on how strict a particular country’s lockdowns are.
“On the plus side, I think that this will make people re-evaluate what is important. Two particular ways it has made me re-think things are firstly, that businesses really do not need face-to-face meetings nearly as often as they think – when I’ve been working from home I’ve had Zoom meetings or telephone conferences, and it’s been fine. Secondly, on the personal side, contact with your friends and family is so unbelievably important. I’ve missed so much being able to just meet up with friends or ex-colleagues, and have a few drinks or dinner, and just catch up.”
Darina points out that the particularly aggressive pneumonia caused by the coronavirus can result in reduced lung function for recovered patients – which, for some reason, I hadn’t even considered. She finishes by saying, “All in all, at this point nothing is for sure yet but seeing the reality, we need to be ready for anything.”
Silver linings and lessons for the future
The last person who mentioned silver linings to me very nearly received my bad rendition of Silver Lining by Panic! At The Disco is response. Nevertheless, I thought it was an important thing to include. Surely some good can come from this? From stories of wildlife returning to urban spaces to pollution levels at record lows, there seem to be at least a handful of positives. Enough to counteract the death toll? I’d argue no. It’s just sad that people had to die before we found these bonuses.
Katelyn says “I think people will really appreciate a lot of things, simple things like going out for walks or going to the gym. I think people will appreciate socialising more and the importance of seeing distant family members and friends.” And I have to agree. Never again will I take for granted a hug from a friend, a sunset or a simple drink in a bar.
Mum thinks that independent business stand to fare well from this, certainly in our area. People are realising that they are carrying produce that supermarkets have sold out of and she’s going to renew her efforts to shop locally in the future. Justine says, “I hope this will bring communities closer together as this is something we’ve all had to go through at the same time. I hope this will make people more understanding of those around them. And I hope this is doing wonders for the planet!”
In terms of learning points, I think everyone without exception agrees that we needed to act faster. Ryan pointed out that we had the example of Spain and Italy to learn from and still waited to act. He also thinks that the British public have shown that regulations need to be firmly enforced as we don’t take things like this seriously.
Scout hopes that people will see the strain on the NHS and think twice before using and abusing its free services in the future.
When this madness is all over
Again, it’s impossible to predict when all this might end, and even then, it can feel quite painful to look ahead during a time of such uncertainty. Nevertheless, I wanted to end on a positive and find out what we’re all itching to do as soon as we have the freedom to. Me personally, I want to spend time with my extended family…and then leave! I want to road trip the UK and enjoy all the spectacular outdoor spaces we have. I’m talking the Dales, the Lakes, Scottish Lochs, Welsh countryside and our gorgeous beaches. I’d love to get back out to South America ASAP but who knows when that will be. This year I was able to put a lot of things on hold in order to travel but if everything goes ahead as normal then I’ll be in university by October, which will make traveling that bit trickier.
Ryan’s looking forward to celebrating his birthday, which was on Thursday (26th). He was supposed to be going to Rome with his partner but instead it was the first birthday in the six years that they’ve been together that they spent at home.
Scout was originally heading north towards Slovakia, so if it’s possible she’ll look at continuing her journey. Paulina is dying to see her family in Ireland and Poland.
Kayelyn says the first thing she’ll do is book a holiday, but also that she’s going to keep up walking and jogging outside.
When I set out to write this article I wasn’t entirely sure what I hoped to achieve with it – I just knew I wanted to address the pandemic without simply plastering my opinions all over social media; no one needs that. From speaking to so many different people it’s clear that there are things about the situation we find ourselves in that unite us, and things that set us apart. I only hope that the experiences presented in this article encourage people to open their minds and consider the thoughts and needs of others at this trying time.
My unreserved thanks go to those who gave up their time to answer my questions and let me share their answers. They are the whole point of this article. Without them, it would simply be the ramblings of Fizz.
As every single member of the government has reminded us over the past few weeks, we are living in unprecedented times. No one has faced anything quite like this and no one has all the answers. All we can do is follow advice, stay safe, and look out for others.
Please do feel free to share your own views and experiences in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!
Finally, if you, the reader, are still here, 5,500 words later, thank you for taking the time to read this! It’s the result of many days of work so I’m really grateful.
The people in this article:
Alex is a travel blogger at Depth of Mind. His blog focuses on travel’s ability to change mindsets and break down barriers.
Unwanted Life is an invisible disability and mental health blog.
Scout runs Eco Cycle Travel and has been traveling the world on a bike.
Paige is a US blogger and law student.
Ryan blogs at Noakes-isms, writing about any and every topic that comes to mind!
Vada is a social media manager and blogger from Surrey in the UK, who lives travel, books and poetry.
Justine and her partner Scott are a travel blogging couple and travel planners at Wanderers of the World.
Steph, of Fallow Palms, is a Leeds based travel and beauty blogger with a love of photography and writing.
Kayleigh is a languages student and book reviewer from England. She blogs at Snailycanflyy.
Katelyn from Embark to Explore is a travel, fashion and food blogger from England.
Jane is a fused glass artist from County Durham, UK and based in North Yorkshire (she’s also my awesome mum).
Abbey is a UK lifestyle and travel vlogger and Disney lover.
Carrie is a hotel reviewer and travel enthusiast at Boutique or Busted.
Paulina is a lifestyle and travel blogger and interior designer at paulinastelmach.com.
Lucy is a travel vlogger (and occasional actress) from England, “traveling the world disastrously well”.
Paul is a travel blogger at Too Much To See, wildlife enthusiast, husband, dad, photographer and lawyer.
Darina is a well-researched blogger from Athens, covering topics such as book reviews, health, travel and learning.
Rachel is a Scottish lifestyle and travel blogger with a love of writing, photography, healthy living and books.