For some months now the COVID-19 has been affecting and frightening the whole world, but only since the WHO declared it as a pandemic, the various governments decided to take actions against this emergency. Let’s see how different countries are dealing with it and which measures are taken by different governments.
I interviewed: Lucas from Argentina, Kariel from The Bahamas, Luca from Canada, John from Colombia, Ella from Denmark, Eleonore from France, Amber from The Netherlands and Clàudia from Spain in order to figure out how their countries are facing the Coronavirus Emergency.
How is the situation in your country?
Lucas: In my opinion, the situation here in Argentina is under control.
Kariel: It’s of rising concern. We don’t have the resources or hospitals to handle something like this right now. My island, in particular, just faced Hurricane Dorian, and we do not have a proper hospital, nor do we have the resources to deal with this kind of thing.
Luca: In Canada, we are on high alert. Everyone is encouraged to stay home and not interact with other people. There’s a lot of anxiety about the disease, and I think it’s because nobody knows what’s coming next.
Jhon: I think the situation in my country is getting worst day after day, we are getting more and more cases every day, and most of the companies are about to close, that means that a lot of people are going to not have a job soon, so Coronavirus is affecting the economy as well.
Ella: There have been cases of panic buying, and individuals not following the guidelines to slow the virus’ spread issued by the government. But we have not yet seen an overwhelming amount of infected individuals who need intensive care within the country’s borders.
Eleonore: In my country, France, we are in quarantine for 2 weeks after the president’s speech. All French people think that this situation is very weird. We’ve got the prohibition to go outside or to see our friend (or our boyfriend). But the government sent a certificate which allows us to go outside. But, this one has a lot of characteristics, for example: we can go to the doctor or hospital, we can go buy some food. Also, all the markets are clean out because everybody thinks that we’ll be in shortage.
Amber: The current situation has caused a weird period for lots of countries. When the Coronavirus started hitting people in January, I was in travelling in Vietnam. I was reading the Dutch news about this abstract virus and could not really tell how afraid I should be. My friends in the Netherlands were not really talking about the occurrence, however, in Vietnam, locals started to buy face masks and wearing a face mask became more and more common, even for tourists. When I was at the airport two days later, there was no one without one, including me.
It was not until the last two weeks that my friends and family started to worry about the virus. The fact that the virus hit Europe made it more palpable instead of being a virus in China, far away from home. When the news about the many cases and deaths in Italy reached us, the virus felt more real, and the government should act upon it. Currently, the situation in my country is quite calm, besides the hoarding of groceries. The Netherlands has not been locked down, but many places such as restaurants, bars, theatres, museums were forced to close to prevent social contact with more than a hundred people. Schools and universities are closed, and the upcoming months we will receive online classes if professors can manage classes online. Travelling is not recommended, only when necessary. However, the government is in conflict whether it should close our borders or not. The solution for “flatten the curve” causes a discrepancy between the ministers and leaves the Netherlands with half-baked measures causing differences in people’s behavior. Hence, I am not sure if the situation in my country will still be the same once you read this article.
Clàudia: I live in Catalonia, the situation right now is hard, everybody has to stay at home and we can’t go outside – except for buy in the supermarkets, go to the pharmacy or walk the dogs. Also, there are some people that have to go to work and they can go in their own car.
How many confirmed cases of Coronavirus are there? And how many deaths? (Up to 18/03)
Lucas: In Argentina, there are 34 confirmed cases, 1 recovered and 1 death.
Kariel: To my knowledge, we have one confirmed case in Nassau, New Providence, as well as two being tested. A 61-year-old woman who hasn’t travelled in the last 20 days meaning she picked it up from somewhere within the country. Speculations say her daughters recently traveled, and she may have caught it from one of them.
Luca: I don’t know the official numbers, but it’s over 100, and only a few deaths so far.
Jhon: In Colombia, there are 58 confirmed cases.
Ella: There are currently 977 infected individuals in Denmark, while 82 of those are hospitalized – 18 of these 82 individuals are receiving intensive care. 4 have passed away so far.
Eleonore: In France, there are currently 7730 confirmed cases and 175 deaths.
Amber: There are 2051 confirmed cases and 58 deaths.
Clàudia: Right now I think that in Spain there are 11000 cases approximately and 500 deaths and more than 800 people have Coronavirus in Catalonia.
Which measures is the government taking against COVID-19? Do you think the measures taken by the government are sufficient?
Lucas: The Argentinian Government suspended all the classes until the 31st of March, closed the borders for 15 days, cancelled all the events in the discos and closed cinemas and theatres in order to avoid the concentration of people – not including cafes and restaurants for which all the tables must be 2 meters far from each other. Moreover, people over 60 years old must stay at home and can’t go to work. I think for now it is good, but our government is still contemplating the situation. I think that it works and for me, anyway, in the end, it depends on the people who live in Argentina.
Kariel: The government is rejecting cruise ships from coming in, and flights from severely affected countries (examples are Italy, Iran, UK, etc. Most countries that have an abnormal amount of cases cannot fly to the Bahamas right now, except the United States, which makes no sense to me or the citizens that live here). I could only assume this is the case because tourism is our #1 industry and they don’t want to halt that economic flow, as well as they want to give international students a chance to come home. Still, I don’t think the measures our government is taking is fully sufficient. Yes, flights are being monitored to some extent, and people with a temperature above normal are being quarantined or not allowed to travel, but there are asymptomatic positives, and that is a huge concern. Furthermore, there are only 100 testing kits and all of them are in the capital. The only precautionary plans to my knowledge are being taken for the capital, not for the rest of the islands.
Luca: The Canadian government has just closed the border to all people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Our only border with the US is closed to non-essential travel as of today. All schools and communal government spaces are closed for the next two weeks. Restaurants and bars can only host 50% of their capacity. That’s as far as I know right now.
Jhon: The Colombian government is continuously repeating that “we must wash our hands every 3 hours, we must use hand sanitizer and disinfect every object and surface, we must avoid direct contact with others”. In my opinion, these measures are not enough because we should have done that even before the virus. In my opinion, the government should be stricter to avoid more cases.
Ella: Our government has closed its borders only allowing entry into to the country for foreigners if there is a serious purpose for the travel, suspended lessons at schools, high schools and universities, closed restaurants and cafe’s (although still allowing them to serve customers through take-away), furthermore closed hairdressers and tattoo salons (as there are close contact with other individuals in those places) and made gatherings above 10 people illegal until the end of March – in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus. They are no longer discussing about ending the pandemic, but solely to slow it down so the hospitals and the healthcare workers won’t be pressured much more than necessary. Whether or not the measures taken by our government have been sufficient enough to slow the spread of COVID-19 down will show in the days to come. So far, many in the Danish population have not been taking the threat of the novel Coronavirus serious enough – which is the main reason that our government keeps taking harsher measures yet.
Eleonore: I explained the measures before. In my opinion, the measures taken by the government are really sufficient if everybody respects them.
Amber: Places with room for more than 100 people are closed. Grocery stores are the exception; they allow everyone, but you have to keep 1.5 meters distance. In reality, this is not the case as many people ignore this instruction. Big events, such as the Songfestival supposed to take place in Rotterdam this May, are cancelled. Social distancing is really on the government’s agenda. However, as I can see when I’m doing groceries – which I try to do as least as possible – social distancing often fails. As I already said, the government is currently in conflict whether it should close its borders. I agree that something has to change. My friends and family are in “self-quarantine” and try to “flatten the curve” through social distancing. But this morning, when I did groceries, it was insanely crowded in the neighbourhood. Both me and my boyfriend were very discouraged by the fact that no one was keeping onto the advice of the government. We are trying to limit social contact as much as possible, we are not seeing our friends or family – but when we get out of the house and see so many people on the street who don’t follow the advice, including the elderly and mothers with young babies, how much use is it that we are in the house all day? One of our ministers, Lodewijk Asscher from the social-democrats’ party, gave the Dutch citizens a piece of advice regarding social distancing: “Act as if you’re carrying the virus. That seems most efficient.” And I totally agree with him.
Clàudia: The measures that the Spanish government has given are: to stay at home; moreover, it is forbidden to go out unless you have to go to the supermarket, the pharmacy or you have to walk the dog out; if you have symptoms you have to call a phone number, but you can’t go to the hospital because they are saturated; you can’t go to work unless it’s really necessary. Furthermore, schools are closed, shops are closed, restaurants and all the establishments are also closed. Meanwhile, supermarkets, food-shops, pharmacies, optics and hospitals are open.
I think it’s not enough because the cases are increasing, a lot of people have to take the train to go to work, and it’s so difficult to stop the virus if hundreds of people take the train and the bus every day. The Catalan government would like to stop the trains and all the public transport, but the Spanish government hasn’t approved it yet, so the cases are increasing because of that. Also, the government is not providing any financial aid, so people must go to work. The Spanish government decided to close the borders in order to stop the virus, but, in my opinion, they have done it too late.
The world is looking at the so-called “Italian Model” – how Italy is facing this emergency. Do you think that quarantining a whole State is a good idea? Why?
Lucas: I don’t think that quarantining Argentina now is a good idea, the situation is under control. As I told you, we should just follow the instructions and stay at home as much as we can, and it will be enough. Moreover, the airports are checking every passenger coming from outside our country.
Kariel: I think quarantining a whole state is a good idea. You prevent the people who don’t have COVID-19 from getting it by doing so. That’s fewer deaths, and less money being paid to tend to the suffering patients. It allows some degree of control in a matter we seem to not have much control over as yet.
Luca: I don’t really have the public health knowledge to answer this question. But, obviously, it seems that the goal is to “flatten the curve” to avoid overwhelming the health system. But we also have to keep in mind the political implications of quarantine and lockdown.
Jhon: In my opinion, the lockdown is an extremist idea, moreover here Colombian people wouldn’t pay attention to a quarantine measure and, as a consequence, people will go around the cities or to work.
Ella: I believe it’s a case-by-case decision to make. Some countries are better able to cope with the pandemic and virus spread with closed borders while others are more likely to slow COVID-19 down by having everything inside the country flowing as usual, while attempting to slow the spread down with mass testing the population and offering lots of information to it. South Korea is an excellent example of the last-mentioned way to prevent/slow down the virus spread.
Eleonore: Italy was the first country to applicate this quarantine. So, Italy is like a good model for all the other European country. Quarantining a whole State is a brilliant idea. By this way, the COVID-19 will be stopped more quickly.
Amber: Regarding Dutch society, yes. We want to flatten the curve and we want others not to be infected with the virus. Staying at home is the best you can do. But if many citizens are ignoring this advice or simply lack information about the virus, the government should implement hard measures. From an economic perspective, on the other hand, no. I can’t deny that a lockdown will affect our economy enormously. We have to keep in mind that the state will be depleted if a lockdown would be realized, which results in less capital for our health care and a possible vaccine for the virus.
Clàudia: Right now we are in quarantine and things aren’t easy, people are really scared because the measures of the government aren’t clear and people don’t know what to do and what’s happening, people are getting nervous at home, and I think that everybody is living in a panic state. Nevertheless, a lot of people have been taking preventive measures and stay at their house for security. A lot of people have bought a lot of food in the supermarket, and they try to entertain themselves at home, playing, working or watching the news. In my opinion, it is a good idea to do a quarantine, but in this country we should have done it one week ago because right now it is too late and I’m afraid that Spain will be quarantined for one month or more.
For those living in quarantine, how are you facing the Lockdown?
Eleonore: I don’t really have a choice rather than following the law. It’s a little bit annoying and boring, but I find the time to do my school homework, so it’s a benefit for everybody. When I heard about this virus, I immediately took all the necessaries measures: I didn’t kiss somebody because I knew the virus was spreading – thanks to the information given by the government – and personally, I’m a lot hypochondriac, so I’ve taken all the precautions before the virus spread increased.
Clàudia: In my case, my family and I have bought a lot of food and we are taking preventive measures, especially my parents that have to go to work out of the home. Also, we have to take care of my granny, she can’t go outside and, although we try to not approach her, we buy things for her and we help her with everything she can’t do alone.
For those who are not living in a quarantined country, are you personally taking some measures, such as, for example, self-imposed isolation?
Lucas: If the Argentinian government locks down my Country, I just will do what is necessary, such as staying at home and try to contribute as I can to prevent the situation from getting worst for my country and Argentinian people. It is not just a personal thing, it is a moral thing, and I think we should all worry about the society we live in. By the way, I’m trying to not go out if I don’t need to do so.
Kariel: I attend university in the United States. My university is having online classes for the rest of the spring semester, so I came home within the last few days (to the Bahamas), especially since the risk is higher in the US. I’ve been staying to myself for the most part, but I’ve been making physical contact with my parents and my aunt. So, to some extent, I’m in isolation, but if I have it, my parents probably have it too.
Luca: There’s no lockdown yet, only self-imposed social distancing. I’m not handling that well. It’s very lonely, which does not help with anxiety the pandemic is causing. Yes, I’m taking measures to self-isolate. I actually have a sore throat, so I’m not planning on seeing anyone any time soon.
Jhon: Actually, I’m just following the government’s instructions, so I always wash my hands, I use hand sanitizer and I try to avoid direct contact with other people.
Ella: The government has not yet imposed a quarantine on the population. If they had imposed those measures, I would certainly have respected it. It is the only way to slow down the pandemic. I believe everyone must follow the measures imposed by the government – in any given country. I’m currently not in self-imposed isolation but staying at home as much as possible when you’re young and healthy is quite important. There are old, sick and vulnerable individuals in any population around the world who could potentially experience a harsher type of illness than the younger individuals or in the worst case die from it. The more we go out, the bigger the risk of spreading the disease – therefore, going out only for the necessary (as grocery shopping) or for a short walk to get some fresh air is the measures I – and most people around me – are taking.
Amber: I am only leaving my house when necessary and try to do this as less as possible. I don’t visit my friends, but rather try apps such as Houseparty for online video calling and Wordfeud for online gaming. On a positive note: try to spend this quarantine time well. Be creative, start reading or listening to podcasts. Make a photo album, write a postcard to your grandparents or elderly persons – make the If I’m outside, I try to create as much space as possible between myself and others. Besides this, I’m also trying to make others aware of the fact how serious this crisis is and that they should act upon it.
Is there anything, in particular, you plan to do when the emergency is over?
Lucas: When the emergency is over, I’m planning to go back to the normal routine, so go to university and follow my classes and go to work.
Kariel: The only thing I can think of doing after the emergency is going back to my university.
Luca: It’s looking like just the beginning, but I’m hoping to see my friends regularly again. Miss them!
Jhon: As soon as the emergency will end, I would like to go out with my friends, leave my house and not care about COVID-19, doing more things rather than only staying at home.
Ella: Coming back to wonderful Italy, once they’ve battled COVID-19.
Eleonore: This virus cancelled all my plans, for example, my birthday is during the quarantine, so I’ll spend it alone and this is very sad. After the quarantine and when the emergency will be over, I think that I’ll go to see my boyfriend and on holidays with my friends.
Amber: A big question of mine is: What will happen if we get out of our houses again? I have no clue. These are uncertain times, but it is wonderful to see how solidarity grows in the world. How people are trying to help others who are more at risk, how balconies are filled with music, how people are applauding out of their windows for healthcare workers – this is also what the crisis brings us.
Clàudia: In particular, when everything will be over, I want to do things with my boyfriend, since right now I can’t see him. Furthermore, I really want to meet with my friends because I miss them.