Life in lockdown London

In the course of less than two weeks, the life as we know it has irreversibly changed. Not long ago a thought of the whole economy shutting down and people being asked to stay home due to a mysterious virus ravaging the world would have sounded something out of a cringey science fiction movie, yet here we are. The warning signs were all there, though but I’m probably not the only one who saw the news of the quarantined cities in China and naively thought that this could never happen in Europe.

It makes me so angry and frustrated when I see people not taking the situation seriously enough. No, it’s not just like any other seasonal flu and while the majority experiences only mild symptoms, not everyone are so lucky. I’m not really that scared of contracting the coronavirus myself – as a young, healthy and fit individual I’d probably pull through even with the more severe symptoms. However, this is not the time to be selfish. It’s been widely reported that the virus can spread before causing any visible symptoms and therefore, why would I risk contracting it to someone in the risk group without even realising it. Would I really want to be responsible for someone’s death just because it was a bit inconvenient for me to stay home?

Empty streets of central London

Also, I think we’ve all heard the term ‘flattening the curve’ – staggering the number of new cases over a longer period, so that people have better access to care. We’ve already seen the example from Italy and according to the latest information, the UK is about two weeks behind them. Therefore, there will be an enormous strain on NHS over the upcoming weeks and that’s why I feel that it’s my responsibility to do everything I can in order to avoid contracting the virus at this point. And if it means social distancing and staying home, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Here in London, things have escalated quite quickly over the course of the past week. Just before going to bed on Sunday 22nd I got a message from work telling everyone to work from home until the office has been deep cleaned as a couple of my co-workers had developed symptoms over the weekend. On Tuesday, after the government urged everyone who possibly can to work from home, this was changed to ‘working from home until further notice’. Mimosa had also gotten a similar note a few days earlier. On Wednesday it was announced that the schools will be shut down and everyone must follow the public health advice and stop socialising in pubs and clubs. Well, not everyone followed this advice and therefore, on Friday Boris Johnson historically ordered all pubs, restaurants, gyms and other social venues across the country to close their doors for the foreseeable future. At the same time, the chancellor also announced remarkable financial measures to maintain livelihoods, including a guarantee the government will pay 80%t of wages for workers at risk of losing their jobs.

However, I have a feeling that the government will have to implement even stricter restrictions on the public in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus and I see a total lockdown just inevitable. Therefore, we tried to make the best of this sunny weekend in a socially responsible way with keeping a safe 2m distance to others – on Saturday we cycled to Kew Gardens and Richmond Park just a get some exercise, fresh air and our minds off this crazy situation for a while and on Sunday I did a long run around ominously quiet central London. However, as I’m writing this, some parks have just announced closures and Kew Gardens will also shut it’s doors as apparently, people haven’t been following the advise of social distancing.

Besides being a public health emergency, the coronavirus is definitely an economic one as well. My heart goes out to all the people losing their jobs and livelihoods and feel extremely lucky and privileged to have the opportunity to continue working from the safety of my own home and not having to worry about how I’m going to pay my rent or afford to buy food. Therefore, we try to support the local businesses by ordering either lunch or dinner in and do some online shopping. Well, even more online shopping than usual. Like many others, we also had some of our upcoming trips cancelled – no lounging by the pool in Malta on Easter or sipping champagne on a yacht in Monaco F1 Grand Prix. I’m obviously bummed to miss both of those experiences but, to be honest, all that seems a bit trivial now – there’s just nothing more important in this world than health.

But what has actually really stroke me, is how easily we can adapt to new situations. A couple of weeks ago a world where social gatherings are banned and everything is closed would have felt like, well…the end of the world. However, day by day we get accustomed to the new circumstances and, perhaps before even realising, it becomes our new reality. I just wish that in this reality, people would stop the panic-buying and hoarding all the loo rolls.

For example, in my current company remote working hasn’t really been encouraged before but suddenly we all found ourselves dialing in to conference and video calls from the comfort of our own living rooms. Also, never before have we been working from home at the same time with Mimosa but after the first week, some routines were already established. For the most part, we both work in the living room but when either of us has a meeting, the other one goes to a different room or vice versa. And Friday at 5pm is now gin o’clock. Luckily, we live in a big enough flat to give us both the space we need (both, in and out of office hours). Also, not having any kids definitely helps – I raise my hat to everyone who, besides performing their regular work tasks, now also have to simultaneously home school their children.

Stay safe, everyone – and take the social distancing seriously.

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