Social Distancing is the New Going Out: a snapshot, 16. March 2020
This blog is “normally” a travel blog, my playground to relax from my job, which has nothing, but absolutely nothing to do with travel. Except, we cannot really travel anywhere at present but to work and the nearest grocery shop or pharmacy. I live on the border of Berlin and the federal state surrounding it, Brandenburg. As of the weekend, in Berlin all public institutions, schools, bars, gyms, casinos libraries and theatres will shut. Restaurants are allowed to open if they have less than 50 covers and if tables are 1,5 metres apart. Interestingly, they are keeping DIY stores open too, perhaps so that people won’t die of boredom.
My state of Brandenburg is less stringent and, to the standard citizen, almost a bit wishy-washy. What’s going now and what not can be read on a variety of websites, and often there is no specific advice for Brandenburg. Our state local TV station is, in my eyes, currently the most informative website to read. They show a curve where they demonstrate a less rapid rise in SARS-CoV-2 infected. If you ask me, this is very very dangerous and I wish local government would give clear instructions. Yes, our state is a bit of a back water – nobody would go clubbing in Brandenburg, and indeed, our state has a bit of a reputation as being backwards, right-wing, and totally non-trendy. Except it borders on Berlin and many people who work or party in Berlin actually live in the commuter belt in Brandenburg.
What we have is beautiful lakes, wide open spaces and forests, which makes self-imposed social distancing less difficult because there is so much space, you have many places where you don’t see other people, you can be in nature even in these difficult times. We do not have curfews (yet) in either state.
There have been tons of pictures on social media of empty supermarket shelves. To be honest,t he only empty shelves I have seen were the hand sanitizer ones. When I went to my nearest Turkish supermarket on Saturday, the shelves were positively bulging with everything but cologne. Cologne can be used to sanitize hands, and many people in the Middle East have been using it for exactly that purpose for over a century.
My mother is pretty much stuck on an island in Spain as we speak. I am only slightly concerned because right now, you can pick up SARS-CoV-2 anywhere in Europe. She also has a husband who is over 90 years old who is unable to use the internet and it is better she is with him should anything happen..
Social Distancing – the buzz word of the hour
The national and local media in Germany have propagated social distancing from about last week onwards. To be honest: I had been ill with the flu (not Covid-19) for the week before and I did not set foot outside our garden, so essentially I have been in self-imposed quarantine since the end of February.
When I returned to work a week ago, I thought how I could keep myself free from any potential infection, and more importantly, not pass on any infection to any risk groups.
My social environment is currently healthy, as my mother and her husband are in Spain. I am fairly healthy too. I’m not crispy young, but hooray epidemiologists, not part of the age risk group either.
Social Distancing at work
Now. My biggest risk is and remains my job. I can be certain to pick up a flu-like illness of some sort every year because no one will get as close to your respiratory tract flora as me and a few other chosen people. SARS-CoV-2 has increased that risk somewhat, although of course the official advice is for those suspecting an infection to stay at home with mild symptoms. But do I know what was going on two or three weeks ago? Anyway, that’s that. And no, Home Office is not an option.
As someone who lives on the fringes of the big city, I find getting to work on public transport extremely challenging. It takes 1,5hours with the best connection. The last leg is only by bus, meaning I am unable to take my bicycle, so, make that two hours. We have been joking that no one will come when they may or may not close the bus routes in the future! In fact: we are so far out, which is something that was used as an advantage, because historically, we had a large pulmonary medicine /tuberculosis section and until Berlin experienced a large influx of new residents, we were basically in the woods. So, commuting by car it is.
It’s important to stay focused now, and obviously I am following the procedures at work and some more, by not touching my face, touching surfaces as little as possible and obsessively sanitizing surfaces that come into contact with people. I am a fresh air fanatic and keep my window open pretty much at all times. As a follower of the British School, I have never been the jolly German hand shaker except for my nearest and dearest. It caused some consternation, but hey, the no-handshake is all en vogue now.
Most importantly – I stay well and continue to do my job without getting into a panic. I am unsure whether clinics will close and we will catch more emergencies. We will take it day by day, with good contingency plans and communication in our team.
Social Distancing – Home
So, effectively I have been social distancing since the end of February. I am glad I did!
I recovered from my flu and went back to work, but I pretty much didn’t go anywhere else. Only went grocery shopping on my way home and bought more cat food online.
Other than doing the grocery shopping, I am not leaving our property. We’re lucky to have a house with a small garden, so there is no excuse to not exercise or sit in the sun. I think my garden might look quite good by the end of all this. I see no reason to leave the property except to go to work and to go to my neighbours if they need anything. It’s basically a self-imposed curfew. I’ll reconsider whether I take some longer walks, but I might be less shocked if and when a general curfew is imposed.
Last weekend, we were a bit low on certain food supplies, so we made a trip to the Turkish supermarket. It was full and fully stocked. But distance keeping? Nah. It became actually clear to me what potential spread I could cause by my usual attitude – checking the fruit and vegetables, touching this, touching that…. so I avoided it.
Next door was an organic supermarket, so I went in to get a few more supplies. It was pretty shopped out, but the tester pots for cosmetics were still all lined up there, the queue cosied up a,d nobody thought about twice about handling cash.
My husband works in the Home Office forever, because he prefers it rather than spend two hours commuting each day to go to his office. About ten days ago, all employees of his company have been ordered to work from home. He is a software engineer where the majority of workforce works form home office already. He loves to go out at least twice a day, and often heads to the shops to buy fresh bread. I asked him maybe to buy a little more bread and not check out the wares in the shop twice a day.
We’re living a pretty quiet live, don’t have a huge circle of friends, are no social butterflies. But we like to visit the cinema or the opera every now and then. We go see a lot of museums and historical buildings. We realised that this is no longer possible for the time being.
I needed to get some documents verified for some extra work I want to do. I said calmly to the quality management, well, I will supply everything that I have at home, but I ain’t going out to Town Hall to obtain certified copies. And this is quality management at a medical authority! Somehow their official advice and protocol appear to have disconnected. If they insist, well, then I cannot do the work. I’ll do other work that may be needed more.
Social Distancing – Travel
We also cancelled our trip to the UK to my father-in laws 80th birthday party. In fact, I cancelled all our trips! I still have flights to France in May. If the situation is not improving, I will cancel them too.
To be honest with you, I did not expect that SARS-CoV-2 would spread this rapidly and cause quasi-shutdown of Europe. Until the numbers of confirmed infections in Italy reached the Hundreds, I wasn’t overly worried. The first SARS-CoV-2 infections here in Germany occurred on 28 January, clustered at a car supplies manufacturer, Webasto. They took what seemed a the time drastic measures, tested all employees and and contained the spread.
Anyway. With confirmed cases in the 5000’s today, this will no longer be possible.
All Doom and Gloom?
God, no. However scary Social Distancing or Self Quarantine might sound, we do them at a high level: in a warm home with electricity, food, and entertainment.
To all those who say ” Despite Coronavirus – I can still do x,y and z!” please think again. Do you really want to wait for the curfew, the lockdowns, the police patrolling? Just stay at home except for work or do what is absolutely necessary.
I’m not going to follow up with the positive things the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has brought. I know, I know. Co2 emissions are down. It took a bloody deadly virus to bring emissions down??? Dear fellow citizens of this planet, this is nothing to rejoice about. People die with the pandemic, people die without it. But let’s just be so audacious to say considerably more people die with the pandemic.
Also, for all the upbeat stuff that is travelling round the internet, it’s fine to be overwhelmed and upset.
I had a day of leave to day. The first time in god knows how many years where I didn’t spend annual either travelling or recovering from a red-eye flight. I made some feeble attempt to enjoy it, tidy my bathroom shelves, finally got stuck into that clay that’s been hibernating in my basement. But did sweet FA. I just did not feel like it. It’s acceptable. I wasted a day of my precious leave, but I will be rested for when I return to work tomorrow.
What I found helped was to talk to friends on the phone and chat to fellow travellers online.
Just do what is ordered, wherever you live. Don’t break the rule. Try to do more.
If you need to chat or if you live in the Northern Berlin area and need help with anything, let me know. Some things like sick notes for example are excluded, ok. I’ll be here for the foreseeable time!
And whaaat, no picture? Nah that cannot be.
This is a picture of me and the “Flower Thrower” by Banksy in Bethlehem, a city I was due to travel to tomorrow. I visited in 2017. I wanted to go back because the Nativity Church was engulfed in a religious frenzy stampede last time, and my Banksy art tour was more like a whistlestop tour by taxis because I was too chicken to leave the centre of Bethlehem alone and get lost.
Oh well. I’m already eyeing up dates in November to catch up.
Stay well, and stay in. With your hands clean 🙂
Is any one reading travel blogs still?
I’d really like to know. Many bloggers report falling visitor numbers and loss of income. I mean, its probably pretty bleeding obvious that no one is booking much right now so I understand the income bit. But reading? Or is reading irrelevant when there’s no bookings and purchases? I’m in two minds whether to keep posting about travel. I don’t care about income but if only one person reads the post, it wouldn’t be fun, either.