Life is changing fast with the spread of the Coronavirus. Nearly all of the world is trying to vanquish the same problem, the same “invisible” enemy. Everyone now has the same schedule. Meanwhile, the events unfolding in Italy, Germany, and Spain remind us that we ought to proceed with extreme caution. As the famous English saying goes, we have to realize that they’re not simply stuck in traffic but we’re part of the traffic ourselves.
The calls for social distancing are now resonating around the world. They are listened to more in some places and less in others.
Russian journalist Yegor Lapshov is completing his Master’s degree in Milan. He recalls how, in the beginning of February, the local population was still skeptical about the dangers of the Coronavirus.
“People were living in their usual rhythms - getting together, having fun, drinking. Everybody was saying that the Coronavirus was an ordinary flu and that it was nothing serious”, says Yegor.
Now the population of Italy is paying a terrible price for that attitude. Thousands of Coronavirus cases are registered daily while several hundred die.
The death rate in Italy is higher than in other countries. Experts explain this by the fact that the healthcare system can’t handle the number of infected people and the resources aren’t sufficient to treat everyone.
Part of the problem is also the fact that the healthcare system is overloaded and is entirely focused on fighting the epidemic. This is in turn creating problems not just for the Coronavirus patients, but also for every other person who might need medical services.
So, the butterfly effect is at work here too - if you go to a party tonight, your grandfather may end up without a respirator the day after tomorrow.
Almost two months have passed since the first registered case of the Coronavirus in Georgia. During this time, hundreds of people disrespected self-isolation and quarantine rules. Some were transferred into forced quarantine. This means that the state has to spend the resources that other people need much more on these individuals.
“In my opinion, they can’t perceive themselves as a danger. Just like those patients who initially spread the virus simply because they didn’t think they presented any real danger”, says the 23-year-old lawyer Dea Minadze who’s been self-isolating since the start of the outbreak.
Dea believes that people should show more social responsibility. They need to see better the dangerous situation we’re in. When it comes to self-isolation, she does say that she is a bit tired but has already gotten used to the general nervousness.
“Well, I have more free time and I dedicate it to reading and watching films, something that I couldn’t always do before. I began online courses, something that I also couldn’t do before. It’s a bit difficult without seeing other people, but turns out being an introvert isn’t all that bad after all.”
22-year-old Tato Antadze has also brought social interactions to a minimum. He’s working on the scientific platform next.on.ge. According to Tato, a lot depends on the media right now. In order for the people to take the dangers seriously, the media should provide correct and exhaustive information about social distancing and its importance and let the competent individuals speak. Moreover, the media should try its best to avoid creating a panic.
I spoke to Tato and every other respondent via Facebook. According to him, content even as simple as memes can have a positive impact on the people’s consciousness in the digital age.
What’s the situation around him? “My mother is being very careful. In my immediate circle people also take the situation seriously. They started wearing vinyl gloves at the neighborhood shop, we moved into home office mode at work. I think everyone who could afford to do so took that decision”, Tato tells us.
That’s true, not everyone can work from home. For example grocery shops, pharmacies, banks, food delivery services and...burial services.
Nina Sokolova works at the burial firm “Hermes”. Nina tells us that certain safety measures are taken and the place is regularly disinfected, but she doesn’t feel safe at all.
I feel like the safety system is illusory in the end. If somebody with the corona comes in, I’ll very easily get it
According to her, the work is now stressing her more than ever. The need to be in contact with many people puts pressure on her mentally, while the fact that her small child is waiting for her at home stresses her out even more.
Elsa Djavakhisvhili, who’s been living in Germany for over 15 years, is noticing big changes around her. Elsa is teaching art history to elementary school students. She’s telling us that schools and universities have closed and streets have been emptied. She repeats Merkel’s words - Germany truly hasn’t witnessed a similar crisis since World War II. Elsa says that the unfolding events politicians’ words are a huge burden for the society that is trying to accept the new reality.
Fight, war, isolation - these are the words that saw fear. When we hear such heavy words in this situation, it’s impossible not to be moved and freaked out. Reassurance became the most important part of our daily lives along with thinking about how each of us can help others. During the peak of neoliberalism, it became a question of saying no to individualism.
Toilet paper and soap disappeared from the shops in Germany. But people in other parts of the world are facing more difficult challenges.
29-year-old photographer Aneek Mustafa Anwar lives in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. We spoke at the end of March, and back then there were around 30 cases of Coronavirus in the country. As for April 14 there are 1024 cases and 46 deaths.
But the actual numbers could be much higher. Aneek says that a big part of the population finds it very difficult to respect social distancing. In addition to this, testing for the Coronavirus is only accessible in the capital.
The thing is that the population of Dhaka is 18 million, and that of the country - 165 million. The surface is 143 000 square kilometers, which means that it is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It is also one of the poorest - 31 % of the population lives below the poverty line. Many people don’t have access to healthcare or basic social goods. The situation is further worsened by the fact that the education level in the country is very low and people don’t take self-isolation orders seriously. For example, here you can see that around 10 000 people gathered to pray.
“The government asks us to stay home. But they’re behaving as if nothing was happening. They probably won’t change their minds until they look death in the eyes”, says Aneek Mustafa. However, we agree that seeing positive moments is also crucial.
After all, this might be the best time for us to feel that we are a part of something bigger. Or at least think about the fact that we’re not the center of the universe.
There is some irony to that - popular culture, ancestral experience, in short, everything got us used to the fact that action is needed in order to save the world. And now we find ourselves in a situation where what counts most is our inaction.
Today, the spreading or not spreading of the pandemic depends precisely on the common decency of individuals. It’s not a theory anymore. It’s a tangible reality and a great power. And with it comes great responsibility.
Cover picture: Khareba Kavtaradze
Pictures: Bangkok post, 9gag and Euromoney