Day 4: “Stay at home”

Friday, 20th March

My 10-year old daughter is finding confinement increasingly difficult. She is grumpy in the morning as she has trouble falling asleep at night. She is a child with large amounts of energy and is finding it hard not to have the opportunity to burn it.

Homework today for her and her 8-year old brother consists in writing up an essay for their teachers about this first week of confinement. She manages to talk about her feelings of frustration, says it’s the first time in her life she is missing school! Her brother finds it harder to say how he feels. On the surface, he seems to be taking confinement much better, says he doesn’t want to go out. We don’t watch TV so the only news they hear is on the radio or what their father and I discuss: we tell them the truth but try to keep them away from the media hysteria. I think he may be fearful, though. What is this doing to the mind of a child? What kind of world are they growing up to live in? When we grew up in the 1990’s, we had the fear of AIDS but it wasn’t anything like this.

Letter to teacher on first week of confinement

We enjoy a delicious home-made chili con carne for lunch – much of our day revolves around the next meal. The kids get to choose much of the menu.

In the afternoon, I go food shopping and take my daughter with me. She stays in the (empty) comic book section while I go and food shop. The cashiers are surrounded by transparent sheets of plastic, wearing masks and gloves (which some health specialists say are worse as they spread contamination faster). Again, I get this feeling of being in some kind of dystopian movie. Everything is so familiar yet completely different.

Cashier at local Monoprix store in Lyon Croix Rousse, 20 March

I bump into an acquaintance (keeping a 1.5 metre distance) who is also a freelance journalist. We agree that things are not looking good for us and that we will have to rethink our career paths. She makes corporate films, but firms – those that survive this crisis – won’t be spending that kind of frivolous money when it’s all over, she says, with a brave smile on her face. We swap tips on how to keep the kids happy in these dark times.

When we get back, a friend and neighbour who works as a private nurse calls on the phone. She says they are gearing up for very difficult times ahead. Their professional life has been turned upside down. The sanitary conditions they need to respect for their own and their patients’ safety are draconian and exhausting. They do not visit a potential Covid-19 patient on the same day as someone on chemotherapy, whose immune system is down. They don’t know who has Covid because patients they visit in their homes are not tested. She tells me it upsets her to see people out on the streets, not taking the confinement seriously. “They just don’t get it.

“It’s easy to say this with hindsight,” she tells me, “but how did we not see this coming when we saw what was going on in China?! Why are we not testing people more? When you compare Korea to Italy, or Venetia to Lombardy, it’s obvious: they were able to isolate people who tested positive, even those who didn’t have symptoms and didn’t know they were carriers.”

“The other problem is exhaustion: this is going to last a long time.”

What I can do to help?

“Respect the barrier gestures. And stay home.”

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