Even the doorbell ringing can become a challenge. A DHL courier is bringing me a package, and I’m in strict quarantine.
For the next two weeks, my number 1 rule reads: “Avoid direct contact and retain a distance of at least 2 meters.”
But when I open the door, I see that the courier has placed the package on the ground at the doorstep and stepped back 2 meters.
“Proof of receipt is not necessary, I will sign for you,” he tells me.
And with that, he’s gone, telling me on his departure that he is hugely busy: people are ordering online like crazy just now.
Two weeks with orders to stay at home, avoid contact with people and isolate myself now lie behind me. I was in Tyrol in Austria skiing with friends who have been meeting up for a week of winter sports in Galtür for years now.
Then the first coronavirus cases were confirmed in nearby Ischgl. The skiing pistes were shut and the whole region was declared a high-risk area. Thousands of visitors fled their winter holiday paradise early, before the borders were closed. I too was trapped in the tailback that quickly formed on the sole road out of the valley. It was a journey home with very mixed emotions: there would be no meetings with friends or visits to the kids or my parents, no coffee with colleagues, on my return.
Is that a tickle in the throat?
Of course I made plans. I wanted to use the quarantine to catch up on my to-do list at home: clear out the cellar, paint the garden furniture, fix my bike.
I was also planning long phone calls with friends and family, and to enjoy the sunshine in the garden.
The mood changed when I heard the news — two members of my skiing group had tested positive for COVID-19. Another five tested negative. But there was some confusion over the test results, not least as two people received two different results.
We were told that only people with symptoms should try to get a test. This led everybody to start second guessing themselves: is that a tickle in the throat, was that even a cough, surely my forehead wasn’t quite this warm a second ago?
Even people in the 50-60 age range are considered part of the at-risk group, while those with heart problems are seen as endangered. I worried for a friend who was with us on the skiing trip. He picked up a fever and was feeling blue, then tested positive. Health authorities checked in with him each day and offered medical support. In his case, it remained a mild bout of coronavirus.
Smaller worries, and larger problems
The longer the quarantine went on, the more I wanted to break out — to finally go jogging in the park again or go for a walk or wander the aisles of the hardware store. It’s a situation that nobody in our skiing group had experienced before. Some really started climbing the walls; losing freedom of movement quickly unsettles you. But it can have a positive effect as well, a good book or conversation becomes all the more valuable. And your own worries can seem rather small when talking about the virus. Especially when compared to those who are really suffering in this situation.
A doctor friend of mine explains that older patients have been coming in, even when there’s nothing really wrong with them. He warns them to stay at home instead; many of them might not survive a bout of COVID-19. Yet they keep on coming. They have nobody else to talk to.
Or then there’s my daughter. She is a freelance actor and public speaker. She now has no more gigs, all productions are on hold. She doesn’t know how long she can tread water with no income.
Next, a friend calls me up. A mutual acquaintance has contracted the virus. She’s roughly our age and has no pre-existing medical conditions — and she is in a coma.
The end of quarantine
My quarantine is ending now. But a return to everyday life still seems rather far off: similar regulations to those I had to adhere to now apply to the whole country. We still have weeks of contact restrictions, restaurants with boarded-up doors, and closed shops — except the necessities like supermarkets, chemists and hardware stores — to contend with.
My work rhythm is also affected. I shall return to work post-quarantine from a home office. I really never thought I would miss the prospect of commuting to the office on a crammed local train at rush hour. The coronavirus has turned a great deal on its head. Sometimes it’s maddening, but sometimes humbling too.
Featured image credit: Parker Byrd/Unsplash