By David Goldberg
Roughly 100 days ago my life and that of billions of people on the planet started to change dramatically. And about 30 days ago life as we knew it (and assumed it will continue like that) obliterated into situations never heard of, since 1939: The WHO declared a worldwide pandemic on March 11. Who could have imagined that our high-tech, mobile, interconnected, super speedy and easy to travel and navigate life on this world would deflate – puff – like a pinched balloon!
It was a bubble – my (and that of billons of people) world exploded inwards brought to its knees by a non-living entity, which is still part of nature. Suddenly words like ‘lockdown,’ ‘quarantine,’ ‘enhanced quarantine,’ ‘stay home’ and ‘social distancing’ became more important than ‘where do we go for dinner,’ ‘I got a good deal for a weekend in Saigon,’ ‘quite good business last week,’ ‘I’m planning my trip to visit my good friends in…’ etc. No more planning, no more restaurants, no more business, no more movie, theater and football tournaments. Only insecurity, fear and often mental exhaustion. Forget planning!
Until the last week of January, I took it lightly and was expecting a quick solution to this problem – it’s only a virus! Haven’t we found so may cures to the many viruses or at least kept them under control like AIDS or Ebola?
But then the Chinese government put over 700 million people under very strict lockdown (January 23) and suddenly I felt that the situation was getting out of control. Never ever has this been seen in the world. The last flight to Wuhan from Kalibo was on January 26 and all of us were worried, that the more than 100 Chinese who came to our island had already spread the virus. The first weeks of February were almost ‘normal,’ without the many Chinese groups, but already with the fear of the virus in our heads. We watched how the virus spread in Southeast Asia, watched the horrors happening on the cruise ship Princess in Japan, watched the horrors of Italy unfold, but felt safe in the Philippines as the few Covid-19 cases in the country were seemingly tackled. That’s when the country (and many, many other countries) missed the chance for mitigation of the pandemic and preparedness for its effects. It was not only until the beginning of the third week of March, when the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was declared for Luzon and one week later for all of us outside Luzon, that I and many others started to understand what we’re dealing with: something new and unknown, something frightening, something the world has not seen on this scale for 100 years and something nobody was prepared to deal with. Many countries had exhausted their health services almost to death and in other countries health services were in utter disarray. Life as we’ve known it had ended and it was chaotic.
How did I manage so far? Any hope of a passing health crisis was wiped out by the ECQ. For a little while I was busy reorganizing the business and finding solutions. Guidelines, announcements and news came in a daily rush. Planning became impossible as the situation changed overnight. After a while things did quieten down somehow. New came the quest to organize my own quarantine life. What to do with lots of time not being able to distract myself? A structure – yes – plan your day. Do the things you always wanted to do at home. Easier said than done. I started to read a lot of newspapers and of course spend quite some time on the social media. Soon this became too much with all the forwarded video clips of so-called experts, conspiracy theories and fake news. And, of course a lot of news on TV focusing on the hot spots and nightmares worldwide and then the bad Reality-TV-Show with the US president. After a while I deleted most of the forwarded video clips. I’m tired of watching, looking, reading and discussing conspiracy or other theories. I’ve finally found a routine, for which I’m allowing myself to break it sometimes. I’ve became more patient, less ‘makulit,’ less of a ‘planning-things-out’ addict, more humble and more living in the moment. Realization has set in that this ‘veeruz’ thing is not going away for a long time and that the world will not be the same anymore for a long time. I struggle to find my place in it. We cannot give up.
I feel that now, into the fifth week of strict quarantine, a certain Disaster Fatigue is setting in. Do I have Disaster Fatigue – Yes – I do – mildly but growing. I’d like to go on with my life – not my ‘old’ life, but ‘a’ life. Disaster Fatigue is setting in everywhere – some places more, others not yet. People slowly worry more about the economic situation than about the virus. Still – we do not know enough yet about this virus. I know though that this tiny non-living entity is as of now in-charge. But I feel at the same time that humanity is learning to deal with the situation until the new coronavirus is part of humanity’s life.