The Quarantine Diaries 2: 16/03/20

The Dreaded Cough

I woke up with it again this morning, ‘The Dreaded Cough,’ as I’ve come to think of it. So far, it’s only in the morning, and it only lasts a few minutes. So far, so good.

9191 cases in total at today’s latest tally. Borders closed. So far, so not so good.

This situation presents a massive psychological challenge to those subject to quarantine. Though the primary concern in a global pandemic must to halt the march of the physical illness, the impact on those with mental health problems will be huge. First of all, there are the problems posed by isolation: those who live alone and already suffer from loneliness will surely be hit hard. Then there’s the opposite problem for those who are forced to live in close quarters. Those struggling with mental illness, who have never been a priority for health services will be (understandably) the less so now. For anyone left to go it alone, my advice would be to reach out to whoever you can, join an online support group, keep up with WhatsApp chats, keep talking to people.

I must take a moment to be thankful that I am not isolated, though being holed up with the family presents its challenges. As early as yesterday night, I was beginning to feel claustrophobic and overwhelmed. It helps not to think of the enormity of the situation, I think, and to take it one day at a time.

Excursion

When I felt things were getting too much today, I went out to the pharmacy. This was justified as my toddler has bad nappy rash which could become infected if left untreated. I was a little apprehensive about going, expecting a line of people coughing into handkerchiefs and looking for healthcare advice inaccessible through the normal channels. What I found was something rather different.

The first thing that hit me was the emptiness of the roads and streets: there was something unnervingly apocalyptic about it. I hope when we, as a species, get through this, we think a little more about how we use and misuse the planet’s natural resources: If we don’t we will have to deal with problems still greater than Coronavirus. This pandemic might at least teach us that as a race, we are not invincible.

On the near-deserted streets there were a handful of dog-walkers. Dogs of the world must be enjoying having their owners home and keen to walk them in order to take some much-needed fresh air.

When I got to the pharmacy, I put on a mask for the first time, and an anxious-looking elderly couple waited in the car until I’d finished shopping. Inside, I was the only customer. There was a 1-metre cordon in front of the checkout desk, and the pharmacist wore gloves and seemed a little uneasy conducting the transaction. Then I got back in the car and drove home – there were no police patrols or road blocks in the area, as I’d thought they might be: obviously they were concentrating their efforts in more densely-populated areas.

Then back home to more claustrophobia, trying to entertain and educate the children, keep the apartment clean and sanitary, and most importantly, perhaps, not lose my mind.

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