In early February 2020, my friend sent a message over to me from Beijing, China. She was visiting her family and friends for Chinese new year celebrations. She was upset and concerned for her home country and the world because the novel coronavirus was spreading fast, resulting in Wuhan city, the suspected place of origin and epicentre being locked down. I reassured her and told her that this wouldn’t be as bad as she was predicting it would be. I was trying to be as optimistic as I could and I didn’t want to think of the worst case scenarios. As a few more days went by, I quickly noticed how Asian countries responded. The Chinese government and its people responded swiftly to the outbreak and the neighbouring countries including the Philippines started screening airline passengers by taking their temperatures at the arrival gates. That was when I started to realise that this was virus was more dangerous than I thought.
When my friend came back from Beijing in late February and landed at Heathrow airport. She told me that Heathrow airport didn’t have much information about the virus posted anywhere. There were no members of staff checking temperatures for passengers like herself. There were no cards for her to fill in to help airlines gather passenger information in case they needed to contact passengers; although she did say they were asking passengers who landed straight from Wuhan to do so. She felt that her temperature should have been checked by the airport staff even though she came from Beijing. She told me that she didn’t feel the UK did enough or acted fast enough. She saw clearly, from her very own experience how different the initial UK response was compared to the Chinese response when this coronavirus outbreak first began.
As the days went by, I started to discuss this with some people at work who were clearly not phased by the global coronavirus outbreak at all. Some had even said that this will not affect the UK whatsoever so there was no cause for panic. I begged to differ and explained that if we don’t get this under control and respond quickly like other Asian nations have, then we will suffer the consequences.
I was surrounded by people who were adapting the ‘Keep calm and carry on’ attitude and so I was hopeful in the first few days the UK media outlets announced that we had a few cases diagnosed. When they announced that the first coronavirus death was in the Philippines, I was more than concerned for my compatriots and as more days passed, more people around the world were diagnosed with some sadly succumbing to this deadly disease daily. I was particularly alarmed by what happened to Italy, with so many cases reported- currently at 41,035 with 3,405 deaths. While China has started to report a reduction in new cases, with the new cases mainly coming from travelers abroad, Europe has now become the new epicentre of this deadly virus. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I remembered my friend’s warning and she was right.
Still, I found that life carried on as normal for a lot of us in the UK. We were expected to carry on and go to work with no announcements from the government to lockdown like the rest of Europe had done. I hid my concerns as much as I can. I’ll be honest and say that I felt alone and without my Chinese friend to discuss things with, I would have felt even more alone in my thoughts about this crisis.
When the WHO announced that Covid-19 has now become a global pandemic, that was when I decided to hit the grocery stores to buy the essential items that we need in our household but also for my parents who live in another town. I vlogged this experience and posted this on Youtube. I was still joking around and trying to keep my spirits up while shopping. A part of me was, I guess, in denial but I knew that this was only the beginning. When I got to Tesco at around 10.40 AM with large queues already formed by the till areas, I knew then that people took this more seriously than before.
We couldn’t get everything we needed as Tesco imposed a 5 item limit on each item (now reduced to 3). We refused to be selfish by panic buying and hoarding like others were doing but we were shopping for two households- ours and my elderly parents so we had to get as much as we could. We put them first and made sure we stocked up their home full of their daily essentials and food.
My fiance and I are coping well but we are exhausted. We are constantly searching for food and essentials like toilet rolls because people have hoarded so much that we can’t find any. Driving back and forth to drop of things my parents need is truly testing our resilience and energy levels. It’s sad that we can’t even go inside their homes anymore. We can only drop off their groceries outside the door. It’s hard to do all of this after an already stressful and difficult time at work. We feel exhausted and pressured to be strong, not only for our households but for the companies we work for. I can only imagine the hard work our front liners out there are doing, from the NHS medical staff all the way to the grocery store clerks who are tirelessly working round the clock to provide us with our essentials. We are forever grateful for their sacrifices to keep our societies going.
We hit the shops again a few days later to get supplies for our home this time and to our surprise, we saw nothing but empty shelves.
This is constantly what we find any time we try and shop, nothing but empty shelves or shelves with non essential items. The lady who served us at the till once told us of an elderly customer who was looking for bread and margarine but couldn’t find any in store. A lady overheard the conversation and gave the old man the last loaf of bread in her cart. Everyone who witnessed this act of kindness were left in tears.
I was in tears too when I heard this heartwarming story for during this difficult time, I think about the elderly and the vulnerable in our society. I think about those who are caring for the sick and who are themselves unwell already. I think about the people who have lost their loved ones, their jobs and so many other things some of us often take for granted.
I am praying that this would all be over soon.
I was driving late at night with Simon. As we both listened to the light sound of the wind and rain, we were both grateful that we had each other to depend on during this time which feels like war. I thought about the people that have come before us who suffered worse than what we are going through now. They made it and I believe that if they could do it, then so can we.
I drove and focused right ahead and as I gathered some speed, I promised myself that I would step up and do what is necessary to get through whatever comes our way.
This is truly a humbling experience and one which I will never forget. I’ve been changed by this and I have no doubt that we will keep on changing as we face more difficult days ahead. After all our many losses, I hope that we gain just as much wisdom in return to help us all lead a better life in the future.
As I finished writing this, there are currently 3,269 cases in the UK with 643 new cases diagnosed this day alone and sadly, 144 deaths so far.
Our hearts go out to everyone and we are sending out all our love to each and everyone of you who have been affected by this global pandemic.
We will get through this and most importantly, remember to…