It's hard to believe there has only been a week of precautions against the spread of Covid-19 here in Ireland — so much has changed in so little time
A week ago, we were all just sitting down to our newly-appointed work-from-home desks for the first time. "This is all a bit mad," we thought, as we planned our shopping trip for later that evening. A week – seven days – seemed like a short time frame, one that could easily be passed with all the fun things we had planned for around the house.
Now, we know different. Seven days, contrary to what we thought before, is an impossibly long time. Seven days can turn the world upside down and change every facet of your life. Seven days is all it takes for your day-to-day to become very hard to deal with.
There have been numerous moments in the past seven days that I've thought to myself, 'wow, things are really getting real'. Just this morning, I was scrolling through what we at IMAGE have written so far about coronavirus, and came across a piece from January – 'what you need to know about coronavirus'. The piece, completely factually correct at the time, detailed a new virus that had originated in China, but that was unlikely to hit Irish shores. It seems like years ago that that was how we thought of it.
We all, myself included, have done things wrong since the beginning of the outbreak here in Ireland. I've believed incorrect information, I've broken some rules that the HSE have put out. But as we know, seven days is a long time – here's hoping that this time next week I'll be a lot wiser about what's to come.
Walks are all any of us can do to keep sane
During the last week, we've seen the vast majority of non-essential businesses close, with their employees either working from home (if they are able), or essentially laid off for the foreseeable. There are no shops to peruse, no cinemas to relax in, and no pubs to have a drink in. The only forms of entertainment we have to pass the hours are the ones indoors (which are plentiful), or taking a walk. And we've really latched onto the latter.
Walking seems to be the new therapy of choice for all of us who are working from home. Since we've been told that getting outside is important for mental health, but that there is nowhere open for activities, the local park or green area is in high demand. We walk for hours, finding new routes, new things to look at, new people to see from a safe 6 feet distance. Can you imagine if this had all happened when the weather was bad?
A trip to the shops is not innocent
On Friday, I made my first trip to the local supermarket since the outbreak had ramped up, and it was one of those, 'Wow, this is real' moments. The queue for my local Dunnes Stores stretched all the way outside the shopping centre, with each patron on their marks to be 2 metres apart. Many wore masks, or covered their faces with scarves. The pharmacy next door opened and closed their shutters between visitors to stop any further spread. Things started to feel distinctly other-worldly.
A trip to the shops is no longer a way to kill boredom. Don't just nip down every time you need an extra pepper for dinner or fancy some chocolate. You have to limit your visits to as few as possible, and go by yourself. Doing the shopping isn't a group activity for the family anymore.
The rules of how a virus spreads don't stop just because you're outdoors
As much as we have all found a new love for walking, it didn't take too long for us to abuse the privilege. This past weekend, with the weather picking up into springtime (and with stir craziness beginning to take hold), the most scenic areas of the country were taken over by those who just 'needed to get out'.
Queues for fish and chips or ice cream at the seaside stretched along the entire main streets. Car parks of local green spaces were full. Congregations of teenagers at street corners grew. We thought we had this social distancing thing down – just don't have anyone around to visit, right? Turns out that the virus doesn't stop at the front door.
Days have become just a countdown to the Six One news
Is anyone else counting down the hours of your work-from-home day until the Six One news to find out the latest numbers? We have all become maths whizzes, making our own calculations and charts about how the number of new cases and, unfortunately, deaths will grow over the next few weeks.
We wait with bated breath to hear the now-familiar sound of Dr Tony Holohan's voice on the news, announcing how many more people have contracted Covid-19 (and secretly hope that we aren't next).
The human spirit prevails
In the midst of all the scariness and sadness, the human spirit, and specifically the Irish spirit, has made itself known in the best way. From bingo on the flats' balconies, to socially-distanced street parties on St Patrick's Day, Ireland will always know how to celebrate, even when it seems like there's nothing much to be excited about.
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