DUBLIN / MADRID, Mar 19 (Reuters) – Millions of people around the world have been forced into isolation and have now been confined to their four walls or neighborhoods for weeks in the battle to contain or reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
This new way of living creates enormous challenges. Teaching, working and socializing have become online more than ever. The closure has also led many people to reevaluate what is most important in their lives, leading to unexpected reflections or moving moments with their families.
Sha Jie, a 19-year-old elementary student, is taking classes online. He goes to the kitchen table in his 70-square-meter apartment where he lives with his parents and grandmother in Shanghai and follows the lesson through a television screen.
“I go out once a day at most, just to walk around the neighborhood. My parents told me to wear face masks to go out and to wash my hands carefully when I go home.”
“I study, draw, watch movies at home (…) and build things. I even made a LEGO programmable car model,” he said.
When asked what he would like to do more when his life returns to normal, he replies, “Hang out with my friends and play with them.”
Thousands of kilometers away, in Milan, the 14-year-old teenager Lavinia Tomassini also tries to study at home.
“I get up much later and go to bed later than usual. I focus less when I’m at home, I like to go to school and study there.”
“I hope this all ends … I am really having a hard time studying at home and I have too many distractions here. I also really want to go out again without having to worry about catching it.”
In the United States, as in other countries with large outbreaks of the disease, Dr. William Jason Sulaka had to learn how to consult online since he cannot personally see his patients.
“I would prefer to see them in the consultation … I prefer real visits,” he said.
But the 40-year-old West Bloomfield, Michigan-based doctor has tried to stay home as long as possible with his wife and children.
“I just miss the freedom to go out in general and not have to worry about the person next to me.”
Through online consultations, Dr. Lisa Elconin, 57, also in West Bloomfield, Michigan, receives 10 times more patient communications.
The closure of workplaces has given people time with their families that they have never had before.
Dino Lin, a 40-year-old man who works at an auto parts manufacturer, was fortunate to move into a more spacious apartment in Shanghai just before the virus began to spread, allowing his 5-year-old daughter Wowo Lin to have own room.
“We have mostly stayed at home. We are not required to, but we believe this is the best way to keep our family away from infection … Occasionally I go down the stairs to get daily supplies and food. My wife and my daughter don’t come out the front door. “
Lin previously traveled each week from Shanghai to the city in central China where he worked.
“Now I finally had a lot of time to spend with my daughter and my wife. We helped our daughter create a daily plan, which includes English, math study, cello practice, reading, and her favorite activity: watching cartoons.”
“After life returns to normal, I think the first thing for me is to have a great meal at a decent restaurant. My daughter’s wish is definitely to see and play with her best friends.”
Musicians from the Chinese group “The 2econd” in Beijing have not been able to meet for weeks, but now they got together online to play live for their fans.
“I never thought that I would not see my bandmates in almost two months. As members of the one-child generation, we have no brothers. We are the best companions. We share everything in life, joys and sorrows. I am used to meeting with them every weekend for a drink or a chat. It was sad when we suddenly had to stop, “said vocalist Zhang Cheng, 30.
“I see this period as a double-edged sword. Although some recital plans were postponed, it gave us more time to calm down and reflect on our work and make it more mature.”
Thomas Law Kwok Fai, a 70-year-old Catholic priest in Hong Kong, also turned to the live broadcast, after the diocese temporarily suspended public masses in churches.
“It was a painful decision. However, it was a decision of faith since we believe in God. God has given us the power to make sacrifices that make it a loving decision.”
In the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, Ana Pereira, 51, lives alone with her dog and cat. She is sitting in front of her computer for a virtual picnic with friends, as they cannot actually meet as they have done weekly since 2011.
It is hardly a viable alternative.
“I need physical contact and I miss him a lot,” he said. When asked what is the first thing he wants when life returns to normal, he replied: “A hug”.
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(Reuters report bureaux; written by Alexandra Hudson. Edited in Spanish by Marion Giraldo)