The Corona diaries – week 1

For how this whole mess started, see my previous post, In the time of Corona.

20 March 2020 (Friday): As expected, our state (Bavaria) declared an “Ausgangssperre” (curfew), to begin at midnight on Friday the 20th March. A curfew is a regulation that requires people to stay indoors. Apparently the officials went for these measures because a lot of people have been ignoring the advice to avoid others (practice social distancing), and have continued to hang out in groups. The wonderful spring weather we had this week didn’t help – after months of grey skies and cold, everyone ran outside immediately. We did the same, going for nature walks on both days of the weekend, but we avoided contact with others. However, some young people were even having “Corona parties”. Crazy. So, now we all have a curfew. We’re allowed to leave home to go to work (if necessary), shopping for essentials (food, medicine etc), to the doctor, to help someone out, for animal care, and also for sports/walks/fresh air (since this is good for health). However, you can only hang out together with those you live with and nobody else.

Spring is here…and now we are locked indoors

I went into work, because I needed to pick up my external hard drive, which has the data on it I need for working from home. I had the whole office to myself, since the students had been sent home. Only other staff were around in our building, and we took care to keep a good distance from each other. The technician who normally helps with research told me she’d already been moved downstairs to the diagnostics lab, to help with testing for SARS-CoV-2.  If I weren’t pregnant I could also help out, but unfortunately pregnant women are banned from the diagnostic lab. It makes me feel a bit useless, having the skills and not being allowed to use them when it’s most necessary. In Berlin there have also been calls for people to volunteer to help out with testing, which I could have done if I were not pregnant.

My colleague also told me that another technician in our lab had come down with a cough and fever on Wednesday. I was at home on Wednesday and Thursday, but had been in the same room as the technician on Tuesday – luckily with minimal contact. As of yet it seems she won’t be tested, because at them moment they only test those with a history of contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients or those who develop symptoms after having been in high-risk areas. One reason for this is limited testing capacity. Currently, the whole of Germany is short on the swabs used to takes samples from people for testing.

It was weird saying goodbye to my colleagues when I left at the end of the day, not knowing when I’d next see them. Apart from working from home for the next while, I’ll most likely be off for even longer, since the baby is due at the end of April. I kind of hope they’ll need me for something in the meanwhile and I’ll have an excuse to go into work.

21 March 2020 (Saturday): First day of the 2-week curfew. It’s weekend (Saturday). We are not quite sure how the rules work, in terms of going out for a walk. Can we drive to a forest somewhere for a walk? This wouldn’t put us in contact with anyone, and it did say walks for fresh air are allowed. At any rate, the weather today is cold, so it’s not so inviting to go outside. We decide to postpone the walk till Sunday, when it should be sunny. The sky is so white today that I wonder if it might snow. During the week we had temperatures of 18-19 degrees C, and lots of sun. It seems now that even the weather wants to keep people inside.

What did we do today? Not much. We slept late, and since then have mostly been reading news about coronavirus or chatting to friends by Whatsapp or messenger. Almost every single post on Facebook these days is about coronavirus. There’s still a lot of misinformation going around. In Berlin, there is still no curfew – local politicians are arguing about whether it is necessary or not.

People post this a lot on Facebook:

The first time I saw it I thought it was a good point made in a humorous way. But as I saw it more, I started to think: what about those who don’t get paid when they don’t work? For them sitting on the couch is probably more stressful.

The toilet paper jokes are funnier. For some reason, lots of people panicked when COVID-19 cases started rising and started stockpiling toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bottled water and long-lasting food (pasta, cans, rice, etc). This is known as Hamsterkäufe in Germany, since hamsters are the ones who usually like stashing food away for later.

I’m not sure why people reacted like this, because there’s no logical reason why there should be shortages of these items (if people don’t stockpile). Seeing photos of the empty shelves in many supermarkets (in many countries) was quite mind-blowing and revealed an “Every man for himself” mentality in a lot of people. Some people obviously overestimate their toilet paper consumption, too, so this handy calculator was developed to show people how ridiculously overstocked they are.

Meals:  Breakfast: croissants (baked from frozen) with sour cherry jam, leftover homemade pan-pizza from the night before, blueberries, fruit juice, coffee; Lunch: risotto with mushrooms (made with lemon-infused olive oil); Supper: leftover risotto, bread with herb quark, some chocolate for dessert

Homemade pan pizza.

22 March 2020 (Sunday): We hear the church bells ringing in the morning, but we know no-one can go to church.

Somebody asked this online, regarding the curfew: “Can I still ride a bike, jog alone in the park or go for a walk alone? Can I drive there by car?” The answer: “Yes. Sports, walking and exercise in the fresh air are permitted. However, only alone or with members of your own household and without any other group formation. Please keep your distance.”

Hooray! We decided to go for a walk out of the city, where it should be less crowded. The weather was perfect: sunny and cloudless blue skies. Normally in Germany when you go for walks you don’t need to bring food with because there’s always cafés and restaurants around, but now everything is closed, so we packed our own sandwiches like we did last weekend. I actually like picnic lunches.

We did a walk in the Guttenberger Wald (Guttenberger Woods), near Reichenberg, just outside of Würzburg. Cars at the parking lot had mostly spaced themselves out, keeping in line with social distancing. The walk was not crowded. We passed others fairly often, but we all kept our distance from each other. On some sections we were mostly alone. It felt so good to be outside, breathe in the fresh air and feel the sunshine on our faces. I hope they don’t change the rules at some point and ban walks as well.

Today, the other German federal states decided on measures similar to Bavaria’s curfew, although they did not call it a curfew. Social get-togethers of 2 people are still allowed, unlike here where you can only interact with members of your household. Other than that, there isn’t much difference.

My favourite infographic of the day:

Meals: Breakfast: oat porridge, banana bread, fruit juice, coffee; Lunch: cheese and tomato sandwiches (in the forest); Supper: goulash and homemade bread rolls from a recipe my mom found on the Net, canned mandarins for dessert


23 March 2020 (Monday): Another sunny, blue-sky day, but home office is the plan for my husband and I. I’m under no pressure to work, since officially I’m on maternity leave, which starts automatically 6 weeks before birth in Germany, but there are some things I’d like to work on anyway.

In the morning, I got a phone call that the birth preparation course that was supposed to run this weekend in Berlin has been cancelled. It was not a surprise, and we were thinking of cancelling anyway, since sitting in a group of strangers seems too high-risk at this time. Last Wednesday, the midwife at the hospital assured me that it was ok not to do the course. Some people do it, some people don’t, she said, and the baby comes either way. We will probably just watch some videos online.

I do miss Berlin, and our apartment there, and it’s a pity we can’t visit again soon. As my husband pointed out, even if we did go, we wouldn’t be able to see anyone and all the restaurants are closed. We have some elderly neighbours there, and I would have liked to offer them some help with shopping. They’re so popular in the building that I’m sure someone else has already offered, in any event.

Somebody I know in the U.S. shared a petition to allow husbands/one support person to be present at the birth, as some New York hospitals are apparently forbidding it, against the recommendations of the Department of Health. So far they haven’t forbidden it in Germany, and I hope it stays that way.

The latest news is that now not only swabs for collecting samples are running out (all over Germany) but also test kits. And the automatic testing machines that can speed up testing are being produced extremely slowly. You’d think production could be stepped up in emergencies – I really hope someone will make a plan. We heard that they will start producing masks in a factory near Würzburg.

In other news, loss of smell and taste has been observed as a symptom of COVID-19, even in people showing no other symptoms. It’s been recommended that if people have these symptoms they should self-isolate to avoid spreading the virus. Read more about it here.

My favourite thing I watched today was this, some words from Italian mayors. This clip of a guy insisting on going out for coffee is also funny.

At around 4:30 we went for a short stroll to get some exercise, fresh air and sunshine. I’m grateful that’s still allowed and think it would be very unhealthy not to be allowed out at all. It’s such a beautiful time of year that it hurts knowing we are going to miss most of it.

In the evening, I listed to President Ramaphosa’s speech to the South African public. South Africa will also have a lockdown, starting on Thursday at midnight. It will be more strict than here, as even going out for walks won’t be allowed. However, going to get essential supplies (food, medicine) and so forth is still allowed. This should stem the outbreak, so I think it’s a good idea. In his speech he also spoke at length at how the government will address the economic implications of the shut down. I’m happy that South Africa has a smart and decisive president – country leaders are going to have a huge impact on how well countries get through this pandemic.

Also love this video featuring the president made by “The Kiffness”, using a clip from when he was explaining alternatives to shaking hands earlier in the pandemic (now people are being advised to stay even further away from each other).

Meals: Breakfast: leftover rolls from dinner. Lunch: Spinach and ricotta ravioli with cheese sauce and chopped cherry tomatoes. Snacks: yoghurt, banana bread. Supper: Pancakes with nutella and the last of the bananas.

24 March 2020 (Tuesday):

Another slow start to doing something productive – people are messaging a lot more these days. Time flies while I am answering all the messages and reading the latest coronavirus news. Will try to stop this habit from tomorrow…

Apparently only our “Restmüll” rubbish will be collected from now on (the stuff that can’t be recycled). The plastic, paper etc. (that is normally collected separately in Germany) won’t be collected for the time being. I’m glad at least the Restmüll will be taken away, as that is normally the stinkier rubbish – the rest we clean before putting it into separate bins. The Restmüll is normally the smallest rubbish pile anyway, since almost everything can be sorted into other categories. We’ll have to store the paper and plastic somewhere in the meanwhile. The Biomüll (biological waste like banana peels etc) can also get a bit smelly so we’ll have to figure out a place to put that. It can probably go together with the Restmüll, as it is biodegradable anyway (if we had a garden we’d make a compost heap, but we are renting an apartment). Obviously none of this is a major problem, but it shows how the outbreak is affecting all aspects of life.

Made a delicious salad for lunch (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado, feta, bacon, croutons) and then we went for our daily exercise/fresh air/sunshine walk. We decided to go in the middle of the day this time to see if it would be quieter, and it was. The other people doing their walks also seem to be behaving and moving to the side to allow enough distance for passing.

Meals: Breakfast: Yoghurt, oats. Lunch: Salad with lettuce, tomatoes, feta, avocado, bacon bits and croutons made from bread. Supper: Pasta puttanesca (tomato, olives, capers, and we substituted sardines in chilli for anchovies)

25 March 2020 (Wednesday):

A friend from Berlin asked if she and her friend could come and visit us Würzburg. We had to say no. Even if the rules in Bavaria did not forbid it, I would not think it is a good idea. The more people everyone meets with, the more the virus will continue to spread. In Berlin the current rules are more relaxed than in Bavaria. People are still allowed to meet with others, as long as they are only out two at a time. But this will not stop the virus spreading. If you would meet one other person every day for a week, that’s 7 other people you are meeting with, and each of them also meets others. Similar to others who have decided to limit their social circle for the time being, our friend says she only meets with two people, plus her room-mate, so that is three. But if all three of them also meet others, that social circle is already too wide in my opinion. For two or three weeks it would be better if everyone would just self-isolate. I know it is harder for people who live alone. The best is to remember that it’s only temporary. And afterwards we will all appreciate simple things much more!

My husband decided to experiment with making sour dough bread (in between working). I guess these are the days for such experiments!

I find I am spending so much time cooking these days. I used to eat lunch with my colleagues at the cafeteria at work, and for dinner we sometimes went out – now all meals are at home.

We went for our exercise walk in the evening this time, because my husband had tele-conferences all day. It was quiet but there was not much to see. Only crows and their nests.

Meals: Breakfast: Yoghurt, oats. Lunch: lasagne. Supper: bread with cheese, canned pears, raspberries (my husband went shopping as we were craving fresh fruit).

26 March 2020 (Thursday): Ok, I am bored already. And not walking around so much now that we’re inside the majority of the day makes my blood pressure low, so I feel more tired. In the afternoon we did another exercise walk, which woke me up a bit.

After that I finally managed to get into some work. So I worked up until dinner, which was homemade pizza.

Today I also found out online how some people go through so much toilet paper…

Meals: Breakfast: Yoghurt, oats, blueberries. Lunch: leftover lasagne. Tea-time: Czech apple strudel. Supper: Homemade vegetarian pizza.

27 March 2020 (Friday): One whole week in curfew (it started last Friday at midnight). Which means, I haven’t chatted to anyone in person the whole week except for my husband. At least we have each other. And we’ve also done a lot of Whatsapping and messaging with friends. My phone battery runs down twice as fast as usual these days. I woke up to the news of the first 2 deaths in South Africa, two women aged 48 and 28. It has not yet been stated whether they had underlying health conditions, and the test for COVID-19 is still pending in the 28-year old. The information on one of the cases (see below) is that they do not know where she picked up the virus, which is worrying as it indicates uncontrolled spread. The cases also rose over 1000 today. It is the first day of a strict lock-down for South Africa – hopefully this will get rid of the virus. At the moment, people are still queuing outside supermarkets, without standing far apart. Hopefully this will settle down soon once most people have done their shopping.

Rest in peace 🙁 A stark reminder that not only the elderly are at risk.

Today is my birthday. Originally we had planned to go to Berlin this weekend so that I could celebrate with friends. But now meeting people is not allowed, and restaurants and cafés are closed, so it’s a quiet birthday. The same is true for other friends who have birthdays at this time. My husband bought me a 3000 piece puzzle for my birthday with a LOT of shades of green – this could keep me busy for 10 more years of lockdown! Not sure where I’ll build it though, as his home office is occupying our table…

We went for our usual daily exercise walk in the late afternoon after my husband had finished with home office for the day. The weather was fantastic, 19 degrees and sunny. Luckily there’s enough hills in Würzburg that even going for a walk is pretty good exercise (well, especially when you are 35 weeks pregnant!).

In the evening my husband made me a quarantine cake, which was improvised but surprising tasty!

We were supposed to have a birth preparation course in Berlin on Saturday and Sunday, but that’s also been cancelled, so we’ll stay in Würzburg. I’m not sure if leaving the state is allowed anyway during this curfew, and if it’s allowed it’s probably not encouraged. As far as being indoors goes, we might as well be anywhere, and Berlin is more crowded and doesn’t have a proper lockdown, so probably comes with a higher risk of catching the virus. There are a few things there that it would be nice to have here since we’re stuck inside, and some official papers we need once the baby is born are also there, but it’s too long of a drive just to pick things up. Hopefully things will improve over the next weeks.

Stay healthy, everyone.

Meals: Breakfast: yoghurt, Czech apple strudel, Physalis (Cape gooseberries). Second breakfast: leftover pizza. Lunch: Pasta with pesto. Supper: stew.

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