It’s March in Berlin, the sun has just started to shine consistently as spring trickles onto the cobblestone streets, and I’ve been spending 23 hours a day inside for the last 12 days because of coronavirus.
Going outside in Berlin for “no reason” is currently allowed, but only in groups with a maximum of two people, and if you want to enter a pharmacy or supermarket (the only places allowed to open), it’s best you do so alone.
Many people are wearing masks, not necessarily because they help, but because they bring a certain sense of security in an otherwise ghost town-like city that’s become riddled with anxiety as a result of the vital but tense social distancing measures in place.
Hear about Australia’s latest coronavirus restrictions below:
There are plastic guards around the check-out staff, they’re wearing gloves and masks, there are stickers on the floor to mark the minimum 1.5-metre distance required between all people, and paying with cash is no longer an option. This is actually hilarious, considering that paying with card in Germany was, up until this point, seldom. Nothing like a pandemic to force a cash-happy society into the 21st Century.
When I do go outside, I have to carry identification and proof of residence with me, in case the police stop me, to prove that I haven’t wandered out of my own city district. Groups of more than two will be stopped by police, and fined. A terrifying concept out of context, and a foreboding one in a world where we’ve long forgotten the reality our grandparents faced.
Kids kept having coronavirus parties in Berlin’s parks however, and people kept meeting to slam a few tinnies and punch durries on the street. When a bunch of inconsiderate, virus-spreading, ignorance-touting idiots can’t get it together, even to save lives, I guess being pushed to the point of state control isn’t entirely unexpected. It’s like all the people who thought going to Bondi Beach on the weekend was a fabulous idea.
The measures are drastic, and important, but they do leave a very sour taste in one’s mouth, and in the air. This is Germany, after all, and in Berlin, where many buildings are still riddled with bullet holes from the 1940s, it’s easy to feel particularly wary of too much power being given to leadership.
My mood swings radically from stressed, anxious, depressed, worried, uncomfortable, and scared, to elated, organised, determined, happy, and productive about three times a day. My kitchen has never looked so clean, my muscles are hurting from doing more yoga than I ever did when I could still go to a group class, my cat is receiving a healthy amount of attention, and up until the time of writing, I still have a job. I await the call any second, so I bake another panic cake to avoid it. I watch the cashews and dates getting ripped apart in the blender and wonder if they’ll be available again next time I go to the supermarket. I haven’t been able to get spinach for days. No one here is fighting over toilet paper, but I still felt like an absolute bell-end last time I carried some home. I wonder if I’ll be able to use the blender tomorrow, or if the electricity will be cut off. I realise my mind is wandering again, teetering with worst case scenarios, so I try to do something to distract myself.
I was meant to head home from Berlin for a three week visit starting this coming Friday, but that’s been cancelled. I start to worry about my my grandparents and my dad, perhaps irrationally, but it’s a solitary feeling to suddenly be locked away from them, even more so at a time of global coronavirus crisis.
I decide to do what all the “keep yourself sane and entertained during lockdown!” lists say, and I start a puzzle that’s been collecting dust for the better part of a year. 24 hours and a throbbing neck ache later and it’s finished. Sitting in silence, I look around and realise how quiet the room is – something that never bothered me before, but that suddenly hangs over me and my puzzle with a heavy sense of gloom.
Tomorrow I’ll give the bathroom a deep clean, I tell myself. And then Angela Merkel addresses the nation again, a strangely comforting, regularly scheduled broadcast that has become a calming force over the past weeks. She speaks with a measured, logical urgency that creates a sense of societal solidarity in me, as I sit, locked away from society. I feel better.
Waiting patiently for my evening to match up with Australia’s morning, I stare at my phone. Then I get a text, Angela Merkel is going into isolation, the doctor who treated her has a confirmed case of coronavirus. I breathe, my throat hurts, I wonder if it’s corona, then the pain is gone. Or is it?
Stay healthy, stay safe, stay away from everyone.
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