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Coping far from home

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As New York City went into lockdown on Friday with more than 4,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 34 deaths, Susan Wakefield was scrambling to find needed medication.

“I called the doctor yesterday and left a message. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get it, ”said the Bermudian who left in 2012 for Long Island, where she works with a charity that helps medically vulnerable children.

While she doesn't need the medications to save her life, she does need them for symptom management.

Her solution to ease her anxiety? Gardening. She feels that getting fresh air and digging in the earth will help.

“I just bought some top soil,” Ms Wakefield said. “An old neighbour let me know that our town hardware store would be closing soon. I went to them yesterday, the first time out of the house in about five days. Their door was locked.

“I was told to knock and they would come to serve me. I told them what I wanted and gave them cash and they told me to drive to the back and someone would put it in my trunk.”

She described life during the pandemic as “surreal” and “unnerving”.

Although Long Island is known for its traffic, the streets are now empty.

“Last week was hard because every time you turned the TV on or off, something would change,” Ms Wakefield said.

Rowan Hallett lives in Italy, the country most affected by coronavirus so far. More than 4,000 deaths have been recorded and 47,000 infections, despite a nationwide lockdown.

Ms Hallett said people were dying because there just weren't enough hospital beds, ventilators and medical workers to cope.

“Where I am is still very much on the outskirts of the worst of this, so I don't really have any first-hand experience,” she said from her home in La Morra, which sits in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. Whenever she leaves home she has to carry a form that confirms her identity and explains why she is out.

“In the event that someone is stopped for a spot check the validity of this motivation will be assessed and, if found inadequate, the person will be fined,” she said.

Should shopping be her reason for being in public she has to prove she's out to buy necessities.

A make-up run, for example, will get her sent back home.

Ms Hallett, who has worked for a university in the area since 2014, said there were rumours that further restrictions would be placed on everything from how long you walked your dog, to which grocery store you used, to the number of people authorised to leave the house.

She's expecting things will not change for the better anytime soon; her office is closed until May 25.

“So I get the sense that this will not fade out any time soon,” she said, adding that ultimately, it is a sense of community that gets people through crisis.

She's helping the children of five families in the building she lives in, tutoring them online in English.

“I think people tend to let the list of things you can't do scare them out of thinking of creative things you can do to help each other out,” she said.

Carika Weldon, a genetic research scientist at the University of Oxford, was visiting a friend in Nigeria when the crisis really started to hit last week.

“Right now you can't tell there's a pandemic going on,” Dr Weldon said of her experience in the capital city, Abuja. “People here know about it, but it's not affected daily life.”

At the time of our interview, there were eight confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nigeria, with everyone affected in Lagos.

“Nigeria has banned travellers from 13 countries including the UK,” Dr Weldon said.

She felt nervous about heading back to England where she felt many people were infected and didn't know it, and where food might be in short supply.

Covid-19 was a nightmare revisited for Gerri Crockwell who suffered with the Hong Kong flu in 1970.

She's in Spain now as she was then, when she was the sickest she's ever been.

“I do realise that this virus is different,” said Ms Crockwell.

As of Friday, the country listed 19,980 confirmed infections and more than 1,000 deaths. So far, there are no confirmed cases in Ms Crockwell's village of Ojen in Andalusia.

“People are generally respecting the lockdown guidelines,” she said. “So I am reasonably comfortable so far.”

She said things haven't been particularly bad for her. She chats often with friends in the village, but she likes her own company.

An amateur photographer, she's using the time to organise her photos of Spain and Bermuda. “I am fortunate that I have a nice terrace with a gorgeous view,” she said. “I walk out every morning to see how the day breaks — love it.”

As far as food goes she is well stocked, with fresh produce and meat.

Of greater concern to her is Bermuda, particularly the economic fall out when the pandemic is over.

Self-defence: social-distancing at work in Ojen, Bermudian Gerri Crockwell's village in Spain
Identity checks: Bermudian Rowan Hallett lives in La Morra, in the Piedmont region of Italy, which has recorded the highest number of coronavirus deaths and infections
Fresh air and gardening: Susan Wakefield often gardens at her Long Island, New York home, to ease the anxiety of the pandemic
Not out of Africa: Bermudian scientist Carika Weldon lives in England but was visiting Nigeria's capital, Abuja, when it shut its borders because of the coronavirus (Photograph supplied)
Still thinking about us: Gerri Crockwell is concerned about Bermuda's economic recovery after the pandemic (Photograph supplied)

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Published March 23, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 23, 2020 at 8:42 am)

Coping far from home

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