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Bermudians abroad managing the new normal

After missing the last flight out of Luanda, Quinton DeShield has hunkered down in Angola's capital city. He moved there in January to set up his company, GFox Solutions.

Two months later, flights in and out of the African nation were suspended; so far the country has recorded four cases of Covid-19.

“Things have moved very fast as British citizens were given about 24 hours to leave the country, which did not give me enough time to take up the notice,” Mr DeShield said.

It is part of the firm stance Angola has taken on the crisis. Planes that arrived after the ban were boarded, passengers' passports were removed and they were taken to quarantine.

“This type of intervention would probably not be accepted in a fully democratic country that I am used to, but I am very glad of their decision,” Mr DeShield said.

“With the oil prices falling, most foreign workers had their jobs stopped as it was not viable to continue working. With prices so low, this would have a major effect on the country and make it very difficult for the Government to mirror what has been happening in developed economies.”

The knock-on effect is that, with the foreigners gone, the shops are full of goods because the average Angolan cannot afford them. Many do not even have the means to wash their hands properly — the first step in avoiding Covid-19.

“With no real water or sanitary systems in place, the death toll in Africa will be very large,” Mr DeShield said.

“We have to travel in very packed public transport, roads are poor, so emergency vehicles would not be able to get to patients, and more people would rather catch the virus than die of hunger, which kills more children here than disease.”

However, he said that the citizens were used to obeying the word of the Government. If they are told to stay indoors, most will.

Catherine Zuill and her spouse, Michelle, had been planning to go on holiday to celebrate their 1st anniversary on April 6.

As the number of people in Australia with Covid-19 rose to more than 2,800, the Sydney couple decided to change their plans.

“We've been together for 16 years, but got married when Australia legalised same-sex marriage,” Ms Zuill said.

“If we had decided to get married this year, we would have had to call it off, as Australia is only allowing five people to attend a wedding.”

Instead of going up the coast to Byron Bay for a week, they plan to connect virtually with friends and family on Friday.

“We are going to use an app to connect with my sons and our friends and have a virtual catch up,” Ms Zuill said.

“That will help us get through this, plus a cocktail won't go astray.”

She said that it was amazing to consider that a month ago Australia had only 19 cases of Covid-19.

The Government has decreed that people can only go out for food or exercise. All but essential services have been shut down.

“We are not allowed to leave the country and other states have shut their borders to us because New South Wales has so many cases,” Ms Zuill said.

“The Government has taken extreme measures to prevent this virus from spreading and to ensure that our health system is not overwhelmed.

“I am personally glad they are doing this. We don't want Australia to go down the path of Italy or Spain where the health system has all but collapsed and many people, especially the elderly, are dying.” She has realised that she was taking a lot of simple things for granted in life ­— being able to go to the gym, getting a haircut, meeting with friends.

“We are trying to apply some structure to our day at home so that it mirrors what we were doing before from a work point of view.”

Ms Zuill said not seeing her family and friends was hard. To cope, she is eating her way through a stash of mini Easter eggs.

Elizabeth Tee had to make 13 trips before she was able to find toilet paper in her grocery store in London.

So she considered it a major triumph that she was able to snag the last package of sanitising wipes last week.

“And I only got that because the shop girl put a package back,” she said. “Everything else was gone.”

The mood in Kensington, her neighbourhood for the past year, is sombre. Nearby Cromwell Road, normally a busy thoroughfare bringing people into London from the west, is now virtually empty.

“I am taking everything day by day,” she said. “It is really about getting used to a new way of life.”

She stays in most of the time, reading, chatting with friends on the phone and taking virtual yoga lessons. Once a day, she walks her dogs in nearby Hyde Park.

“I see a few people on the street who are also walking their dogs,” she said. “It is important, anyway, for everyone to exercise.”

People in Britain are only tested for Covid-19 if they are admitted to hospital. Two of her friends have had it.

“One had it really badly last week,” she said. “She was in bed for seven days with a fever and a cough. She was very lethargic and slept all the time. She was one of the ones that have not been counted.

“There are thousands of people who have coronavirus who are not even being counted in the numbers. They estimate that half of the population in the United Kingdom has coronavirus. That is 25 million people. But the Government has only ordered 3.5 million test kits. They are not even available to consumers right now.

“Hopefully, next week they will be, in some form. But that is only a fraction of what we need, unfortunately. The resources are so limited.”

Despite the grim statistics, she does not believe the UK should have shut down any sooner than it did. On March 23, only days before it was announced that he had coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the public to stay indoors except when shopping for basic necessities, exercising, for medical reasons or work. Bars and restaurants were shuttered three days earlier.

“It is such a psychological shift in how we live our life, that I think it was good that the Government staggered the changes and the restrictions,” Ms Tee said.

“The way we are living today, if I was told to start living like this all of a sudden, two weeks ago, I wouldn't have taken the directions seriously.

“I think by staggering those decisions it allowed us about a week to get on board and understand the severity of this virus. I think the way they handled it was actually good. I think we continued to see the number of cases and the number of deaths rise. That made it more real.”

Italy resident Derek Mitchell is frustrated waiting for things to get better there.

He moved to the Marche region nine years ago and lives in a hilltop town, Penna San Giovanni.

The country has so far had 86,498 cases of Covid-19. Of the more than 9,000 deaths recorded, 900 occurred on Friday.

“It doesn't seem to be getting any worse, more like the previous upward trajectory has been stopped, but we have not yet seen numbers start to drop as yet,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Hopefully the efforts of the last two weeks of lockdown will start to show some benefit soon.

“There are not so much in our area, but I believe that there are more restrictions further north where the coronavirus has hit much harder. What has apparently increased, however, are the penalties for disregarding the restrictions.”

Italians face fines of $215 for going out without a valid reason, such as to the pharmacy or supermarket.

Global issue: Elizabeth Tee in London with toilet paper she bought after 13 trips to the store

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Published March 30, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 30, 2020 at 11:11 am)

Bermudians abroad managing the new normal

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