I had felt embarrassed and silly when I made the request to work from home. Was I overreacting?
Joy Dayrit, a former Vancouverite who we featured in last December’s Traveler Profile updated us about the Netherland’s “intelligent lockdown.”
I had felt embarrassed and silly when I made the request to work from home.
But the thought of the crowded commute that I’ve done for the last six years made me anxious: a 40-minute train ride to Zuidas, a bustling business district in Amsterdam.
Two days prior the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte had announced “a no-handshake policy” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (then shook the health official’s hand after the press conference)
Was I overreacting?
The next day, March 12 the government announced at a 5:30 pm press conference that people should work from home if they were able to.
My family and I have been in a self-imposed quarantine since.
As of March 28, 9,762 people have tested positive with 2,748 hailing from North Brabant. The first coronavirus patient in the Netherlands attended the five-day Carnival celebrations in North Brabant in late February.
The numbers don’t reflect the actual numbers of those infected. There is limited testing here; only health care workers and those that require hospitalisation are getting tested.
Tuesday March 24
Yesterday they added new measures: the ban of all social gatherings until June 1, €400 fine for civilians who didn’t adhere to five feet (1.5 metre) distance rule, and a maximum of three visitors allowed in any household and only if it was possible to apply the five feet distance rule.
The government is calling the extra measures an “intelligent lockdown” and hoping to avoid a total lockdown.
This is the second week that my husband Paul and I have been working from home while trying to take care of our 3-year-old daughter.
She was going to daycare three days a week before the daycare/school closures.
I don’t stay in my pyjamas all day; my daughter wouldn’t have it! But I’ve ditched the dresses and heels for now. I think it’s important for one’s mental health to maintain a sense of normalcy while keeping in mind this new reality.
Listening to jazz music and drinking a nice glass of wine at the end of the day keeps us sane!
I celebrated my birthday last weekend with just the three of us. Groceries and a cake delivered to the doorstep was enough to call for a celebration!
As a birthday gift, my colleagues gave me vouchers to spend on Takeaway.com, an online service where you can order takeout from different restaurants in your area. It was the perfect gift for these crazy times!
Restaurants, bars and “coffee shops” (Dutch cannabis cafes) have been closed for more than a week now and have been ordered to be shut until April 6.
There were long lineups outside the coffee shops after the announcement was made 30 minutes before the 6 pm shutdown; people wanted to stockpile on weed. (This is the Netherlands after all.)
The government has now allowed coffee shops to offer takeaway services to prevent the rise of street dealers.
The average supermarket here is about a third of the size of a Canadian Superstore and smaller than that if you live in Amsterdam’s city centre. It would be very difficult to keep yourself 5 feet away from others, but they’ve finally limited the number of people coming into the supermarkets and enforced the 5 feet distance rule.
We order groceries online and have it delivered. It’s been stressful trying to find an open time slot for grocery deliveries. I’ve been stalking two grocery chains—they’ve been booked solid for two weeks straight.
Wednesday March 25
We live in a sprawling neighbourhood with modern brick houses and landscaped gardens about 35 minutes outside of Amsterdam. We’ve asked the gardeners and my house cleaner to not come by this month so we’ve divided up the chores between us.
House cleaning is my exercise routine now that my gym is closed. That, and playing cops and robbers with my daughter (for the 100th time).
Last year Paul splurged on an outdoor playhouse for her. It was the childhood house of his dreams: a wooden-stilt playhouse with a white balcony, an apple green slide and a sandbox beneath it. It’s proven to be a good investment these last two weeks now that we don’t venture out to the playground.
Animals are now claiming space that was once human territory. Bewildered ducks were seen waddling around on an empty Damrak, a main street that connects Amsterdam Central Station to Dam Square and is usually filled with throngs of tourists.
It’s criminal that not everyone has taken the situation seriously. Last Saturday, the sun came out and people showed up at the beaches and parks in droves. The government blocked the roads to the beaches the next day, and a nationwide alert was sent to every cell phone to adhere to the distancing rule.
Amsterdam’s Vondelpark was busy with joggers, boot-campers, and yogis before stricter measures came in.
These examples have been showing the cracks of living in a society that upholds personal freedom above all else.
Thursday March 26
I go for morning walks with my daughter before I log in for work. We’re free to walk around outside as long as we adhere to the five feet distance rule with others. We live in a very quiet neighbourhood, and the only people we see outside are those taking their dogs for a walk or an occasional jogger.
During the middle of today’s walk, we stopped by an intersection and my daughter exclaimed, “Look mama, a dog!”
An elderly man behind us pulled on the dog’s leash and they waited for us to make the next move. They were about 16 feet away, but I already felt a knot in my stomach.
1,019 people tested positive today—the biggest daily increase so far.
I’m more concerned for my daughter than I am for myself. My daughter has had respiratory problems in the past where we’ve had to drive to a different city (the hospital in our city had closed) to receive ER treatment for severe asthma. That visceral fear of losing a child stays with you.
Friday March 27
Today I texted a friend who lives in New Orleans after reading about the dire situation in Louisiana. Coronavirus cases there are climbing and there is a shortage of ventilators and protective equipment.
A friend and I were planning to fly in for the wedding which was scheduled on the same weekend as the French Quarter festival in mid-April.
He sent us a text a couple of weeks ago that they were postponing the wedding.
My daughter had her dance class today–online. Her dance teacher sent a video conferencing invitation for today’s dance class. Something that I had not expected!
Paul made videos of the class and he sent them to his mom and sister. We haven’t seen them for weeks as they’re also in quarantine.
A call for healing
An eery stillness has taken over the Netherlands in the last week. Belgium has closed its borders but the Dutch-German border remains open.
There are reduced services with the trains; they’re running at only 10% to 15% of their normal occupancy. There are no longer traffic jams on the major highways or traffic news to report.
The sports channels are playing old soccer matches because all sporting events have been postponed.
Two hotel chains, Fletcher and Van der Valk have converted their hotels to care centres dedicated to coronavirus patients: people who do not require emergency care but are too ill to stay at home.
The once crowded streets of Amsterdam are now barren. There are no crowds of tourists, no hustle and no bustle.
The few people outside are either jogging or cycling. Trams are empty shells, opening and closing their doors to a lone passenger.
I’m not too sure when and if life will ever be the same again.
When will we ever feel comfortable to greet someone with a hug?