Thursday, April 9 – I’m scared of what is coming

by Josette, BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

Day 24. I think there are so many aspects of daily life that we really take for granted – and I think listing those things here would be rather pointless – we all know that all those things have either been changed or are gone altogether. It’s amazing how in the blink of an eye, the world as you know it is gone and another world has emerged. I wonder if that’s how people felt during the Great Depression or the Cold War – I can’t even begin to imagine what people experienced during WWI and WWII. Major events that happen throughout history that, years later, we end up reading about in textbooks and having tests on them in school…years from now, future students will be studying this historic event too…and I was part of it.

If I thought the year 2019 was a crap year, welcome to the year 2020 – do NOT pass GO and do NOT collect 200.

PANDEMIC ….what?

Perhaps if helicopters weren’t flying overhead several times a day and people didn’t applaud every day at 9 p.m. for all the health service professionals working tirelessly to save people (aren’t we ALL saving each other?), would it feel less apocalyptic?

Double mask – regular one underneath and a fake leather one on top. I had to go to the ATM today.

I didn’t think this would become my reality – how I miss giving someone a hug… going outside and suspecting every single person of being a carrier of a virus that has the potential to kill me – I’m asthmatic, and I’m at the point where having to go outside has become a rather panic-inducing challenge. 

We’ve been in quarantine for 4 weeks now, and I HAD to go to the bank machine and pharmacy yesterday. I couldn’t wait anymore. Part of me was extremely nervous. I was expecting a ghost town – deserted streets, boarded-up businesses (here, they put their Persian blinds down basically-no boarding-up really required), minimal vehicles…but boy, was I wrong!

Let me fill you in a bit without turning this into 20 pages of a running tab of what’s been going on in Argentina over the past 3 weeks. 

For the first time in who knows how long, the Argentine president (who just took office in December 2019), set a world example by locking the country down into quarantine before the number of CO-VID19 cases had reached 100. This was absolutely pivotal in stopping the potential spiraling out of control of the number of cases and deaths here – something where, when you live in a place where people like to be close to you, you don’t want that happening. The Latin culture is a very social culture, and people like to be next to you: sharing drinks, food – whatever you have… “Hey, do you want some?” Part of the “tea time,” which is drinking mate, is shared by all around you. Luckily, the numbers have been increasing, but slowly. But it is not enough.

The problem, as is witnessed in many other places, is that there are a lot of ignorant people. These people don’t think “the quarantine applies to me” or people who just don’t care. So what happened? The authorities cracked down, making it against the law to break quarantine – you can get up to 6 months-2 years in prison. The last time I’d checked, they had arrested over 30,000 people and impounded over 900 vehicles. I haven’t checked the numbers in a week, but I imagine those have significantly increased.

At the beginning of the month, as is the same in many other places, it’s the day that pensioners and other retirees with benefits come to collect their money so that they can eat. I’m sure that you are aware of the social unrest that occurs in this part of the world – and this was no exception. What happened? The highest risk group for contracting this virus was in the street! Hundreds of elderly people all over the country were lined up outside banks for hours and hours – some even starting from the night before – to wait for the bank to open so they could get their money to be able to eat (no, a lot of them do not have debit cards). A lot of them were not taking the recommended precautions of social distancing or personal protection. How could the government not foresee this? Their solution was to open the banks on Saturdays and Sundays and have those people whose IDs ended in certain numbers go on one day, and the other go the next day. I can’t say if it’s had its repercussions, but the next few weeks will tell. I DO know that the virus is now sweeping through nursing homes and elderly residences.

People, mostly elderly, lined up outside banks to collect pensions.

I’m scared of what is coming. I don’t want my month of quarantine to be for nothing since others feel it doesn’t apply to them. But I guess it won’t be for nothing when I don’t die. Right now, we have to take each day as it comes – one day at a time. Today, I’ll go to the ATM. Tomorrow, I’ll get cat food.

A woman walks near a board advertising Health Ministry advise reading “Stay at home” during the outbreak of the new Coronavirus, COVID-19, in Buenos Aires, Argentina on March 19, 2020. (Photo by JUAN MABROMATA / AFP)

Did I mention I contracted a cold? Let’s hope it’s just a cold – but just having a simple cold has a whole new face now. Wish me luck. I wish you luck too.

Josette

Buenos Aires, April 8, 2020