Several weeks after U.S. states have gone into lockdown, the Independent continues to follow friends and family across the globe as they cope with the challenges of living through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Linu Del Deo, daughter and granddaughter of Provincetown artists Romolo and Salvatore, respectively, is a student at the Studio Arts College International in Florence. “I had a personal tradition of taking walks along the Arno,” Del Deo says of her daily routine in February. “I loved to wander through the narrow streets of Florence bumping shoulders with tourists, vendors, pickpockets, locals.” But the city has since changed drastically. “The piazzas are empty,” Del Deo says. “When I step outside to do only the most essential grocery shopping, I’m not met with a soul.”
Del Deo is confined to the apartment she used to share with other graduate students who have returned home out of fear of the virus. “I handle my anxiety by making as much art as I can,” she says. When, very occasionally, she goes anywhere, “you must carry an official document from the Interior Ministry and have a good reason to be out. Only essential travel is permitted.”
Long lines of people standing one meter apart from one another wind around street corners, waiting to enter a supermarket, Del Deo says. “Only about 10 or so customers are allowed inside at once. Before you enter through the doors, a worker wearing a mask sprays your hands with disinfectant.”
Del Deo feels fortunate to be a witness as Italy deals with the crisis. “Yesterday, on Easter Sunday, my neighbors were blasting music through their homes and singing to each other,” she says. “It was very heartwarming. It is a privilege to find myself in a situation where, amid the fear of a global disaster, one can still hear music.”
Jemma Gallagher, who grew up in Eastham, moved to Tokyo last July to work on the Olympics. “When I rented this eight-square-meter room in central Tokyo,” she says, “I had not anticipated that I would be spending 20 hours a day in it.”
Gallagher describes how the Covid-19 epidemic gradually began affecting life in Japan: “At work, it was high on our radar as early as the beginning of February, but not in any way that felt like it was coming here. By the end of the month, however, we started implementing a part-time, work-from-home schedule.”
Once the Olympic postponement was announced, Gallagher says, “the numbers of confirmed cases in Tokyo shot up. I sat quietly for several days, plugging away at what work I could manage to get done, feeling insecure about my job, housing, visa, and well-being.”
Since then, she has seen life around her settle into the new normal. “Japan fell very gracefully into a state of emergency,” she says. A stay-at-home advisory, recorded by an elementary school child, is broadcast through Gallagher’s neighborhood three times a day, at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 6 p.m. “There is still a shortage of paper products, and masks have been sold out for months, but there is also still food in the grocery stores, and the flowers have all bloomed as they were scheduled to,” she adds.
Eleanor Marriott, a photographer, lives in the small fishing town of Ramsgate in Kent on the coast of England. Having visited her close friend, Wellfleet resident Chris Wisniewski, in the States, Marriott sees Kent and the Outer Cape as having much in common: “Both,” she says, “are beautiful seaside communities filled with creative people.
“Ramsgate has a history of people coming together in times of adversity,” Marriott says. “We’re famous for our tunnels where the townsfolk would shelter during the Second World War. Now, when we do the ‘Clap for Carers’ Thursdays at 8 p.m., the air-raid sirens from the tunnels are sounded. It is powerful and moving.”
Ramsgate’s school was in the national press after pupils made over 20,000 visors for health workers, and when the choir that Marriott and Wisniewski were part of “did a rendition of ‘You’ve Got a Friend,’ with 276 people recording from their homes, to aid domestic abuse victims,” Marriott says. During the crisis, she and her partner, Tony, are focusing on home and health. “I am much more domesticated now — cooking and gardening are the new rock ’n’ roll!”
She prizes the time she can go out for daily exercise. “I make sure I run, cycle, or just go out with my camera every day,” Marriott says. “If I don’t, I feel like I’ve turned down a gift.”
Hôi An, Vietnam
Claire Polders, a native of the Netherlands, and her American husband, Daniel Presley, are both writers. In late 2018, they toured Cape Cod with the novel they co-wrote, A Whale in Paris, and made many friends here.
Polders and Presley were traveling in Asia when the Covid-19 crisis hit. They decided to seek refuge in Hôi An, a coastal town just south of Da Nang. “The number of Covid-19 cases is low in Vietnam — 268, of which 233 have recovered, no deaths,” Polders says. “The government took quarantine measures early, and hospitals were prepared. Everything nonessential was closed, but there has been plenty of food on the shelves, and restaurants deliver. We feel fortunate to have received visa extensions until June.”
Recently, Vietnam has begun to re-open. Polders believes that the country has handled the crisis exceptionally well. “The Vietnamese have a true sense of community,” she says. “They wear masks in public to protect others — not to protect themselves, as is often assumed. They wash their hands before they enter a building. They keep their distance when waiting in line. Places where more than 20 people gather remain closed, but businesses are open again and children will go back to school in May.”
Testing is widespread. “On March 24, Daniel and I were asked to undergo a Covid-19 test,” Polders says, “Not because we had any symptoms, but because it was Vietnam’s policy to test all citizens and foreigners who arrived after March 8.”
Polders remains hopeful, she says, “that we will come out of this stronger and wiser.” She adds that the most valuable lesson she is learning through this crisis “is that life happens in the present. So, I try to spend my moments wisely, without regret.”