Around the world during a pandemic
FD man learns the COVID-19 situation has led to lockdowns and even a surprise visit by a gunboat
Editor’s note: Since retiring, Neil Gadbury, of Fort Dodge, has pursued his passion for sailing and has traveled around the world. In his travels, he has met and befriended many people. As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued, he reached out to many of those friends to see how they were doing. Here, he shares some of their responses with readers of The Messenger.
By NEIL GADBURY
I can’t sit still. The social distancing, I get, and the face masks and the hand washing etc. all are needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But as I cancelled planned trips for this spring and watched future events cancelled for this summer and fall I began to wonder how all the people I have met traveling in the last five years are doing.
The notion of contacting these people started percolating in my head after talking to a friend who has a son living in King County, Washington State, where the early infections began and a daughter living in New York City who became infected. One soon realizes this is closer to home than we realize.
After retiring I acted on my passion of sailing. Reading about the problems the sailing community is having around the world I thought I would contact the people I have met to see how they are getting along and what their day- to day experience is like.
It kind of became a project of mine to see how they are doing.
So, I contacted more than 30 individuals from 10 countries asking them to tell me how they are. I wished them all to be well and safe. I worked with each of them for two weeks to 10 weeks at different times. Thirteen responded from seven countries and three from the US.
As I read through the emails I received, I noticed a couple of common themes. First, the obvious is the social distancing is common around the world. But, as we are seeing in the United States, each country is treating the virus outbreak differently. Each has developed a plan unique to its country’s battle to fight the virus, just as the U.S. has developed plans unique to each state.
Here are their responses:
Christofer Clevhammer, who lives and works in Stockholm, Sweden, wrote:
“Here in Sweden we can do whatever we like to. It’s crazy. As soon as the sun pops out every restaurant was crowded, no respect to social distancing. The big talk in my yacht club is how we can put the boats in the water in a safe way. We have done godliness for our members so we worked safe. 80% of the Swedish people following the rules of distancing and work from home, but the rest do not. The big thing in Stockholm is that COVID-19 have gotten into the residential (rest) homes. My Dad passed away four weeks ago, so it has been a hard time.” Note, his father suffered from cerebral palsy.
Corinne Writh, a retired marketing executive, now a sailing instructor and commercial yatchswoman, lives in Zurich, Switzerland.
“Hi I am home in Switzerland stranded at least till June maybe longer. I had a bad flooding in my home and it’s almost fixed again. … I look after my parents and go shopping for them as they need to take care. It is difficult to plan as we don’t know when the borders will open again … patience is king … all the best and stay safe. Corinne”
Peter Leicht is an attorney living in Hamburg, Germany.
”I live nearby and work in Hamburg. Five weeks ago, we had a lockdown. That means all shops, restaurants were closed. It was not forbidden to leave the house, but a minimum distance of 1.5 m to the next (person) has to be ensured and it was forbidden to meet other people. Only groups of two were allowed. The offices in Hamburg are seemingly empty since all people work from home, Home-Office. I work in a law firm and all (lawyers and secretaries) got an VPN access; so we can work from home like in the office. We have full access to all data. Our business is seemingly running without any serious impact by COVID-19, but in general Germany will face a serious recession. We have to see …
”If we look back how the virus has entered our country we have to state that all were a bit naive. I think we had luck here in Germany due to several reasons. The government was very well advised by some leading experts. Furthermore, the big wave hit us later than Italy or Spain. Thus, we were better prepared and here we have a very good medical infrastructure. What is still a bit suspicious is that we have only little deaths compared to the infected people and compared to France, Italy and Spain. The medical experts don’t know why in detail. One theory is that we have a ground level immunity due to the normal flu here in Germany and it is uncommon here to get a vaccination against the flu. In the end, we all have to state that the world does not know enough about this @#$%^ virus in order to defeat it in short time.
”Two years ago, I bought a nice apartment in Barcelona, Spain. I was there on the weekend when Spain was locked down. I was very happy that I still got my flight back. The rules are very strict there. It’s not allowed to go outside without reason. Reasons are to go to work, to the supermarket, to the doctor and with the dog. Not even children were allowed to play outside. Horrible. Yesterday the Spanish children could leave their homes for one hour after five weeks in ‘prison.’ It’s a crazy time.
”Due to the increasingly better figures the restrictions are eased a bit since one week here in Germany. So, all are waiting on the response of the virus. It’s a trickle and dangerous game with an unknown counterpart.
”My boat is still on dock but I could already prepare it. Sailing is still not allowed but I hope that the rules will be changed next week.”
Sascha Vogel, a government worker living in Cologne, Germany, wrote:
“I’ve already had the virus end of February without realizing it is COVID-19. After celebrating one week of Carnival (you (should) know that Cologne is the capital of Carnival in Europe) I felt a bit weak the next day and got fever, but no symptoms like coughing or scratching in the throat or breathing problems. After two days, I felt normal and was yet again jogging.
”10th of March Rolf and I started our holiday in South Africa and Swaziland. Actually, we had planned a tour to SE-Asia but because the coronavirus was already spreading in this region, they couldn’t get the necessary amount of participants. So, we decided to visit Africa again. Till then we didn’t know the eastern part of South Africa. By the way, last year I had the pleasure being the first time in America. We have been in Costa Rica. Really beautiful destination with a lot of nature. Our trip in South Africa began like planned, we visited Blyde River Canyon and Kruger NP and made over to Swaziland, where we have been in Hlane Royal-NP. Trying to go back to SA two days later, we had the first problem related to the virus, because they didn’t want to let us in again. The SA government had decided to close their borders, beginning at Thursday. Now we had the problem, even it was still Tuesday. But after some discussions and some phone calls they let us in. Two days later we had to do a test on COVID-19, cause the next lodge in the Drakens Mountains demanded it. They didn’t realize that the result would only be there, when we’d already have left. So, we got the result three days later in our next destination, a beach resort at the Wild Coast. And to my surprise, I was tested positive. So they closed the whole resort and set our whole group (11) under quarantine. Fortunately, we had still beach access. Two days later, after being tested again, we were brought to a self-accommodation guesthouse where we weren’t allowed to leave the property. In the meantime, the SA government had announced a lockdown beginning at Thursday the 26th, accompanying with a curfew. So, it was foreseeable that we would get a problem with our back flight. Our local travel agency wanted us to go as soon as possible to Cape Town to be close to the airport. And cause the Prime Minister of Eastern Cape Province wanted his statistic of infection cases cleaner they decided to let the group (except me) leave, although they had no official test results. The responsible doctor, a very sympathetic and eager woman (Dr. Jane Nash), was really relaxed with the situation and subscribed a travel permit. She said that they had thousands of deaths by HIV and TB and hundreds in domestic violence and crime a year and no one cares about, so that all the efforts according to corona are panic in comparison. She argued, that if I was infectious, someone of our group should long show symptoms. Thus the group went to Hermanus, where the agency could book a guesthouse. And cause everybody in the country was moving that day, it took them over 12 hours and reached it at night. I, meanwhile had to stay back in my quarantine, waiting for my official test result. I got it — now negative — on Saturday and so I was allowed to follow them on Sunday. They had organized a driver, so that we had a permission to go despite curfew. South Africa has the most strict lockdown of all countries, including prohibition and a ban of selling cigarettes. It was really spooky doing over 1000 km and seeing only a couple of people and no 100 cars on the route. When I reached Hermanus Sunday evening I noticed that my father was brought to the hospital. He had a spider bite which led to a sepsis. He had to stay five days and recovered quickly. Actually, we should go back on March 30th, but cause all flights were cancelled, we had to wait till 8th of April, till we flew out by a take-back program of our government. We had to assemble in the Cape Town stadium, where we were placed in buses, which brought us to the airport. It was only opened for this one flight that day. Back in Germany the situation is similar, but there is no curfew. But even though we arrived in Munich the day before Good Friday the airport and the central station, as well as the trains were nearly empty. You can go grocery shopping, pharmacies and even the hardware and garden stores are open. Of course, you have to keep distance. Grandkids are not allowed to visit their grandparents and gatherings of more than two are forbidden. There is less traffic on the roads cause a lot of people can’t go to work. Fortunately, the weather is good since and everybody is out in the woods or doing something in the gardens (like you). I am working for an organization, which provides tickets for cultural events like opera and theater. You can imagine that the situation for the entire cultural sector is absolutely severe and existence-threatening. Fortunately, we have an program called Kurzarbeitergeld. It means that the state pays the employees 60% of the default salaries. I am in Kurzarbeit too. This month and in May on 75% cause we have to establish a new computer program, which is a bit of work. But the normal all day business is completely down. From today, Monday 27th some smaller shops are allowed to reopen again. Like hairdressers and all shops up to 800 square meters. Therefore, there is the duty from now to wear a mask an in addition the entrance is limited to the shops. Even one of the biggest employers in Cologne — Ford — operates with smaller crews again. Since over a month there is already the rule to keep distance in the offices. Therefore, whoever is able to do is in-home office. One of the latest foreign words in the German language. As you have noted every single state decides independently. It is the same here. Some are more strict, others want to ease it faster, like here in Nordrhein-Westfahlen. On May 3rd our central government and the Minister — presidenten (like your state governors) will discuss and decide how it continues. The death toll, which is relatively low compared to other countries, declines permanently, but our virologist warn there could come a second wave if we ease too fast. We can only wait and hope.”
Florence Goy lives in London and works for a bank:
“Life here in London is isolated. Not as much as Italy or France where people are getting fined if found outside without the proper justification, but we’re staying home every day.
“I have started making breads, brioches at lot, using leaven I feed each day.
“I will soon start doing some kintsugi, a Japanese art form that uses gold (I’ll only be using gold pigment and epoxy resin) to fix broken/damaged china, consequently making unique pieces rather than throw away.
“I have also been planting a lot of seeds, trying to grow stuff!
“We’re lucky enough to have a big park nearby so we wake up very early to avoid people and go for a run two or three times a week. Some people even walk the park with a 2-meter-long sticks so that joggers or others walkers keep their distance.
“I am working full time WFH and I have really grown to love it. I save money transport, lunch and coffees and I get 90 minutes back each day (travel time to and from work). I also find that stress levels are lower. I suppose not having to be squeezed in a tube (subway) before or after works helps.”
David Pattisson lives in London and is a professional yacht delivery captain:
”Back at home now after one of the more interesting yacht deliveries of recent times. Left Croatia bound for Brittany the day before Europe went into lockdown. For the next 10 days, we had no idea where we would end up, or if we would be allowed in when we got there. No idea when we would next be able to buy food or fuel. We had to sneak into a deserted marina in Sicily to pick up 300 liters of diesel that a colleague had stashed for us (at black market prices). Being stopped by Croatian/Italian/French maritime police was a daily occurrence. One night we had an unlit Italian gunboat creep up behind us and whack its spotlight on full beam when he was 10 meters away, scaring the living daylights out of us! Eventually we got the boat to the south of France where it will stay until this craziness is over. Thank you to my wonderful crew members Christian and Elise for putting up with all the uncertainty, and to BA for getting me home!
”Since then I’ve just been holed up in London and trying to get as much exercise as possible while waiting for life to resume,”
David Bower is a professional captain and owns Skyelark Charters yacht service out of Southampton. He and his wife were on a circumnavigation of the world when countries started shutting down and they had to cancel their charters:
“Yes, we are currently postponed with no clear date for resuming. We are back in the UK now and the boat is being well looked after in Tahiti. Hopefully things will become clearer in the next few months, until then we are enjoying being back home with family.”
Harvey Kipness is a retired advertising executive living in Westchester County just outside New York City:
”As you know I’m in Westchester County NY, in a village about 50 miles NE of NYC — South Salem NY. In our little town of 13,000 people (technically, it’s called Lewisboro) there were 63 cases as of yesterday. So, it’s not crazy, but enough to get your attention. Of course, we are very close to NY, which is a mess.
”Every business has been shut down here since the third week in March — except for gas stations, car repair, food and drug stores, liquor stores, medical and banking.
”There are no planes overhead. Traffic is minimal. Lots of folks outside walking, but limited activity in our parks. It’s quiet. You can hear the birds.
”My wife and I have made just a few trips outside since 3/3. We started isolating early, and I’m glad we did. I’m trying to avoid this virus if I can, and will continue to be super cautious. I think it may well be quite a while.
”I heard our governor reopened marinas, so that’s a good sign.
”I’m retired, so no work.
”In terms of keeping busy, I’m working on jazz piano, and have a teacher I see Fridays on Skype. I do an exercise bike every other day (Peloton) having given up on running outside for the duration of the pandemic. (Why take the risk?)
”Plenty of projects — splitting and stacking wood for next season (done), repairing the wood floors in our little barn/carriage house, rebuilding the garbage bin (looks fantastic — fir flooring on the sides with a warm stain), fixing the dryer, getting started on the lawn and garden, and of course getting my fill of the news from a variety of sources.
”I learned how to make sourdough bread after getting some starter from a neighbor. My bread flour comes from a mill that has inventory in Kentucky (it’s completely sold out around here). Have a bead on a woman in the next town who sells fresh eggs. Bought some wine, prepaid it, and had the clerk place it in the trunk of my car, bootlegger style. Trying to stay local — and not get within ten feet of anyone.
”Like you, lots of online shopping. I’ve gotten a few food deliveries from supermarkets — supermarkets around here, I think, are disease vectors, so I’m avoiding them.
”Been in touch with lots of communities I’ve lost touch with. Graduate school buddies. Colleagues from places I worked decades ago. We set up Zoom meetings which is a thing. Also, have done a few Zoom cocktail parties which I’ve kind of enjoyed. ”
Erico Silva is a retired banker living in Potomac Maryland, and is an amateur photographer. He displays his photography in the Zen Voyager:
“We are doing fine, considering the circumstances, feeling grateful, really, that we do not have to deal with the problems that many people are facing: unemployment, business closed, sickness in family, children at home.
”We had to cancel three overseas trips. Of the four airlines involved, two gave me vouchers and are refusing refunds (even though this is against the law). Two accepted my refund request but I have not seen the credits on my CC account yet. Lost some prepaid hotel reservations, a couple are allowing me to reschedule, but I am not sure when we will be able to travel. My wife does not want to go anywhere until there’s a vaccine.
”Maryland, where I live, has lockdown in place, going out shopping only for groceries, food and medicine or exercises, keeping social distance. The use of face masks is mandatory in the shops. I support our governor’s decisions so far, very pragmatic and science based (he is a Republican in a Democratic state … )
”We are in the middle of a renovation in our beach apartment in Delaware, the contractor is sending daily pictures of the work being done, but we had to make some last-minute decisions to change a few things, but it’s hard to do based on photos. If we go to Delaware the state requires a 14-day quarantine, so we can’t go to inspect the work while it’s being done, we can only go only when it’s all complete. It’s taking a bit longer, because the contractor is, quite reasonably, scheduling the work to limit the number of people on site and to segregate the teams: the day the plumbers are in, no one else goes, the same for electricians, floor guys, tile crew, etc.
”Keeping in touch with sons and grandkids via videoconferencing, we have even done a couple of ‘virtual happy hours.’
”Doing the bulk of groceries shopping only every 2 weeks, with a weekly quick run (during senior hours) to buy perishables. Supermarkets are fairly stocked, except for paper and some cleaning products.”
Julie Kay lives and works in Santa Rosa, California, and is a loan officer for a mortgage company:
”I am sheltered-in-place at my home here in Santa Rosa. I’m working from home as well. This works fine for me, as I usually work from home, unless I have a meeting with a client. Of course, now a days, no face to face meetings.
“I take my dog for a walk pretty much every morning, in my neighborhood. And have been doing much needed yard work and chores. We’ve been shopping 1x weekly for staples, whilst wearing a face mask and using hand sanitizer.
“I’ve been picking up two boxes of meat & a box of produce, each month offered by local farmers and distributed by the local pub — so can get tap beer to go as well … ). I’ve gained weight for sure!
“Being a lender has been a challenge, as appraisers are apprehensive to enter properties. The IRS has cut us lenders off, so having a tough time verifying tax transcripts, etc. And of course, so many folks are on furlough or laid off of their jobs. I’ve been fortunate thus far that I’ve still been able to close loans here and there and receive a paycheck.
“That said, I have two more files to complete and then am pretty much out of work. Unsure if I’d be able to collect unemployment, as I’m commission only — hopefully, I won’t need it, but time will tell.
“My tenants have been unable to pay their rent and one of them had the virus, we believe. I haven’t talked to him again, but I see he is up and around. Am keeping my distance!
“I am going to go sailing this weekend with a friend – will be the first time in many months! So looking forward to it. The parks and beaches are closed but they are talking about re-opening in the near future. I think it’s much too early to re-open. The most difficult part for me is not being able to see my daughter and grandkids. Although I think we will cover up and have a get together this week.
“All in all, I can’t complain. I’m fortunate we have shelter & food and that my family and I are healthy and safe.
Kai Sahala is Finnish born and lives in Singapore. He works for Nokia.
”As for me and the family, we moved to Singapore a couple of years back due to work opportunity. Planning to go back to Finland during summer.
”From where I stand, which is from our 19th floor flat in a condo in central Singapore, the city is now pretty quiet. For the last three weeks, there’s been the so-called circuit breaker period, when restaurants are open for only take-away food, only essential businesses can run and outdoors is discouraged and meant for essential things only. However, we work from home and our son is doing school classes with laptop and remote video. This period with restrictions should end first of June.
”All in all, Singapore has managed the epidemic well, in an extremely densely populated city of 5 million we have only 12 deaths so far, and the epidemic has been going on here since early February. Intense tracking of infected people has been effective. Nowadays there is the second wave where foreign workers living in dormitories is the source of massive number of new infections, so the cb period is meant to control that. With us normal expats and Singaporeans the epidemic is well under control.
”And, not all is banned. Exercising is OK so we are going out for long walks every day, do our grocery shopping and try to lead our lives normally despite of the situation.
”In Finland, the situation is pretty OK, too, from what I read and hear. For a month since late March a lot of restrictions came into force, like closing of restaurants, cancelling all events over 10 people, closing of museums, theatres, libraries etc. And controlling entry into and from capital area due to the exceptionally high difference of number of infections in and outside of it. Now that restrictions been lifted and gradually moving to more normal life, but big events still limited and once we go back a two-week isolation is waiting for us (although it is self-controlled and you can do e.g. grocery shopping yourself etc.). Finland has ensured that the national health care system can cope with the epidemic, hence the restrictions. So far, all fairly good there. Some 172 people deceased, and the average age of those is 81 so the result is quite as expected.
”As for myself, haven’t been doing much sailing here even though Singapore is an island.. Zillion cargo ships in Malacca straits and sailing is not really the thing to do here. Instead, we started playing golf intensively as it is possible all-year round. My boat is in a boatyard in Finland, safely indoors, and they will launch it once I get back.
”My wife is working remotely here, and son in an international school learning English among other things. He speaks now better English than me. Which is good.”
Ben Hunter is retired and living in Sydney, Australia.
“I am in Sydney Australia, and we are social distancing and staying at home, except for shopping or serious issues. Sailing (like all sports) has been cancelled and I miss it. However, we can go out to exercise. Beaches, parks, gyms bars, restaurants etc. are closed. I am staying at home and filling time with gardening, Netflix, some walks. My daughter is still moving between my house and my ex’s. She is distance learning online to the school. My sons are doing UNI (university) and work on line from home. At the moment, Australia has controlled the outbreak that at first was on the same path as Italy. So, we are feeling fortunate and our hospitals are coping.
”Panic buying has such a big impact that is still impossible to buy pasta, hand sanitizer, rice and toilet paper. Products sourced from China are now out of stock. While the government has funded multiple assistance packages, several groups were missed. Overseas students are in a desperate state, without jobs or income support.
”There are still cars on the roads but drastically reduced. Many more bike and families going for walks.
”Many retirements homes became infection clusters and several cruise ships.
”Closing our borders and being isolated island has saved us. However, the second wave of the bodies might be much worse.”
Some of the responses are sobering. We are not at the point where we are hounded by police, or must produce papers showing we are eligible to move about town or we get fined.
We are lucky here in Iowa. Restrictions have been loosened on 77 counties which include most of The Messenger subscription area. But the failure to control the virus may lead to re-imposing restrictive measures.
It is the responsibility of each one of us to behave in a manner to prevent spreading the virus or to prevent ourselves from getting the virus.
So, I will sit still! Until it is safe to travel again. As my friend Corinne said “patience is king.”
Stay safe and stay well.