By Jamie Etheridge
My apartment has a balcony that overlooks Al-Tawoun Street in Salwa. It’s a major highway, busy day and night with traffic. Across the road are several hotels and restaurants and down the street, one of the most popular public beaches, Anjafa. Even on weeknights, the street is alive with traffic, young men parading up and down the strip, playing loud music and chatting with friends or wedding processions with horns blaring as car after car passes up and down the street, celebrating some lucky couple’s nuptials.
In the last few days, however, the area has become a ghost town. Restaurants are open for take-out or delivery only, and beaches and public parks have been closed until further notice. There is still traffic but it’s light and infrequent; cars are few and far between as more and more people comprehend the seriousness of the situation and stay home.
As of March 19, there are 220,230 cases worldwide, with 8,981 deaths so far recorded. In Kuwait, we are incredibly lucky. We’ve got 148 confirmed cases and no deaths till now. The government has moved swiftly to contain the spread, shutting schools, closing the airport, mosques and malls and effectively locking down the country to keep us all safe and healthy.
But the government cannot work alone. Every person living in Kuwait has a responsibility to do their part staying home if that is possible and if not, making sure that we social distance when and where we can. Your mom’s advice to wash your hands is now more important than ever.
Staying home is not an option for everyone. There are hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses, lab technicians, delivery drivers, journalists, grocery store workers, pharmacists, police officers, security personnel, hospital staff, government officials, restaurant workers, veterinarians, bank employees, telecom staff, nursing home staff, garbage collectors, street cleaners and all the others whose work helps keep the country safe and operational.
Each one of these people are at risk of infection and when they go home, they put their families at risk too. We can help reduce that risk by limiting contact as much as possible so that even if more people get sick, their numbers do not grow so fast and exponentially that they overwhelm the healthcare system all at the same time.
The hardest part of this situation is the weird mix of emergency and boredom. At some moments I feel like I should be freaking out, panicking and calling all my loved ones back home to tell them how much I love them. At other times, I want to just Netflix and chill, play cards with my daughters and pretend like nothing is wrong. Even driving to the newspaper or the grocery store feels scary, although the country is safe, and the few minutes of panic buying that happened when the airport was closed has long since subsided.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for those of us not in the trenches (the doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers as well as the police and government) is the psychological test of how to maintain our calm and resilience in the face of fear and an uncertain future.
I try to be positive in all circumstances. For instance, the reduced human activity might have a really positive impact on the global climate crisis, returning our damaged planet to a state of fresh viridity, especially if the slowdown drags on for weeks or months.
It’s also possible that this pandemic will cause many of us to reevaluate our lives, our priorities, our impact on our families, our communities and our environment. Each choice we make even drinking from a paper cup, using a plastic bag at the market, driving hour-long commutes to work has a consequence, and though many of us cannot change our daily circumstances, there are ways we can all be greener, slower and more thoughtful in our approach to life.
I would love to live a slower-paced existence, cook more at home, and spend more time with my children. That hasn’t been a possibility for many years, but maybe now we will all get a chance to slow down.
The coronavirus pandemic is ravaging the entire globe. And there are many who have died, lost a loved one or who have an immunocompromised or at-risk family member, and we have to stand with them and help each other. This pandemic is reminding us – perhaps showing us for the first time – how truly connected and interconnected we all are. We are all in the same boat and will sink or float together.