(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) – Trinidadians are far too complacent when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the opinion of Bonnie Khan, a Trinidad-born Italy resident, who, through social media, has been keeping up with reports that some local citizens were rejecting the call by the Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for social distancing.
Khan, who still has relatives here, pleaded with T&T citizens to take COVID-19 seriously. “In this situation, it’s better to overreact early than face the consequences,” she said.
Khan, her husband Diego Cattaneo and their six-year-old son Arrigo, along with the rest of Italy, have been on lockdown in their Venice home since March 9.
She compared the response by some locals to that of the Italians and Spanish in the early days of the disease.
“No one thought it would spread so quickly or even that we’d end up in quarantine. In the two weeks before the quarantine, everyone was out as normal, very few people were taking any precautions at all. Now, everyone is finally taking it seriously,” she said in an interview via Facebook Messenger with the Express yesterday.
By March 9, when the Italian government announced a national shutdown, Khan said she and her family had already begun limiting their movements. They were in Trentino on carnival vacation when they heard of a COVID-19 case in the area.
“We started preparing at that point: keep away from crowds (even though we were in the carnival celebrations a few days before), buy tinned goods, cleaning supplies and get my son’s prescriptions filled for the next month. We also returned to Venice just in case they started locking places down,” she said.
It’s been a week since Khan and her family have been in quarantine and, according to her, this new way of life has its moments.
“For me it was a bonus of family time and finding new things to do together. My son and I cook together almost every day, but now my husband gets involved as well, which is fun.
“It’s also not easy home-schooling the kid, I know he’d much prefer his teacher, but teaching him and seeing him do new things is very satisfying. It has also made us more aware of how much we waste in general – we’re cooking more consciously, meal planning and using what we have rather than buying,” she shared.
Khan, who has been in Italy for the last five years, also said “it is nothing short of amazing” to have the whole city of Venice, usually overrun with tourists, to herself.
“It’s not great for business here, but for sure, Venetians are enjoying having their city back,” she said.
She wanted to be careful that she didn’t paint a “too rosy a picture” of being quarantined, however.
“It’s not easy being inside all the time, but at the same time you can find the good in it. And when you go outside, everyone looks at each other suspiciously and you can tell everyone’s trying to get back home as soon as possible.
“Every time we go out and come back in, we have to sanitise completely: change clothes, wash hands, wash clothes! You always wonder if you’re clean enough! My hands are so dry.”
Italians are allowed out for essential work, grocery and pharmacy shopping and medical/dental visits, she said.
“We must carry ID and a form stating our reason for being out in case the police are checking. All shops, bars, restaurants, schools and museums are closed until at least April 3, so there isn’t much else to do anyway,” she added.
Khan and her family usually go to the supermarket every other day to pick up the basic necessities like milk, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables.
“We have tinned goods for a month (baked beans, lentils, chickpeas), pasta, long-life milk, and a bale of toilet paper (12 rolls still going strong after three weeks!).
“Our days are quite full. I do school lessons and physiotherapy with my son in the mornings, then we eat together and rest a bit, then do more school work and try to get some fresh air. My husband and son go to the garden and I either do the grocery run (we walk everywhere here!) or clean house. My husband also has to help his parents every day and do their shopping. Every other day he goes for a run to manage the stress; runs are allowed under quarantine if done alone,” she said.
Khan admits that there is an underlying anxiety when they the family turn on the news and hear about hundreds of people dying every day.
“The constant worry is about my son (who is immuno-compromised) and my in-laws, so we’re sticking to all the rules rigidly. We’re not taking any risks at all,” she said.
Adhering to a schedule helps to add structure to the days, according to Khan.
“Doing lessons with my son, little things like meal-planning for the week really helps to keep us occupied; and staying in touch with friends and family on social media.
“I’m also learning to play the piano so it helps that I’m forced to practise. Of course, the constant cleaning and washing fills up any remaining spare time.”
Khan works part-time in The Netherlands, which means travelling back and forth. A week before the quarantine, she was told by her company not to travel. She is due to start working from home this week.
“My husband’s business has also taken a hit. He runs a small language school and has lost bookings for the foreseeable future. So with me not yet working and no students coming in, we’re reassessing our priorities,” she said.