I think I speak for everyone when I say I am fed up with the lockdown we are currently in. I live in The Hague, the city of peace which is in The Netherlands. The government announced an “intelligent lockdown” due to the #COVID19 pandemic and the lockdown began on 16 March 2020. I think from the moment of the announcement everyone knew life was going to change and it was going to be hard to adapt to the new social norm. I remember the first week I went to The Hague City Center and it was not crowded at all even though people were still shopping because then the government had only announced the closure of bars, restaurants, sex clubs, schools and universities and public gatherings of more than 100 people were banned. But eventually shops considered to be non-essential were closed leaving mostly drug stores and supermarkets open.
The first week people were encouraged to not travel, stay home and if they do go out to supermarkets, they must stay 1.5m apart from each other. But because the government said people can still go out for walks, to the beach and ride bicycles, people were going out in numbers and the infection rate just soared. The numbers released by the Dutch RIVM confirm that more than 2 700 people have died so far with close to 9 000 hospitalized and more than 25 000 infections. That’s scary and the Prime Minister, Mark Rutte and his team have been holding media briefings almost every week to update not only the number of infections but the lockdown measures too. The initial lockdown was supposed to end 5 April but the government extended it to 28 April with public gatherings banned until 1 June and gatherings of more than 3 people banned too. I am in no way complaining because this is a serious matter and social distancing has proved to be working for most countries including The Netherlands . However I have to be honest, we are now on Day 28 of the lockdown and I am losing my mind.
I think I have left the house less than 8 times since the lockdown was announced. The first time was to the beach and it was empty because Spring had just began and it was still cold. But the second time I went to the Scheveningen Beach, it was few weeks into Spring and sunny so a lot of people were out. It gave me so much anxiety the same way going to the Albert Heijn supermarket first week of the lockdown gave me anxiety . In a crowd, even if you adhere to social distancing, there’s always that person who doesn’t care and they still get close to you which makes everything hard. Your survival doesn’t only depend on your behavior but on the behavior of the person next to you who might be a stranger who actually doesn’t care about your wellbeing . Since then though I have decided to not go to the beach anymore and supermarkets have new rules.
Some stores make you sanitize your hands before entering the store, you wait in line outside because there can only be a certain number of people at a time inside the store. So that has made shopping for grocery easy. I mean you could still shop online but when you need something urgently, you have no choice but to go there. I have taken walks to the forest and today (12-April-2020) I decided to just walk randomly , get fresh air and………….. I am so tired.
My first mission was a teddy bear hunt which is a phenomenon that has taken over Europe. People place teddy bears in their windows for mainly children who are taking neighborhood walks to “hunt” them. It’s just another way for people to make the lockdowns bearable. So I decided to play along and there were so many houses with teddy bears. I guess in countries or neighborhoods where people are not worried about serious issues like poverty, they end up doing silly things to keep themselves entertained. It’s interesting to observe because this COVID19 pandemic has really exposed a lot of economic disparities and I hope political and economic leaders will take notes so they can change the lives of the people when this is all over .
With most bars and restaurants closed, people are turning their backyards and balconies into makeshift entertainment areas. The government advises against house parties however some people just won’t listen. I do most things alone so when I do take walks I am in no way breaking any rule.
I would like to see if social distancing will become the new norm. I know for a fact that shaking hands will eventually die out which I am ok with since I have always disliked the idea of shaking a hand I don’t know if it was washed or not. The problem with social distancing is that we are a very over-populated world and it’ll be hard to stay away from each other .
Someone call the police
I have also noticed that family members do not adhere to social distancing at all. You see them in the streets, hugging, kissing and holding hands. I think it’s very understandable more especially when it’s people you live with. It is not practical to deny your loved ones physical affection just because there’s a flu going on. But this is what’s causing the number of infections to increase . WHO has tips on how you can take care of a family member who is infected if you live together and I think one of the biggest challenges is that people still go out even when they have symptoms and have tested positive because the government doesn’t station police officers at their homes to keep them indoors. I do not blame the government but the point I am making is that if you do not stay at home or adhere to social distancing, you might find yourself exposed to an infected person who left the house because they want to infect everyone else.
Bars, restaurants and sex clubs were shutdown with the lockdown, however some restaurants are open for take outs like the Friet District. The other day I ordered a burger with McDonalds via the Thuisbezorgd app which is the Uber-Eats of The Netherlands. The great thing about the Dutch is that they have a lot of efficient systems like the post office, food delivery apps and grocery shopping apps. So that makes life a little bit easy for the people here. I have noticed though that delivery companies are struggling with the high demand. Stores like Zara, Mango , Snipes that will normally deliver within 3 days are now taking up to 7 days. I bought something at Snipes 10 days ago and I still haven’t received it. I bought a wig via Ali Express and it’s the same story . The demand for online shopping is high and stores just can’t keep up.
H&M : The Hague
But the good thing is that most big retail stores have updated their return policies giving customers the opportunity to return their items within 60 days instead of the normal 30 days. Zara has extended it’s return date to up to 30 days after stores re-open. It truly is amazing to see stores care about customers. This includes airlines that refunded customers with no penalties . That is how it’s supposed to be . It seems there’s a new world order that this virus has come to restore and I appreciate some of the good things that are coming out of this pandemic including governments that are nationalizing hospitals and making them accessible to everyone.
The Hague City Center
It is truly amazing to witness how beautiful the cities are without people. This area of the city is normally overcrowded with bicycles, people, trams, cars.
It has been a very long 28 days and what makes the lockdown depressing is that we do not know when it will end, we don’t know how life will be after . The anxiety is just too much and I am grateful that I am able to at least leave the house for walks which helps with mental health . I feel for people who can’t leave the house and are stuck and depressed.
I just pray that the government won’t extend this lockdown again because I will definitely lose my mind. It is Spring, I want to dress up, travel, eat out, go to the beach , ride the bicycle. I want to be normal again .
But hey #STAYATHOME
Words and Pictures by Zinhle Khumalo