I ventured outside today for the first time in two weeks (I’ve been quarantined). I have been to the Polish shop, pharmacy, the supermarket and to drop some groceries to my friend, who’s under quarantine. I saw all those memes about the city being abandoned, I expected to have an “I am Legend” style experience. Alas, nothing like that.
In the pharmacy there is tape across the shop, so you keep distance, but to receive your meds and to pay, the assistant still has to come out to you. Well, so much for social distancing there.
In the supermarket – there was a queue outside. One person leaves, one person can get in. People kept distance from each other for the most part. Good for them. Some of them were wearing gloves or masks, but not many. I haven’t seen any of the shop staff wearing masks, but some have been wearing latex gloves.
When wandering between the shelves, I saw two families, two parents and a kid and a three generation daugter-mum-granny set. They were all wearing gloves and masks, I thought to myself “I am glad to see, that someone is taking that seriously”. A moment later it turned out that those two families are related and just randomly met in the shop. They were happy to, as they haven’t seen each other for weeks. So what they did? Took their masks off, then hugged and kissed each other. I wanted to cry.
As for the supplies in the store, the choice is pretty basic, some items are limited, but I got almost everything I needed. No reason to panic, I guess, but one can treat it as No-Deal Brexit demo version. The cashier was completely unprotected, she hasn’t even had her gloves on.
Driving around the city you don’t have a feeling that something serious is going on, apart from that on the motoroway every single Matrix sign says “Stay at home, help the NHS, save lives.” But streets are not empty – I would say that traffic can be compared to a typical Sunday morning. There is plenty pedestrians on the streets as well – walkers, joggers, dog walkers, families with kids etc. – and quite a few cyclists. I drove past two parks, both were full of people. Kids playing in groups, moms chatting on the benches – just as nothing was happening.
The only place that seems to take the matter seriously was my local Polish shop. All staff was wearing face masks and latex gloves, they were careful to keep the social distance and remained the other customer, who stood to close to me, of the need of doing so. Here also the choice was smaller than usual, especially in cooked meats and dairy departaments. The owner told me that as her employee has been quarantined, she decided to order less, as if she or her husband would have to stay at home as well, everything would go to waste. But we haven’t had too much time to chat – she was constantly on the phone taking home delivery orders from people who need to stay at home due to the situation.
We got friends and family in Poland and in Italy. They tell us first hand what is happening in there. In Italy the situation is pretty dire already. Poland hasn’t seen the worse yet, but at least people listen to the government’s advice, even that most of them do not agree with our current politics. Britons seem to be too proud to do so. In the supermarket car park I heard two older guys talking about how Britain won the war on its own, and how it is going to be a bright spot on the European map of the virus as well. Watching the streets today, I am afraid that it is going to be a really bright spot indeed. A bright red one. With a huge number of dead people next to it.
This is how Wrocław, my hometown, looks these days. And this is how the city SHOULD look like during the pandemic. Unless Britons understand it, there will be a lot of crying in the oncoming weeks.