The opinions expressed here are strictly those of the individual based off their individual experience in the country in which they reside. I, William Hirsch, neither endorse nor condemn their opinions or their experiences.
I cannot thank those that contributed for this post enough. Their generousness in detailing their experiences during such a perilous time, has not gone unnoticed. For many who contributed, English is not their mother tongue.
I want to make it clear that everyone that is featured in this post, I have met somewhere around the world at one time or another.
If you're looking for the COVID-19 experiences of those in the United States, that post is linked HERE.
I have previously written about my experiences in China and Korea. This includes on-the-record experiences from some friends in Korea so my Korean acquaintances have been purposefully left out of this post.
[redacted] - Ottawa General Hospital - Ottawa, Canada - "We've been provided masks at work and we cut off all visitation for the patients. No one is allowed in the hospital other than employees and patients. We usually have a patient count of about 550-600 but it's down to 380ish now with us preparing for, apparently, the worst that's going to come. We also are getting emergency notifications on our phones notifying anyone who has travelled to stay home and self isolate for 14 days. That means no grocery store visits and no contact with the public. Canada's quarantine started on March 13th."
Keorapetse K-Molaba - Pretoria - "I returned to South Africa on the 22nd of February 2020 from Incheon, South Korea. Our school had just had a 2 week shutdown due to a Coronavirus scare! We got screened everyday for 2 weeks, received masks and hand sanitizers. I also got screened twice when I arrived at OR Tambo International Airport and that was that. I took my years worth of luggage and went straight home to a village in Limpopo, about 4 hours away to bid my father farewell. When I arrived home, I was sad but happy to see everyone. Family members jokingly asked if I was safe enough to hug and hugged me anyway. At the time SA had no cases of COVID-19 so everyone was aware but relaxed, because the virus was still mostly in China. Fast forward to a week later when SA reported its first case of COVID-19 and we knew it had arrived. Within a week our cases had jumped to over 200. It was getting attention now, it was all over the news. It’s getting a bit real to me now that we’re currently in lockdown but I know we are a well off country compared to our neighboring countries, but we also have quite a number of people living below minimum wage. So, my thinking was and still is, 'please do not let this virus reach the less fortunate of SA' because that might be somewhat disastrous. Before I continue let me explain how some of our less fortunate survive. Most live in informal settlements, in tiny shacks right next to each other, sharing outside toilets, no running water in shacks, shared communal taps, comprised public health systems and a lot of people who live in these settlements live a mere 15 minutes drive away, from South Africa’s mega rich. We all have an idea of a rich lifestyle if we’re 'keeping up.' This is their workplace, so an easy way to catch a virus from, “abroad.” South Africa is currently under a 21 day lockdown and that’s already affecting the less fortunate including the, 'left out' middle class but I welcome this lockdown because South Africa is better off preventing the spread of this virus than dealing with it in sky-high numbers. Unfortunately, the lockdown is quite a challenge for everyone, some more than others. We do have the world’s best health professionals in both our private and public health facilities but the real problem is, we have bad service at some of our public hospitals, a shortage of equipment, a shortage of doctors (mostly privatized), over-worked staff, not enough beds and our public hospitals serve the majority of South Africans. So my worry is if we get more infections, especially in those areas, it has the potential to spread rapidly if not contained by this lockdown. As for me, a proud South African, I am back in Pretoria in lockdown. The streets are quiet, people are abiding, there’s food in the shops, data and other essentials, so I am okay."
Flora Tobiansky - Cape Town, South Africa - Educator - "When leaving Hong Kong the world was not taking COVID-19 seriously and many that left HK thought that we were leaving it behind. It took almost two months to reach South Africa and now we are getting hit much harder as our economy was already in a slump and we have so many immunocompromised people. Seems that SA people still do not fully understand how this will affect them. Our country is going downhill fast and low income individuals still joke and gather.
"I moved back to South Africa from Hong Kong. I had to leave as my school was closing. I lost my teaching job due to the Coronavirus and actually am meant to start a digital marketing position but lockdown has put it on hold. It might not even happen. Here in SA, we are in lockdown and numbers are growing quickly."
"My parents even contracted it in Amsterdam and just finished their quarantine period."
"I think everyone in the world deals with something new, unknown, or, scary in a different manner. The Chinese plan and prepare but many western countries first joke about it and just don't believe it or take it seriously. Unfortunately, that's where our down fall is."
[redacted] - Government Relations- Auckland, New Zealand - "I think most people in New Zealand feel that it is being handled quite well. Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister) was quick to act without overreacting, she first banned foreigners from entering the country which I think was a good move because before that the rules were that anyone entering NZ had to self isolate for 14 days and there were a lot of tourists caught ignoring those rules and the vast majority of cases were related to travel. She encouraged Kiwis to get home quickly and if they couldn’t, to go find somewhere to stay isolated. We had very clear guidance on what to do and enough warning to prepare for the lockdown. The majority of people here are following the rules and staying home and only going outside for essentials and daily walks or exercise. There were definitely a few people at the start who panicked, but, now everyone seems to be on the same page and wanting to unite to stay home and beat this together. In saying that, there are people in the community who do feel fearful. They are contributing to hate, racism, and anger, but, these people are a few minority. Overall, I feel lucky to be in NZ over this time, we are lucky here to have beautiful parks and beaches to go on walks to. We just have to be mindful of social distancing when coming across others. I hope the 4 week quarantine will not be extended, and if everyone follows the rules then I think we will be ok!"
According to my friend in New Zealand, the country encouraged its residents to hide teddy bears in view of the street for children going out for walks with their parents or caretakers. How adorable!
Nick Lee - Kuala Lampur - "Our restrictions have been extended until the 14th of April. There are tighter restrictions of movements as in all supermarkets are now only open from 8am to 8pm, restaurants are take away only. There are also restrictions on petrol stations and ATM usage! 7-eleven's are only open until 12am. You’re allowed to go out 'one person per family and one car per family.' If you’re caught lingering or hanging after 8pm without any valid reasons the police have the authority to arrest, question or summon you! If there are more than 2 people in the car - they can do the same thing! You will be asked questions if you have no valid reason to be outside. There are a lot of police and military monitoring roadblocks."
Johanna Ramos - Cyberjaya, Malaysia - " We've been put into the lockdown. My life here hasn't been the same since. The only time we are allowed to go out of our homes is if it is for medical reasons or for groceries. I just went to the grocery store two days ago and thought I went super early to make sure that there will still be less of a queue. I still spent 1 hour in the queue to finally go inside the grocery store. Though, the store that I went to had most of the foods that I needed, there are some essentials that are out of stock, maybe because it got hoarded by the previous shoppers. Things like eggs, bread, and toilet paper. Also, the government is not allowing dine-in at restaurants and most shops are closed. So literally, life has been back to the basics."
"I'm just staying home and going out to buy food. Also, they encourage not meeting up with others, playing any outdoor sports, which I used to do and to avoid crowds. Its kinda depressing for people like me who stay alone, I am not able to socialize and everyday seems to be monotonous but I can't complain as I know that some people, like frontline medical workers and policemen are at risk and others are experiencing worse. My city has now become a ghost town. Very seldom do you see cars on the street and there are practically no people outside. I'm praying that the world will surpass this pandemic and it's a wake up call that life is fleeting and family and friends are the most important thing."
Mail Sasetorn - Shongkhla, Thailand - "My work closed for one month and I'm just staying at home. No one is going outside. We're bored."
Kwan Yat Tin - Hong Kong - Student - "We HK people had been through SARS in 2003, as you may know, and we took serious precautions this time. People started wearing masks and became very aware of personal hygiene. Some even stocked up on food, masks, toiletries and alcohol wipes. When this started occurring there were around 10 cases. But as the virus spread, it became a pandemic and you can see how bad the situations are in Europe and the United States. But, we still had 100 something cases mostly from people who are coming back from China. I think that was because we had good preparations. However, one thing keeps me thinking is that I don't understand why the people in the US and Europe don't wear masks at all. I guess that’s why the virus has spread so quickly. Right now, the situation has been worsening since a lot of people started coming back from the US and Europe, and right now the cases have reached 680 in a week. So the government has enforced some strict rules to deal with that. For me, I stay at home for most of the time, but I do feel safe and peaceful when I go out just a little bit bored and unusual to see how empty the streets are."
Charmaine Chui - Hong Kong - Trader - "People in HK gained experience from SARS 13 years ago, the awareness is higher than other areas, I think. However, cases are still increasing the last two weeks. It has been about 400 more cases since January. Today we have 700 cases. Many people are coming back from outside before we implemented the quarantine policy. Therefore, cases have gone up a lot in a short time.
Jamie Huang - Taipei, Taiwan - "I have been indoors most of this period since February. I remember coming back to Taipei from Munich in early January, ready to celebrate Chinese New Year. That’s when it all started. Not soon after Chinese New Year the situation of the outbreak got worse in Wuhan and wildly spread around. At that time, Taiwan was still safe and nothing happened yet. However, the government was already preparing for the impact. Due to the SARS experience, our government has learned to react to this situation and taking serious measures to make sure that the spreading would be under control and they did it! During these few weeks, personally and honestly, I feel very safe. Because of the precautions the Taiwan government implemented. And a good health care system that backs up the whole situation. I am very grateful to the medical groups who are at the front line to protect us. Also grateful for a well functioning government that took actions from the start to protect us."
Miyu Hara - Aichi, Japan - "In Japan, everyone's sense of crisis for the virus is fading. Therefore, the number of people to prevent it has decreased. It is very dangerous, and the number of infected people is steadily increasing in Japan. I got a job starting in April. My friend had a job offer cancelled or will start working later. It is affecting peoples salaries. Twitter has changed young peoples attitudes of the virus a little."
Below are screen shots of a young Japanese man telling his experience spreading COVID-19 to his family. His grandfather, grandmother, father and mother all died. He's explaining that young people spread it to the elderly and risk killing their family members. According to Miyu he's calling for a change in attitude about the Coronavirus.
Farzan - Dublin, Ireland - Online Educator - "I returned back to Ireland in late October. I lived in a city called Guiyang in China and I fell severely ill in September. I believe, I’ve had all of the symptoms of the COVID-19 virus. I rarely get sick and that was a hell of a crazy flu. I couldn't get out of bed for 5 days with a high fever, coughing, severe headache, chest pain and body aches. It took me a good two full weeks to recover but my Chinese boss made me to go to work after the second week."
"It took me awhile to fully get my health back in Ireland with 10 hours of weekly exercise, eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, meditation and practicing mindfulness. This is for those people who believe if they are immune just because they happen to be in their 20s because this virus hit you out of nowhere and it’s seriously not joking with your immune system. Stress and panic does trigger this virus to weaken your immune system."
"Apart from that, I think Ireland is doing a great job containing the virus. The transparency between the Irish government and cooperation of our people is fantastic. The Irish Prime Minister announced last Friday on the 27th of March where people over 70 are being cocooned and those below 70 are being cocooned if they are critically ill or experience other types of health problems. We have to stay indoors and can only walk within less than 2 KM. There’s no panic shopping, hoarding toilet paper, and there’s also plenty of food for everyone and people are following all instructions being given by the government. Schools are shut down and I’m teaching online as part of a volunteering program."
Steve Lewis - Shropshire, England - Actor/Model - "I personally feel like England is safe. We are in lockdown so theres no going out unless you have an essential job such as working in healthcare or you need to go to the supermarket. People have been asked to go as infrequently as possible. I understand the public transport situation in London is causing a lot of concern as social distancing isn't being used on it. I feel like this is a lot of unnecessary precautions for something which seems to have such a small death rate in comparison to other illnesses such as the seasonal flu. We are currently under house arrest of sorts for 3 weeks while rumours spread of the army putting the streets into lockdown. I'm interested to know what the impact of this will be on jobs, the economy and life afterwards as surely a recession is inevitable now. Overall though, everyone seems upbeat. There are no doomsday preachers."
Carl-Anton Kämpe Gunnarsson - Malmo, Sweden - Police trainee - "I'm staying safe. In january this year I started to study in the police academy in Malmö, but 3 weeks ago the whole university was closed so now we have to study from home. I don't know anyone that has contracted the virus or anyone who died from it but I know that Stockholm has suffered the most. Yesterday, a law was issued that forbids more than 50 people in meetings or rallies. The less intelligent people are buying all the toilette paper. I don't think so much about it. Last time it was Ebola and then before that it was SARS, Bird Flu and Mad Cow Disease. The media is crying wolf so I think most of us are pretty seasoned."
Hur Chaewon - Amsterdam, Netherlands - Student - "It seems like people don't care about COVID-19. I am worried about why they aren't wearing masks and they are still talking with other people. The Netherlands looks so similar to Italy. Suddenly, people started wearing plastic gloves and Universities shut down. It looks like they really don't care and thought this Coronavirus is like a cold."
Pawel Habrzyk - Bielsko-biała, Poland - "The worst part of COVID-19 in Poland, besides people dying, is that we are in the middle of a presidential campaign and the current government is using it to get more votes. We are all scared of loved ones dying or loosing a job. I haven't been to school for 3 weeks."
Kira BÜhler - Bern, Switzerland - "At the beginning I took it easy, after that there was a time when I was worried, because the death's grew exponentially. Now I‘m ok with the situation and I will be (as probably everyone) glad when it‘s over. Our media (television, magazines etc) try all the time to scare our citizens saying, "Hospitals are going to make some emergency rooms, they don‘t have enough beds for the infected." But one week ago I went to the hospital (not because of COVID-19) and a nurse told me, they currently have 13 Coronavirus cases! So what should we believe? On one hand, people are serious and scared, they did some crazy panic buying and on the other hand (while we have the lockdown and everybody should stay inside) they‘re very easy-going, going out with the dog, playing on the streets, hiking on the mountains and so on."
Countries who have not responded:
France (ignored 2x)
Australia (ignored 2x) (agreed but has not responded with their experience)
Singapore ("not a good representation of what's going on")