CORONICLES: How lockdown made my city in Canada a 'ghost town'

The rustling of the leaves that I loved so much, is anything but frightening now.

 |  5-minute read |   06-04-2020
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There’s not a soul on the streets. Empty public parks carry an eerie silence. And the rustling of the leaves that I loved so much, is anything but frightening now.

Nations around the world are coming to a standstill as governments take strict lockdown measures in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. As of today, there have been over 1,274,578 confirmed cases of Covid-19 around the world with over 69,487 deaths. It would not be immature to say that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The numbers, unfortunately, will continue to rise for a while.

Ontario, Canada, declared a state of emergency in the province on March 16. It has been almost three weeks now and all schools, colleges, non-essential businesses, and all outdoor recreational activities have been closed for the public.

img-0724_690_040620115904.jpgEmpty public parks in Ontario carry an eerie silence. (Photo: Nasreen)

Most people I know here had started to practice social distancing even before the official order was put in place. At least 70 per cent of my co-workers were already working from home. While I know this has negatively impacted millions of people in so many ways that I cannot even imagine, the first few days felt like my world was coming to an end. I was frustrated with not being able to step out. All I did was drive to work and then back home. But my drive to work was enough to fill me with dread. Seeing the usually bustling streets empty with not a human in sight somewhat reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

As a week passed, the enormity of the situation started to hit me. Simple everyday tasks, such as buying food, were deemed risky and life-threatening. Visiting my friends was not an option anymore. And I spent most of my time ‘sanitising’ the house every day.

I haven’t stepped out of my house in almost three weeks now. It’s quiet and lonely around here. I do hear an ambulance or two sometimes – you can’t help but feel scared. Maybe this is what it feels like to live in a ‘ghost town’.

Most grocery stores around here are providing free delivery services with no physical contact. The same is the case with prescription medicines that are being delivered to your doorstep now.

Many are offering slots when only older adults and those with a disability can shop. Only a few people are allowed into the stores at a time while others wait outside in a line, physically distancing themselves from each other. Healthcare providers are also readily available online if you need to consult a doctor, as hospitals aren’t the safest place at the moment, considering the risk of catching and spreading the virus.

All public parks and hiking trails have been closed. Schools and universities have been shut too, but most classes have been moved online.

This pandemic has forced us into distancing from each other. But it has also forced us to slow down and make time for what’s important. I feel more connected to my family and friends right now than I have ever before. Because of the time difference, I would usually only be able to make time for calls during the weekend. Now, I do it whenever I can regardless of whether it’s during the week or the weekend.

But I do consider myself lucky to be where I am. Because not everyone enjoys a life of privilege.

Most of my conversations are about the pandemic affecting every person globally in some way or the other. I am lucky to be working from home during this time but I know many who have lost their livelihood and are struggling to put food on the table for their families here. I have friends and family working in essential services as doctors, police officers, and paramedics, who put their lives on the line every second that they choose to go to work.

img-0717_690_040620115933.jpgSocial distancing is being strictly enforced. (Photo: Twitter)

While I have made peace with the situation I am in, considering I have a roof over my head and that I am not starving, I can’t stop thinking about the privilege I enjoy. My heart goes out to those who are not so lucky – those living on the streets and in slums, daily wage earners, people under lockdown in Kashmir (for weeks now) and other conflict areas, or people trying to survive in refugee camps around the world, and undocumented migrants in detention centres. It has only been a month of losing sleep over my sister working as a doctor in a Delhi government hospital. But it has made me wonder about those who have been fighting for survival in a conflict zone for months and years. The level of emotional, mental and physical distress they continue to endure puts my insecurities to shame.

I continue to battle the feelings of guilt for being in a place where I am relatively safer and my family and friends are not. And at this point, it does not matter if I could go out to grab groceries, or I am not able to go for a walk or I am lonely, all that matters is the safety of my loved ones.

These are desperate and deeply depressing times and while every crisis or conflict brings out the worst in us, there are still people who help restore our faith in humanity. And that is what has kept me going. It isn’t hard to find these people regardless of where you reside in the world. For within hours of expressing my concern over my sister not having access to proper protective gear at her hospital, my co-workers collected boxes of medical-grade gloves. They put a plan in place to sow hundreds of masks and ship it to her hospital in Delhi – within hours. I have had neighbours that I have not spoken to before, constantly check on me now to make sure I am okay.

This pandemic has distanced us from each other physically, but from where I see it, it has brought us so much closer to each other. We are more united than we were before and in these daunting and uncertain times, I would rather choose to look at the silver lining than the dark clouds.

Also read: CORONICLES: How Italy went from solidarity to silence in a month of lockdown


Nasreen Nasreen @nash_301

Writer, currently based in Canada.

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