27 Mar Day 7 of Samoa’s COVID19 State of Emergency – Worried, Sad, and Grateful
Its Day 7 of the half-lockdown here in Samoa. The government announced a state of emergency on Friday last week. Schools are shut. There’s no church meetings allowed. Public gatherings are banned. Buses and taxis cant operate. Yesterday the last planes flew in and out of the country and today the airport is shut. Anyone over sixty years old must stay home. Businesses are still operating but social distancing is the buzz word. Restaurants are doing takeaway options only. The grocery store has lines marked on the ground for people to stand when in checkout. Government offices are supposed to roster on limited numbers of people at a time.
For our family though, this is actually our second week of sorta-isolation. We didn’t wait for the government to move to lockdown. We moved into it 10days before. Because we’re extra like that! And because we have a few high risk people in our family.
So what does a half-lockdown look like for us? I’m fortunate to be able to work from home. As per usual. The blessing of being a hermit writer and part-time company accounts manager! Darren is still going to work. You can’t really do steel fabrication work “from home”! When he comes home, he strips and showers. His clothes get washed right away. Big Daughter disinfects his keys and phone, everything he carries inside the house.
Little Daughter is here with us. She made it back to Samoa just before the SOE was announced. She was in NZ, at her first year of university. She was granted a deferral on her scholarship and we had her pack up and travel home within 24hrs. There was a frantic rush to get her the medical certificate she needed to be allowed to board the plane. When I heard she’d been allowed to check in, I cried. When the world’s borders are shutting, you want your children home with you. But none of us have hugged her yet. She’s in a 14 day quarantine. Just in case. Her Dad wore a mask and gloves when he got her from the airport. We take her meals on a tray and we sit at a safe distance to chat and keep her company. She’s had hayfever allergies and every time she sneezes or coughs, my heart catches in my throat IS THAT CORONAVIRUS?! I lie awake at night worrying. About her. About everyone. About everything. Sometimes I put on a mask and gloves just so I can tiptoe upstairs into her room and check. That she’s not feverish. That she’s still breathing. I remember doing this when they were babies. Was I as scared then as I am now?
Big Daughter works for the Tourism sector. An industry that’s dead in the water right now. She is fortunate to work for government and so, unlike many others in this sector, she still has a job. Hotels and restaurants, tour operators – are struggling. Closing down. Laying people off. It’s a dark time for everyone who relies on tourism to survive. Daughter is grateful to still have a job. There’s not a lot for her to do in the office though and they have rostered days. She misses going to the gym, seeing her friends. But she said yesterday, ‘Its about perspective. I thought I would hate staying home so much. But when you think that by staying home you’re helping to save people’s lives, then it’s not difficult at all.’
Bella is here. We didn’t wait for the State of Emergency to pull her out of school. Because she was in hospital in New Zealand only a little while ago, having iron and then blood transfusions. Because it’s going to take a long while for her to be 100%. Because she’s asthmatic too on top of everything else. She’s doing a kind of homeschool here with me. She has chores to do. Then online maths and coding classes. Lots of reading. I’m so thankful for ebooks! Puzzles and boardgames. She likes to bake. Actually, correction, she likes to eat desserts, so therefore she likes to bake! And when all else fails there’s Sims and Minecraft on Xbox. We dance party together and laugh and sweat and for a little while, everything seems reassuringly normal and fine. There’s things we can’t do anymore. Things we miss. Like visit her grandparents, do physio exercises with Grampa or go for shuffly walks with him down the long driveway. Things we hope and pray we get to do again one day soon.
And me? Am I writing? No. I’ve spent most of my time in the last few days making meals that are as nutritious as I can possibly imagine them to be, muttering spells and incantations of good health as I do so. Food for my children. My husband. My elderly parents. If sheer willpower alone could magic up a force field of protection against Covid19, then you bet this family would be covered. I worry. A lot. About people I love, especially those who are in high risk and vulnerable groups. Here and in other countries. I get sad. About those in other countries who are already dealing with this sickness. Families who are grieving. Health workers who are trying their hardest to save lives under tough conditions. The news is filled with sad and it’s difficult not to drown in it.
And I also get grateful. For a home to isolate in. For savings to buy extra food supplies so we don’t need to go to the store as often. For work security (for now anyway). For all the lessons I had in Relief Society at church that taught me about disaster preparedness and food storage. To have my husband and our daughters here under one roof. To know that Big Son is safe and well in NZ. There’s much to be grateful for.
As we watch from a distance what is happening overseas, I’m so thankful that Samoa is taking tough precautionary measures to try and keep us protected. But I know it’s inevitable that Covid19 will reach us eventually. And this time now is for us all to prepare as much as we possibly can. To acquire new habits (like washing your hands so often that you skin feels like its coming off!) To learn new ways to interact as a family, a business, a community. To build on the existing strengths that we have. Like how closely connected our extended families and villages are, how we look after each other, how we treasure our elders and care for them especially in difficult times. These are the things that will help get us through whatever lies ahead for Samoa.
And for now, I will keep living with my worry, sadness and gratitude.