Since the end of winter, most everyone on Earth has had to put up with varying degrees of lockdown restrictions in order to contain the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the Covid-19 disease, and in order to “flatten the curve” of this pandemic. This has, of course, affected us at SenseTribe as well. In this blog miniseries, we’re taking a deeper dive into each core team member’s experience of this.

For this week, we spoke to Angela. She has a unique perspective in the team, having been in Asia herself at the beginning of the outbreak and witnessed the first measures over there.

Other articles in the “SenseTribe on Lockdown” Series:

AngelaMarina

How did you find out about SARS-CoV-2 and Covid, and what was your initial reaction?

Well I found out because I was in Thailand, and that was the first place after China to have been infected, and my reaction was… I found out in December actually, end of December, beginning of January, and my reaction was, “Oh, that’s a worry, but that’s OK.” I didn’t realize it would attain the proportions it’s attained, or that it’s still getting, it’s still spreading. For me it was something serious but that wouldn’t become a worldwide problem, that it would stay between China, Thailand, Asia, something like that. Local.

How did you first react when you heard of the lockdown measures that would be implemented? Did you understand the idea of “flattening the curve”?

It was a completely different atmosphere, because I was in Asia, so all this conversation was already happening before it happened in Europe. I wasn’t scared or anything. The way they started taking measures against Covid, I felt much safer there than in Europe, because they were taking people’s temperature everywhere, and all the sanitation things were happening. But as for where I was, it was an island, it was still OK. In January I was flying to Vietnam and traveling inside Thailand, so it was still OK. We were afraid, but not that afraid. And the lockdown happened where I was, an island in Thailand, at the beginning of March. And it was OK, because we could still go to the beach. It was more a matter of restaurants, but we could get takeaway. It was OK, we were just waiting to see when it was going to end because they were tracking all the cases, learning from Singapore, who did very well. So it didn’t scare me. I said, “if we have to do this, let’s do it.”

And about flattening the curve?

Yes, yes, I understood, it was very clear. The communication there was very good, it was in the local languages but also in English, so it was very clear to us.

It didn’t scare me. I said, “if we have to do this, let’s do it.”

How difficult was it to stay inside, not go out to see your friends, to have to work from home? What has been the hardest to deal with?

About working from home, I’ve realized that I’m on “lockdown” since I started working with SenseTribe, because I always work from home, so it didn’t change anything. But about staying inside, while I was in Thailand it also didn’t change much because I had a nice garden and nice surroundings, I could go to my swimming pool just across the garden, and so on. I could have my morning walks on the beach, so it wasn’t a problem, and in fact, about not seeing friends, again, I was in Thailand. I had some friends there but we weren’t seeing each other much. And when we did meet it was with takeaway meals and keeping our distances, it was OK. It didn’t scare me. I think the main problem on my side was when I came here in mid April, when I came to Europe, the fact when the measures are not as restrictive as we had in Thailand. It scared me then, because I said to myself, “How are these people controlling the spread?” because the people don’t realize how serious it is. In Thailand I think it was more restrictive. The people respected what the authorities were saying and how the police were running things there. Or at least they showed more respect than here in Europe. There was definitely more respect. Here (in Belgium) it was a little bit scary for me.

What tricks, if any, did you use to deal with the isolation?

I don’t know… It’s not a trick, but I think what changed is I got closer to people than before, when I wasn’t so close. It started happening in Brazil, so the relationships there started to become online. With these people it was always offline, but now that it was online it gave me the opportunity to join things that, if it weren’t for Covid, I wouldn’t have been able to join. Like birthday parties, even my birthday party! After six years I had my family at my birthday party. This was very new, and it was nice. I didn’t really have any tricks.

How has the lockdown impacted your personal and professional habits?

It gave me more work, since the beginning in Thailand. Since February I’ve been working much more than I expected. It’s crazy, because in the beginning, in February when it arrived in Europe, we already had this strategy for the flu campaigns we’re working on so we had to stop for a bit and rethink it, and create specific content for that. So it was a bit overwhelming because I had to readjust all the campaigns and review content, and comments were coming in with a lot of questions and we didn’t have the information. So far we still don’t have all the information. There was an impact because we needed a bit of clarity on how the things were going, and they were changing very fast. On the communications side it was like this.

On the personal side, I’m just afraid, and it’s very difficult to trust that everybody’s clean. I think it’s going to take a while, when you see somebody, even if you have a close relationship with them, if you don’t live with the person, to hug or kiss them. So far anybody could be infected and contagious. That’s something that’s very weird, you know the people, you are close to them, but you don’t trust them anymore. I’m so afraid to pass it to somebody, but I don’t have it. So far I don’t have it. But it can also be asymptomatic, so maybe we have it. At the personal level I think that’s the main concern that I have. We cannot trust anybody anymore, in that sense.

I’m just afraid, and it’s very difficult to trust that everybody’s clean

To what extent did you get used to lockdown conditions? Was it hard to open up again?

I don’t know if I would say it’s hard to open up. Because here I really don’t trust the way it’s managed in Europe. Maybe in Spain they did it much better than here in Belgium. I came back here from another level of measures where they were tracing the cases. But I’m also not comfortable going out because people don’t realize it, they get close to you and you say, “No, keep your distance”. And people don’t even know. People that we know understand and keep their distance, but not people we don’t know, in the supermarkets for example. You have people in line, and when it’s your turn you move, and they don’t do it, so for me it’s difficult. It’s not difficult to open up, but it’s difficult to realize that you still need to be careful with your behavior. And people aren’t. It looks like in Belgium people don’t care at all about it.

As of now, have any adjustments you’ve made in your life outlasted the full lockdown?

I didn’t really make any adjustments, because as I said before, my life was already on lockdown and I didn’t know it. I work from home, so… Ahh, there has been an adjustment. I’m not traveling as much anymore. And this is something that was hard because I had flight tickets to Brazil, and I was very excited to go back, to visit and do some things there. I had classes I already scheduled, and I couldn’t do it. And I have no idea when I’m going to be able to. But that’s the biggest adjustment, I can’t travel. It’s a very white-person problem, I know, but it’s still something I’m feeling. But on the other hand, I had scheduled a one-month trip, but once it opens up and I can travel again, I’ll definitely stay there for five months. I’m going to extend the trip and adjust some more to what I can and can’t do to have a proper holiday, which I haven’t had in a long time. That’s the main point, travel.

How have your fear and understanding of Covid evolved over time?

I was never really paranoid about Covid. I trust in science, even though I understand that the information may change. Now it’s something new, so there’s a lot of stuff that may be true today but no longer be true tomorrow. So I trust in the science and wait to see, if I get infected, I’ll just trust the doctors. I myself am not a doctor or a scientist, I can’t do anything. I just trust in that. We have to get used to living with the virus. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure it will not simply stop so we can get back to our normal lives. No, I think the adjustment is long-term.

I was never really paranoid about Covid. I trust in science, even though I understand that the information may change.

What are your expectations for the future? Will there be a second wave and another lockdown?

I think there will be a second, third and fourth wave, until we really have clarity regarding how to treat it, regarding whether once you’ve had it you’re immune. I definitely think there will be more waves. Regarding another lockdown, I’m not sure because in the current situation most companies and governments are starting to be more flexible. They see that people can do much more from home than they were doing before. And they’re also saving on a lot of costs because people aren’t traveling for work, electricity bills are lower, and so on.

If there is another lockdown, do you expect to deal with it in the same way? What lessons have you learned from this one and how would your approach change? What would you do the same and what would you do differently?

I would definitely be in a place where I have the beach nearby. I would definitely not experience a lockdown here in Belgium. I’d run off, because I feel more comfortable in other places than I do here. Even though I feel comfortable here because it’s easier to travel in Europe. But if we have another lockdown in Europe and other places are still open, I’ll definitely run away.

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