What is it like where there is no lockdown?

Published 2020-04-21 15:20

Morgan is an expat in Sweden and Andrea and Mirko live in Thailand. Measures taken to fight the COVID-19 in these countries have been rather mild. No full lockdown in Sweden, for example, and only partial lockdown in Thailand. How do these expats feel about this?

Morgan lives in Stockholm, Sweden

Where are you from and how is the situation in your home country? 

I am from Italy and on Thursday April 15th, 3.786 new cases were confirmed in 24 hours, according to the latest Italian government data. While still a high number, the percentage increase in new cases is gradually getting smaller overall. The total number of coronavirus cases detected in Italy is 168.488, the third-highest globally behind the United States and Spain.

Even if people are starting to get used to the new quarantine routine, the pressure of being locked up at home is starting to get unsustainable. I know many different stories of troubled interaction where small arguments escalated quickly due to stress.

Around 1/5 of my friends lost their job and roughly another 1/5 are experiencing economic troubles even if they managed to retain it.

What measures are being taken in your host country? 

I have been living in Stockholm, Sweden since 2017. As of April 18th, 1.511 people have died from the coronavirus in Sweden. Since the start of the outbreak, 1.054 people have been in intensive care, which also includes fatalities and patients who have recovered and been discharged. There have been 13.822 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of April 18th. The Swedish government has announced that testing will be ramped up to reach 50.000-100.000 tests per week, with a focus on people in key roles such as police officers and emergency responders.

Everyone in Sweden is urged to stay at home if they are at all sick (even a mild cough or sore throat), practice social distancing, avoid non-essential travel within the country, work from home if possible, follow good hygiene practices, and avoid non-essential visits to elderly people or hospitals. People aged over 70, or in risk groups, are advised to avoid social contact as much as possible.

Reading this we could imagine an orange-zone-like lockdown scenario but it's all the opposite.

Among schools, only universities are closed, children keep gathering together and keep playing any sport daily. Public transportation is in operation, shops and restaurants are open. I haven't seen a single person wearing a face-mask except me, and I do so out of a personal choice.

Are you worried that measures are not as strict in your host country? 

Even though I've lived in Sweden for over 3 years, I still have half a foot in Italy where I grew up and where I still follow the news on a daily basis. When I look at how the crisis is being handled here with Italian eyes, I see naivety, complacency and even arrogance. When I look with Swedish eyes, I see it as a measured and mature response.

What worries me, and I feel embarrassed in admitting it, is to be far from my family and friends. I know my thought is selfish, and right now I should focus more on the global problem, but the idea that last Christmas could have been the last time I saw my relatives is taking my sleep away.

Do you think the Swedish authorities could be doing better? 

The coronavirus is new, so there's a lack of scientific evidence on the impact of different measures. In other words, not even the experts know exactly what is the best path to follow. Not yet at least. nSome experts within the scientific community are confused about the discrepancy in approach between Sweden and its neighbours, and I am confused as well.

I am a software developer and an executive producer, I can express professional opinions on IT and design related questions. I would be arrogant if I said that local authorities could do better. What can I do is to look at facts and numbers and draw a conclusion. Right now Sweden has more deaths than Finland, Norway and Denmark together; and the Swedish Krona is in free fall compared to Euro. According to these facts, it seems that something could have been done better.

How are you protecting yourself? 

I am following a strict quarantine like the Italian one: I work from home, I buy food online and I try to go outside as least as possible. When I'm forced to go out I wear a face mask and disposable gloves and when I come back home I take a long shower. When I get a food delivery from the grocery store, I clean fruits with water and bicarbonate and the rest of the products with a kitchen cleaner.

How does it feel to be able to go out when the rest of the world seems to be on lockdown?

It's very hard to answer this question since I haven't experienced living in a place that is in lockdown, I can't make a comparison. I read and watch a lot of news every day, and when I compare Stockholm to the videos on other capitals, I have to admit that it looks like an alien place. As I said before, I have the feeling that going out is wrong and that not going out is wrong either.

In my opinion, it's not sustainable to force a lockdown until the virus disappears, and to be honest I think it will never be defeated 100%. What we should do is to learn how to coexist with it and to change our routines to keep living our lives in the safest way possible without giving away our freedom.

Mirko lives in Bangkok, Thailand

Mirko is an Italian travel blogger who has lived in Bangkok, Thailand, since January 2020.

The city of Bangkok has taken a different approach to lockdown than Pucket, where the outbreak of the pandemic occurred. While schools and public offices in Bangkok are closed, restaurants are open but only for takeaways. People can still go out for walks during the day but not after ten 10pm. 

How did you learn about the health emergency related to the spread of coronavirus? And how did you react to the news?

Initially I heard vague news related to China to which I did not pay much attention because I thought it was one of the many concerning China every year. Then more and more people started talking about it but i didn't want to fall into the media vortex. I was skeptical, while still respecting those who were afraid. I became fully aware of the global situation when the virus started spreading in Italy.

What measures have been taken in Bangkok to contain infections and to secure the population? Do you have an obligation to stay indoors?

Initially the authorities were checking the temperature of travellers on arrival.Then measures became more restrictive, until the government decided to cancel the visas on arrival. Afterwards the air traffic was closed and the various regions began to carry out precautionary measures independently, at the discretion of the administrators of the various areas.

With a government ordinance in March, all entertainment activities and gathering places were closed while restaurants still remain open for takeaway only. The current situation is that there is a curfew from 22:00 to 04:00 across Thailand. In some regions such as Phuket, the outbreak of the virus, there is a more severe quarantine or curfew.

Songkran, the Thai New Year, the most important holiday in Thailand was canceled and the sale of alcohol banned for 10 days; now it seems that some regions are extending the ban for another 10 days. In Bangkok, apart from the fact that people can’t go to work, we can’t complain much as we are still allowed to go for walks before 10pm.

What means are used by local authorities to inform citizens of the evolving situation? Is the language barrier an obstacle?

I follow different groups on Facebook so i keep up to date on the situation. The various groups in Thailand - both in Italian and in English - give constant updates with translations in real time. 

The government in general always makes announcements in two languages, Thai and English.

What precautions do you take when you leave home to go shopping?

I wear a mask, which I disinfect as soon as I return home, and I wash my hands. I try to keep social distance. That's all. I spend 90% percent of my time indoors, I go out only for grocery shopping. 

What is the situation in Bangkok?

Official data for all of Thailand to date, April 20, talks of 2.792 cases and 47 deaths. The latest news that I read a few days ago informed me that in Phuket there are more cases than in Bangkok, which is why they are completely in lockdown there.

The rest of the cases are concentrated in the north and north-east territories, which are the poorest in Thailand. Thousands of young people that were working in big cities lost their job so they returned back home, in rural areas. This is probably why the virus spread to those areas.

Andrea lives in Udon Thani, north of Thailand

Andrea is an italian musician that has lived in Udon Thani (northern Thailand) since 7 months. 

How did you learn about the health emergency related to the spread of coronavirus? And how did you react to the news?

Through word of mouth with other Europeans, social networks, as well as official channels.

What measures has the city of Udon Thani taken to contain the infections and to secure the citizens?

The measures adopted by the local authorities were the closure of bars, restaurants, shops and schools. Markets and supermarkets remain open. Until May 1, the sale of alcohol is also banned.

Freedom of movement still exists but nobody is around. The Talàh (open-air markets) are still opened and this allows small traders to keep their business alive. The main activities in Udon Thani have shut down, including hotels.

What means are used by local authorities to keep the citizens informed? Does the language barrier give you problems understanding the news?

I am, or rather I was, learning the Thai language but I still have a long way to go. I read the english updates of the Bangkok Post, the Udon Thani News and i check out the Facebook group of the Italian Embassy in Thailand. Of course the language barrier exists. The information also passes through television and on government websites. I haven't seen newsstands around so I don't know if there is a local newspaper.

What precautions do you take when you leave home to go shopping for food?

I wear a mask and I often wash my hands.

What is the situation in Udon Thani?

According to official information, the cases are very few. I believe nobody died.

Have travel restrictions been imposed on you?

Life has stopped here but the freedom of movement still remains for now. But where to go anyway? Many activities are now closed and will probably not reopen...a few flights to Italy are still operating but they are very pricey.

1 Comment
last month

I'm living in Singapore. In Singapore, almost all businesses are closed except banks, drug stores, grocery stores, storage facilities and other " essential " businesses. Liquor is sold in grocery stores and convenience stores. You can have anything delivered to your doorstep/hotel from Qoo10, an Amazon like store in Singapore. Grab taxi also quickly delivers anything you order from a store/restaurant to your door for a small fee. Only residents are allowed into Singapore now, and are required to self isolate for 14 days. Most flights in and out of Singapore are cancelled. Prices in Singapore have dropped dramatically because of loss of business, which is good for the consumer and obviously bad for the businesses. There is a requirement to wear a mask when outside. All establishments check your temperature before allowing entry. If you are found to have a fever you are taken for further evaluation and if found to have COVID19, you are required to self isolate. Self Isolation is monitored by the Government through your mobile phone via video calls and tracking. Since exercise is required to maintain one's health, people are allowed to walk and jog outside for exercise all hours of the day and night. There is no curfew. With the warm weather, a comparably sensible lockdown policy ( if you are healthy ) , and a very safe environment, Singapore seems to be the best lockdown location.