Things have escalated quickly here in Prague where the novel (though now maybe not quite so novel) coronavirus has been gradually spreading. On Sunday we took a family walk along the riverbank to Vyšehrad, a historic fort in the southeast of Prague. It was lovely out. There were people out in groups, strolling along the waterfront, hanging out, playing basketball, or exercising together in Folimanka Park. We weren’t among these groups – we made sure to keep our distance from other people.
Three days later and things are different. The government of the Czech Republic has mandated that people should stay indoors. Schools are closed, as are the borders. Masks must be worn when in public places, or when riding trams or metros. Most shops are closed, and grocery stores have reduced hours, including the hours between 10 and 12 a.m. when they are open only to senior citizens (and I suppose other at-risk citizens).
I personally think these mandates are sound, as the situation in northern Italy has demonstrated that, while only a small percentage of people will get seriously ill due to the COVID-19 disease, even a small percentage of a lot of people is a lot of people. The virus has been spreading rapidly during late February and early March, and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. I am not panicking or over-reacting in any way, but the slower this virus spreads, the more time medical professionals will have to develop a vaccine or a counter-measure to the disease. And the more hospital beds and respirators that are available to people who become sick, the more those people will have a good chance at surviving the ordeal.
It was disheartening to me to see images of people partying together in pubs on St. Patrick’s Day last night back in the United States, when the risk of escalating this disease is quite high. I wanted to ask those people, “don’t you love your grandparents?”
Today Yvonne and I took a walk (not a tram) to a grocery store in Nusle, wearing our masks, avoiding touching our faces (or anything else, as much as we could), and keeping our distance from the people surrounding us. I’ve been told that some people in the US think what’s been happening in Europe and in Asia has been blown out of proportion by the media. All I know is, if I can do whatever I can to help even a single elderly or immunocompromised person survive this pandemic, then I’ve got to try.