So my daughter’s 14-day quarantine period is at last over! When she came downstairs this morning I was greeted by a sleepy smile, rather the usual groan at the prospect of facing yet another day of house imprisonment.
Let me clarify that the quarantine rules in Poland are far stricter than in other places, such as the UK. Over here, all citizens who have travelled back from other countries are immediately subject to fourteen days of strict quarantine. And I do mean strict!
This means not leaving the house for ANY reason whatsoever. If you live on your own, then tough. The rules still apply. No exceptions. Someone else will have to do the shopping, take the dog on a walk, collect your prescription from the chemist’s, fulfil whatever other essential daily needs you have that entail leaving the house. Chores you are no longer able to carry out by yourself.
Ask a neighbour, one official advice website stated. Terrific! Do these so-called experts live in the real world? What if you aren’t on good terms with your neighbours? What if you hardly know them and feel too awkward to suddenly burden them with the practicalities of your everyday life that you are now expected to beg others to see to?
What about the quarantined person who lives alone with a dog – what if your neighbours are scared of dogs, or allergic to them? Or just downright hate them? What about the early-morning roll call of your beloved furry friend? Would even the kindest of neighbours be happy to come round at 7.00 a.m. (or even earlier) every day to take your needy animal out for a wee?
The questions get even harder.
What about victims of abuse? What if an entire family has just come back from another country, and they all find themselves clamped into quarantine? How will the battered wife fare? (Or battered husband – don’t mean to be sexist.) What about the abused child, the hormonal teenager, the alcoholic partner? And what if more than one of these explosive elements are thrown together within the enclosed four walls of one family unit?
The strains of dealing with a rebellious teenager are challenging at the best of times, but when the teenager in question isn’t allowed to leave their home for a single minute of the day, neither to have a quick meet-up with a friend, nor a secret smoke, or even just a solitary walk in the fresh air to have a break from the parents he/she temporarily hates … what happens then to the stability of the home hearth?
What about the vodka-swilling husband (or wife) who becomes aggressive after the second or third shot? Verbally, physically, sexually … or all three combined. What kind of escape is there from that?
What about the child or adolescent who dreads the regular sexual abuse that is now taking place even more frequently, driven by the perpetrator’s claustrophobia and boredom and frustration from their house-incarceration?
What if you live together with your parents, grandparents and siblings, all squashed into a two-roomed apartment? Lots of families in Poland live in such conditions.
What if you don’t have a garden where you can at least sit outside in the fresh air and let the sun rays rest on your upturned face?
What if you live in a flat with no balcony? No escape from your four prison walls whatsoever.
What if you have psychological problems? What if you’re anorexic? Bulimic? Have some sort of compulsive or paranoid disorder? Where can you hide?
What if you’re a single parent?
I can’t bear to think of how many more what if’s there are out there. Abuse happens. Deprivation happens. It’s happening now. All around us, only we can’t see it.
And as for the matter of distance-learning for an entire generation of school-excluded children … I won’t even begin to get into that!
My daughter was one of the lucky quarantine victims. (Though she may beg to differ in opinion.)She lives in a spacious house with a garden – only a small garden, admittedly, but a garden nonetheless. She gets on well with her mum. She has her own room in which to covet her privacy; her own bed in which to sleep undisturbed by restless siblings or snoring parents. She has her books, laptop, smartphone, WiFi … a piano in the living room, a balcony on which she can stand and admire the river view, and at least once a day wave to the young policeman who comes round to check that she’s at home, dutifully obeying quarantine orders.
But what escape routes can be provided for the large family squashed into a tiny dwelling that is now brimming over with toxicity? Bubbles gathering at the rim, waiting to burst.
Have the experts who impose these draconian rules truly thought about the consequences of all this inhuman isolation that is being forced upon large swathes of the population? Isolation that must feel like solitary confinement if you live alone, or a daily obstacle course of how to dodge physical or psychological trauma, if you live with others.
Everyone is worrying about the disastrous economic repercussions of this corona-era that we’ve found ourselves so unexpectedly and terrifyingly plunged into. Everyone is worrying about being contaminated or contaminating others. Dying.
Losing loved ones. We’re anxious about our threatened incomes, our possible redundancies, our future livelihoods; about how the world will look once this viral scourge has been vanquished and we can all poke our heads out the front door, glance nervously to the left and right, and come out of hiding.
One thing’s for certain, at any rate. There’s going to be a huge surge in the income of psychologists, therapists, and divorce lawyers!