Victoria Jelinek


Covid-19 March 17, 2020

President Macron addresses the nation for the second time in a week

To my family,

TelecommuteWe allowed S to watch the address too. This virus is a huge thing…the first of its kind in a century (Spanish Flu 1918), and President Macron notes this (like the Humanities and Classics man he is).

It was a beautiful and sad speech. He candidly says that it is the beginning of the “onslaught” of this virus, that it will accelerate in the coming weeks and months, with a “second wave” that will effect younger people.

He calls on us to prepare for this. He calls for solidarity. He calls for “brotherhood” (the whole “liberté, egalite, fraternité” reference to the French Revolution that is noted on the side of every mayor’s office in every village and city throughout France)

He says that we must trust the experts who are guiding the decision for a lockdown – scientists and healthcare professionals who are on the front line of this crisis.

However, he notes, despite this context and the seriousness of the threat, the protocol to help first responders (healthcare professionals, police) by slowing down the spread of this disease enacted last Thursday, the public has not respected the guidelines. So, 100k army and extra police will be deployed across the country to enforce the ban on our movement as of tomorrow at midday. From then, we must have a written explanation downloaded from the government’s site (or handwritten for those without printers) explaining why we are out. We are only allowed to get food, medicine…to exercise, walk our dog, but not to meet with friends and extended family, “in the streets” or in our homes, or we will be fined 38e and “there will be repercussions.” I’m not clear what the repercussions would be. Perhaps it’s the 38e? (it was in French after all).

Borders across Europe/the Schengen Area have now collectively been closed to all foreign nationals for 30 days as of midday tomorrow also, with extension after that if needed. There seems to be some lenience with UK citizens, though I’m not sure exactly how this works given that they are now out of the EU, but it’s, perhaps, because it’s a recent ‘divorce’ that there is this allowance? I’m not clear on this to be honest…

President Macron referred to what French citizens must now face as “life in slow-motion,” but he called on us to spend this time “reading, reflecting on what is essential,” and said the nation would “prevail” in this “war.”

(I hope Netflix and our internet doesn’t somehow go down. That would TRULY leave me desperate).

There are many measures to help businesses and the economically vulnerable, and there is (subsidized by the government as usual) childcare for those who are first responders and necessary governmental workers.

He called for solidarity and courage.

He closed his address with the classical, “Vive la France. Vive la République.”

Which S kept saying afterwards to himself as he was brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed. After he went to bed, I heard him ask his father, who was was sitting with him, “Daddy, what will happen if you or mommy get the virus?” To which M said, “We’ll be fine honey…we’re strong.” He then asked why we have to stay indoors and not see friends if we’re not sick. To which M said, “To protect others, honey…to protect those that aren’t so strong…to make sure that we help the nurses and doctors who are dealing with this each day by not spreading the disease further…”  It was quiet after that. He was probably asleep after that long winded response (as you might be now with my long missive – I type quickly. Perhaps, M, you can use it for your morning ‘private time’ reading?).

Gods hope all of us we will be protected and fine. Particularly as we can’t get to one another easily if there is a personal crisis.

We have been and will continue to, respect the guidelines. But, I have been appalled by the numbers who have not (the weather has been extraordinary, but it’s rather surreal to see so many over the last three days not taking this seriously despite national directives). I’ve also been perplexed and hurt by friends who have castigated me for self isolating: “I wouldn’t have thought YOU would be like this!” and “It’s a bit mad, don’t you think, to just stay at home when the weather is so gorgeous?!” and, “Drop by for a coffee – don’t be like that.” And, “I feel as though you’re judging me for continuing to live my life!” And, “It’s hysterical behavior if you ask me.” And, “It’s no worse than a really bad flu for most of us, stop being such a worry wart,” sorts-of-things. (The fact that I am a worry wart isn’t the point).

I suppose crisis brings out a variety of responses in people. I, too, didn’t take it seriously till last Thursday and had been mystified, incredulous, and somewhat disdainful when a couple of my friends were ‘banging the drum’ that it was time to lockdown everywhere asap. Then it hit me. I read something the other day about coming to terms with this virus socially is akin to the six stages of grief, so, perhaps, we are at different stages in this, just like the outbreak is in different stages of development in different countries?

I know for us, like many, we are worried about the future for our son. As M once said, “Having a child is like having your heart outside your body.” I love that. It’s so true. And mine beats heavily now…

And, like many, we are worried about money. Unlike the huge amount of money that is being put out there in France to alleviate the stress on businesses (the French government is paying salaries for workers while businesses are closed, rents and mortgages for those that are “poor” are being paid by the government, taxis, hotels, childcare for first responders, subsidies to hospitals and army tents to be set up in the hardest hit areas in order to support hospitals, all courtesy of our government). We freelancers, however, receive little or nothing. And, we won’t receive regular assistance because we have a bunch of money in our bank account from the sale of our previous house that will be used to build our new house. But, it doesn’t look as though our new house will be built this summer because if things remain, the wood/build will not get here and the workers can’t build it/be on site, and then we’ll be stuck paying our exorbitant rent! But, we’ll see how this all goes.

Things are changing daily.

There are so many in worse positions of course. I was told by a friend who had lived in Nigeria for 15 years, that most people in Africa live with this type of fear and uncertainty all of the time. You ‘just’ learn to cope.

Though, thankfully, in France, our poorest are given help with food, housing, and health, so there are not these types of desperate situations for the most part. Isolation is an issue.

And, of course, we could be ill. The impotence and fear of S’s recent illness is still fresh in our minds (the 40+ fever for five days in which he couldn’t eat and it would not go down! I’m so glad I insisted his blood was tested or I’d have thought it was Covid-19!).

And President Macron suggests that instead of visiting our elderly family members and neighbors, we offer to support these people in our communities by offering to get groceries and do errands for them (he actually said this! Makes me chuckle how he considers everything), and, of course, we would have “justification” for doing this (but we must fill in the form for transit! Goodness knows the French LOVE their paperwork).

Trying, terrible times. My dear friend E (S’s “nou nou” from three months old to three-years-old) who is now a neighbour, and who is normally a stoic, humorous, Welsh woman who regularly chides me to “take off my ‘big girl’s blouse’ and just get on with things,” texted me after the televised address and said she was despondent, that “The future seems bleak.” Rather alarmed, but figuring immediately that it made sense that it’d take something of this magnitude to shake her up, I suggested she bundle up warmly – it gets cold at night here – come over in ten minutes and meets me on the back porch – that I’d make us both very large whisky sours (washing my hands first of course) and, adhering to the security restrictions, we’d sit outside in lawn chairs two meters apart and talk. It was poignant as we sat on our respective sides of the porch quietly talking. The sky was bright with stars. There was a rock slide on the mountain that was SO loud it sounded as though Thor was smashing rocks together. We heard the sound of an owl and foxes (perhaps the owl was caught by the fox?). J chased a big deer away (which I soundly – though softly – scolded her for).

Oh my. What a world we live in.

So, it seems we have no choice but to spend this time at home, “reading and reflecting on what is essential,” as le president advises.

Though tomorrow I start teaching online classes. I’m advised that it’s “very important” that we “model peace and serenity” for the students.

Sleep is best for that.

Bon courage a tout.

Please keep in touch virtually. How lucky we are to have email and cell phones! (They wouldn’t have had those things during the last pandemic!).

Keep safe. 

Love, Tori

Photo is courtesy of the link below (via friend) on Reddit and someone with the handle u/krinosh:


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