The world’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is hardly a blanket approach. It’s more like a patchwork quilt. Different places have adopted different levels of restrictions as they try to slow the spread of the virus without bringing their countries to a halt. The global mix is influenced by many variables, including how to find a balance between economic pain and public health.
Parts of the world are considering ways to reopen. Washington Post correspondents across four continents describe what lockdown has meant for them, their lives and work.
Robyn Dixon in Moscow
Moscow’s lockdown rules created its own uniquely Russian class of haves and have-nots — those with dogs, and those without.
I’m a have-not.
The rules forbid outdoor exercise — except for dog owners, who are permitted to walk their dogs within 100 meters, or 328 feet, of their apartments.
Muscovites in government or essential services can still go to work. The rest of us are permitted to venture out only to the closest food shop or drugstore or for emergency medical care. Oh, and we can take out the trash.
Parks and gardens are closed, with red crime-scene tape across the entrances left to flap like forgotten party decorations. That was not enough to stop the dog walkers in a small park beside the Red Army Theater one evening: an elderly woman with her black Scottish terrier ducked under the tape, as did an elegant young woman with her Italian greyhound.
The dog-less have become inventive. Moscow pensioner Tatyana Busyreva makes do with a bag of garbage in case she is questioned by police.
“I walk very slowly, and this trip to take out the rubbish turns into a 30- or 40-minute walk,” she said.
After weeks inside, I borrowed my favorite local dog, Inka, from a neighbor for a solitary late-night walk.
Inka leaped and cavorted, thrilled to take possession of anything between a twig or a large branch. We saw only two dogs in the distance that night. Thirty minutes went by too fast, and our outing was over.
But I had my sanity back.
Max Bearak in Nairobi
My press pass is the golden ticket, or at least it’s supposed to be. There’s a dusk-to-dawn curfew in place in Kenya. Travel in and out of Nairobi, where I live, is allowed only with a letter stamped by the police — or a card like mine.
Men ride in the back of a truck in Nairobi on a typically rainy day in early April. (Max Bearak/The Washington Post)
A camel takes in the view in the middle of the road north of Isiolo, Kenya, where the author (and driver) traveled for a story on locusts April 28. (Max Bearak/The Washington Post)
LEFT: Men ride in the back of a truck in Nairobi on a typically rainy day in early April. (Max Bearak/The Washington Post) RIGHT: A camel takes in the view in the middle of the road north of Isiolo, Kenya, where the author (and driver) traveled for a story on locusts April 28. (Max Bearak/The Washington Post)
I’ve been reporting around the country, which means dealing with checkpoint after checkpoint. At most of them, a wave of the card is enough. At others, the policeman has his outstretched hand through the window of my SUV by the time I stop. “Don’t you know you can’t go to Nairobi?” When I make my case clear, he asks for “kidogo tu,” or just a little. “Boss, buy me lunch?”
On Ghetto Radio 89.5 the other day, the hosts were giving advice on how to get around checkpoints, telling people which “njia panya” to use — a Swahili term that means mouse paths.
There have been protests at the checkpoints: people blocked from going to their places of work, or even from taking the bodies of loved ones to bury upcountry. That’s how it so often is: it depends on which route you take, who you know, or what stamped letter you’re waving.
William Booth in London
When I contact friends in Barcelona, Paris and Rome on Zoom, I’ve had to confess that daily life in Britain ain’t so bad in comparison.
It’s “lockdown lite” here.
Our dog Pearl — raised under a taco stand in Mexico City, a pilgrim to the Holy Land with four years in Jerusalem, and now London — is loving the lockdown.
Walks? All. She. Wants. 5ks, 10ks, half marathons. Two, three a day. At night? The dog’s exhausted.
We ramble through Hampstead Heath. She’s a people person, so I’m usually strangling her to keep her away from others. Most people in Hampstead keep their distance, but enough don’t. So I go English on them, silently abhorring them, all the while grinning, “sorry, sorry.”
The comedian Ricky Gervais, whom I suspect lives about a mile away, complains on his podcast that he wants to walk through the Heath with a two-meter-long stick, jabbing at close walkers.
We see cops in high-viz vests sometimes rousting sunbathers. And we cheer. But mostly, it’s pretty chill.
Chico Harlan in Rome
An April 28 view from Chico Harlan’s apartment roof deck in Rome, the only way he can see the sun. (Chico Harlan/The Washington Post)
The photographer’s view of Piazza Navona on an April 28 early morning run. (Chico Harlan/The Washington Post)
LEFT: An April 28 view from Chico Harlan’s apartment roof deck in Rome, the only way he can see the sun. (Chico Harlan/The Washington Post) RIGHT: The photographer’s view of Piazza Navona on an April 28 early morning run. (Chico Harlan/The Washington Post)
Running outdoors was technically allowed under the tight terms of Italy’s lockdown — but only in a way that strips it of much of the pleasure. Joggers have to stay within 200 meters of their apartment buildings. And people exercising outdoors have received a fair amount of social disdain. Just stay indoors, the Italian mind-set has seemed to go.
My mind-set has been a bit different.
I’m a creature of routine. I’ve run four mornings per week pretty much throughout my adult life. Virologists have told me the activity, if done alone, is entirely safe. Early in the lockdown, fearful of drawing dirty eyes on the street, I instead tried to jog on my roof deck, running ridiculous micro-circles until our neighbor came up to investigate the noises he hears on his bedroom ceiling. After that, I tried a different strategy: waking up so early nobody would see me.
For the last three to four weeks, I’ve been getting up at 5 a.m. as often as I can stomach it and darting through the ghostly blocks of my neighborhood. I try to stay within 200 meters of my front door. Sometimes, I’m sure I stray 300 or 400. I see wholesalers driving up to the grocery stores. I see policemen ending their graveyard shifts at a mafia investigations office. At Piazza Navona, which is about as far as I dare to go, I see the same man every morning, power-walking loops and wearing all black.
Simon Denyer in Tokyo
There is no “lockdown” in Japan, just a polite request for people to please refrain from going outdoors unless you have to. When I walked our dog, Ziggy, one afternoon in Yokohama, the streets were quiet but not empty. A teenage boy kicked a soccer ball against the wall of our apartment building, and at Yamashita Park by the ocean, two more practiced basketball moves.
People, mostly wearing masks, sat on benches looking at the sea. A mother and father jumped rope with their three daughters, and joggers trotted by. A Chinese temple was open, but there was only one person inside, and stores in Chinatown selling bubble tea and baozi pork buns were empty.
Gerry Shih in Seoul
I was fidgeting on day four or five, staring at the country view and dazed by the afternoon sun, when the voice over the intercom somehow anticipated my Plan A — and my Plan B.
“Please do not leave your room because you might be deported,” intoned the warnings in Korean, English, Vietnamese, Chinese and Bahasa. Moments later: “Please do not smoke out your room window because you might be deported.”
In South Korea, mandatory government quarantine was strict, spartan — and jarringly polite. For 14 days after I was forced to leave China, I managed a simple, regimented existence in the confines of a 10- by 12-foot room in a rural police barracks that had little more than two twin beds, a table and two chairs.
Days revolved around anticipating three meals of cold bento boxes dropped outside my door by staff in full protective gear. Mornings started with coffee — made possible after a colleague shipped an emergency hot water kettle. Afternoons were for reading and writing.
In the evening, I put the day’s garbage in plastic bags marked for hazardous materials and sealed them in cardboard cartons that I placed outside my door for pickup.
When my back and hips began to seize with pain after sitting and lying 14 hours a day, I added to the schedule predinner Pilates sessions over Zoom with my partner still in Beijing. Most days, our cat watched our Jane Fonda kicks from his sofa perch.
Home felt far, but not that far.
Mary Beth Sheridan in Mexico City
Most days I take a 20-minute walk around my Mexico City neighborhood, Condesa, an art-deco district known for its restaurants, boutiques and verdant parks.
Now many of them are closed.
But not all.
Somehow the artisanal ice-cream shops have managed to pass themselves off as essential businesses. The folks at the “neveria” are using masks, gel and social distancing — as they dish out mango and banana ice creams.
Traffic has nearly died, with the government asking everyone to stay home except for trips to the grocery, pharmacy or bank. But the noise of Mexican street life continues. There’s the strolling vendor with his singsong recording: “Delicious Oaxacan tamales.” The roasted-sweet-potato guy, arriving with a piercing shriek of a whistle. The man who rings a handbell to signify the garbage truck is here, and you’d better carry yours outside.
There’s the pounding of jackhammers at buildings that toppled during an earthquake three years ago. The city is allowing construction at those sites, even as it’s halted elsewhere.
The music refuses to die. Musicians stroll the streets — a trumpeter here, an organ-grinder there, a five-piece musical group — playing tunes in hopes people will throw coins.
Masks aren’t required in public. But lately they’ve blossomed, like the flowers bursting with color in the parks, making us yearn for better days.
Paul Schemm in Dubai
The lockdown in Dubai started mildly enough, with schools closing, then malls, and then the beaches. Then, in a matter of days, it went from a nighttime curfew to a total, 24-hour lockdown with no outside exercise allowed. Leaving the house for grocery shopping required applying online for a permit and then even that was restricted to once every three days.
Speed cameras all over the city’s highways reportedly were monitoring cars driving around without permits and sending fines by SMS. One way of getting exercise was to apply for permit to a distant supermarket and then bike there. People with pets were forced to walk them in underground parking garages after police started handing out fines. Even now as strictures have been relaxed we have to wear face masks outside, even when driving in a car solo.
Terrence McCoy in Rio de Janeiro
A few days ago, I walked down a major street in my beachside neighborhood of Ipanema for the first time in a month. The world I’d left when entering isolation was not the world I was seeing. Shops, restaurants, businesses — so much was boarded up. The few people on the streets were wearing masks to comply with a restriction imposed by the mayor of Rio de Janeiro.
Except for an elderly man, balding and thin. He was shuffling across the street when he tripped on the curb, falling across the sidewalk in front of me. He couldn’t get up. He was reaching toward me. Help me, his eyes said.
I didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t wearing a mask. Could he have the virus?
After a few moments, I went to him. I grabbed him by his frail arms, hoisting him to his feet. He kept saying thank you, but I was so nervous, I barely heard it. I hustled away, went home and washed my hands.
One of the things I hate most about this virus is that it attacks not just our lungs — but also our shared sense of humanity.