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‘We Think Our Father Thinks We Abandoned Him’: People In Malta Open Up About Living Under Shadow Of Coronavirus

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Photo left: Still from a video of the empty streets of Valletta filmed by Jeremy Debattista 

Coronavirus has swept the rug from under the world’s feet and Malta is no exception. Basic things in life we used to take for granted now sound precious while what the near future will look like is anybody’s guess.

With this in mind, Lovin Malta ran a survey which asked people for their personal experiences about how their lives have changed in the past few weeks.

We received over 350 responses to our survey and here’s a selection of them:

‘I do not have a life, I live in fear’ 

With local transmissions of the coronavirus now confirmed, several people voice their concerns that they could end up contracting the illness.

“The main problem for me in our eighties is queuing outside a pharmacy when holding a disability card, which is no use in this crisis,” said an 82-year-old English woman who has been living in Malta for several years. “Not enough is being done for elderly people who are most at risk.”

“I am constantly alert, especially on public transport,” a 46-year-old Maltese woman said. “At home I have turned into an OCD, cleaning all the time with bleach and disinfectants. I became more suspicious of the people surrounding me.”

A 29-year-old Maltese woman with Crohn’s disease said she is so petrified of getting sick that she has stopped going out altogether, except to walk her dogs in the very early morning, wearing gloves and a mask in doing so.

“All I do is watch the news and worry about how Malta will handle the situation if it gets to the point of Italy,” she said. “I do not have a life, I live in fear.”

A 27-year-old Maltese healthcare worker said her job has become very tense and sombre as everyone is worried about the coronavirus and is expecting an influx of patients.

“Patients are constantly expressing their worries with us and we are remaining strong for them, constantly reassuring them,” she said. “I’m scared of getting sick but more than that I’m scared of all my relatives, especially those who are more vulnerable and can’t help but think … will they all get through this?”

‘I have to leave my children alone at home’

The outbreak has forced schools and educational institutions to close until at least 17th April, placing working parents in an uncomfortable situation.

“I have to leave my children alone at home because I have to go to work,” a 44-year-old Maltese woman said.

“I have three kids but I have to go work because I can’t lose my job, no one can keep my kids, no help,” a 34-year-old woman added.

A 38-year-old Maltese woman said she normally works from home while her children are at school but the school closures has piled on the pressure.

“Now that the schools are closed, I have to somehow find time to work and be with my children,” she said. “This is going to prove to be close to impossible, I feel, so I have taken some leave in order to reduce the hours I have to work this week, to reduce the pressure on myself.”

“We are spending more time at home, which I love, but at the same time, I feel somewhat trapped, and wonder how long we can sustain this for. Not being able to go out whenever you want to makes you somehow want it more.”

However, a 39-year-old mother saw the bright side of things, saying the situation has brought her family closer together and helped them enjoy home without having to rush like they usually do.

‘My husband and I have both lost our jobs’

Several national precautionary measures have been introduced to reduce the spread of the coronavirus but this has come at the cost of several people’s income. Many people have now been left in limbo, scared of what the future will look like for them if things remain the way they are.

“I own clothing shops which turned from a success to nullity in two days and we closed our doors,” a 40-year-old Maltese man said. “Even my employees were afraid to come to work. My family is at home but I cannot stay with the right mind so there is a lot of frustration.”

A 29-year-old Serbian woman said both she and her husband have lost their jobs and that they and their two children, both under three years old, cannot go anywhere as their only family is in Milan, which has been badly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are searching for a job but without success,” she said. “We don’t know how we will buy the food, not to mention paying rent. May God help as all as we are not the only family ending up like this.”

“I’m an Airbnb host and my wife is a photographer. Our income just went to zero,” a 41-year-old Maltese man said, expressing concern about how he will be able to repay his home loan.

“All performing arts shows and theatre productions were halted, resulting in 0 income,” a 37-year-old Maltese freelance artist said bluntly.

‘My father thinks we abandoned him’ 

Heath authorities have repeatedly urged people to maintain a physical distance from each other, particularly from elderly people who are more prone to the virus. And while many are following the rules, social distancing can undoubtedly be agonising.

“I cannot visit my father at San Vincenz de Paul,” a 46-year-old Maltese woman said. “He is highly dependent and not communicative. We think that he thinks we abandoned him, it’s a very sad situation.”

“‘I’m unable to visit and see my children, grandchildren and 94 year old mother,” a 64-year-old Maltese woman said. “My kids insisted on this self quarantine as I have asthma and have just recovered from bronchitis.”

“For safety measures, even though the government hasn’t implemented a lockdown, my family thought it would be best that no one is to leave the house so at the moment our household is under voluntary lockdown,” a 17-year-old Maltese student said. “So we clean, cook and also do school work and my dad and both my sisters are working from home.”

“I can’t see my 8th month old niece, I can’t see my boyfriend, I work as a freelancer and a lot of my work has been either postponed or cancelled,” a 26-year-old Maltese man said. “I’m worried for my parents and mostly my grandmother who is suffering from dementia and my mother and her siblings (all over 50 years of age) are taking care of her whilst she is not understanding what is happening.”   

“I’m not going out with my three-year-old, I’m working from home and I’m living for the next press briefing,” a 39-year-old Maltese woman said. “It’s pretty sad.”

Anxiety, worry and sadness the most common feelings respondents associate with crisis 

In our survey, we also asked respondents to write the first word that comes to mind to describe how they are feeling about the whole situation.

These are the words which were listed five times or more:

  1. Anxious – 46 people
  2. Worried – 30 people
  3. Sad – 17 people
  4. Scared – 17 people
  5. Fear – 15 people
  6. Annoyed – 11 people
  7. Stressed – 10 people
  8. Bored – 9 people
  9. Frustrated – 9 people
  10. Apprehensive – 8 people
  11. Depressed – 7 people
  12. Helpless – 7 people
  13. Fed up – 6 people
  14. Angry – 5 people
  15. Calm – 5 people
  16. Confused – 5 people
  17. Uncertain – 5 people

These are troubling times but realising that we’re all in the same boat together can at least make the experience feel less lonely.

In the meantime, prioritise personal hygiene and maintain as much physical distance from people as possible so as not to contract the virus or pass it on to someone else.

If you believe you are suffering from the coronavirus, stay indoors and call the public health authority’s helpline 111.

READ NEXT: Could You Get Jail Time For Spreading The Coronavirus? According To Maltese Law, Yes

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