BEIRUT: When the Lebanese heard about people quarantining in China and Italy because of the coronavirus outbreak, many could not imagine themselves in the same bizarre situation, it seemed distant.
Today it is a new reality people have come to terms with, as Lebanon enters its third week under lockdown. Everyone is coping with home isolation in their own way. Some find it the perfect time to be productive and acquire new skills.
“I started cooking and I’m rather enjoying it ... I also started learning Japanese,” Karim Anwar, an IT student at the Lebanese American University, told The Daily Star.
The unexpected outbreak of coronavirus transformed the way people communicate with each other.
The Lebanese government recommended citizens to stay at home unless necessary and to distance themselves socially and amped up measures on March 15.
The government later tasked security forces and Army personnel to monitor and enforce lockdown measures.
As social distancing has become the new norm, social media posts now consist of split screens of people on video calls.
Like many others, Anwar said he is also keeping in touch with his friends and “maintaining his social life” through the widely popular video-communication app Zoom or Skype.
As people started to come to grips with the possibility of a long time in isolation, some have been putting pressure on themselves or others to be productive, and have been creating high expectations of how they will put their time into good use.
Social media posts jokingly pointed out how “Isaac Newton discovered gravity while in quarantine during the Great Plague, and William Shakespeare wrote "King Lear,” also while quarantined,” as exaggerated examples of productivity.
Others however are just looking forward to meditate and relax.
“I’d like to be productive again, but right now I just want to take care of myself mentally otherwise I could crack,” Anis Tabet, 33, who works in social media told The Daily Star.
Tabet said he is catching up on series and movies, and playing video games that have been on his shelf for a long time.
“In between I read and watch the news,” Tabet said.
“That’s when paranoia kicks in.”
The coronavirus outbreak altered some people’s lives permanently and might potentially take away memories many were looking forward to make.
Thousands of high school and university students might graduate without a ceremony.
For some the ceremony holds a special place in their heart, like Nour Toukan a senior nursing student at the Lebanese American University.
Despite saying that LAU has not yet made an official decision on the matter, Toukan said that it will be incredibly unfair if her class doesn’t get a graduation ceremony.
“I personally worked so hard these past three years, I deserve to wear a cap and gown and walk across that stage, and have that moment with my family ... because I won't get another university graduation,” she said.
“It’s a once in a lifetime experience and memory ... I would be incredibly upset if they [university] cancel it.”
Toukan expressed her sadness of not being able to physically go to classes during her last weeks of university.
“But I know that something much bigger is going on right now and the wellness of the community is much more important,” she added.
Others like Anwar don’t share the same sentiment. “I don’t personally care about the ceremony, I just want the diploma certificate to be able to move on,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic has put the world on hold. People’s everyday lives have been put on pause and plans postponed indefinitely.
“Some plans that were canceled involve my work, which is with movies distributors and cinemas. That’s off for a while. All my trips were also canceled. I was going to visit my brother in France next month,” Tabet said.
Elderly people have been identified as one of the most vulnerable group to face life-threatening risk from COVID-19, and many have been painfully separated from their loved ones as a result.
Samira and her husband, both in their 70s told The Daily Star that no one comes in to their house, because of the virus.
“We are stuck at home and can’t see our kids or grandchildren ... Facebook and WhatsApp give us a way to talk to them, but opening Facebook can be stressful too as we always see posts about coronavirus,” Samira said.
Despite the multitude of challenges of staying in quarantine, many people share the same resilience and are willing to ride out the journey.
“I can survive as long as it takes. Better safe than sorry ... it will take a while before life goes back to normal,” Tabet said.