March 2019 saw me in my new home city in Central Germany and a year on we are living in a time of a pandemic.
A year ago (March 26, 2019), I went for my first ride since moving to a new country and then like today I took time to have a think about my situation.
We have been social distancing informally and formally in some form or other for what seems like a long time in Germany. During this period my news and social media feed from the UK has been busy with events, social fun and the like. I must admit I was a bit amazed that people were carrying on as normal in the UK despite the news which was flowing from China and then much closer to home from Italy.
Life has not been normal for over a month in Germany.
I have had to learn a new dance called “the excuse me and avoid me waltz”, when shopping as we all endeavour to not crowd each other in the supermarket.
Each German state implemented its own rules early on and this saw events cancelled and public spaces such as playgrounds and swimming pools, plus restaurants and shops closed. This was in addition to the actions of the National Government and both have ratcheted up their responses over the weeks.
We have not been riding in groups nor have I met with friends for three weeks. There were hiccups with some ignoring social distancing, but most of us have been keeping away from each other. Things are calm, there were shortages at first, but I believe not on the scale of the UK experience which saw very aggressive shopping and hoarding (hamstering here).
The German health system has its issues but hospitals have been ramping up their preparations. Importantly there does exist a sense of community/society that helps in a crisis. There are no panic calls for volunteers or emotive appeals (often shaming people) as in the UK.
In Italy the disease was spread via ski resorts and similarly in Austria, both being a source for many German infections. Germany has been testing since early January (500,000 plus).
The point is that Italy got it first and the rest of Europe can learn from their experience. A similar issue can be seen in New York which is approaching a high point that others in the US will also experience despite what Trump might ordain.
Thankfully, both the informal and formal social distancing looks like it might be working as the curve is flattening in Germany and death rates are less. It has occurred to me that European nations are much more aware of each other and are much more interested in learning from each other than the UK.
In the UK the attitude is to do our own thing (if I was to be churlish, I might add – more looking to the USA) and not take much of an interest in our continental neighbours. I hope the UK doesn´t pay the price for this outlook.
Here in Germany there is no shame in riding your bike or going outside if you follow the clear social distancing rules.
I have my fingers crossed that Italy and Spain etc. reach the peak soon and then begin to recover. And that others in Europe including Germmany are not placed in the same nightmare situation.