It’s the unexpected that changes our lives… As I’m starting this coronavirus diary, I have no idea how our lives will be impacted by it… One thing I now know for sure is that it will have a big impact on us, our society, life in Belgium, Europe, the entire world…
Just a month ago, we never expected something like this could ever happen here. Just a week ago, our life was very predictable, with a simple daily routine, school, work, and trips we were looking forward to… And coronavirus was still only something we heard on the news… Now, all that’s left is uncertainty and the unexpected…
So I decided to start keeping a sort of coronavirus diary, a daily blog of how coronavirus impacts our life here in Belgium. I’ll include official updates of coronavirus in Belgium as they roll in, but this is in no way an official source of information. Just a daily blog of our lives in times of Coronavirus…
If you are looking for information on COVID-19 in general or coronavirus updates in European countries, I urge you to check the official sources:
- World Health Organization for worldwide updates
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control for the up-to-date coronavirus situation in Europe
I expect that this will be a long diary. So to make it easier, you can just click on the dates below to jump to the latest update.
- Day 1 – March 11, 2020
- Day 2 – March 12, 2020
- Day 3 – March 13, 2020
- Day 4 – March 14, 2020
- Day 5 – March 15, 2020
- Day 6 – March 16, 2020
- Day 7 – March 17, 2020
- Day 8 – March 18, 2020
- Day 9 – March 19, 2020
- Day 10 – March 20, 2020
- Day 11 – March 21, 2020
- Day 12 – March 22, 2020
- Day 13 – March 23, 2020
- Day 14 – March 24, 2020
- Day 15 – March 25, 2020
- Day 16 – March 26, 2020
- Day 17 – March 27, 2020
- Day 18 – March 28, 2020
- Day 19 – March 29, 2020
- Day 20- March 30, 2020
- Day 21 – March 31, 2020
- Day 22 – April 1, 2020
- Day 23 – April 2, 2020
- Day 24 – April 3, 2020
- Day 25 – April 4, 2020
- Day 26 – April 5, 2020
- Day 27 – April 6, 2020
- Day 28 – April 7, 2020
For those of you who don’t know us. We’re a Belgian family of 5 with three boys age 9, 9, and 11. We love to travel and have been running this travel blog, Full Suitcase, for over 4 years. If we can, we spend most of the kids’ school holidays traveling and discovering the world.
But now… now we’re at home due to Coronavirus, just like millions of other families worldwide. Wondering how in the world we’ll survive this period of at least 5 weeks and how our lives will be influenced by everything that’s still to come…
Below is our daily diary, starting with the first day when the Coronavirus changed our plans. I’ll try to update this blog daily, so follow along and let’s hope we all get through this safely!
Day 1 – March 11, 2020
School trip canceled
Today was the first day when coronavirus directly touched our lives. We received a message from our kids’ school to say that all school excursions and trips were being canceled. Including a 10-day ‘snow classes’ trip to Switzerland for the 6th graders that was supposed to leave in just 5 days, on March 16th…
The kids at school were devastated. Our oldest son as well. They had been looking forward to this trip for over 5 years. They talked about nothing else but Switzerland since September. They learned all there was to learn about Switzerland, the region they were going to, Swiss food, culture, even Alpine animals…
So the news that this trip was canceled hit really hard. Everyone was so upset. Was it really necessary?!
In the meantime, on the way to the music school, we stopped to buy some Swiss chocolate for all the kids in our son’s class. A chocolate bar of Toblerone wouldn’t make up for a canceled dream trip, but would hopefully cheer them up a bit. People looked a bit strange when we bought 24 chocolate bars at a store. Relax, people, we’re not hoarding Toblerone…
Belgium coronavirus update: 314 infected, 3 dead
Day 2 – March 12, 2020
From ‘no reason to close schools’ to ‘schools are closing for 5 weeks’
At school, we were greeted by a group of angry kids shouting ‘we want snow classes’. 6th-grade teachers clearly hadn’t slept much last night. The teachers decided to cancel all the lessons and take the kids to play in a nearby forest. Other lessons for younger kids went as planned.
I received an email that my mom’s flight to Belgium end of April was canceled. My mom lives in Lithuania, we live in Belgium. She was planning to come to visit us and also go see the tulip fields in the Netherlands for the first time. Should we reschedule it for the next day or just cancel it altogether? Who knows how the situation end of April will be…
We watched the evening news where the Minister-President of Flanders repeated that there was no reason to close schools in Belgium at the moment.
Just a few hours later, the Belgian government held a conference and announced that (among others) schools would be closing in Belgium from next Monday and for at least 3 weeks. After that, we have the Easter holidays, so schools would remain closed for at least 5 weeks.
Day 3 – March 13, 2020
Hoarding food and lockdown parties
Friday the 13th was a strange day and not a day our government anticipated, I suppose… In order to give people and businesses time to adjust, all the quarantine measures would go into effect at midnight from Friday to Saturday. This meant that everyone was out and about the whole day – stocking up on food and quite a lot of people were partying one last time before everything would close…
It’s so sad that so many people didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. Who in his right mind thinks it’s a good idea to organize a ‘lockdown party’ in times of this worldwide pandemics…
I brought the kids to school telling them to make sure to bring all their school books home. As I drove home, I passed a few supermarkets on my way. The shops were just about to open, but the parking lots were crowded already. Glad we did our weekly shopping a few days ago. It’s not the moment to go shopping when everyone else is doing it… But I wondered how will the shops would look like in a week from now…
As we drove back home from school at 4 pm, we passed a local café that was full of people. Crowded as I’ve never seen it before… Yes, some people apparently thought this was a good thing to do – laugh the crisis away as if it was all just a bad dream…
In the meantime, in Italy, people were singing and playing music on their balconies. A heart-warming sight.
Day 4 – March 14, 2020
Belgium goes into quarantine
So it happened. Belgium is in a sort of lockdown since midnight with everything closing for at least 3 weeks. No schools, no restaurants, no museums, no events… People are asked to work from home as much as possible.
The government asked parents not to bring kids to their grandparents and schools were obliged to provide some kind of daycare for those kids whose parents absolutely had to go to work (nurses, doctors, etc) or who could not find a place to leave their kids.
Food stores remained open as usual and all the other shops are open during weekdays only. For now.
It’s forbidden to visit retirement homes or hospitals (with few exceptions for sick kids/parents and patients who are in a critical condition). All the doctor’s consultations and planned treatments are suspended. Hospitals are preparing more beds and focus on re-training doctors that specialize in other fields to stand-by for a surge of coronavirus patients.
Public transport continues to run. Hotels are open, but restaurants are closed. Drive-in or takeaway is allowed and Belgian fritkots (a type of food stalls/ kiosks that sell Belgian fries) are allowed to remain open but under strict restrictions and social distancing.
If you had any plans to travel to Belgium before April 3, it’s really not the best idea. However, nobody knows how long this will last and any of these measures might be strengthened even more if needed. This is the situation for now.
We spent our day putting away winter clothes and working in the garden… some fresh air would do us good.
Many Belgians decided that it was a good idea to cross the border and go shopping and partying in the Netherlands, where everything is still open as usual. Really?!
Doctors plead in the press ‘to those of you who are partying today, keep in mind that we might not have enough hospital beds for your parents in a few weeks from now... Stay home!’
Day 5 – March 15, 2020
It’s becoming very clear – this is not a drill
In the morning, I drove to our local supermarket to buy some bread, as we always do on Sundays. It was a bit busier than normal, but there was plenty of bread, fruit, vegetables, and meat. The shelves of pasta and pasta sauces were almost empty though…
My mom and several family members sent pictures of empty shelves in the supermarkets in Lithuania. Friends are sharing similar pictures and stories from all over the world…
Many European countries are closing borders and getting their citizens back home. The borders of Belgium are open, but many flights are canceled.
We spent the day cleaning windows, cooking, playing board games, bicycling, and watching TV. The Sunday-morning program ‘De Zevende Dag‘ on the official news channel in Flanders was eye-opening. It’s getting very clear – this is not something that will just pass in a few weeks from now.
My husband spent hours on the phone helping to install Skype on his father’s computer – not so easy by phone.
Specialists estimate that 60-80% of the population will get sick and tens of thousands of people will die… The only way to keep this somewhat under control and avoid even more deaths is flattening the curve and hoping that hospitals will be able to cope.
Also in the Netherlands, schools, cafés, and restaurants are closing until at least the 6th of April. France now also closes all ‘non-essential’ shops and public spaces. The UK is still going for ‘herd immunity’ and everything remains open.
Belgium coronavirus update: 689 infected, 4 dead
Day 6 – March 16, 2020
Shortage of surgical masks in Belgian hospitals
Monday. The first day of no school (but all the teachers are starting to send homework to keep the kids busy over the next week).
We’re trying to establish some kind of routine now that we’re all stuck at home for at least 5 weeks. It’s not an easy thing to do with 3 kids, who also have to study a bit every day. Luckily, we have a garden and lots of space for them to play, but every parent knows that even a weekend with kids can be a real hell. They fight about everything. Everything. ‘Mom, my brother looked at me.‘ How do you even start solving a world-crisis like this…
They also need to be entertained and kept busy. ALL THE TIME. Otherwise, they’ll end up in front of the TV, a PlayStation or their tablets for hours and days in a row…
Working from home when kids are at home is easier said than done…. I hardly get anything new published on the blog these days…
We went bicycling again. As we passed a local train station, we heard coronavirus warnings through the loudspeakers on the train platform: ‘wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, keep a safe distance from other passengers…’. The streets were not deserted at all and the car parking of a local shopping square was full of cars.
In the meantime on the news – there may soon not be enough face masks at the Belgian hospitals. People who bought face masks are urged to donate them to the nearest hospital.
Germany closes most of its borders. At the moment, at least 8 European countries have closed their borders already: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Switzerland, and Germany. Many more countries are not allowing foreigners into the country unless they live and work there. It’s a good thing our son is not on his way to Switzerland today, as it was planned…
Belgium coronavirus update: 1058 infected, 10 dead
Day 7 – March 17, 2020
New Corona-Government in Belgium, canceled flights, and queues to enter supermarkets
Our day started with countless emails from kids’ teachers and lots of school tasks for all three kids. Even their gym teacher sent a few self-made Youtube videos with exercises they can do at home and in the garden. It’s amazing to see how dedicated all the teachers are! In the afternoon, even more emails from the music school started coming in too…
Needless to say, we spent the whole day homeschooling and running from one child to another; answering questions, checking their work, explaining what and why, helping to upload it online for the teachers to check… Of course, there was no time to get any work done ourselves…
I also canceled my mom’s flight to Brussels. Just a few hours later, Brussels Airlines announced that they are suspending ALL flights starting from the 21st of March and till the 20th of April. Now I wonder how long it will be till we get our money back… But that’s just a small amount, not something to lose our sleep over. Our spring road trip to Spain is a whole other story…
Since Spain is in quarantine at the moment and the EU just announced that it’s closing its borders for 30 days and discouraging any non-essential travel inside the EU, we will have to cancel our Andalusia trip. We have prepaid all our hotels, as we usually do because it’s cheaper and we have good trip insurance anyway. But… it turns out that our travel cancelation insurance doesn’t cover pandemics unless we ourselves get sick (hopefully not!). So we’ll just have to count on the goodwill of the hotels and hopefully get our money back. To be continued…
On the news – more and more stores in Belgium are closing. Not many customers are still shopping these days and employees have to be home for their kids… Food stores are open. In the meantime, Belgians started running to pharmacies and are hoarding paracetamol…
And so I went to do our weekly grocery shopping… There was a queue to enter the supermarket! Nothing too serious yet – I was inside just 5 minutes later, but this doesn’t look promising… They are now starting to limit the number of people allowed inside the shops at the same time. Apparently, it’s going to be even stricter from tomorrow – 1 person per 10 sq.m. Crazy times…
Despite limiting the number of people who are allowed inside, it was quite busy inside the supermarket. Also, I couldn’t find any potatoes, eggs, or bell peppers. Almost all the milk was sold out, there was almost no pasta, no rice… Luckily, there was quite some meat and fish and also fruit and vegetables. Oh, and plenty of Belgian chocolate. We’re set for another week or so.
On the good news – the corona crisis prompted some changes in Belgian politics. Since today, we have a new ‘corona government’. Yes, that’s what they call it. It’s too hard to explain without writing the whole article about it, but Belgium has been without a proper government since last year’s elections (May 2019!). Politicians are still not capable to form a proper government, but they all agreed that this corona-crisis requires one. So now we have a government for 6 months with one task only – manage the corona crisis without fighting each other. Only in Belgium…
Belgium coronavirus update: 1243 infected, 10 dead
Day 8 – March 18, 2020
Even stricter quarantine rules and business comes to a halt
Starting at noon today, the rules about social distancing here in Belgium were brought to yet another level (and this at least till April 5, 2020 ). We are not allowed to go anywhere except when it’s absolutely necessary. In other words – you can only go to work (if working from home is not an option), to a pharmacy, or to a supermarket.
As expected, supermarkets are now imposing 1 person per 10 sq. meters rule and you can’t be inside for longer than 30 minutes. This is leading to long queues at all the food stores everywhere in the country. All the other shops are now officially closed. Belgian fritkots are still remaining open (fries are a basic necessity here in Belgium!)…
You can also go bicycling, jogging, or walk in nature, but only close to your home (so no driving to the coast or so), and only with your family members who live together. Otherwise, maximum two people can do something together if they also keep at least 1,5m distance from each other… I feel for all those young couples who have just started dating…
On the personal front, we spent another day homeschooling and not getting much useful done. It’s hard to remain focused on anything with so much going on…
As you can imagine, my business – a travel website – is at its all-time-low and income is nearing 0. Nobody is traveling or planning any new trips (understandably) and so everyone in the travel industry is suffering hard at the moment. This is also the time when we’ll find out which partners are worth working with in the future. Sadly, some companies are taking very short-sighted decisions…
If you are a loyal reader and want to help – the best way to do this is by continuing to read our articles, share them with your friends, bookmark them for later, and come back to book your trips via our website when all this mess is over. Because it will be over one day and there are so many amazing places in the world just waiting to be discovered! Just not now…
For now, we are all hitting a pause button. And while you’re at it, check out our selection of some of the all-time best travel films. Perfect for these crazy times!
Belgium coronavirus update: 1486 infected, 14 dead
Day 9 – March 19, 2020
Is this just a bad dream?
It’s a strange feeling – being safely at home and reading all the terrible news from all around Europe – 475 people died of coronavirus in Italy in just one day; 1 death every 17 minutes in Madrid… It all sounds like a bad dream, far away from us… Except it’s not.
Belgian hospitals are preparing for a surge in corona-patients. The Flemish government made it possible to build new hospitals without building permission. The University Hospital of Antwerp made a step-by-step guide with instructions on how to sew face masks and people are massively responding to this… In the meantime, China sent 30,000 surgical masks to Belgium, with more to follow later this week…
Our days are so filled with (kids) activities that we hardly have the time to read the news. I guess it’s better this way… Kids are now using all kinds of online communication methods to talk to their teachers and friends and make school tasks. But it’s us, parents, who have to help them with everything. Keeps us busy, that’s for sure.
My husband took one of the kids bicycling today. They passed a small local supermarket and there was nobody there, so they brought some more bread, potatoes, and eggs – products that I couldn’t find in the bigger supermarket a few days ago. It’s crazy how some stores have tens of people queuing outside and some others are empty. Maybe it’s just the lucky timing…
We also started canceling our trip to Spain and I’m impressed with the way some companies are handling our – nonrefundable – bookings. Big thank you to RentalCars.com and Rotterdam Airport Parking for reimbursing all our money back immediately. It looks like the majority of the hotels we booked in Spain also understand that there is no way for us to travel now and will be refunding our bookings as well. However, sadly, some others insist that we come on a later day. I wish we could, but there is just no way we can now rebook this trip with any certainty… We are already fearing for our summer trip to Norway. I sincerely hope this mess is over by then…
Another company I want to give a big shout-out to is GetYourGuide, our favorite company for tour and activity bookings worldwide, and one of our blog partners in good and bad times. It’s impressive how they handle this tough situation to make sure that their clients, partners, and staff come in the first place. It’s the company I’m proud to work with and promote on our blog.
That’s it for today. I still have kids’ homework to upload for their teachers to review. The day is over before you know it…
Belgium coronavirus update: 1795 infected, 21 dead. 155 declared healthy again.
Day 10 – March 20, 2020
Belgium closes its borders
These days we’re afraid of any cough or a sneeze… My husband was also feeling a bit weak today and you can’t help but think – corona??? Whereas on any normal day, we also sneeze and cough and feel tired… without ever giving it a second thought…
We wake up and go to sleep with the c-word in our heads. It’s everywhere… For now, we are all healthy and grateful for that.
Belgium has received 5mln surgical masks this morning. It’s a big relief and they are now being distributed to hospitals all over the country.
People all over the country are applauding for healthcare workers – at 8 pm on Wednesday and then again at noon today, on Friday.
This morning, over 180 radio stations across Europe transmitted the same song at the same time – Gerry & The Pacemakers’ ‘You Never Walk Alone’, in order to show solidarity against coronavirus. At the same time, people are all literally walking alone (if they even go anywhere).
In the meantime on the news. Hotels in the Belgian Ardennes are full of people from the Netherlands – vacationing. How is that even possible… Some municipalities are starting to close all the hotels and campings. Belgium is closing its borders. The borders are now also being controlled to make sure that only people who work in neighboring countries are still crossing the borders.
Kids are keeping us busy. The teachers sent some toilet roll craft ideas this morning and guess who had to help them build it. Hint – not me 🙂 I’m so thankful that my husband is taking the role of the head-home-teacher during this quarantine. It’s a full-time job just trying to keep up with everything the kids have to do for school and music school…
Belgium coronavirus update: 2257 infected, 37 dead.
Day 11 – March 21, 2020
The first day of spring was beautiful here, so we went for a long walk. We’re lucky to live next to the biggest nature reserve in Flanders and walks in nature are still allowed and even encouraged (as long as you follow the rules of social distancing). It felt good to be outdoors again. The kids climbed every single tree they came across… I wonder how long we will still be allowed to take walks or go bicycling… Crazy times… How will our kids remember this period…
We received an email from our airline that the flights to Spain are now canceled. However, this airline, as opposed to the more serious ones, is not issuing any refunds and only vaguely saying that they’ll issue a voucher for later use, without giving any details whatsoever. How long will it be valid, can we rebook for next year or will it only be valid for a short time… I guess they don’t know it themselves yet…
I also published a new blog post (after working on it – in bits and pieces – for a week). It’s about one of the most special places I ever visited – Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland. It left me dreaming of the better days…
I also did my best to stay away from the news today, but even those few bits and pieces that I heard sounded scary. Coronavirus is rapidly spreading all over the world and nobody really knows how bad it truly is. Even the number of known cases is increasing so fast and nobody is taking the time to test everyone unless it’s absolutely necessary…
Italy just broke another sad record with 793 corona deaths in one day… It’s hard to even comprehend what that means… My heart is with all the Italians – I love that country and its people so much. And the end is not in sight yet I’m afraid.
Belgium coronavirus update: 2815 infected, 67 dead.
Day 12 – March 22, 2020
Enjoying the outdoors… while we can
It’s been a quiet Sunday for us. You’d almost forget all the suffering around you and think it’s just a regular weekend… Baking pancakes with kids, working in the garden, watching a movie, going for a walk in the neighborhood…
But you notice it in so many little details. Life isn’t as usual. There are hardly any cars on the streets and – ironically – we’ve never seen so many people walking or bicycling around our home. We often go for a walk in the neighborhood, but on a regular day, we hardly ever meet anyone. Today, it was different. No big crowds or anything like that (we live in a quiet area so seeing 10 people in the street is a once-a-year event) – just some families and older couples enjoying the spring weather and the outdoors…
It’s as if everyone wants to get outside now that we know that our freedom to move around is getting more and more limited. I read that some places in Italy don’t allow longer than 5 minutes’ walk from home and bicycling is forbidden now… How did it ever get this far…
Some people say hi and smile, but quite some others have fear in their eyes… I’m sad, so sad for those people who are so scared of everything and everyone around them. That’s what this invisible enemy is doing to us… But we shouldn’t let it come in the way of saying hi and being friendly to each other (albeit from a distance)…
The good news is that – for the first time – there are fewer deaths in Italy than the day before. Let’s hope this is a good sign. But the situation in Spain is getting worse by day and here in Belgium it’s all just starting… The UK seems to have understood that they have to do something and are now telling certain groups of people to stay home… for at least 12 weeks…
At the same time, so many other places don’t seem to realize yet what’s coming their way… But those of you, who are reading this, please please stay at home or enjoy the outdoors on your own. It can literally save lives!
Belgium coronavirus update: 3401 infected, 75 dead.
Day 13 – March 23, 2020
Family quality time
What a strange feeling being at home in your own safe cocoon and seeing all this suffering and uncertainty in the world and around us… They say, we can best help by staying home, so we do our best, but it also feels so strange – as if the world stands still. That’s till you switch on the news…
It’s also scary how every country and even different parts of some countries are taking completely different measures. This virus doesn’t know borders and we can only fight it if all of us do our best. But economic interests are not insignificant and it’s a really tough choice to make for everyone involved. Tough decisions that cost lives and livelihoods of so many people worldwide…
It seems that the increase in corona cases is somewhat slowing down here in Belgium, but we’re also one of the countries that took hard measures quite early… Still, no reasons to celebrate yet and nobody knows how the situation will evolve. Also, there are still very few tests being done, so the actual numbers are probably much higher…
Our day was rather quiet as we’re settling into this new ‘normal’. Kids do their homework, read, play, have too much screen-time and ask for even more… Oh, and we also played Scrabble and somehow I managed to lose, which made the kids really happy. That’s what they call quality time with your family, I suppose…
Somewhere in between all that, I’m also trying to do at least some work on the blog. Today it mostly meant answering emails from our readers after I sent out our newsletter yesterday… So many similar stories of ruined travel plans, but also of hope and solidarity. This too shall pass… one day.
Stay safe, everyone!
Belgium coronavirus update: 3743 infected, 88 dead.
Day 14 – March 24, 2020
Olympic Games postponed
Are you still reading the news? I don’t, but even then – it still reaches me somehow… The news of the day is that the Olympic Games are postponed, probably for a year… Also that the UK is finally going into quarantine; something most other countries in Europe have done a week ago already… Oh, and the stock exchange is going up like crazy… Do they really think this will be over so quickly???
I don’t even want to go into all the social media messages and all kinds of ‘prognosis’ that I’m seeing every day. The reality is that nobody knows and that’s what makes this situation so frightening. If you’d know it’s only for a few weeks and life gets back to normal after that, then it would be just like being on an extended spring break. But the uncertainty is truly the worst, isn’t it?
I’m trying not to think about it all too much. Luckily, we have so much to do that the days are over before we know it and there is no time left to worry.
Talking about being busy, I managed to finish one more article that’s been in the draft for a while – a guide to the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone. Writing about it and seeing all the pictures again, made me forget everything else for a while. It’s such a good feeling – the world was back to normal, even if just for a short while. Take a look at the pictures in the article – doesn’t it make you dream of traveling again?!
That’s it for now. Believe it or not, our kids have a video call with their music teacher at 7.30 PM and so we need to set it all up for them. What in the world would we be filling our days with if we didn’t have kids…
The picture is of some flowers in our garden. Luckily the weather is amazing here. Sunshine and flowers make everything better!
Belgium coronavirus update: 4269 infected, 122 dead.
Day 15 – March 25, 2020
Prince Charles gets corona
It was a tough day today. I have the feeling that this isolation is starting to weigh on all of us. My oldest son went to bed feeling sick and I’m not feeling well either… No corona symptoms, just not feeling well, and I think it all has to do with being stuck at home, just the five of us 24/7, with no other contact or change of scenery.
Can’t help but think how tough it must be for all those families with young kids living in a small apartment… At least, we have enough space to take some distance from one another, go into the garden, move around… Someone shared a joke on Facebook today saying that ‘if there’s a baby boom in 9 months from now, it will all be first-born kids in the family… And the rest will be going for a divorce’… Let’s hope not, but it surely is tough on everyone…
The corona situation in Belgium got much worse today, proving that it’s far, far from over. 668 new confirmed corona cases and 56 deaths in one day… A new sad record.
More and more people all over the world are getting the virus and the rich and the famous aren’t being spared either. Prince Albert of Monaco, Prince Charles in the UK… A thought crossed my mind today – what if one of those people die? Will there be a state funeral under these circumstances? How would they solve that…
Anyway, sorry for my dark thoughts today. Tomorrow is a new day. And then another one. And then a day will come when all of this will be over…
In the meantime, I’m going to get a glass of wine and join my husband for a cozy TV evening by the fireplace… See you tomorrow!
Belgium coronavirus update: 4937 infected, 178 dead.
Day 16 – March 26, 2020
To shop or not to shop, that’s the question
It’s been 10 days since I went grocery shopping and while we still have enough food in the freezer, I kept on asking myself whether I should go grocery shopping again. We can use up everything we have in the house first, but what if there will be stricter measures again, or one of us gets sick and we’ll have to stay home for at least a few weeks…
And so I decided not to wait any longer. After all, it would be irresponsible to have no food left in the house when we have three kids that have to be taken care of and no family nearby to help us out if need be. So it was time to fill that fridge again.
It was quieter in the supermarket than last week. Despite the stricter social distancing rules, I actually didn’t have to wait to get inside and could just enter right away. But I was surprised to see so little protection inside the supermarket. There were no hand-sanitizers for clients, no masks worn by the staff, and only very few people from the staff had latex gloves on. I talked to my mom who lives in Lithuania and there everyone is asked to use hand sanitizer upon entering the shops. Some supermarkets are even giving everyone gloves and obliging people to use them. Here in Belgium – nothing. To give you an idea, there have been 4 corona-deaths in Lithuania up to now, compared to 220 in Belgium…
Anyway, I wore my own gloves, tried to stay away from others (which wasn’t easy as everyone seems to be heading for meat and fruit), and do my shopping as efficiently as I could. The cashier asked me to stand behind the newly drawn line about 2 meters from her and I stayed there until she scanned everything and loaded it into the shopping cart. After I paid, she disinfected the payment terminal. But that’s all they do here. At least for now…
Oh, and if you wonder – there was plenty of food in the supermarket and they even had some pasta, rice, and toilet paper again.
The corona crisis is getting worse by the day here in Belgium and so if I can, I’ll try to avoid going back to the shops for another 10 days or even two weeks. But, based on the current forecast, we’ll probably just be reaching the peak by then. There were 1298 new (tested) corona cases and 42 more people died in Belgium in the last 24 hours… And who knows how many more people actually have the virus, don’t know about it, and are infecting the others in the meantime…
And who says that I don’t have it, or you? There are so many reports from people who are really sick saying they had no idea when or how they caught the virus… All we can do is limit our direct social contacts to an absolute minimum for now. Stay safe, everyone!
Belgium coronavirus update: 6235 infected, 220 dead.
Day 17 – March 27, 2020
Boris Johnson also has coronavirus
The news of the day – Boris Johnson also has coronavirus now. Sad consequences of herd immunity he was pleading for a few weeks ago… Let’s hope it’s just a mild case and he’s going to make through it alright. The last thing Brexit negotiations need is yet another prime minister in the UK…
And Italy just broke another sad record with 969 deaths in one day… Scary times.
I’ve been feeling all kinds of corona-like symptoms today too. Nothing serious, just a short cough, sneezing a few times, runny nose (and then it stops again), some back pain (and then it’s gone again, and back again)… Luckily no fever. These are all kinds of little things that we wouldn’t even notice under the normal circumstances…
My husband is coughing a bit as well and he says it’s all psychological. I guess it could well be with all the news around us or it’s just some spring allergy or so… On the other hand, why do we think that we would be spared while so many others get sick? Yes, we hardly go anywhere and I’ve only been to a supermarket twice since we are in quarantine and haven’t socialized with anyone else but my husband and kids for over two weeks… But it seems that you don’t need much and the virus is literally everywhere by now…
Oh, how much I wish life gets back to normal again!
In the meantime, the Belgian Government is about to hold a press conference. It’s expected that they’ll prolong the quarantine period with another month or so. And the schools will probably remain closed even after the Easter break…
Belgium coronavirus update: 7284 infected, 289 dead.
Day 18 – March 28, 2020
Quarantine in Belgium prolonged until April 19
As expected, the quarantine period in Belgium has been prolonged until at least April 19, but more likely it will be prolonged until May. I’m starting to wonder if kids will still be going to school this school year… Let’s hope they will.
We are all feeling much better today and I guess/hope all the little coughs and sneezes are indeed just spring-related… Everyone I talk to, is now more aware of their body than ever before…
The weather was so beautiful today that we spent hours and hours in the garden. Mind you, I didn’t do any work there. First, I went looking for worms and insects with my oldest son (his weekend project from school). We had to try to identify the insects that we found, count how many of which species we saw, and send the report online. Fun little project. But, again, I’m wondering how kids who live in an apartment do this…
Afterwards, my son helped me cook. Yesterday, he all of the sudden realized that he and his younger brothers wouldn’t be able to cook much if we were to get sick. So he felt the need to help me out and learn. Wonder how long that will last. But this is one of the few positive things in this sad situation – kids are definitely participating more in the daily household tasks than they ever did before.
After lunch, I sat in the garden with a coloring book that my husband bought for me years ago. Anti-stress coloring book for adults, travel-themed. Just what I needed now. That kept me busy for a while and, indeed, helped me clear my mind. Not that I don’t have anything better to do, but it’s really good to take a break once in a while. TIP: Amazon has plenty of great coloring books; here is a nice selection of travel-related coloring books for adults. Give it a try – it does wonders!
In the evening, we watched a movie with the kids – Hugo. Another great way to dream and forget reality. It’s a nice story and so beautifully filmed. Check it out – it’s also on Netflix.
But then, the movie was finished, and my husband switched on the news. Big mistake! They were just showing hundreds of coffins being brought to the cemetery by military trucks in Italy. Not one family member to say goodbye to their loved ones, no names, nothing. Who would have thought that anything like this would be possible in Western Europe in the 21st century… 🙁 Immediately after that, they showed images from Spain, where doctors were saying that more and more people in their 30s and 40s were dying every day… And then followed the heartbreaking situation in New York… These five minutes of reality were too much for me and I left the room as I couldn’t watch it any further… How did it ever get this far?!
Belgium coronavirus update: 9134 infected, 353 dead.
Day 19 – March 29, 2020
A much-needed regular Sunday
Today was probably the first ‘normal’ day since we are in quarantine. I spent the day cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, watching TV with kids, coloring more in my travel coloring book that I rediscovered yesterday, going for a short walk, and doing all kinds of little things that I would do on a regular Sunday.
I also have a new blog post with tips for visiting Yellowstone in summer. I’m still hopeful that at least some kind of travel will be possible in a couple of months! What do you think?
It’s the best way to do this, guys – just make your daily routine as regular as possible and do something that you always do and enjoy doing. We’ll get through this tough time!
And to end this with a positive note, here are some really good tips on how to stay sane in this situation:
- Stick to a routine, sleep and eat regularly and follow a varied diet
- Dress as if you are leaving the house
- Get outside – even if just for a few minutes on your balcony
- Go for a short walk or do some sports inside the house
- Talk to others – call your friends and family, at least one call per day
- Be nice to others (also on social media!) and find a way to help someone
- Limit your time reading about COVID-19 on social media – there is so much disinformation out there! Today, I read that someone spread the message on FB stating that there was a University study that said that smoking helps against the virus. I can’t believe someone is doing this. They should really be punished – it can literally cost even more lives… 🙁
- Find some projects to keep you busy and start a long-time project that will take your mind off the current situation and give a sense of achievement once it’s done. Even if it’s just making a puzzle or learning a new skill.
- Do some repetitive work – knitting, coloring, painting. This really helps you forget everything else!
- Look for some way to relax – listen to some music, read a book, or watch a light movie (not Contagion, Virus, Outbreak or similar!). Humor can do wonders too – Youtube is full of funny cats videos!
- Remember that this is temporary and yes, this too shall be over!
Belgium coronavirus update: 10,836 infected, 431 dead.
Day 20 – March 30, 2020
Will schools reopen this school year?
Another ‘regular’ day today. The kids each had a video call with their teachers and school friends. All at different – but somewhat overlapping – times in the middle of the day. Which made having lunch a challenge… The kids have more going on than we do. 🙂
They also got lots of school work for this week. It’s the last week before the official Easter break and the teachers are probably trying to somewhat catch up with everything they still should learn this year. After that, the schools should resume, but the way it looks now, the chances are very slim… Nobody knows if the schools will even reopen this school year. That’s another 3 months of quarantine! Can’t even imagine…
The days are over before I know it. Between kids’ homework, cooking, baking (we baked some apple pastry today), and trying to get some work done, there is no time left to think about the big world problems… Which is probably better anyway.
The corona-situation here in Belgium seems to be turning in a somewhat more positive direction. But everyone realizes that it’s too early to say anything. And what will happen when quarantine is over? Won’t we get a second wave and all this effort will be for nothing?.. I’m trying not to think about it all. Just take it one day at a time.
Belgium coronavirus update: 11,899 infected, 513 dead.
Day 21 – March 31, 2020
12-year old girl dies of coronavirus in Belgium
Another surreal day today. It’s a sunny, beautiful day and sitting in your own home, it’s hard to imagine all the hardship in the world around us…
The saddest news of the day is the death of a 12-year old girl here in Belgium. They say it’s exceptionally rare for a child to die of coronavirus, yet it happened. When you yourself have kids that age, news like that hits really hard…
Today, I stumbled upon this short text from the speech of Pope Francis, and I really want to share it with you. I hope that you’ll find inspiration and comfort in these words…
“Tonight before falling asleep
think about when we will return to the street.
When we hug again,
when all the shopping together will seem like a party.
Let’s think about when the coffees will return to the bar, the small talk, the photos close to each other.
We think about when it will be all a memory but normality will seem an unexpected and beautiful gift.
We will love everything that has so far seemed futile to us.
Every second will be precious.
Swims at the sea, the sun until late, sunsets, toasts, laughter.
We will go back to laughing together.
Strength and courage.”
I spent my day finalizing a blog post about visiting Italy in November and it made me miss Italy so much. I have no idea how the situation will be and whether it will actually be possible to travel there this fall… But I think that Italy will need support and tourist money more than ever before. We already decided that – if it’s possible – we’ll be going to Italy either at the end of the summer or during our autumn school break. Take a look at this blog post – maybe it will inspire you to visit Italy as well!
Today, I’m also sharing a picture from one of our Italian trips. It makes me long for those careless days when we took it all for granted and dream of more amazing trips to come. As Pope Francis said, one day this will also be just a memory…
Belgium coronavirus update: 12,775 infected, 705 dead.
Day 22 – April 1, 2020
April Fool’s Day
A few days ago, I saw someone sharing a meme on Facebook that said something like ‘April Fool’s Day this year the government will tell us that all this was just a drill…’ If only…
I listened to the radio this morning and scanned the news quickly, but – at least here in Belgium – didn’t see any jokes in the media today. It’s a tough time and, as much as I believe that we need humor in order to get through this, I also didn’t feel like making many practical jokes with my family. We did, however, pull a few small pranks on the kids, in an effort to make life seem as normal as possible for them.
One of the teachers sent a message saying that she’s been contacted by the staff of the minister of healthcare asking for some videos of kids doing sports at home and that it would be used for a TV program. At first, our son actually believed it and thought he’d be on TV, but then a few minutes later he realized it was all but a joke. Nevertheless, we made a video of him jumping on a trampoline, then let him say to the teacher that he was actually his twin brother (and he also wore a sweater with the wrong name), and then say that maybe he actually was who he said he was (or maybe not), and then say ‘Happy Fool’s Day!’. It was just a little thing, but it made his day, thinking that he had fooled the teacher this way.
All the little things help to not think about everything else, don’t they?
I find that the kids are doing ok in quarantine, but I notice that our oldest (age 11) is much more worried and aware of the seriousness of the situation than his younger brothers. In the meantime, our twins (age 9) are just enjoying the long ‘vacation’ at home and are counting days till the Easter Bunny arrives… I hope that they keep it that way and just enjoy careless childhood as long as possible.
Belgium coronavirus update: 13,964 infected, 828 dead.
Day 23 – April 2, 2020
Belgium hits a sad record of 1,000 corona-deaths
Do you still know which day of the week it is? We’re mixing-up the days of the week all the time! Yesterday, we thought it was Tuesday, and today I was convinced it was Friday… It turns out, it’s actually Thursday. Tomorrow would have been the last day of kids’ school before the Easter break… I can’t believe that it’s been three weeks already, somehow it flew by for us…
Anyway, not much happened here today except playing Qwirkle with my kids – it was so long ago that we did it… Oh, and I am also starting to get a hang of homeschooling. It’s really tough to actually help all the three kids at the same time, so I’m taking them apart, one by one, and making sure that they understand their maths exercises.
Our youngest one somehow managed to get ALL his exercises completely correct which I found suspicious. It turns out, he found the answers that his teacher sent for us to check, and just copied everything… I can’t even get upset with him, he’s just one smart kid… 🙂 But that also meant that he had to redo everything while I was watching and now he finally starts to understand what he is doing and how it all works… Kids…
I haven’t even checked the news in Belgium today, but I heard from my husband that it’s getting worse by day. The biggest number of deaths so far, with a total hitting 1,000 (for 11mln people). It seems to me, when I compare it to Italy (60 mln people), that situation in Belgium is just as bad. Not in absolute numbers, but percentage-wise, and definitely taking into account that it started a few weeks later here and we were in quarantine rather fast…
The situation in the Netherlands and the UK seems to also be quite bad – both countries have serious issues with their healthcare systems not being able to handle that many patients at the same time… And the situation in the USA is rapidly turning into a nightmare as well… It’s hard to believe and scary when you realize that behind each and every number in the statistics there is a real person and so many devastated families left behind… 🙁
Stay safe and strong, everyone!
Belgium coronavirus update: 15,348 infected, 1,011 dead.
Day 24 – April 3, 2020
Easter break starts
Are you still going somewhere, anywhere? I haven’t left our house or garden for quite a few days now. Not even to go for a walk. But today all our bread was finished and so it was time for a quick trip to a small supermarket nearby.
It was really quiet with hardly any people inside. The staff in the shop were wearing gloves and masks, but most of the other people I met didn’t have anything. Some had gloves on. In some countries, face masks are obligatory in the shops now, but here in Belgium, they remain for healthcare workers only.
I was so happy to see that all the bread was packaged in bags (normally freshly-baked bread is just laying there like that. For the rest, I didn’t notice anything different in the shop. Except for the prices. Not sure if it’s just this local supermarket, but everything was so much more expensive than normal. I paid over 2 euro for 2 bell peppers and 1,85 euro for a bag of chips kids asked me to bring… Next week, I’ll be going back to the big supermarket and I hope the prices haven’t increased there, but I can’t help but notice that food stores are profiting from this corona crisis…
Is it also noticeable where you live?
Belgium corona situation is about the same as yesterday – 132 new deaths and 1,422 new tested corona cases. They are hoping that we are reaching the peak, but nobody knows. It’s becoming more and more clear that quarantine will not be over in two weeks. They are starting to talk about how teachers should deal with giving lessons after the Easter break. Up to now, the kids were just getting some homework, but not really learning anything new. Our Minister of Education says that schools will have to try and actually start distance teaching if quarantine is extended. But it’s the teachers and the parents that somehow will have to make it happen… Just think of all those families with several kids and one computer at home, or maybe no computer at all…
Our kids are happy that it’s the last day of school and now a real ‘vacation’ starts. Two weeks of no homework or video calls. Don’t know about you, but I’m quite happy to take a break as well.
Belgium coronavirus update: 16,770 infected, 1,143 dead.
Day 25 – April 4, 2020
After all the physical problems, psychological problems will start
How are you?
We’re doing quite alright, taking into account that we haven’t left the house for 25 days now, except for a few very short walks, even fewer bike rides, and – if I count it correctly – four times we went grocery shopping… This week, I have been out of the house once.
Everyone in our family that we talked to today, was saying how hard it is to have to stay home. It’s especially tough for young people, living in small apartments, but also everybody else mentions this. Three weeks of quarantine starts to weigh hard on everyone… I guess it also has to do with the fact that it’s weekend and even people who work during the week, are now confined to their homes. Or maybe because it’s such beautiful spring weather here in Belgium that just invites to get out… Or simply because there seems to be no end to this…
Psychologists are starting to say that there will be more depressions and other mental issues as a consequence of this quarantine. But it’s no rocket science – it’s clear even to our kids who also say that ‘life is sad and boring’… Of course, it’s tough for everyone.
The message from our government is very clear however, ‘despite the beautiful weather, please stay home this weekend, please do not go to the coast, don’t organize garden parties with friends, and just please please stay home’. They keep on repeating it on the news on the radio every single hour, it’s on TV, on social media… When you hear it so many times, it starts to sound like propaganda. My memory of Soviet times is still too vivid, I suppose…
Even walks in the park are only allowed as long as you keep on walking. They have security and police patrolling parks in order to avoid that too many people gather somewhere… It feels as if we are all criminalized just for wanting to be outside… But I do understand, most people do, and so we stay home. The police here in Belgium is now issuing fines of 250 euro for every unnecessary trip that’s not in the immediate surroundings of your home. 250 euro per person and they can request that you pay immediately.
I want to end this with a really nice drawing our oldest son made for his teacher today. It’s an imaginary animal and somehow it makes me dream and reminds that there is the whole beautiful world out there for us and we are just hitting the pause button that will be released one day.
Keep on dreaming! Keep on hoping! And don’t let this quarantine crush you down!
Belgium coronavirus update: 18,431 infected, 1,283 dead.
Day 26 – April 5, 2020
We were supposed to be going to Spain today…
Today we were supposed to fly to Spain. But, as you all probably know, unnecessary travel is not allowed within the EU and many countries have closed their borders altogether. European borders are also closed for everyone coming from outside the EU. In other words – nobody is traveling.
Our flights got canceled, of course, but the airline is not reimbursing the money now. Instead, we are supposedly getting a voucher and a chance to rebook within a year. If we haven’t rebooked by then, we would still get our money after a year (if they don’t go bankrupt, thus these measures). We will definitely rebook, as soon as it’s safe to travel again!
We also had to cancel all our hotels and activities in Spain. Despite the fact that all our bookings were non-refundable, most hotels already reimbursed us. We are still waiting for three more and they all agreed to cancel for free. No choice for them or us – everything is closed in Spain. The good news is that the coronavirus situation seems to be getting somewhat more under control in Spain, in Italy, and also in France. But it’s far, far from over.
It’s similar here in Belgium too – the situation is getting somewhat better, but we are just (supposedly/hopefully) about reaching the peak. Today was the first day with fewer people hospitalized than people released from hospitals. Still, hundreds of new hospitalizations and 164 new deaths in one day… I still find it hard to believe these numbers from all over the world…
In the UK, the Queen addressed the nation in an unplanned speech – it’s only the 5th time she has ever done this in her long career… I think we all need powerful and hopeful messages these days, and hers was exactly that! ‘We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again!‘ she said.
In the meantime, we are staying home and enjoying the simple things in life: fantastic weather, bbq in the garden, and some Spritz to make us think we are on vacation… But – as my son just told me – it somehow doesn’t feel the same as a vacation… It certainly doesn’t, but we are trying to make the best of it. One day at a time…
Belgium coronavirus update: 19,691 infected, 1,447 dead.
Day 27 – April 6, 2020
How do working parents get anything done these days?!
We had a good day here today. Well, kind of. The kids refused to do any school work, because ‘it’s vacation’. But how do we keep them busy the whole day… In the end, we found a compromise that involves them doing one (side of) a page of maths exercises just to keep them somewhat in the learning mode. It literally took us longer to discuss it than for them to make those exercises…
We are also trying to read some informative books and learn something new each day too. For that, we are using some fantastic books by Lonely Planet Kids. We have The World Atlas, The Travel Book, The Flag Book and The Big World of Fun Facts. Oh, and the great collection of personal stories by kids from all over the world – This is My World – that our oldest son contributed to a few years ago. It’s like traveling from your own couch – perfect for these crazy times!
There is just one thing – our kids don’t speak English well enough to understand everything in those books, so it means that I have to read it with them… Luckily, the books are really fun and informative. Today we read a bit from ‘The Flag Book’ and so now I know everything about the flags used by pirates in the Golden Age of Piracy. We also learned so much about the meaning of the flags used by ships…
Having said all that, as much as it’s fun, it also means that we don’t get much done. It’s a constant struggle and choices. The only way we can get anything done for work is by letting the kids play on their tablets. Otherwise, they keep interrupting us every two minutes. It’s hard to even imagine or explain how many urgent reasons they come up with that just can’t wait… I’m sure any working parents can relate to this. My only luck is that I have no boss and no deadlines and that my husband spends as much time with the kids as I do… To all of you who do have bosses and deadlines or are single working parents, I can only say – you’re heroes for making it all work and staying sane!
And you know what’s worse? All those young and single people sharing their productivity tips on Facebook and boasting about how this is the most productive time they ever had… I have never been this unproductive in my life. No need to rub it in, you guys!
In the meantime, for some reason, stock markets seem to be euphoric about the corona situation getting better… All I can say is that I sure hope it will be better soon. For now, we just take one day at the time, thankful to be healthy, and keep on juggling everything as well as we possibly can…
Today, I am proud of myself for finishing a new blog post (that took me more than 4 days to write – thanks, kids!). Writing about travel is my way of keeping some sanity and dreaming about the better times. This new post is a guide to a beautiful place that we have previously overlooked when visiting Switzerland, but it turns out to be a real hidden gem – Schynige Platte. It’s well worth a trip (when the world gets back to normal again)! Check it out – I am sure that the pictures will let you forget the reality and take you on a journey to Switzerland, even if just for a short moment…
Belgium coronavirus update: 20,814 infected, 1,632 dead.
Day 28 – April 7, 2020
How accurate are those coronavirus numbers really?
Today, Belgium all of a sudden added 403 new corona deaths to the stats bringing the total number to 2,035. ‘Only’ 162 of those deaths are from the last 24 hours, the rest is something they forgot to count, somehow… Somehow it just makes the whole stats completely untrustworthy in my eyes. We shouldn’t be pointing at China saying they are lying about the numbers when it’s such a chaos here…
Also over 2,000 deaths on a total of just over 22,000 cases. Really?! That’s a mortality rate of almost 10%! Which makes it very clear that these numbers are way off. Especially the total number of corona cases. It seems that they aren’t testing enough, nobody knows who and when gets tested, and it’s even worse in how they measure everything…
I’m not sure how it’s in other countries, but e.g. based on stats, Germany has over 100,000 confirmed corona cases and just 1,700 deaths, which is not even a 2% mortality rate… So what’s going on in Belgium…
Do you still believe any of the stats? I am giving up on stats and news updates. Just hoping that the virus is slowing down, as they seem to imply.
Today I also saw a message from BBC asking people to stop sharing messages that they don’t know are true. There is just so much misinformation everywhere and the sad reality is that it’s hard to know who to trust. Even the official sources can be so off…
Anyway, it’s been a beautiful sunny day here. And, following my husband’s recommendation, I didn’t try to juggle it all today. Instead, I took a book (haven’t read a novel in ages!), and spent a few quiet hours reading and enjoying the sunshine. Trying to make this feel a little bit like a staycation and not to think of what’s happening around us… I think, it’s the only way to stay sane… Just imagine you’re vacationing at home…
Belgium coronavirus update: 22,194 infected, 2,035 dead.