I’ve just lost a job in Denmark because of this stubborn virus

Life makes an unexpected turn when in less than 12 hours you are out of a job and cannot leave your house.

Outside, people are scampering to supermarkets, panic-buying as if they are preparing to live in a post- apocalyptic world.

Paranoia gets the best of you. You are worried about touching door knobs, using washrooms or taking the bus, and are living in constant fear of being infected with Covid- 19, which has claimed nearly 5,000 lives globally. That is the situation I am in.

As a self-sponsored student living and studying in Denmark, I was accustomed to a hectic routine, waking up at 5am, working a four-hour shift and a rigorous academic programme, until three days ago, when I was abruptly confined to my room. That is when I began to grasp the scale of the problem.

On Wednesday evening, Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced that all schools and universities will remain closed for two weeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Public sector employees working in critical departments of health and security were requested to remain in active duty.

However, employees in the private sector were encouraged to work from home. The Prime Minister also announced travel restrictions to countries classified as red zones and banned gatherings of more than 100 people, encouraging bars and hotels to close or restrict capacity.

Barely a minute after her statement, which was read in Danish, I watched my dorm mates’ emotions oscillate between fear and hope. The fear of being infected with the virus and the hope that the spread will be contained – but also the hope that if we contract the virus, we will recover.

I had been calm when the first case of coronavirus was reported in the country and remained relatively calm as the numbers continued to soar by the day. Work and study life continued as usual, and the feeling of normalcy was quite reassuring.

The Sunday before the lockdown, our Pastor, following an advisory from the Danish Health Authority, had started the sermon with a disclaimer: Do not shake hands, do not hug and make use of the hand sanitisers placed in the building.

This was later followed with posters put up by the Danish Health Authority all over campuses and cities asking residents to wash their hands frequently and to cough on their sleeves. Every day the situation escalated as more people tested positive for the virus, but people went around their life as usual until the lockdown and the attendant disruption.

By Friday morning, the Danish Health Authority reported that 674 people had been infected. But the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread has to some extent pushed the panic button.

Workers without a permanent salary are scratching their heads on how to raise money to cover their expenses, especially rent and other bills. Although the private sector has not been compelled to close down, most companies have asked their employees to stay home. The country’s welfare model is a safety net that ensures that people who lose their jobs are not pushed out of their homes or sleep hungry.

On Thursday, I received communication from my employer that they had reached the decision to close the restaurant for the next two weeks. This means that my colleagues and I will be out of work without pay for 14 days.

We are on contract and are only paid for hours worked.
Although the government has put in place safety measures to avert a food crisis, most Danes have been in a rush to hoard food and other home supplies, resulting in long queues similar to those in supermarkets in the run-up to Christmas.

A visit to the grocery store yesterday displayed a mixture of panic and anxiety, as everyone rushed to stock up on wheat flour, pasta, toilet paper and hand sanitisers.

Stores ran out of yeast and milk, as Danes worried that they might not be in a position to bake their own bread stocked up on these products, something that is reminiscent of World War II, when yeast was in low supply.

BY Daily Nation

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