Andreja Brulc's Blog

Day 15 [30 March 2020]: COVID-19 Lockdown: Politics/Restriction of movement [an extract from the diary]

Posted in Covid-19/Lockdown Diary by andrejabrulc on 30/03/2020

As of today, people in Slovenia have to follow the official rule on a restriction of movement between municipalities. For someone, who has spent all adulthood among the population of nearly 10 million people – in 2018 the population of London (the City of London + Greater London) was estimated at 8,908,081 and concentrated in the area of 1,572 sq km, with a density of 14,670 inhabitants per sq km [Wikipedia] –, this new governmental imposition will be a huge challenge how to breathe within the confined borders! I am, now, ‘stuck’ in a tinny municipality of Komenda (the map on the left and the image below of me at the western point of the border) with 6,354 inhabitants – or a total of 6,712 which includes temporary residents at the beginning of March 2020 [the municipality’s official site] – spreading over 15 villages. During my time of growing up in the 80s, Komenda – the village, the seat of the municipality, in the centre of the map – had less than 500 inhabitants. But it has grown massively in the last decade due to a new housing redevelopment and to its proximity to the capital city of Ljubljana, as young families moved to the countryside because housing costs became too high in towns, like elsewhere in Europe. The area of the village equates to 2.40 sq km, while that of the municipality to 24.1 sq km, and has a population density of 240 people per sq km (the fact is from 2013 when a total population was 5,788 [Wikipedia]).

If I only think of nearly 1 million people in North London, estimated at 911,000 with a population density of 7,900 per sq km in 2018 [Plumplot] – or, even, specifically of my area with 15,989 inhabitants, according to the last census of 2011 [Wikipedia] –, the population of North London equates to nearly half of the population of Slovenia (currently a total of 2,078,880 living on the land of 20,140 sq km with a population density of 130 per sq km [Worldometers]). North London is not defined here as the area lying north of the River Thames but how it is officially defined as a sub-region, consisting of 3 boroughs (Barnet, Enfield, Haringey), and used for the purpose of the London Plan since 2011 [Wikipedia]). Such statistics would normally make me feel being mentally confined into a shoebox of village life – in many ways just like the ‘packed like sardines’ syndrome of the London underground!

But, in view of all the suffering and losses of so many lives in areas with such a high population density, being ‘stuck’ in a small village is right now an utter privilege for ‘a Londoner’ – so, by no means, a complaint as the above statistics is only for comparison to understand how lucky I actually am! And, above all, if I was in London, I would be immensely worried about my elderly parents – are they doing everything ‘right’ to protect themselves, from the list of these extra precautions that have even for me become an utter bore!

My ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ has been a daily routine of self-employment working from home since 2007 – as I had to compromise fun for projects many times due to deadlines or I had to work when a job was available, something most of my closed friends and family took for granted, so the aspect of the lockdown has never really worried me in all honesty. In fact, I have imposed the social distancing deliberately since mid-February when horrid stories started to come out of northern Italy. And, as I sit nearly next door to the epicentre of European pandemic, I really wanted this nightmare of the fast-spreading virus to finish from the start and will keep on going ‘staying at home’ so that we can protect vulnerable loved ones, those who save lives and other key workers like food suppliers, so that hopefully, our working lives can go back to normal as fast as possible! Also, even if I did not have a project to get on, I would not be worried about getting bored as boredom like fear is self-constructed as a human condition. But for now, I imagine the quarantine as what would the life of a nun be like within the confined walls of a nunnery – if only our time was less stressful!

Yet, the idea of the restriction of movement, imposed by the new Slovene government, will be a huge psychological test for me. This – imposed all because of some selfish people who could not stay at home and treated the quarantine time as a kind of holiday! On the other hand, critics believe that people did not flock to tourists’ spots en mass as web cameras did show social distancing being observed! Who does one believe in? But one thing is certain: we live in dangerous times, and I fear that the coronavirus, causing so much uncertainty in our daily lives, may get exploited for the wrong kind of political ideology – as already discussed by Anne Applebaum in relation to Italy’s response to the coronavirus (see my blog post on Albert Camus’s The Plague) – that may curtail many aspects of our lives which we have become so accustomed to and have taken them too often for granted! And I am saying this, as someone who had lived for 20 or so years under communism, where, in Yugoslavia, there was never a restriction of movement, like in Eastern Europe, at least in my time of growing up, as people could freely travel around the world if they had money! Of course, most did not!

I really do hope this strict measurement – which I believe was absolutely essential to prevent a further spread of the coronavirus – is only temporary! If only we can come out of the lockdown as humane as the good and intelligent apes from the Planet of the Apes, but I fear I am not far from thinking that the idea of state control, under the surveillance, based on misinformation and propaganda, is too close to the dystopian and post-apocalyptic world, known from science fiction books and movies! Perhaps we may soon become the inhabitants of Panem from The Hunger Games, or of Chicago from The Divergent Series, and, heavens forbid, of Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale!

At least for the time being, I feel like a Bird on The Wire – like the picture of myself on a bike (above), with an excellent 80s bird’s nest hairdo and with the village at the background, taken sometime in autumn 1986, 5 years before I permanently moved to London – or, more precisely, a Bird on The ‘London‘ Bike – like the picture (below) taken recently at more or less the same spot nearly 34 years later!

 

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