It’s no surprise that the current state of the COVID-19 is hitting the world hard. It is impacting everyone in a range of different ways, all absolutely heartbreaking and devastating. I know a lot of people have been worried about my wellbeing, but I honestly could not be in a better position. I have been on a rollercoaster of emotion over the past few weeks that was so drastic and abrupt that it’s hard to remember how I was feeling just one week ago.
I am currently in my home of Rishikesh, India and am so glad that I made it here before this virus exploded the way it has. It is sad to see Rishikesh in the state it currently is, barely any tourist when it is an area dependent on tourism. Unfortunately it is only going to get much worse. Cafés and restaurants are starting to close their doors. Hostels and Hotels are going out of business because there is no one here to be able to keep them afloat.
My greatest concern a few days ago was my visa. Under my current visa, I am required to leave the country every 90 days. Once India announced the closing of their borders and invalidation of all current visas, I became exceptionally stressed knowing that after my next visa run I would not be able to return to India. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, the situation then got worse and more drastic measures out in place, but fortunately for me, this means that I am likely going to be stuck in India for longer than my visa currently states.
I was also on the receiving end of some bad news regarding one of my jobs. I have lost my position as an author before I even really got started. The company I was working for has decided to close down this area due to the current Corona Virus situation and needing to direct their funds elsewhere, which is completely understandable and responsible. I am lucky that I still have my other writing position which will keep my income steady.
Although I am not panicked about the situation, I am scared. I am scared that the town I have come to know and love will be completely destroyed by this virus. There have been a number of places that have already had to close their doors that will likely not be able to reopen them when this is all over. I am terrified to see the number of other businesses that will go under, because we have no idea how long this thing is going to continue to impact us.
We are currently in essentially what is a “trial lockdown” today. This means that no one is able to leave their place of residence between 7am and 9pm. The country is quickly putting in extreme measures to help control the virus, even though there are minimal cases throughout India. I am exceptionally glad to see that the government are taking this so seriously, as well as a number of the other locals in the area. I have personally been rushed to hospital a number of times due to peanuts ending up in my food and could not have been more impressed with the medical system in India. They have saved my life a number of times and for that I could not be more grateful.
What is most disappointing to see is the number of people who are not taking the issue seriously, and the way that the situation is being handled in other countries. The amount of people that have contacted me from Australia telling me that I need to come home and that I will be safer there could not be more wrong. It is not responsible to be travelling now, coming into contact with hundreds of people and then if I catch the virus bringing it to Australia and the people I love and care about.
I am disgusted to see the way that Australians are handling this situation and treating each other. The posts I see on my Facebook from people all over the world have been infuriating and have made me see red on a number of occasions. This is not a time for racism. This is not a time for selfishness. This is not a time for your entitlement. This is a time to care for all of the people in this world and for our planet. Traveling is irresponsible. I don’t care if you have had your trip ruined, do not try to find ways to still travel and risk being infected and infecting others! You are putting everyone at risk by continuing to travel, and likely everything you will want to do is closed anyway, so there is no point. You will not be able to enjoy your time traveling, so you might as well do the responsible thing and stay put.
I must admit that although I get quite upset and frustrated about people not taking this seriously and still attending and organising events, not working from home or still wanting to just generally get out of the house, I also leave the house. I have eaten out twice in the past few days as well as gone for a walk just to get out of the hostel. I am cautious, wear a mask and use sanitizer, but I know that I am being irresponsible by leaving to get some fresh air and sunshine. I understand the best way to keep the spread of the virus under control is to stay indoors, especially in a place with a population such as India’s.
As of today, India still has really low numbers, being under 350 confirmed cases at this present moment and 5 deaths. I think the number of confirmed cases is likely incorrect due to people staying home when they are unwell rather than being tested, however I am hoping that it doesn’t gain momentum here. If it does I have grave concerns for the exceptionally large homeless community. It was just a few weeks ago as I travelled back to Rishikesh a different way that I saw fields and fields of homeless people living together in communities. This scene went on for kilometres, the whole time my jaw was dropped. I have concerns that irresponsible travellers would spread this virus to a beggar, who would then infect the whole community of homeless people who have no access to medical treatment.
I have no idea what is going to happen from here, which is a little daunting, but I am still safe and happy where I am. I’ll be sure to post another update as things transpire. Everyone please stay safe and healthy.