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How DW correspondents are experiencing the pandemic

Emily Sherwin | Charlotte Potts | Fanny Facsar
March 19, 2020

As life as we know it grinds to a halt, from large metropolises to tiny villages, we asked our correspondents to share their personal impressions of living under the coronavirus cloud.

Symbolbild Pandemie Coronavirus
Image: picture-alliance/Fotostand/Schmitt


When I landed in Moscow after a weekend in the UK, I found out I would have to go into self-isolation in my apartment — a measure against the spread of the Coronavirus imposed by the mayor of the Russian capital.

Back at my apartment, I called the "Corona-hotline" to register as a recent arrival. The woman on the other end of the line couldn't tell me exactly how my quarantine would be enforced, but Moscow's mayor Sergey Sobyanin has boasted about the use of an ever-expanding network of facial recognition cameras in the capital to track people.

Overall, there is a sense that the virus is something foreign, something that can be stopped at the border.

But a much more worrying Soviet habit has resurfaced as well. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has promised to be "absolutely open" with the public about the Coronavirus. But with the Soviet government known for covering up catastrophes like the Chernobyl reactor explosion, many Russians have told me they are convinced the government must be hiding the true number of infections in their country. (Emily Sherwin, DW Moscow)


Like almost everybody in London, I live in an incoming flight path. Six major airports surround the metropolis, so there is virtually nowhere to escape the sounds of the engines. Usually from 4 a.m. to late at night in a two to three-minute interval. For the past week or so, those intervals have become wider each day. There are still planes landing at Heathrow, but a lot fewer than before. Other airports are deserted.

And this mirrors the atmosphere in the city: The most popular tourist hotspots including Buckingham Palace, Tate Modern and Tower Bridge are eerily empty.  

Corona Auswirkungen weltweit / Großbritannien
Changing of the guard — in every senseImage: Reuters/H. Nicholls

Initially there was complete denial: Something like that could not happen in the UK, many people told me. This was when Prime Minister Boris Johnson's only advice was to wash hands for 20 seconds while singing "Happy Birthday" twice — a godsend for the soap industry, as staff in a soap store told me.

It seemed like the UK government's plan was not to flatten the curve but to get people sick: Keep calm, get COVID-19 and carry on.

After the phase of denial came the panic after Johnson announced his so-called herd immunity plan. The mood has now shifted and Johnson is following the lead of his European counterparts: schools are to be shut nationwide from Friday.

Read moreCoronavirus in the UK: NHS faces perfect healthcare storm

That is when shoppers hit the grocery stores, online delivery slots became booked out for weeks — now in most places canned food, pasta, grains, frozen food, diapers, wipes, disinfectants,toilette paper and certainly hand soaps have become scarce. I saw two older ladies crying in the supermarket the other day because they couldn't carry as much as the others.  (Charlotte Potts, DW London)


I could never have imagined people in Europe asking me to send them hand sanitizers from Nigeria. But nothing is normal these days. In West Africa, a region where people already face numerous challenges, people are watching in disbelief as others fight over toilet paper in parts of the world considered much better off.

 So far only a small number of cases have been confirmed across the region. "Are we just lucky?" people ask or "simply much better prepared with lessons learnt from the Ebola crisis?" As I stroll through the supermarket, I see shelves full of imported products, especially from the US: cornflakes, ketchup, peanut butter and chocolates.

People here seem more concerned about how the economic impact will trickle down to them. With about half of Nigeria's population of roughly 200 million living in extreme poverty, most people will not have money to stock up on food. And those who could, aren't buying more than usual yet. "We do not panic as long as the virus is not in our face," says Ugonna Ajoku, one of the customers I meet in the supermarket.

But poverty and violence mean that millions of Nigerians millions lack access to the very basics, such as clean water — let alone access to soap. 

Nigeria Lagos | Coronavirus | Temperaturmessung
Poverty-stricken Nigerians are more concerned about the economic effects of the coronavirusImage: DW/F. Facsar

As we drive through Lagos towards our DW studio, we turn the radio on. Corona does not top the broadcast, nor is it the main headline in newspapers. People worry more about inter-ethnic and inter-religious violence spiraling out of control in the north of the country. Corona still seems far away.

People here are in the phase Europe was in around late February; jokes about Corona have largely dominated conversations. One of the "jokes" I overhear these days among Nigerians is about turning the tide: "Corona will not come to us. But if Europeans want to come, we will welcome them as refugees, we will not send them away."  (Fanny Facsar, DW Lagos)

World in coronavirus mode — DW correspondents report from around the globe