Have you ever seen the movie Groundhog Day? Bill Murray lives the same day over and over again? That’s how I would describe my life right now.

When my friend and former colleague Rodney Edwards asked me if I would write about life in Vancouver during the ongoing Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, I wondered what use my musings would be in the face of a crisis of such magnitude. On the face of it, my daily routine hardly makes for a compelling news story: I get up, go for a run, make coffee and set up my laptop at my kitchen table and begin my working day. In the evenings I read, watch TV, make dinner and video call my friends. At the weekends, it’s the same story, minus the work. Up until this week, I met an occasional friend for a walk but that’s not permitted under strict social distancing protocol. But when we consider the fact that an unbelievably huge swathe of people across the globe are now forced to live this way – in various stages of lockdown – due to the most severe pandemic this generation has ever witnessed, then my new way of life perhaps becomes more newsworthy.

Like most of the global population facing into the void of lockdown for an indeterminate length of time, I often feel overwhelmed and anxious (anyone else got a pain in their chest, tight shoulders from worrying?). My stresses are not unique: Are my loved ones safe? Will I have a job in a few months/ weeks/ days? Will I get my permanent residency? I am lucky in a sense that I don’t have the added strain of ensuring the safety of a child. Somehow, the very fact that all of humanity is feeling severe stress and strain over the misery that coronavirus has wrought on the world, makes me feel ok. This is bigger than me and my worries, it’s bigger than politics, it’s bigger than the economy, it’s bigger than the world as we knew it. So, there’s nothing else for it but to batten down the hatches, stay home and try to stay healthy.

Unlike you who are already in lockdown, at the time of writing, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is not at the point where the federal government needs to take emergency measures to force people to stay at home during the Covid-19 outbreak. At the moment, officials have declared states of emergency within all the provinces and within cities. This means we are being asked to voluntarily social distance. Many people are complying, but large numbers aren’t, therefore a full lockdown is inevitable. It may have already happened by the time this goes to print. The question on everyone’s’ lips is: “Once it starts, when will it end?” A report is Sunday’s Globe and Mail newspaper concluded that if strict social distancing (i.e. lockdown) is lifted any sooner than six months from now, the spread of the virus will peak and the hospitals will be overwhelmed. After six months, the report says, there’s more of a chance that the hospitals will be better prepared and the spread of coronavirus will be at a slower rate. Friends in the health industry predict that Vancouver will notice a drastic increase in cases over the next two weeks.

The societal changes have been gradual. The province of British Columbia (B.C.), where Vancouver is situated, began contact tracing at the beginning of the year. Officials were on top of it for a while, tracing each individual’s movements and calling everyone they had been in touch with to instruct them to self isolate. But now there are more and more cases of community spread (where the source of infection is unknown) and it’s impossible to trace everyone. As the news spread about huge increase of cases in Italy and Iran, people began to sit up and take more notice but it wasn’t until the first week of March that we started to hear chatter about ‘flattening the curve’ and travel bans were implemented for China, Iran, Korea and Italy.

I was lucky enough to have enjoyed a 10-day trip to California at the beginning of the month with my sister (which seems like a lifetime ago now), only to return with a cough and be told by the nurses helpline that I required a Covid-19 test because I had travelled outside Canada and was exhibiting symptoms (although mild). After a swab up my nose, I was in self isolation at home for five days until I got my results: not leaving the house, working from home, friends dropping groceries on my doorstep, spraying everything I touched with bleach and sitting in my room with a mask on when my housemate was home. Thankfully, the results were negative; it had been an extremely anxious week, wondering if I had it and who I may have passed it onto.

I managed to get out and enjoy a refreshing hike before a state of emergency was announced last Monday (March 16), meaning the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered the closure of schools, entertainment venues, gyms and salons. Whistler ski resort closed and was followed quickly by the other smaller ski slopes near Vancouver. Restaurants remain open for takeaway and delivery only (for now). Grocery stores have queues outside and only allow in a certain number of people at a time. All companies with remote working capabilities have enabled their employees working from home (myself included). I have to applaud my colleagues who keep me sane each day with virtual check-ins to see how we are all doing – it helps immensely! However, fears are rising that social distancing is not being strictly adhered to. A popular hiking trail was closed at the weekend because people are not maintaining a distance of two metres between each other. Car parks at all beaches and public parks have been closed as have children’s play parks following a letter by a group of doctors which said: “We need to act now to prevent a catastrophic number of preventable deaths.” Fines now hang over anyone who breaks the social distancing rules but construction sites remain open, which is a worry among some of my friends in that sector.

At the time of writing there are 1,646 cases of Covid-19 in Canada and 24 deaths (increasing daily). Within B.C. there are currently 472 cases and there have been 13 deaths (also increasing daily). Nine of these deaths were in one nursing home where an outbreak of coronavirus was announced on March 7. 55 residents and workers in that one care home have been infected with coronavirus.

Just like at home, everyone is extremely worried. We’re living in a suspended reality, with the fearful prospect that our current way of life will quickly become “the new normal”, especially as the recession takes hold.

Let’s hope that by staying at home, we can all do our bit to not infect others and we can flatten the curve enough to give our dedicated health professionals (heroes) the time to treat those who succumb to coronavirus and to develop a vaccine.

I’ve no doubt that the community in Fermanagh will pull together by staying apart. I’d love nothing more than to be with my family (who are all hunkered down together in Cooneen) right now. But I will continue to look for the positives, watch copious amounts of Netflix and dream of a day when I can easily hop on a plane and get home for hugs and pineapple creams.