“Americans only really got on the case a week ago”

Najate El Achari and Robbie Van Nieuwenhove are two Flemings living in New York.  VRT News got in touch with them to find out how the corona emergency is affecting their daily lives.

More and more Americans have been getting advice to stay at home as much as possible.  According to the New York Times 158 million people in the US are now being restricted in their lives.

Najate El Achari says the situation is “strange”: “We’ve been following the news from Europe and now the situation in the US is getting serious too.  We’ve been living in a “pause” since Sunday.  That’s the word they use here, not ‘lockdown’. That’s a word that simply sounds too scary.”

“We work from home and are only allowed out for essentials, to do the shopping.  A walk, a run, that’s allowed too, but you have to keep your distance, six feet.”

Robbie Van Nieuwenhove has the impression the Europeans have been quicker to respond and have been aware of the seriousness of the coronavirus situation for longer.

“Here, over the past couple of weeks, people adopted a very relaxed approach.  We’ve been following the news in Europe and we’ve always known a week beforehand what would happen in the US.  The Americans only really got on the case a week ago.  That’s when most people were allowed to work from home, but restaurants and bars were still open.”

Robbie Van Nieuwenhove believes Americans have now cottoned on to the fact the virus isn’t to be underestimated, but at first they didn’t react in line with.

“There were a lot of appeals to stick at home, but when I went out I saw everybody playing basketball or picnicking in the park.  Outdoors you didn’t really notice the impact, though the media was full of the story.”

“I went to the supermarket today. It felt so desolate.  Very unusual for our New York neighbourhood: only two people on the street.  Normally it’s a bustling area.”