Cleaning and feeling strange: Life under lockdown in Brussel

A combination picture shows residents posing on their balcony and the window of their homes with an object significant to them during the coronavirus lockdown imposed by the Belgian government in an attempt to slow down the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium March 19, 2020.

For Belgian teacher Yves Cardoen, not being able to give classes on a week day feels strange. For Belgian bank employee Catherine Hugot, humorous videos shared on social media are helping to keep up morale.

“It feels bizarre. I’m in touch with students via internet and I’ve cleaned my desk. It’s slow progress,” Cardoen told Reuters by telephone from his apartment in Brussels after posing for a photo from his window.

Like millions of Europeans confined to their homes to stop the spread of coronavirus, Belgians are finding it hard to be suddenly cooped up inside just as the warmer spring weather arrives, unable to go to the local cafe or see friends.

Many are bracing for a long lockdown.

“It’s like a calm sea before the tsunami,” Belgian nurse Francoise said. She had not yet had to care for coronavirus patients at the hospital, but “it’s likely to happen soon.”

Like Italy, France and Spain, Belgium has imposed a lockdown until at least April 5, closing shops, restaurants and schools, with residents told to stay home for all but essential activities such as grocery shopping and physical exercise.

“Videos on social media help keep up our spirits,” said Hugot. “I’m grateful too to have my family with me at home.”

With 37 deaths so far and 2,257 people infected by the coronavirus, Belgium’s Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes told Belgians on Friday: “It’s tough but we must stick to it.”

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