Following the numbers

Puck Wagemaker

From Aarhus, Denmark, I saw from a distance as a foreigner living abroad how the infections and deaths from COVID-19 rapidly accumulated in the Netherlands. When I returned home and was in the middle of it, the numbers stopped for me. 

[March 13] – 5 deaths – 190 new infections

I call my sister; I wonder how she’s doing. She says in full confidence that she’s okay with a slight undertone of irritation, why wouldn’t she be? I ask her if she is not worried by the fact that five people died of COVID-19 today.

We talk a bit more about her annoying roommate and our younger sister who’s dating. However, when we hang up, I check the Dutch news and read once again – ‘’Five deaths caused by coronavirus’’. 

While I am in Denmark, am I following the Dutch news better than my own sister who’s home? Does she not get how important it is to follow the news, especially now?Every time there is a press conference, I make sure I follow it, I refresh Twitter constantly and I am obsessed with the numbers about COVID-19 in the Netherlands. When you’re away from home you follow the news from your home country, often more than you did before. And now, with the coronavirus I can most certainly say that you follow the news excessively.

[March 15] – 8 deaths – 176 new infections

I wake up, not in Aarhus anymore, but in my old bedroom at my parents’ house in Wijk bij Duurstede, the Netherlands. My life as an exchange student is put on hold for now. 

In Denmark the government made life stop. Since school was closed and there was nowhere to go, I was inside all day with nothing to do apart from checking the news. Even though life at home is still continuing, I was assuming that everyone would take the virus seriously and have as minimum social contact as possible.

However, there is no stress or fear at all. Everyone is glad that I’m back home and we’re even going out for dinner tonight in a crowded restaurant.

My boyfriend texts me that we are living life as if COVID-19 wasn’t real. I feel the same and it’s annoying me. It almost seems like everyone here is denying the news.

[March 17] – 19 deaths – 292 new infections

I refresh the news again for the latest numbers. It’s the first day the Netherlands has over ten deaths. It makes me feel stressed about how everything will develop. 

The next following days COVID-19 becomes very real in the Netherlands. 

[March 30] – 93 deaths – 884 new infections

I just closed all my tabs on my laptop. I need a deep breath after scrolling through the news. The numbers from COVID-19 become too much for me. I don’t want to read about the mess that we are in. These days of realness hit me hard. 

[March 31] – 175 deaths – 804 new infections

Our prime minister is saying that we need to go outside, as long as we keep 1,5-meter distance, to get some fresh air. With the sun shining all day it’s not that hard to obey. 

While I walk through town, I decide to get a cappuccino to go. The barista is surprised to see me. He calmly follows with the news that there are 175 COVID-19 deaths in the Netherlands today. 

I’m questioning if he reads the right news. I thought the deaths were below one hundred today, not at all close to two hundred. It can’t be true. It can’t go that quick.He sees my surprised and confused face, grabs his phone out of his pocket and shows me the news. The headline says‘’175 deaths caused by coronavirus’’. 

Was I completely denying the news? I was obsessed with the numbers while I was in Denmark. However, now I am back home and while the numbers are increasing, I read them less and less.I finally get my sister’s confusion and denial.

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