By Dan Robison
The last ten days appear to have shaken the world in general. News junkies will have been aware of COVID-19 since the beginning of the year. I made some long flights to and from in the US in late January, and I wore a face mask, even though only a couple of cases had been diagnosed in the US and none in Latin America. I was not the only one, perhaps 1 in 20 were doing it. However, the announcement of the World Health Organization on March 11 that there was an official pandemic coincided with the beginning of the drop in the stock markets worldwide. These came only a day or two after the first two positive cases were identified here in Bolivia. Bolivia announced the grounding of flights from Europe, with the last one arriving Friday the 13th in the morning.
I think that many around the world realized that “IT” had arrived. The transitional president of Bolivia announced sweeping measures that came into place on Monday, the 16th of March. With less than 10 confirmed cases nationally and no related deaths, an 18:00 to 05:00 curfew came into being. The workday was shortened from 08:00 to 13:00 and intercity and interdepartmental land travel was prohibited, with a few flights still happening between cities. Starting at midnight on the 21st of March, we went into what will be 40 days of “total lockdown”.
The last few nights (with a muted interlude for Father´s Day), my town in the Bolivian Amazon has been far quieter than it has in the 25 years I have lived here. It is occurring to many people that it will take a long time to get back to normal, and that normal may be very different from how things were two weeks ago.