The lives of German senior citizens, Margaret and Hans, have not been turned upside down by Covid19 just gone very quiet, they insist.
Until now they had been enjoying a peaceful life of retirement in a small town northeast of Stuttgart. They are amiable and generous hosts to Margaret’s family from Scotland, enjoying a regular stream of visitors and going on the occasional holiday overseas.
But their bucolic life in this picturesque part of southern Germany has changed in recent months as Germany has not been immune to the covid19 pandemic.
With a population of around 82 million, Germany, which has a robust testing regime, has detected over 91,000 cases of Covid19 infection and, at the time of writing, has suffered 1,275 deaths. In addition, Germany has been able to treat a large number of patients from Italy, Spain and France.
In the local area where Margaret and Hans live, which has 424,000 inhabitants, infections are running at 595 cases. The local death toll so far is eight.
It’s unsettling news when you are in your seventies, especially so for Margaret as she also has an underlying health condition. The Scottish expat, who has lived in Germany for over 40 years, remains stoic though. And counting her blessings.
She told welovestornoway.com correspondent Taylor Edgar: “We think so far, we are very lucky not to have so many people locally suffering from covid19. Our lockdown started around March 16 and that was when shops, restaurants and bars etc started closing down, hairdressers and cosmetic salons maybe 10 days later.
“Things are very quiet, we are not getting our knickers in a twist. The media assure us that the hospitals are coping and they are prepared and preparing for high numbers of patients who need ventilators.”
The lockdown has, though, curtailed much of their day-to-day activities. They can, however, enjoy their balcony and garden. Outwith this, the only reasons permissible to leave home are for shopping or, if necessary, visiting the doctor. Due to Margaret’s underlying health issue, she has barely left home in weeks and relies on Hans, a retired police officer, to do the shopping.
“We do not know anybody suffering or who have suffered covid19 and are happy about that. I have not gone out of the house not because I'm ill at the moment but because we have been told people over 70 with underlying illness should only leave the house if necessary. I'm better being careful. We could have anything we need delivered to the house or our neighbours have offered to help out. But we feel we can cope so far without help,” says Margaret.
She continues: “There are no social activities, drives out in the car for fun, no church services, or gatherings, and only a maximum of ten people are allowed to attend funerals. I would say most people are sticking to the rules and only going out when absolutely necessary. We are keeping shopping trips to a minimum and only venturing out once a week if possible.”
Initially, there was panic-buying of food and toiletries in Germany. This was in part, she feels, due to the media in Europe scaring people, and at one point it became impossible to find flour, yeast, or tinned foods, soap, disinfectant and toilet paper. Now, though, people have calmed down, and stocks have been replenished to almost normal levels.
Luckily, she has a freezer and a cellar, so was fairly well-stocked for the outbreak as she normally has a reserve in hand for unexpected eventualities.
“Other than that, we do nothing else all that differently. Yes, we are cooped up a lot but we are keeping up to date with world news and calling up friends and family to keep them company and check that they are well,” comments Margaret. “We also read the local newspaper more thoroughly than usual, spend time gardening, reading, knitting socks, doing all sorts of craftwork, and always looking for more things to keep us occupied.”
Hans adds that their neighbours are following the quiet life too, but call up now and again, or speak to one another from their balconies.
“To minimize our risk, we stay at home most of the time. We only go out if necessary for essentials,” he explains. “When we do, we are careful to always disinfect our hands, not to socialize and to keep at least 1.5 meters away from people in shops. So far we don't have to wear face masks but we are prepared to do so if it has to be.”
Their lives may not have been turned upside down completely, but their heads are remaining level.