Europe is canceled because of COVID-19

Laurie Tritschler / March 13, 2020

An elderly couple walks into Brussels’ mostly empty resto-bar scene two days before the city closed these venues for 3 weeks.

(Laurie Tritschler / bcitnews.com)

It’s official: Brussels will enter a three-week semi-lockdown on midnight Friday, part of the Capital Region’s latest bid to stave off the coronavirus pandemic.

Restaurants and bars at the heart of the European Union will be shuttered until April 3rd. And no more public gatherings! No more brass bands; no more street performers—oh, and no St. Patrick’s Day parade on Tuesday.

Thanks, coronavirus, for bringing European culture to a grinding halt.

The news agency I’m interning at is winding down, too. The newsroom is always empty when I roll in at 8 a.m., but it stayed that way until around 10 this morning, as the trickle of journos who chose to come in rather than work from home filed in.

“Putain coronavirus!” [“Damn coronavirus!’] – Camille, newsroom manager

I can remember a simpler time, before I left for my dream internship at the heart of the European Union, when the novel coronavirus, freshly dubbed COVID-19, was much further away. First it rocked China. Then it was in Iran. Italy was next.

I started to get worried after I put out a story about an infected staffer at NATO’s Brussels headquarters. COVID-19 had arrived.

I got word yesterday that a fellow intern, from a university somewhere in Missouri, had been called home. “Because of that Trump shit?” I asked. (The American President had recently banned incoming flights from the entire continent. Or, so he thought. Turns out the ban applies to Europe’s 26 Schengen states, but not to countries like the U.K. or, for that matter, Albania.)

“No!” laughed a colleague. “Because of the coronavirus,” he explained, still laughing.

It suddenly hit me that I could be called home just as swiftly. The streets outside my window are empty, which is unheard of for a Friday. All of a sudden, I’m having conversations about stockpiling potato chips in the event the government shuts down local groceries.

We’re being encouraged to work from home starting Monday, by which point, I’ve just reported, most European countries will be in various states of shut down. I’ll come into the newsroom so long as they’ll let me: I can’t stand the thought of scanning my RSS from my garret of a room across town.

And I can’t bear to think I’ll have to come home early, but this is where the pandemic is heading.

Be well, BCIT. And wash your hands!

My newsroom was bereft of journalists Friday morning. Thanks to the coronavirus, most Brusselois are now ‘teleworking’ from home.
(Laurie Tritschler / bcitnews.com)