The following article is from a former RCA member Monika Levinson, regarding her experiences of the impact of Covid-19 in Germany:
 
When I was first asked to contribute my Covid-19 experience, I thought it is probably pretty much the same for you as it is for me. On second thoughts however, even though it might look similar on the outside, the actual experience tends to be a highly individual one.  Germany established its own form of shelter-in-place in response to the overwhelming development of Covid-19 on March 16, 2020. While it started rather gently, the restrictions picked up speed by the end of the first week and for the past three weeks are as follows (since 23 March 23 and until at least 19 April):
 
  • Public gatherings of more than two people banned, with exceptions for families and those living together.
  • General contact with others should be reduced to a minimum.
  • A 1.5-meter (4.9 feet) distance should be kept at all times when in public.
  • Gastronomy businesses must close. Businesses offering food delivery and collection will be allowed to remain open.
  • Service providers such as hair-dressers, cosmetic, massage and tattoo studios where a 2-meter distance between people is not possible must also close.
  • Businesses and centres offering medical treatments may remain open.
  • Police and other law enforcement agencies will enforce any infractions of the new rules
  • Hygiene regulations must be implemented for staff in the workplace, or for visitors
  • Commuting to work, helping others and exercising alone outside will still be permissible, as long as the activities are carried out in abidance with the guidelines.
 
Since I am self-employed, I can keep operating from my home office, but like for so many of my colleagues, my leadership-development business is heavily impacted.  All new project negotiations are on hold and classroom-type trainings simply impossible.  The coaching work I can do virtually and didn’t take much transition.  I had already done that for years, so that part has been easy.
 
The Rotary meetings in my new Club here in Bavaria have been suspended since 10 March.  In the spirit of Rotary, I offered to be a volunteer for different neighbourly-help or other organisations to support people around emotional issues or even leadership challenges in dealing with Covid-19.  The feedback I mostly received was that there was good coverage around those needs.  I was asked, though, if I could help with errands or grocery shopping for people who are sick in my part of Munich.  So, now I sometimes go shopping for a woman nearby, who has been quite unwell, but not hospitalised, for the past two weeks. It is nice to be doing at least a little good here and there when so many people are out in the trenches, working so hard every day to keep us medically safe, fed, or other operations running.
 
This has also been the first week that I have voluntarily worn a mask.  It took some getting used to, but my sense is that it will become mandatory here rather soon, anyway, and I like the idea that I could infect fewer people that way, just in case I was infected.  I did notice, though, that bicycling through Munich with a red mask (sewed by a very kind neighbour who had put up a note in the staircase of my building offering to do so!) gives you a lot of looks.  Yet, with a bit of luck, I might be able to inspire some people to do the same.  All in all, it seems I have adjusted to the ‘new normal.’
 
Probably hardest for me is that I am not allowed to visit my 89 year-old Mum.  Since we do not live together, we are not allowed to meet up and, of course, there would always be the lingering fear that I could be a vector. While even at her age, she has always remained physically strong and has endured much greater suffering during WW II, my sister and I understandably do not want to run the risk of getting her sick now.  The workaround, like for most families, is that we text, video chat or talk over the phone pretty much every day and my Mum is once again proving how strong she is.
 
Honestly, I do envy New Zealand for its “bubbles,” since living alone can be quite trying during times like these. While I am not someone who is easily prone to feeling lonely, I have surely had my moments, especially during week 1 and 2.  I could actually tell that I was going a bit through the common grief cycle of ‘denial’, ‘bargaining’, ‘sadness’ and finally ‘acceptance.’  There has been no ‘anger’ yet.  Hope it is not coming!   It would be really lovely to have someone with me on a daily basis with whom I could share this experience close-by … and I am dying for a hug.  That first embrace after the rules will be loosened will be a very festive moment for me, I suspect.  Luckily, I get to utilise all the wonderful technical tools that allow me to keep strong ties and an amazing virtual support network between my friends, extended family, and colleagues in New Zealand, the US and Europe.
 
While I wish Germany had also adopted Jacinda’s “bubble” concept, I can see that my current home and country of origin does a lot of things right as well.  I am impressed with the low death rate we have and the discipline with which we are doing what seems to be the right thing based on the data we currently have.  There is, of course, the fiercely libertarian in me who keeps being amazed at how much the vast majority of us has been willing to give up a significant number of our human rights and to abide by the ‘new rules’ without question.  I like to think that it is more than a reflection of the “German personality” that - as we all know - has also contributed to a crushing period in the history of our nation.
 
What I am understanding more and more is that it has a lot to do with the political structure in Germany and the - in this case - powerful interplay between states-level independence and competence and federal authority and coordination efforts.  Among other things, it allowed for quickly implemented and very rigorous testing and research undertakings.  And once again, there has been our ever calm and non-pretentious Chancellor Angela Merkel.  I will miss her after the next elections and almost wonder, if Germany might “ask” her to stay on for another term.  Once again, she has proven that it does still pay off to be authentic and human in a world where lying, hiding evidence or using alternative facts seem to have become the norm even in democracies.  It worries me deeply what we hear from and about country leaders dealing with Covid-19 in places like Hungary, Turkey, Russia, China and sadly even my other home country, the US.  I am very grateful we have Angela.  Now, we just need to sort out the euro bonds or another effective tool in order to show more financial solidarity with countries who have been so tremendously hard hit like Italy or Spain.
 
That’s a bit of my experience in Germany during these unusual times and I wish my dear Rotarian friends in New Zealand all the best – happy Easter and stay healthy!
 
Monika