Lockdown. A word I’ve never heard before…
Last September, I left France to start a PhD in Immunology in Ireland. Never would I have imagined witnessing such a pandemic in my life, especially while being far away from home. Fortunately, my friends and family keep me updated about the situation in France and it was interesting to see how the two countries responded to the challenge. The restrictions started at the same time, but the spread of the outbreak was only beginning in Ireland, while it had already spread widely in France.
In Ireland, safety measures were implemented very early and rapidly; in supermarkets, alcohol-based hand gels, disinfectant spray for the trollies, and gloves were available. In France these measures were not set up in most supermarkets. Unlike France, where a certificate was required to move about outside, no certification was required to go outside in Ireland, although police checkpoints were established.
French people, especially healthcare workers, were shocked by the limited number of masks available. France had 110 million masks in stock at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, whereas 1.7 billion were available during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. But H1N1 didn’t severely hit France, and when looking at the cost of the emergency response, politicians, media and the public accused Minister of Health at the time of “overdoing” and “wasting taxpayers’ money”. The 2009 backlash may have been a factor that slowed the government’s expansion of mask stocks at the start of this pandemic.
I was favourably surprised by how Irish people respected and understood their government’s safety measures and guidelines. In mid-March, a lot of restaurants and cafes closed, voluntarily, to protect their staff members and clients before the government told them to do so.
My research project, as that of many PhD students, has been on hold for two months, and returning to normal will be a slow process. One of aims of my project is to understand how respiratory viruses induce inflammation in the lungs, so being at home and not participating in the characterization of this new respiratory virus is frustrating. Nevertheless, I try to make good use of this break by writing my introductory thesis, reading publications and planning new experiments. Also this time gives me the opportunity to review what has been done and what remains to be done for my project. The whole experience has left me more motivated than ever to work on respiratory viruses.
Lockdown. A word I will always remember.
Coralie Guy is a French PhD based in Ireland