This is the first in a Newsworthy series in which students reflect on living in the shadow of the coronavirus.
As I sit here in my bedroom at Philip Baxter College, on UNSW's Kensington campus, I wonder about the world outside. Every single day more people are getting infected with the COVID-19 virus while we college kids are just waiting here like sitting ducks.
We're not locked in. We're not in isolation. We can still go out to Coles or the city but half of us don't want to. Most of us also can't go home. As we watch the "day-walkers" (people who don't live at college) gradually stop coming to university, we are envious that they can go home. Most of us either live too far away, live with people who could get really sick if they caught the virus, or simply, don't have another home to go to. For myself, Malaysia is in lockdown which basically means, I have no chance to go home.
The other night I had a dream that I went out shopping and when I woke, I found myself washing my hands in the bathroom.
College is already dying as I type. Events have been cancelled, we've been told to socially distance ourselves (we literally have to sit 1.5 metres apart in the dining hall at all times), some, who can, have gone home and nobody comes to knock at my door anymore. It's funny to look at our college student cohort in this crisis: there seems to be a divide. We have the group who doesn't care about the virus because "we're young" and "it won't affect us". These same people still want to go out clubbing, drinking, and do not want to socially distance themselves, they are adamant it won't be bad. Stupid. These will be the people associated with the spread.
The other half are people like me; fearing what is to come. I wash my hands every time I leave my room, I won't go anywhere without a hand sanitser bottle in my pocket. The other night I had a dream that I went out shopping and when I woke, I found myself washing my hands in the bathroom. Am I crazy? What has my life become?
Being a hypochondriac does not help in a health crisis, and it definitely does not help when you live in a residential college during a global health pandemic. Everyone is in such close proximity and we all used to hang out together. In a normal college year, if one person got the fresher flu, we all got the fresher flu and it was fine. But does this mean, if one of us gets COVID-19, we'll all get COVID-19?
UNSW has already had a handful of cases. It feels inevitable that someone at college will get it and that's when the lockdown will happen. Here's my four-step forecast on how the residential colleges lockdown will play out.
Step 1: Some poor college kid becomes patient 1 of the colleges and is isolated.
Step 2: The entire floor that kid lives on has to be put in isolation and checked for COVID-19.
Step 3: If they find more cases, the entire college gets put in isolation.
Step 4: All the colleges get put in isolation.
This waiting game is something I never signed up for but here I am. Playing a game of chess, socially distanced of course, hoping I don't get put in check, or worse, check-mate.