Europe: home alone

Isolated at home from one day to the next, millions of people in Europe are having to adapt to radically changed living conditions. And even where freedom of movement is not yet restricted, many people are voluntarily isolating themselves to slow the spread of coronavirus. Journalists encourage readers to make the best of the situation.

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Berlingske (DK) /

Read, write, go forth and multiply

Berlingske also sees an opportunity in the corona crisis:

“The downtime in this period of more or less self-imposed house arrest should be used creatively and sensibly. One can hope that this period, as was the case with the curfew under Nazi occupation, will result in a veritable baby boom. ... One can also hope that this special time will produce new art and literature. Perhaps we'll soon see a new Thomas Mann, who wrote Death in Venice against the backdrop of the cholera epidemic. ... The corona crisis will almost certainly make people more ready to take action if new epidemics threaten to break out in the future. And one can hope that the Danes will realize that we can't isolate ourselves from the world, but that we must work together internationally.”

Primorske novice (SI) /

Pioneers of Englightenment guide us towards nature

Isolation offers the opportunity to devote oneself to things that we otherwise have no time for in our hectic everyday life, comments Primorske novice:

“Under quarantine, many people perform tasks for which they did not find time for before. Some of them have noticed that they have a trampoline in front of their house which is not yet completely broken. Others have noticed that they have relatives. Many have realised that good old Voltaire was right: it's true, the garden is waiting for us. Let us follow Rousseau's call 'back to nature', even if it's just to take a short walk. Now is the time to walk between trees and fields. It's time to explore nature unaccompanied.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Knowing how to be alone is a virtue

Now what parents failed to include in the upbringing of their offspring is becoming apparent, observes writer Lucía Etxebarria in El Periódico de Catalunya:

“The children are bored, they say. Despite ten different TV cartoon channels, tablets, video consoles and mobile phones - all at the age of ten. Boredom is the basis for creativity and motivation. Parents who turn their children's childhood into a Disneyland by providing constant entertainment invalidate them emotionally and castrate their creativity. ... Learning to spend time on your own is as important as learning to interact properly with others. Because good solitude keeps us away from bad company. Because those who can't be alone will follow anyone simply because they can't stand themselves. Those who don't know how to be alone don't know how to live.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Not everyone can switch to online social life

A substantial part of the population is particularly isolated, points out Alek Tarkowski, an expert in the sociology of the Internet, in Gazeta Wyborcza:

“If we close more public institutions we will face the challenge of having to quickly create an online social world in which relationships and social capital are cultivated. But we cannot solve the crisis simply by switching to the web. ... Let's not forget that 18 percent of Poles have never used the Internet, and a good number of people use it very rarely. These people are facing considerable isolation. They still have the mass media and telephone contact with their loved ones. But they do not have access to up-to-date information, a broad range of cultural options or support and communication networks.” (RU) /

A pause on a hectic planet

Commenting in a Facebook post republished on, journalist Alexander Shmelev sees the corona pandemic as an opportunity to pause and take a break in a modern world that has become too hectic:

“As a result, the desire to somehow stop time, to get off the hamster wheel, to get back on solid ground has become widespread. ... Now the coronavirus is giving us an opportunity to do this - because there is a temporary pause across the entire planet. This is a chance to end the eternal running and return to meditative self-isolation. One day is like the next, you don't go anywhere, don't talk to anyone, and you can calmly think about fundamental questions (such as life and death, which is very much encouraged by an epidemic), read long books and the like. How all this will end is unclear at the moment, but as a social experiment it is extremely interesting.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Our goals are vanishing

What will shock people most in the coronavirus crisis is the discovery that their to-do lists have become irrelevant, philosopher Barbara Bleisch explains in Tages-Anzeiger:

“Because our existence is full of things that Kieran Setiya, philosophy professor at MIT in Boston, calls 'telish': activities aimed at a target (Greek 'telos') and thus towards an end point at which they are executed and completed. ... Corona will inevitably get us out of this habit because many of our goals will be postponed or even cancelled altogether. Setting new goals is difficult. Who knows what the coming week or month will bring? We will have to learn to rediscover the value of less targeted activities.”

The Times (GB) /

Corona news like quenching thirst with saltwater

Those who constantly follow the latest headlines run the risk of getting sick, The Times warns:

“We hunger for news in the hope that it will provide answers - and that those answers will be a comfort. We think arming ourselves with information will allow us to regain a sense of control; information is power, we have always been told. But news-wallowing does not ease our worries. Endlessly checking the news to release ourselves of anxiety is like glugging saltwater to release ourselves of thirst: initially comforting, ultimately counterproductive. ... Many are self-isolating from others to preserve their physical health; for the sake of our mental health, many of us would benefit from self-insulation from 24-hour news too.”

Mediapart (FR) /

Read books, but don't order them on Amazon

The isolation offers many people the opportunity to finally read books for which they had no time before, blogger François Gèze writes, encouraging readers to shop consciously for their literature:

“Without the bookstores that promote publishing and play an essential role in publicising new ideas and literary innovations, books would attract neither attention nor readers. In the current crisis you have to buy the books you are interested in online. I urge you not to order them from Amazon, but in the online shops of independent bookstores. ... This will also be an important gesture of support for these bookstores whose existence is severely threatened by the current crisis.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Art on the web keeps us together

Despite bans on events we won't be left high and dry from a cultural point of view thanks to the Internet and social media - and we should appreciate that, Milliyet stresses:

“Books, TV films and series are currently our best friends. Social media are now more efficient and useful than ever. Art can reach us through them and tell us, 'We are not alone, we are all still connected'. ... It wouldn't be a bad thing at all for online broadcasts to become paid events with affordable tickets. ... And only then can there be talk of mutual solidarity, because it's clear that these people who have now cancelled their concerts and theatre performances need to earn a living just like we do.”