My housemates caught COVID-19 on the last weekend in February.

On the 28th of February, one of them started developing symptoms. On the 2nd of March, a close contact informed them that they’d tested positive. On the 3rd, they both tested positive with antigen tests. Jackie and I went to get tested immediately, so we could figure out if we wanted to partition the apartment, or whether we could all be in the same spaces together.

We tested negative.

We’re now starting to come out of the whole situation: my housemates are recovered and recovering (one each), and we’re still negative. But it’s been a weird couple weeks, and I wanted to write it down to not forget about it, and to highlight some of the idiosyncrasies in the way this is being handled in Berlin-Pankow.

A timeline of events

I can’t help but wonder if the reason why we’re still in lockdown is because of mismanagement

The coffee shop near my house had a sign out in November saying that they would offer only takeaway for the rest of the month. Then they updated it saying that they’d offer only takeaway until the end of December, and they’d be out for New Year’s. And then only takeaway stopped being news and started being the program, and they stopped updating the sign.

It’s now been 4 months of lockdown. A huge advantage of lockdowns (and part of the original reasoning for it in November!) is that they make it much easier to do contact tracing – there’s less contacts to trace, after all, if nobody is seeing anybody. This whole experience with the office in Pankow makes me feel like they’re not putting enough effort into making the system work, though. Observe:

It’s worth noting that the systems in place vary from district to district – the system in Berlin-Pankow, for example, might be different from the system in Berlin-Lichtenberg – but this is certainly part of the problem.5

I just don’t have any confidence in the overarching system here anymore. I’m becoming sour that we’re still in lockdown because of a double failure: the vaccine rollout has been slow, and the tracing has been ineffectual.6

It is strange, and frustrating, to have your perception of the outside world narrowed to the view onto a courtyard

My perception of the outside world in the last few weeks has been limited to what I can see and feel through the window. I’m lucky that my windowsill is big enough to sit on, and that I can read there in the morning light.

Window Seat

Window Seat

There are two fat pigeons living in the courtyard at our house; they’ve made a home in a much-too-young pine in the middle. One of them flies down once a day to poke around the corners of the planters and the trash for food and nest-building material. Then, you hear the fwipfwipfwipfwipfwip of its wings and see the pine bend dramatically as it lands back in the nest.

The last few days, it’s been raining, hard. There was lightning once. I haven’t needed to check the weather, but I had a vague sense that it was getting warmer because I didn’t need the heating to be up as high.

It is strange, and frustrating, to keep distance from the people you live with

The kitchen/dining is arguably the most important room in our apartment. It’s now empty, and cold because of a need to ventilate. There is no Berliner Rundfunk playing on the radio; there are no housemates eating dinner there; there are no board games, there is no flipping through junk mail in the mornings. It is now a cold place where FFP2/N95 masks are worn. Cooking is performed quickly, hands are sanitised before and after.

This part specifically would’ve been much easier if we’d all caught it. It was frustrating feeling like we shouldn’t spend time in there because of risk of infection. I can imagine it being frustrating feeling like you weren’t able to use your kitchen freely because you’re contagious, too.

Taking delivery of half a kilo of cinnamon

There’s a brand new delivery service in inner-Berlin, which will deliver groceries in 10-minutes-ish from ordering7. This turned out to be a lifesaver, but they don’t have spices, and what do you do if you run out of cinnamon? I don’t know how or why, but there are ½ kilo bags of organic Cinnamon available on Amazon Prime:

CINNAMON

CINNAMON

I mean, y’know, we probably could’ve asked some friends to get it for us too; along with the stuff they picked up from the post office. But supermarkets are chaos.

Focus burden

I expected to just be able to keep working as normal over the last week and a half, and it just didn’t… happen. I’m still unclear on why; it’s probably a combination of worry, discomfort and… honestly, probably just not getting enough sunlight.

Don't forget: Drink Water. Get Sunlight. You're basically a house plant with more complicated emotions.

Don’t Forget – Reza Farazmand / Poorly Drawn Lines

Wednesday last week I decided that I was going to start work an hour later every day until I was “ok again”; not because there was a tangible ‘something extra’ I needed to do, but explicitly because I just wasn’t coping. Having that time available – even if I didn’t need it for anything – was helpful.

Our lockdown has been comparatively not quite as soul crushing

This last couple weeks has made me aware (again) of how unrestrictive our lockdown has been, relatively speaking. Comparing this to what happened in Melbourne or Ireland, the fact that we’ve generally been allowed outside, and to spend time in nature, and to meet with other people (at distance, of course) has been glorious. I’ve stayed connected to the seasons from walking in the snow and from seeing the new growth on the trees, and not just from noticing that it was staying light for longer.

That week when it snowed, at Schönower Heide

That week when it snowed, at Schönower Heide

But I’m still very ready for this to be over. In a few days, we’ll have our apartment back to normal, we’ll go outside again. And hopefully, hopefully, our government will get the message that this current situation is bullshit, and we expect more from them.


  1. Theoretically it’s significantly quicker if there’s a QR code on your PCR test, but that’s not the case at the Gesundheitsamt Pankow. ↩︎

  2. It’s also only in German; which… feels like an oversight for a city where about 21% are foreign citizens. ↩︎

  3. It’s usually Tamp, with a ’t'. ↩︎

  4. Before we knew about it? But I think I might’ve mistakenly given them this date when I called them. ↩︎

  5. Deutschlandfunk has a good writeup (in German) about a new digital system available country-wide, and the challenges involved in achieving adoption. ↩︎

  6. I’m also angry about the opposition to a patent waiver, which is some pretty dystopian shit. ↩︎

  7. I’m normally real skeptical of anything that offers delivery because of a track-record of gig economy exploitation, but it looks like they actually employ people? Tip your deliverers anyway though. ↩︎