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A year of COVID-19: British Columbians describe pandemic life outside Canada

For the pandemic anniversary, Black Press Media spoke to residents living around the world

March 11 marks one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

The disease is estimated to have killed more than 2.5 million people, of which 22,000 were Canadian.

While COVID-19 has most likely changed life forever in Canada, Black Press Media spoke to British Columbians around the world on what the last year has been like living through a deadly global virus.

READ MORE: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic


The day after Deanne Berarducci arrived in Africa last March after a visit to Nepal, Kenya halted all flights entering and leaving the country.

“People here were scared at first,” she said.

Soon all schools, restaurants, bars, food markets and government offices closed. A curfew was put in place and citizens were not permitted outside during the night. Masks have been mandatory since last March.

READ MORE: From the streets of Kenya: Finding a home and a school for a 16 year old boy

Even today, when Berarducci goes into grocery stores, she has her temperature checked twice.

She feels the reason Kenya has taken strict action against COVID-19 is because the country is used to incurable diseases threatening livelihoods, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.

“So, they have a plan in place for things like COVID-19, a plan that I don’t think Western countries have as we have never had to.”

She said Kenyans are not willing to take the risk of going to a bar and spread a disease that has no cure.

“They don’t have the same resources here that western countries do.”

Less than 2,000 people have so far died from COVID-19 in the country.

Zachary Rogers is a ballet dancer in Russia. (Submitted)


When the pandemic hit the largest country in the world, Zachary Rogers had a feeling Russians would be hesitant to lockdown.

The first COVID-19 case in the country was on Jan. 31; however, the theatre Rogers where worked as a ballet dancer did not close until mid-March.

“By which point the state of things were quite serious here.”

READ MORE: Revelstokian becomes a Russian ballet dancer

Soon the county went into lockdown and people were not allowed to leave their homes, except for work and the grocery store. Russians could only walk their dog within 100 metres of their residences.

Rogers’ live performances resumed last June in Moscow.

“I have really come to value each and every chance I get to perform in front of a live audience after being stuck at home for so long. That time away from the ballet studio and stage really made me realize how much I love what I do and how important it is for me to continue doing it.”

Last August, Russia became the first country in the world to approve a vaccine for COVID-19. Officially, almost 90,000 people have died from the disease in Russia, but experts say the number of deaths could be more than three times higher due to limited data collection.

READ MORE: Russia approves vaccine, Putin hopes to begin mass production


Peter Zurba said he is lucky to have a job outside. When COVID-19 hit Texas last March, forcing many businesses to close, Zurba was able to continue working as a landscaper.

“It became a ghost town here.”

Earlier this month, the governor relaxed the state mask mandate and allowed businesses to open to 100 per cent capacity.

“Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed. It is time!”

So far, 5.7 million vaccines have been administered in the state, which is more than double the amount distributed in Canada.

More than 525,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., of which 45,000 have been in Texas.

READ MORE: U.S. man credits Revelstoke upbringing for surviving Texas ice storm

Leslie Takinami works as a teacher in Japan. (Submitted)


When the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrived at the City of Yokohama on Feb. 3, 2020, the global death toll from the mysterious new coronavirus was around 400.

Within days, more than 700 people on board would test positive for the virus and 13 people would die. Due to improper quarantines and testing, it’s thought disembarking passengers likely added to the virus’s spread within the country.

READ MORE: Canadians released from coronavirus-ridden cruise ship in Japan fly home

Japan declared a state of emergency on April 16, forcing teacher Leslie Takinami to work from home.

During the closures, public school teachers would hand deliver and pick up homework from students. The government also launched a national television program to teach subjects such as math for elementary students. In-class learning resumed by May.

To spur travel and help the ailing tourism industry, the government started to offer domestic travelers 50 per cent discounts on transportation, hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and shopping across the country.

Due to rising COVID-19 cases, the country halted the program in December. More than 8,200 people have died from the disease in Japan.

While Tokyo is still planning to hold the Olympic games this summer, a recent survey found 80 per cent of Japanese people want the games canceled or postponed.

“I don’t want it. It is not a good time to have a lot of people come here.”

Taylor Klassen has spent the last year living in Australia in the remote Snowy Mountains and painting film sets in Sydney. (Submitted)


Last February, Taylor Klassen arrived in Australia just as the country’s worst fire season ended.

For months previously, more than 15,000 blazes consumed more than 11 million hectares, forcing even Klassen’s partner’s grandma to shelter in her own water tank when the fires neared her homestead in the Snowy Mountains.

READ MORE: Australia to pay ‘whatever it takes’ to fight wildfires

The fires stopped short of the property, where Klassen lived when she first arrived in the country. She did not have cell service, had little internet, used solar panels for power, and the family grew most of its own food.

Klassen said she had little idea how bad COVID-19 was until she got a job in April, painting film sets in Sydney.

“We arrived and there was no canned food, meat or even toilet paper in the shops.”

Compared to B.C., Australia has enforced strict restrictions when cases of COVID-19 emerge, such as locking inter-state borders and forcing people to remain indoors, except for an hour of exercise per day. Parts of the country have gone into multiple lockdowns in the past year, including five million people in Melbourne who were ordered to stay home for 110 days last summer.

“Props to the government for cracking down. The rules here, have really helped.”

Only 900 people have died from COVID-19 in Australia.

Due to fewer cases of COVID-19, at times there have been no restrictions in Australia and little requirements to wear masks. Cafes were crowded, football stadiums were packed with thousands of fans, and the country hosted concerts with more than 6,000 attendees.

Bill Hughes at a temple Thailand. He spends each winter in the country. (Submitted)


On Jan. 8, 2020, a traveler tested positive for the virus in Thailand, making it the first case outside China.

The country quickly went into full lockdown and masks became mandatory.

“People were quite scared,” said Bill Hughes.

READ MORE: Out of quarantine: Salmon Arm residents back in Canada compare COVID-19 response

Since then, most places have reopened. However, Hughes said it’s still common to have your temperature checked going into each business.

Hughes came back to Canada between June and November. When he arrived, he was able to travel back to Revelstoke to quarantine. Upon his return in Thailand, he was met at the plane by officials in hazmat suits, given a COVID-19 test and put on a minibus to quarantine at a hotel for 14 days, where he got daily temperature checks and more COVID-19 tests.

“The government here has done an excellent job of protecting people.”

The country has one of the lowest death rates from COVID-19 with only 85 fatalities.

By comparison, it was not until Feb. 21 that Canada made it mandatory for travelers to stay three nights in a hotel upon arrival while waiting on results from a COVID-19 test.

B.C.'s Travis Wilkins and his family live in Nepal. They own a juice factory. (Submitted)


As COVID-19 started to spread around the world last March, the people of Nepal became uneasy, said Travis Wilkins.

Since it was clear he was not from Nepal, locals would run away from him when he approached, yelling “COVID! Go home!”

Soon the government ordered a four-month lockdown. If caught outside during non-designated hours, curfew-breakers could be beaten by police, forced to stand still on the road for hours until they learned their lesson or taken to jail.

The orders forced Wilkins’ juice factory to close for months. Even when people were allowed outside, the government banned people from using vehicles to reduce travel. So, Wilkins delivered juice by bicycle.

Today, there are few restrictions and most businesses are open.

“I’m not sure if COVID is done with us, but Nepal is done with COVID.”

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