COVID-19 across the ocean: Perspectives from Bermuda

At first, I did not think this virus was a big deal. No one did. No one took it seriously for the first few months as people continued to go about their lives as normal. People still traveled around the world, college students partied during their spring breaks, there were big family dinners and more. People didn’t pay much attention to it.

Being from Bermuda, I traveled home on March 7, the Saturday before spring break, to go home and see my family as normal. I traveled down to New York City from Providence to fly home. The trains were still packed with commuters going home for the weekend. There did not seem to be much restriction on anything. 

John F. Kennedy International Airport was crowded as usual, but TSA officials were handing out gloves and being extra cautious. I still did not think anything of it. Again, I still did not think this virus was such a big deal. I thought the media was just blowing it out of proportion.

A week later after watching the news rapidly evolve around this virus, COVID-19 turned into a global pandemic. I couldn’t believe it. There was me, minding my own business assuming I would be allowed to travel back to the U.S. to finish out my senior year with my friends and graduate with my fellow senior classmates. That all changed in a matter of days. 

RWU extended spring break for another week while the faculty had a chance to make important decisions on how students would finish out their spring semesters. We then were notified that we would move to all online classes, which didn’t seem all that bad at first. Reality finally set in when we realized we wouldn’t be able to spend our last college semester together with any of our friends. That’s when it hit hard. 

Being an international student, we were advised not to return to RWU and to stay where we were and for me, that was Bermuda. Travel bans were put into place preventing international travel from most places. Being stuck on this beautiful little island, I guess it could be worse.

More and more travel bans were put into place and eventually the island began a lockdown, a lot earlier than the U.S. and the UK, which was a good idea. The airport closed down to all flights (minus cargo) for two weeks. This was the last thing we Bermudians wanted to hear as we are forced to travel to get off this little rock.

It sounds like a great place to be on lockdown, but when you think about it, there is not much to do. All businesses were forced to close besides essential services, so this did not leave much for Bermudians to do as our culture and community is very tight knit and social. 

People from the U.S. live in towns with larger populations than all of Bermuda. The size of the island is only 22 square miles, which is very confined and limited. So, when the news broke that the government was shutting down the airport, everyone was panicking and preparing for the worst. 

They started implementing restrictions, telling people who traveled to the island 10 days before the airport shutdown to self-quarantine for 14 days. This included essentially all my friends who attend universities overseas. Grocery stores also have a one in one out policy, which is frustrating as there are limited grocery stores on the island. All I could think was that this was going to be a long two weeks. 

It is very easy to complain about the restrictions that governments have put in place, but in reality, we as humans take a lot for granted. This time provides a great opportunity to step back and really appreciate everything we take for granted on a daily basis. It is also a great time to relax from work and even start a new hobby or learn a new skill. 

Yes, the situation is frustrating, but let’s make the most out of a tough situation as we are all experiencing the same thing.