It has been a little over three weeks since we received the first positive cases of Covid-19 here in Albania. Overall the country has handled the crisis very calm and rationally. Schools, universities, sit in cafes and restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms, and malls were shut down for social activity almost immediately. Pedestrian car traffic in red zones were limited to medical personal going to and from work, ambulance, and transit of goods, special permission for trips to the airport before it was shut down and other needs can be requested as needed. Mass transit like city buses and passenger vans were also shut down to prevent close proximity with others. Land, sea, and air borders are now limited to transit of goods only. Special cases for those that were in transit to the Albanian borders during the shut down exceptions were made. The individuals were screened upon arrival and ask to self quarantine for 14 days.
A curfew was set from 7 am to 1 pm to allow residents to run essential errands. Retail shops, grocery stores, and pharmacies switched to the curfew hours and have a limit the number of people in the shop at a time to reduce risk. The government ask that residents only go out one at a time and limit to one hour if possible. They are cautious and have learned from our neighbors across the sea that swift restrictions could flatten the curve and so far doing pretty decent.
Today they are reporting 243 positive cases, 13 total deaths, 52 recovered here in Albania.
The population of Albania stands around 2.8 million and almost a third of the population lives in the capital of Tirana. There is approximately 410,000 people over the age of 65. The rural areas have a large elderly population so spreading beyond city centers has a higher fatality risk. We live in a rural corner and are still at zero cases in our region. The swift action of the government to minimize the spread has greatly reduced risk of this pandemic reaching the rural areas.
How did the Albanian people react to all of the above? Before the curfews, active runners, walkers, card players and strollers were dotted in the large city parks. Fines for breaking curfew curved the pedestrian traffic in the large cities and parks. The stores remained stocked with no over buying or stocking of massive amounts of anything were done here minus an observation of one cart with about 10 bottles of vegetable oil and large flour bags. Most homes have a bidet here so toilet paper is not an end all be all like other countries, cough the US. And on an economical note the mass buying power is not something affordable for most households. They are a society of mostly only buy what you need not what you think you might. Plus the majority of the population over the age of 40 have lived through worse, the rationing of food and goods enforced by Communism was extreme and left many hungry. Resilient and humble people.
How are we handling all of the above? Our daily life has been business as usual. We do make a town run when needed in the mornings to pay for phone, internet or pick up items as needed. We still hike on our land and even went fishing one morning (thankfully we live near the lake).
How as a country are we handling this current crisis? From an outsider looking in not too bad. I have had recent discussions with friends in New Zealand, the UK, Serbia, Switzerland, Italy and friends/family in the US. After reflecting on each conversation, I can honestly say I am very thankful to be tucked away in our tiny corner of the world. Stay safe my friends and please stay calm.
Happier and lighter note:
Spring is unfolding and blooming more each day. We are counting down till we can start planting our post frost crop. Potatoes, garlic, onions, lettuce greens and spinach are thriving. Checked on some of the grafting he completed earlier this month and seeing some success so we could be increasing our fruit production ever so slightly in the next year or so.
Update on our Stock the Library mission, the books have arrived in Europe and will be land transported to Albania from a port in Slovenia. We are still actively raising funds for this mission to find out more or to donate please visit: https://www.homesteadalbania.com/stockthelibrary