Randi | April 2nd, 2020 | 10 Comments

I’m not one to panic. It takes a lot for me to overreact to a situation. I’m typically level-headed. But experiencing sickness, closed borders, and a nationwide quarantine for weeks has put me on edge. Life has changed here in Prague.

Not just for me, of course.

Michael and I have gotten a lot of questions from friends and family around the world about what life in Prague is like during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The short answer is that… it’s different. Eerily different. The long answer is much more complex. Seemingly every aspect of our lives has been altered. Simple activities like grocery shopping and socializing with friends, the focus of our work, and personal growth all look drastically different than they did just a month ago. The city is nearly deserted, and in many ways unrecognizable. 

Life in Prague During the Pandemic

randi wearing a homemade facemask

Getting Sick

I went to yoga class as usual on Monday, March 2nd.

I felt weak during class; poses felt more difficult. I brushed it off. Thought I was just tired. By the following evening I knew it wasn’t fatigue. I had body aches, chills, a terrible headache, sore throat, and a fever. At one point my whole body was shaking. To be honest, I was worried.

At this point the serious threat of Coronavirus was not yet a reality in the Czech Republic. We had only a handful of confirmed cases and not a whole lot of information about the illness. However, there were stories coming from China and Italy about just how serious being infected by the virus could be.

I began to wonder, did I have Coronavirus or was it just the flu?

Being an optimistic person when it comes to health, I wasn’t so much afraid of the virus having serious affects on me as I was worried about my diet. As silly as it may seem to some people, abstaining from animal products is one of the most important parts of my life.

At the time, anyone confirmed to have contracted Covid-19 in the Czech Republic was being quarantined in a hospital. This posed a unique challenge for me, as a vegan. So, at first I was hesitant to seek medical attention.

I made an appointment with my doctor anyway. She suggested that, instead of visiting a hospital, I should come to her office for an examination. At the time visiting a hospital to be tested for Coronavirus was not possible because I did not meet certain criteria. Patients could only be tested for Coronavirus in the Czech Republic if they met one of two criteria. The first being that they must have returned from a “high-risk country”, like Italy or China, in the prior 14 days. The second was knowingly coming into contact with a person who was confirmed to have been infected with Coronavirus.

My doctor did a physical exam and we discussed my symptoms. She told me that I had a viral infection, but that she had no way of knowing if what it was the flu or Coronavirus. Without testing, it was impossible to be certain. She sent me home with a list of immune boosters to take, medication for my sore throat and cough, and a prescription for lots of bed rest.

After a week, I returned to the doctor. I was still unwell, and had been experiencing pressure in my chest, developed a cough, and had a few other symptoms I won’t go into. She determined that I had developed a bacterial respiratory infection. Considering my history of Asthma and a pretty sensitive respiratory system, I was worried.

Thankfully, after starting a course of antibiotics, the infection began to go away and after another week I finally felt better.

The recovery process was tedious. It seemed to drag on. The cough, and my energy levels, digestion, and appetite took a really long time to normalize. What’s more, a question I will never be able to answer lingers in my mind.

Did I Have Coronavirus or the Flu?

I have my suspicious, but I may never have the answer to that question. If I did in fact have Coronavirus, I could be less cautious. Less paranoid about contracting it now, after already being sick. Less worried about being a carrier and spreading it to anyone I come in contact with.

Alas, I know the desire to “know” is selfish and petty in the grand scheme of things. Especially, with how much the world is affected by this pandemic. But it really would be a relief to know I already dealt with the worst of it, and could simply focus on the other challenges this virus has caused us all to face.

What’s Going On in Prague Now

a couple on a dark bench, wearing masks and practicigin social distancing, Prague

The first confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the Czech Republic were on March 1st. Life went on as normal for the following two weeks. Bars were open, clubs were open. The weather was pretty shitty, but people were out and about in the streets, farmers markets, and shopping centers. 

And then suddenly it all changed. Over night, almost. 

On March 12th the Czech Republic declared a state of emergency for the following 30 days. Government officials mandated that all pubs and restaurants would be required to close from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am. Public events with other 30 people were forbidden and all pools, gyms, clubs, museums, and libraries were closed.

Border crossing were restricted for the first time and anyone traveling from a country deemed as high-risk would not be allowed in unless they were citizens or permanent residents. Eventually the borders were totally shut down. Buses, trains, and planes were canceled to and from the country. Anyone returning to the Czech Republic from abroad was required to self-quarantine for two weeks.

empty charles bridge in prague pandemic

Talks of nationwide quarantines would follow, and on the night of March 15th the prime minister approved such measures for a two-week time period. For those of us living here it meant we could not travel outside our homes except to go to work, do necessary shopping, go to the doctor or hospital, or to visit close relatives. Thankfully, one exception was that we were still allowed to take walks outdoors in nature.

On March 18th the Czech government declared that any person in public was required to wear a face mask or similar covering.

Today, the quarantine measures have been extended. This time until April 11th. Talks of extending the nationwide state of emergency for an additional month are also are underway.

What It’s Like Living in a Quarantined Country

empty prague old town square pandemic
Devoid of tourists and locals alike, Prague’s Old Town Square is NEVER this empty…

Strange. Eerie. Quiet. Lonely. 

Not being able to socialize with friends, or being able to visit our favorite restaurants, cafes, or pubs makes us feel like we don’t even live in Prague anymore.

One of the best parts of living in this city is its social atmosphere. Visiting restaurants on a near daily basis, having a few beers at the pub most evenings. Enjoying high quality coffee while working from a cafe is a way of life we’ve become accustom to. Now, we’re confined to the walls of our apartments and life feels very, very different.

Don’t get us wrong, we are not complaining. We fully understand that social distancing is necessary. That said, it has changed the landscape of our lives.

Visiting the grocery store has become a double-edged sword. On the one side, it’s a much needed escape. A welcome departure from our new daily routine. On the other, the experience is rife with stress. Visiting a crowded shop with a sea of masked faces all around, constant waves of our own hot breath on our faces, and the fear that everything on every shelf is blanketed in a mysterious virus can be anxiety inducing.

Our days are also longer. Feelings of being adrift at sea with no aim come and go. Our work seems pointless, and we have turned our attention to other things to cope with the peculiar situation we have found ourselves in.

Coping With a Nationwide Quarantine and a Worldwide Pandemic

masked man stands on the Charles Bridge with a mask on on April 1st, 2020

At one point I had to quarantine myself from news of the Coronavirus pandemic. I started to feel depressed, overwhelmed, and lost. Reading conflicting reports and opinions about exactly what was going on, and how serious it all is became too much.

I decided to cut myself off from the news for at least a day. Something amazing happened when I did that.

I was able to think clearly for the first time in weeks. My focus changed. I began to think about what I could spend my time on that would actually make me happy. I decided to start learning about things I was interested in but had never quite found the time for before. Photography, videography, baking. I wanted to learn new skills. Give myself something productive to focus on instead of simply worrying about what I had no control over.

This mental quarantine has helped immensely. That said, I still face some challenges. My exercise routine went from 4-5 times a week to almost nothing. I feel cooped up inside my apartment, and find myself getting more irritable than usual. Still, I know…I hope we will see light at the end of the tunnel soon.

Our Travel Business

Unsurprisingly, our business, like all travel related businesses, has suffered. Perhaps that is putting it too mildly. As of today, the business is barely alive. A trickle of traffic still exists but nothing meaningful is happening. Our income revenues, which include ad sales and affiliate sales, are nonexistent.

Having poured ourselves into this site for the past six years the turn of events is heartbreaking. We know it might sound petty compared to what is going on in the world now, but since Just a Pack is a big part of our identities we can’t help but feel some sorrow.

Travel Once This is Over

Man looks down at Manang on the Annapurna trail in Nepal

We look forward to the day we can travel again. We make plans in our head. We dream of destinations we will visit once this is all over. We hope for a brighter future.

We even wrote an entire article about all the places we will someday visit. Where do you want to go?

Giving Away Our Prague Ebook

Prague: A Local’s Guide to the City of 100 Spires! by Just a Pack

We hope you will join us and dream about destinations you’ll travel to some day soon.

When you start to think about traveling again we hope you will consider our home, Prague. We know that the tourism industry here, and everywhere else, is damaged. We hope you contribute to its recovery. W e want to do our part too.

To encourage you to visit Prague some day soon we are giving away 50 copies of our Prague Ebook as a token of our appreciation to you and to our city.

Just click here to order. Once you’ve clicked “add to cart” click the “view cart” button that will appear at the top of the page. There you can enter the coupon code “DreamDestinations“. Limit, one order per person please.

What Has Life Been Like For You?

Until then, how are you coping with the pandemic? What are things like where you live? We would love to hear from you! Please leave us a comment below and share your story. And please, stay safe and healthy.

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Our firsthand account of what it's been like as expats living in Prague during the pandemic. Illness, closed borders, and quarantine. We share our story.

Everything You Need to Know to Visit Prague!

Prague Ebook - Local's Guide to Prague by Just a Pack

Comments

10 thoughts on “Illness, Closed Borders, and Quarantine – Prague In the Time of Coronavirus

  1. We were to visit Prague this year in July. However we have now changed it to August/September 2021. (3sistersabroad.)

    1. Hi Bree, thank you for the comment. I really hope you all get to visit our beautiful city next year, and I hope changing your plans didn’t cost you too much money! Be safe and take care!

  2. This makes me so sad. Traveling is a huge part of my life and closing borders to countries is devastating. I’m glad you’re feeling better, though!!

    1. I know, me too. It’s so weird to think traveling isn’t an option. On the bright side, I’m trying to appreciate this different life. That said, I hope the pandemic is over very, very soon. It makes me even more sad to know how many people are and are going to be affected by this. Stay safe and healthy! Take care.

  3. We have already cancelled 3 trips. 1 for business, 1 to visit my family in North Carolina and the last was a solo hiking trip for me to the Mt St Helens area in Washington state. We are staying at home with brief forays to the local grocery store and to get take out food from our favorite restaurant and coffee shop. These small businesses are important to us and we are trying the best that we can to help them survive. Our 5-6 days a week workouts at the gym have stopped and at 60 years of age i can feel the bad effects from that. We still have plans to travel to Amsterdam, Barcelona and Ljubljana in December of this year. I dearly hope that we can keep those plans. Say safe and best wishes to you !

    1. Hi Tim. I know how that feels. I’ve had to cancel two of my trips as well. One to Berlin when I was sick, and one to Copenhagen that was suppose to happen in a week’s time. It’s a bummer but, like you, I hope to be back at it soon. I too am trying to support my local cafes/restaurants/etc as much as possible. I know what it is to feel uncertain about the business I’ve built, so think it’s important for us to all support each other right now. And yes…can’t wait to get back to the gym!!

      Thank you for visiting the site and letting us know about your experience.

      I wish you all the best and take care!

  4. Your article was beautifully written and tugged at my heart strings. You stated so well what is going on in most places at this time. You expressed feelings that I think are true for most of us. As I was readying, I kept saying to myself “yes, that’s me too”. We live in the U.S. and were to be in Prague on March 22nd to visit our son who lives there. This would have been our 5th trip to Prague and we NEVER tire of it! One of his roommates tested positive for the virus so they all (4 of them) were on quarantine which actually lasted 18 days for them. None of them actually got sick or went through anything you did, thankfully (but I’m sorry you were so sick!) Needless to say, with this situation and the travel restrictions in place, our trip is postponed until the world is healthy again. As far as working out on a daily basis, I worked out 5 to 6 days a week at the local YMCA. I now workout in our basement using the hand weights, training cycle and several instructors from the Y post workout videos daily. This has kept this 65 year old moving and staying healthy. It does not compare to seeing and working out with friends there! I keep saying “this too shall pass”. I’m ready for that now. There will be huge hugs given and many tears of joy, I’m quite certain.

    1. Hi Betty,

      Thank you so much for the kind message. It’s so appreciated, especially at this time. I’m really happy that what I wrote about was helpful to read and moving. I didn’t really know if anyone would care much but I felt like it was something I needed to do anyway.

      The story of your son is incredible. I’m so happy that he and his roommates are okay and made it through. I’m sure it was scary for you to know this was going on from a distance. And yes, I hope you get to visit him very soon. Such a shame you had to cancel your plans.

      It’s really nice that you have an alternative to the Y too, but I know…it’s just not the same. Thankfully my yoga teacher has started online classes, so I at least have that to cling to. 🙂

      Well, do take care and stay safe and healthy. I hope your return to amazing Prague isn’t too far off!

      PS – “This too shall pass…” – thank you for this. It’s so appropriate right now and a great thing to keep in mind.

  5. Hi Randi,
    Wow, I never even thought about not being able to get vegan food in the hospital, as I’ve never been hospitalized before. Although here in Portugal there’s actually a law that all hospitals, prisons and schools have to provide vegan options. My experiences and feelings have been similar to yours, apart from getting sick. I went through a period of shock, where I was unable to focus or concentrate on anything, and working on my travel blog seemed pointless anyway. Now I’ve started to accept the situation, and also recognize some of the positive things that it’s brought into my life. Of course, it’s still scary not knowing what the world will be like once this is over. But I’m trying to take things one day at a time and enjoy the extra time I now have.

    By the way, I tried to get your ebook but didn’t see an opportunity to put in a discount code. Are there any free ones still available?

    1. Hi Wendy, Thank you for your comment and for sharing what you’ve been going through. A one day at a time approach seems to be the way to go. Otherwise things can get too overwhelming.
      From what I’ve been told, hospital food in the Czech Republic is terrible and there is zero chance of them accommodating a vegan diet. Not super surprising. However, I did find out about a Facebook group that was created to deliver vegan food to people in the hospital. So that was a relief to know about.
      Also, regarding the ebook. Yes, once you click add to cart, just click “view cart” at the top. There is a field on the following page where you can add the code. 🙂

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