How leaders handle the novel COVID-19 pandemic influences expats’ decisions to remain in or leave the country. It also reinforces the advantages and disadvantages of living abroad. It is now the middle of April; the world continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, and those of us living outside of our home countries face the question:
Do I stay or do I leave when this is over?
As expats, we often celebrate the things we love about the respective countries we live in but we don’t often talk about the challenges and difficulties. As Colombia braced for the impact of COVID-19, I was filled with questions: How seriously would the Colombian government handle the situation? Does Colombia have enough PPE (personal protective equipment) for medical staff and first responders? Would people take this seriously and follow government guidelines? Would grocery stores run out of food? Will people become desperate and resort to violence? How would I get home if I needed to leave?
In my previous post, I wrote about the swift measures that Colombia took to contain and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in Colombia. We are now many days into our quarantine and grocery stores are stocked, people are staying home, and local and national leaders are making people feel secure and protected.
In Medellin, the government has even implemented a program called “pico y cedula” (cedula being the name for a Colombian ID card) and depending on the number your ID ends it, it corresponds to two days a week that you are allowed to go out and get groceries, go to the bank, or get medicine.
Colombia also plans to increase its testing capacities in the next weeks in order to flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming the healthcare system with sick patients.
As I see how Colombia continues to handle the coronavirus outbreak, I am heartbroken as I see the toll that this pandemic has taken on my home country, the United States.
It is ironic that the richest and most powerful country in the world is unable to provide its people with its most basic needs, nor provide the reassurance of those who have suffered incredible losses during these difficult times.
A Sense of Solidarity
While every person’s experience of the coronavirus is unique, over these past few weeks I have felt a sense of hope and solidarity in Colombia.
Unlike my home country of the United States, Colombia has ultimately acted quickly to prevent the spread of the virus.
This is due to the collaboration and support of the leaders of the country and the people who continue to stay home and practice social distancing.
While we have a long road ahead as a nation, I am reminded of why I love Colombia so much and I continue to be proud to call it home.
How is your country handling the pandemic? Please share in your comments below or in one of our forums. We want to hear from you.
by: Erin Colton-Enberg