Pandemic Diaries: Missing the great outdoors

By Jamie Etheridge

The Spanish government has announced that it will allow children to leave their homes from April 27, five weeks after the country was placed on lockdown as part of the government’s efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus there. In Kuwait, most of our kids have been kept at home since the National Day holiday week, when the first coronavirus cases were confirmed.

My children have been in the house almost continuously (with a few walks around the block or the park before the closure of all public spaces). This week starts their eighth week of staying at home. It has become a routine, the new normal, and they have pretty much stopped asking to go outside. I’m lucky to have a small balcony where they can get some sun and fresh air, though this is hardly satisfying.

When you live in an urban environment and especially in a desert urban environment like Kuwait where summer temperatures reach 55C, spending time outdoors can be a challenge under normal circumstances. In the midst of a pandemic, when the government has called upon us all to stay at home and help flatten the curve, spending time outdoors becomes a near impossibility.

It may seem insignificant – the need to go for a walk around the park or stroll along the beach – but outdoor time is as crucial as a healthy diet or regular exercise. All of us need outdoor time. Spending time in nature and the outdoors is known to improve one’s mood. It can also lower blood pressure, improve heart health, reduce the risk of premature death, lower stress and improve the overall quality of life.

Now with Ramadan and summer fast approaching, our opportunities for enjoying the beautiful outdoor spaces of Kuwait are fast diminishing. In four days we will start the holy month of Ramadan, and the curfew in place means that nighttime activities will be limited to the home. By the time we are likely released from the curfew, summer will have fully arrived and even late-night strolls around Shaheed Park will mean walking in a minimum sweltering 50C heat.

The pandemic has disrupted so much of normal life. It has caused deaths of 161,000+ people around the globe and many more are expected to die. It has triggered a global economic slump that may take years from which to recover. It has impacted our financial, social and mental health in myriad and uncountable ways. Going for a walk seems such a minor loss, and yet, so much of those simple freedoms define our reality.

etheridge@kuwaittimes.com