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Combatting confinement fatigue: hooray, hooray, it's a holi-holiday(?)

Combatting confinement fatigue: hooray, hooray, it's a holi-holiday(?)


archive Christine and Stephanie Neuhold

A tale of two sisters

Two sisters in times of corona writing about their lives in these strange and difficult times. “The surveillance society got a new dimension, at least for me. Drones fly overhead and alert you in at least 5 languages that you are walking or sitting too close to others.”

Christine Neuhold is Professor of European Democratic Governance at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Maastricht University. Stephanie Neuhold is Head of the Intensive Care Unit, Kaiser Franz Joseph Hospital Vienna.

From Neuhold Stephanie

Re: Wearing masks and no carnival in sight…

Liebe Schwester,

After a long day at work, I am happy to take my mask off and just breathe… As a doctor, I am of course used to wear masks but now with the pandemic we have to put on shields and other equipment that takes minutes to put on. You can not imagine how long these minutes feel when you have a health emergency on your hands. On top of this we still have a substantial number of Covid-19 patients as we are the Intensive Care unit in Vienna dealing with the virus. So we have new staff coming in, but when they wear masks, I sometimes have difficulties to recognise my new colleagues. And when I leave the hospital now people also wear masks in shops and in public transport. I feel reminded of when I visited you during Carnival in Maastricht. Being dressed up was the normal way to go then and you were an outsider if you were not. Research has shown however that wearing masks (when worn properly) has some beneficial effects. Social distancing, reducing the number of people you hang out with and washing your hands (and do not forget to clean those thumbs) is however still the most effective way to protect yourself.

Sleep well,


From Neuhold, Christine

Re: We are confetti machines

Oh, I still have to respond to this before we go to sleep. We also have to wear masks in Brussels, in selected spaces such as the Metro and shops. The Belgian government has compared the droplets that we give off when coughing, breathing and sneezing, to confetti, possibly infected with the virus.  Facemasks then become a way to protect others from these confetti flying about. I find it hard to breathe however, even if I am then less of a confetti machine …

Gute Nacht,


From Neuhold Christine

Re: United in adversity?

Good morning. I get a bit jealous when I see all that you are allowed to do in Austria. Restaurants have opened again and children are already going back to school, even if most of it is part-time. Our girls will not go back to school in Brussels until September (if then) and we still cook all the time and order food once in a while. Of course we can get a haircut now and the shops are all open, so that is something to write home about.

Apart from the fact that EU Member States have dealt with the virus so differently, which can only be partly explained by the fact that they are differently affected, what amazes me is the difference in counting Covid-19 cases and deaths. Belgium has recorded the most deaths as a consequence of Covid-19 per capita. Unlike many other countries, Belgium, however, counts suspected coronavirus deaths that occur outside hospitals, including in care homes. That of course means we do not have comparable figures, even within the EU.

The EU Commission President was right when she said in a recent speech to the European Parliament, that in many ways, Europe's motto has always been not only ‘united in diversity' but also ‘united in adversity'. Some Member States take this motto more to heart than others. Germany and France have taken the lead in proposing a huge recovery programme as a reaction to the pandemic. Much of the proposed €500 billion is to go to the sectors and regions that are most severely affected. This funding is to be given as grants, not loans. Let us see if the German-Franco motor is strong enough to make sure that this is pushed through in times of frugality.

Hugs without bugs,


From Neuhold Stephanie

Re: Took the kids to the zoo: saw no animals but still spent tons of money.

Talking about frugality, I decided that this has come to an end and took the children to the zoo. Maybe it was not such a good idea to do this on the 21st of May, when everyone was off. Apparently they had a way of limiting the number of entries, but it was so full that we hardly saw any animals. We bought some snacks and a stuffed Kangaroo for my son to reward him for his first day back at school, so I was able to break my Covid thriftiness and contribute to the Austrian economy. 

Bis bald,


From Neuhold Christine

Re: Drones flying overhead

Good evening,

After a whole day of zooming and trying to figure out how to best get ready for the ‘new normal’ of the new academic year, I went to the park. We have gotten used to loud speakers blasting from police cars to remind people to stay away from each other. The surveillance society got a new dimension, at least for me. Drones fly overhead and alert you in at least 5 languages that you are walking or sitting too close to others.

Mach’s gut,


From Neuhold Stephanie

Confinement fatigue and the consequences

Well, confinement fatigue has hit and it is no wonder that people are breaking out of their homes. We have to be careful however. If the AIDS pandemic has taught us something, it is that risk is not binary. There is a risk continuum as public health expert Julia Marcus puts it, and people have to learn how to live in a pandemic.

We should not waste our time shaming and blaming others that seemingly do not stick to the rules (that change all the time anyway). 

Speaking of fatigue, off to bed and sleep well,


From Neuhold Christine

Re: What happens if the world is ‘your’ country?

It is end of May and people are starting to talk about holidays. When I start thinking of holiday an invisible tape-recorder plays the Boney M song: Hooray, hooray, it's a holi-holiday. But this year I feel less euphoric. In Belgium we heard a lot about that it is the best to take holidays ‘in one’s own country’.

But what happens if you feel like the whole world is your country and never cared what passport you had? Will this magically reopen the borders that are as of now still closed?

Sure hope to see you soon…


Christine Neuhold and Stephanie Neuhold





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