Bored in Quarantine? Here’s a look at what everyone is doing

Written by Maria Rincon and edited by Rick Dunham

Enjoying a daily dose of caffeine at the local coffee shop. Going to the gym. Meeting friends for dinner or drinks. Just a few things that seemed ordinary weeks ago now seem like distant memories.

Staying home is the new norm as people are doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 around the world. While self-isolation restrictions differ from country to country, people are now spending most of their time indoors.

According to the World Economic Forum, more than one-third of the world’s population is currently in lockdown during the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The terms “self-isolation” and “quarantine” are used interchangeably by many people, but they actually mean different things. Self-isolation means you are staying indoors and avoiding other people because you have symptoms. Quarantine is a formal restriction of movement for people who may have contracted an illness or have returned from a dangerous place.

What both terms have in common is that they lower the chance of spreading illness to other people. We’re saving lives by staying home and practicing social-distancing. But what are we doing at home?

University students and young professionals were asked this question and we came up with a list of the most common activities people are pursuing during this time of isolation. Participants included 90 university students and young professionals in cities such as Vancouver, Paris, Perth and Osaka.

The favorite activity of these young adults is watching television series and movies: 54% of respondents said that this is one of the top things they are doing in quarantine. These results reflect trends reported by the Nielsen survey research company, which found that Americans streamed 85% minutes more video in March 2020 than in the previous March.

Binge watching is also becoming the norm. According to online streaming service Hulu, binge watching (defined as watching three or more episodes in one sitting) grew more than 25% in mid-March versus mid-February 2020.

Currently trending on Netflix is Tiger King, a bizarre “docu-series” about American exotic big cat breeder Joe Exotic. The show, which attracted 34.3 million viewers in the first ten days of its release, has attracted a large following. The Netflix original series has become atrending topic on Twitter and plenty of online memes have been created about Tiger King personalities Joe Exotic and Carol Baskins.

“I actually haven’t watched Tiger King yet — I’m currently binge watching Money Heist on Netflix and I’ll probably check it out after,” says 27 year-old Eileen Wong, who works in project administration in Vancouver, Canada.

Just behind the top quarantine activity of watching Netflix and movies, 38% of respondents said they spend their time scrolling through social media.

Whether you’re turning to social media to receive the latest news on COVID-19, watching TikTok videos, or swiping right on Tinder to your next potential Zoom video date, we can all agree that social media usage is going up. According to Facebook’s analytics department, in Italy and other countries hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, Instagram and Facebook Live views doubled in a week from March 17 to March 24.

With user engagement increasing we took the opportunity to ask people on Instagram what they missed most about pre-quarantine life.

“I honestly just miss being around people, especially because what I do for a living revolves around events and public relations,” says Michelle Moon, an entertainment blogger in Toronto, Canada.

Looks like for now, social activities will just have to wait. Taking online classes (36%), exercising (34%), sleeping (32%), working from home (29%), and cooking/baking (25%) followed as the top quarantine activities, according to time spent on each activity.

With gyms refunding memberships, cancelled sport practices, and public parks being closed, people at home are turning to virtual fitness classes to get their sweat on.

Public basketball court in Richmond, Canada is “closed until further notice.”

Having more time to try out their culinary skills, people are spending more time in the kitchen. Making bread from scratch has become something everyone is trying. According to Google search trends, “bread recipe” spiked significantly as a trending search term in February and March 2020.

Supermarkets and grocery stores in cities such as Vancouver have suffered a shortage of baking supplies on items such as yeast, all purpose flour, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.

It seems like everyone is jumping on the baking craze.

Sign in Vancouver grocery store limits amount of yeast purchased by customers.

“I made the choice to allocate this spare time for cooking and try new recipes. Every meal is an occasion to try something new and let your creativity run free. If you fail it’s not a big deal because you have many opportunities to catch up and try again,” says Pierre-Antoine Nougué, a Tsinghua University Master’s student majoring in Environmental Engineering in Paris, France.

Bulgur and semolina salad with salmon and fresh vegetables by Tsinghua student Pierre-Antoine Nougué.

More time in the kitchen means more delicious food to devour. Eating (25%) was ranked as the eighth most popular quarantine activity, followed by gaming (21%), cleaning (18%), listening to music (18%), reading (16%), video calling (15%), and reading the latest updates on COVID-19 (13%).

Below is the full data on what people spend their time doing during quarantine:

Top Quarantine Activities According to Most Time Spent on Each Activity

Sample size: 90
Data collected between April 2 -8, 2020

The current “staycation,” with no end date in sight, may begin to feel monotonous for some people, but practicing social distancing and quarantine can ensure that the health care system doesn’t become overwhelmed.

Continuing with your favorite at-home activities will benefit the community as a whole.

So while we may be houses, cities, or countries apart, remember that we’re in this together.

Image: @josie.doodles

Featured Image courtesy of Pikisuperstar

My Little Sister's Journey Home Amidst COVID-19

“I was so nervous and nauseous that I was sweating through my latex gloves the entire flight.”

This is how Suani Rincon describes part of her journey from Shanghai to her home in Vancouver, Canada amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

In late January, after celebrating Chinese New Year, 22-year-old Rincon first noticed a shift in the city’s energy when she boarded an almost empty Shanghai metro. Shanghai’s metro is never empty. 

The only passengers on board were all wearing masks.

Rincon initially thought that the panic about COVID-19 would die down quickly. When she found out that all pharmacies, convenience stores, and supermarkets in her neighborhood were sold out of masks, she realized that things were more serious than she thought.

She immediately went on Taobao, a widely-used Chinese online shopping website, and bought a box of 200 facemasks.

Wearing a 3M mask in public places, Rincon went on with her regular routine. She went grocery shopping, walked the dogs she was dog-sitting, and practiced for her Master’s in Musical Theatre program audition.

For the last four years, Rincon has called Shanghai home. She attended the Shanghai Conservatory of Music after moving from Vancouver at the age of eighteen. 

She describes how she never experienced such an empty Shanghai before.

Suani Rincon walking Wallace and Napoleon on Julu Road in Shanghai.

“I admit it was kind of nice at first because the streets were empty and my boyfriend and I would take Wallace and Napoleon (the dogs) out for long walks. We even walked all the way to the Bund and it felt like we had the city to ourselves,” says Rincon.

Her mentality changed immediately after hearing that Singapore imposed a travel ban on all visitors coming from China on February 1.

Since October, Rincon had been preparing for auditions to Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and Guildford School of Acting. Both drama schools based in the UK were holding auditions on February 13 in Singapore for students applying from Asia. Rincon was one of them.

With the travel ban imposed, Rincon’s options were to stay in Shanghai or head home to Vancouver. 

Rincon and her boyfriend, Antti Vuori, decided to wait a few days to see how the situation in China would play out. After no sign of the things getting better, they bought tickets to Vancouver departing on February 9. With no more direct flights from Shanghai left, the couple would travel through Taipei to get to Vancouver.

The decision to head back to Canada was also largely influenced by Rincon’s mother. 

“Things were worsening and I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to leave China. I sent her voice messages everyday trying to convince them to come back to Vancouver as soon as possible,” says Mrs. Wang, Rincon’s mother.

Wang’s gut feelings were not far off. 

On the morning of February 5, Vuori read on the news that Taiwan would be imposing a travel ban on those traveling from mainland China starting February 7. The couple immediately changed their flights to leave the following day, February 6, at 9:40 a.m.

Rincon and Vuori scrambled to pack their suitcases and arranged for Wallace and Napoleon to be looked after by the dog-sitting company that hired them. 

The taxi ride to Pudong International Airport the following morning was silent and tense. 

Photo of Rincon and Vuori’s taxi ride to Pudong International Airport

Rincon, Vuori and the taxi driver wore masks and latex gloves. In her backpack, Rincon carried alcohol spray, sanitization wipes, and a pack of Vitamin C.

Fifteen minutes before reaching the airport, Rincon received a text from June Yao Airlines. The text message read that anyone travelling to Taiwan on that day would be offered a full refund as a travel ban was already in place for travellers coming from mainland China.

Rincon says her heart froze. The couple discussed their options. 

With the airport being less than 5km away, they decided to try their luck with the flight.

The check-in process for their flight to Taipei was surprisingly smooth. Along with all other travelers in masks, Rincon and Vuori had their temperature checked twice by airport staff in hazmat suits.

Before boarding their flight, Rincon and Vuori were told that there was a high chance that they would not be allowed to enter Taipei once the airplane landed. The other possibility was that they would have to self-quarantine for fourteen days once they arrived in Taipei. 

The decision would be in the hands of the immigration officers in Taipei.

Struck with anguish, the couple proceeded to their gate. Their temperatures were checked once again by a flight attendant before boarding the plane.

“I was so nervous and nauseous that I was sweating through my latex gloves the entire flight,” says Rincon.

When the airplane landed at Taoyuan International Airport at 11:30 a.m., Rincon and Vuori exited the plane and lined up at immigration. 

The immigration officer did not smile as he took their passports. He stated that Rincon and Vuori had been in China in the last two weeks and a travel ban had been imposed that day. 

The couple was told to wait aside. With their passports in hand, the immigration officer got up from his seat and went to consult two other colleagues.

Rincon says she was holding her breath the entire time. 

When the immigration officer came back, he stamped their passports and let them through.

“I think we were just incredibly lucky because there was some miscommunication on when the travel ban was being enforced. On the news, it said it would begin February 7. But airlines and airports were already beginning implementation on February 6. Honestly, I think if we had landed that evening instead of that morning, we would have been told to get on a plane back to Shanghai,” says Rincon.

Rincon and Vuori finally relaxed a bit for the next three days before their scheduled flight to Vancouver departing on February 9. Better yet, they were in for a treat as the city of Taipei was celebrating the Lantern Festival.

Lantern Festival display at Ximending

People on the streets of Ximending enjoyed large displays of bright red lanterns with live music in the background. Night market vendors sold snacks such as fried chicken steak, pearl milk tea, and stinky tofu. It seemed like everything here was back to normal, except for the fact that everyone was wearing masks.

Vuori and Rincon in masks on the streets in Taipei

“I never thought I would be saying this, but it was so nice to be around people again,” says Vuori about their time in Taipei.

On February 12, Rincon and Vuori boarded a plane to Vancouver.

“I’m incredibly grateful that we made it back to Vancouver. I still don’t know when I’ll be able to head back to Shanghai. I’ve been here in Vancouver for almost a month and things just seem to be escalating rather than getting better. I just heard the Canadian Prime Minister’s wife has COVID-19, the hockey game I was supposed to watch this weekend got cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions, and our province (British Columbia) has around 200+ cases of COVID-19 right now (as of March 20, 2020). There’s also a rumour that public transportation might be temporarily suspended in the city by the end of the month. It’s ironic that I escaped China to be safe in Canada, but it seems like things are getting worse here while they’re stabilising in China,” says Rincon.

Rincon and Vuori are currently staying in Vancouver until they receive further notice.