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Emigrant from Forres discusses life under lockdown in his adopted United States of America

By Garry McCartney

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Andrew, Marie Olivia and Emilia in their back yard during lockdown USA. Picture by Marie Sin Photography.
Andrew, Marie Olivia and Emilia in their back yard during lockdown USA. Picture by Marie Sin Photography.

AN IT analyst from Forres living in the USA has described his experience of the American coronavirus lockdown.

Former Forres Academy pupil, Andrew Kemp (43), emigrated to America in 2010 and has been working from home in Collingswood, New Jersey with his wife Marie and children Olivia (6) and Emilia (2) for the last two months. In New Jersey State there have been 121,000 cases and 7500 deaths.

"We are the second most impacted state in America," said Andrew. "It feels surreal outside, a bit like a post-apocalyptic zombie movie. Everyone crosses the street to avoid each other. A lot of people wear masks - I have myself, picking up beer from a local brewery and a takeaway from a local restaurant. If we get a delivery, we sanitise it with antiseptic wet wipes or leave it in the basement for a day to kill any contact germs."

In contrast to Scotland’s lockdown, New Jersey State measures appear to have been largely voluntary.

Andrew explained: "It sounds as though we have similar restrictions to the UK but not as severe. We were never told not to go out, just encouraged to use our discretion. I've heard of the police being called out to parties but not anyone being pulled off the street."

In a country which is now experiencing some 22 million workers unemployed, Andrew is fortunate to be able to work from home.

"My employer is very focused on the health and wellbeing of their employees," said Andrew. "We get free access to online classes and videos. Unfortunately my work had to let some consultants go - I feel really sorry for them."

As in Scotland, children are off school and Andrew's wife Marie - a professional lifestyle photographer - has assumed the role of home school teacher.

Andrew said: "All of Marie’s appointments had to be cancelled so we are investigating aid, stimulus packages and small business loans to cover her loss of income.

"Olivia is in kindergarten and her teacher is supplying two-three hours of school-work online from Monday to Thursdays. The other day she asked when the pandemic will end for the first time but Emelia just sees more daddy time.

"I take them out every lunchtime for 30 minutes to get fresh air and exercise. Adversity has brought us all closer together."

The pressure in the USA against lockdown has been much stronger than in Scotland and restrictions on access to parks, rivers and golf courses were recently lifted by the governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy.

"Phil is an outstanding leader," said Andrew. "He wasn't convinced about easing the measures but was put under so much pressure that he had to. He believes we should all follow the rules and used the term "knuckleheads" to describe those disobeying social distancing guidelines and executive orders."

However, the Forresian is less impressed by President Trump, especially his comments about disinfectant and his labelling of Covid-19 as the "Chinese virus".

He said: "The pandemic is a political event in the US. The Government here initially denied there was a problem but we are now the worst affected country in the world so it has certainly been badly handled. Trump’s ‘advice’ on drinking bleach to combat coronavirus was the straw that broke the camel's back."

Andrew and his wife, who is of Korean descent, have been worried about possible racial abuse - her mother, now in her seventies, lives alone around eight miles away from the Kemps.

Andrew said: "When Americans were calling it the Chinese virus we were worried that she might suffer racial abuse. My colleague's mum is Chinese and when she went to the grocery store, she had her tires slashed and a note left on the wind shield with reference to coronavirus and a racial slur."

Andrew hopes his friends and family in Forres get the latest coronavirus information from reputable sources such as the World Health Organization.

He added: "Don't believe everything you read on the internet! Cherish the NHS - don't take it for granted and be thankful you don't have to pay for healthcare. And continue to nurture the wonderful community spirit that Forres has."

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