Saskatoon

Life under lockdown: Sask. residents recount time spent abroad during COVID-19 pandemic

Melanie Kenny was supposed to return from the United Kingdom in March. Judith Fenu was supposed to return from Italy in April. The COVID-19 derailed their travel plans and put them under lockdown abroad.

2 people who call Saskatoon home share how they've coped while stuck in Europe

Judith Fenu (left) and Melanie Kenny (second from right) are stranded in Italy and the United Kingdom, respectively, due to lockdowns put in place in each country because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Judith Fenu and Melanie Kenny)

Melanie Kenny has been stuck in the United Kingdom for months.

She flew from Saskatoon to London, England, after her step-father died in mid-January to sort out the estate and grieve with her family. 

Then COVID-19 was declared a pandemic — and the virus hit the U.K. particularly hard. 

Reuters reported more than 38,000 confirmed deaths in the country as of Friday and said the toll could be as high as 48,000.

Kenny said she followed news about the virus as it spread through Europe. She said it was only a matter of time before COVID-19 made its way into the U.K.

She hunkered down with her mother about a week before British Prime Minister Boris Johnson officially locked the country down on March 23. 

Stranded in Sardinia

Judith Fenu was supposed to return to Saskatoon from Alghero, Italy, on April 2. 

Italy became another European hotbed for COVID-19. In March, the country's death toll surpassed China. More than 33,000 people are confirmed to have died in Italy since the virus was first reported.

On March 9, Fenu and her family learned the Italian government's was enacting a lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. One day later, the family learned Air Canada was cancelling all flights to Italy.

"There really was no time to rebook, or anything like that," Fenu told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.

The streets of Alghero are mostly empty according to Fenu, who's extended her stay in Italy until the end of summer, depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic plays out. (Submitted by Judith Fenu)

The family is now planning to stay for the summer, she said. Although the Canadian government has offered aid to those stranded in Europe, they've got relatives they can stay with.

Fenu said one of the biggest differences between measures taken by the Italian and Canadian governments was restricting outdoor exercise. 

Although there were many places in Alghero — located in the island province of Sardinia, west of mainland Italy — where people could safely physically distance outdoors, Fenu said the Italian government's restrictions didn't allow it.

Judith and Paolo Fenu are stuck in Italy as they were unable to get plane tickets home before Air Canada quit flying to the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Judith Fenu)

Fenu said she misses seeing her grandchildren in person and the lovely Saskatoon spring, but noted that making a go of it in Alghero isn't a hardship.

The family did miss the funeral of a loved one, however. 

"My husband's last remaining sibling passed away in March," she said. "There was no service, there was just a burial and that was it. That was very strange."

London under lockdown

Kenny's original plan was to leave London on March 31. She had to extend her stay in the U.K. until May 31. She said life in London has been strangely quiet for the last seven weeks. 

"I'm not used to that in London," Kenny told Saskatoon Morning

"I'm used to going out, going to shows, shopping, eating out, going on the tube, getting on the bus. Now, it's just walking in the neighbourhood."

Melanie Kenny (left) said her mother would be moving into her sister's house, about eight kilometres away from where she currently lives in London. (Submitted by Melanie Kenny)

Kenny said she wasn't prepared to go into busy shops, as she didn't want to risk exposing herself to COVID-19 living with her 94-year-old mother.

Her sister brought her groceries for the first five weeks in lockdown. After that, Kenny managed to get priority grocery deliveries to her doorstep.

Restrictions gradually started lifting in the U.K. about two weeks ago. Kenny said she's seen a bit of a decline in the number of deaths and new reported cases in the country. 

"Originally London was an absolute infection hotspot and not a very happy place to be," she said. 

"But now it's the rest of the country that's suffering. More in the north. And in London, the numbers have gone right down."

Kenny's mother is going to live with her other daughter in London, about eight kilometres away from where she currently lives. 

The family intends to move their grandmother before a possible second wave of COVID-19, while less restrictive health measures are still in place.

Returning home

Fenu said she and her family are tentatively planning to return to Saskatoon from Italy in the fall, depending on what kind of second wave happens. Kenny is set to return to Saskatoon this weekend. 

Kenny said she's taking her own safety precautions like using a mask and bringing disinfectant wipes along for the trip.

She won't be using public transit to get to the airport — people in London aren't supposed to unless they're essential workers — rather, she'll take a minicab where she and a driver will be wearing masks.

Kenny says leaving the United Kingdom will be bittersweet, because the next time she comes back, her family home will likely have sold. Getting it on the market was part of the reason she returned to Britain. (Submitted by Melanie Kenny)

She also has to follow the province's provincial health orders related to isolation after international travel.

She can't isolate with her 65-year-old husband at home when she returns. 

"I believe my family is dropping me off a vehicle at the airport and my husband is moving out for two weeks," she said, adding he'll live with their daughters in Saskatoon and that she hopes she doesn't develop any symptoms after she returns.

"That's when I'll be happy, when I've been home for two weeks and no symptoms."

About the Author

Bryan Eneas

Reporter

Bryan Eneas is a journalist from the Penticton Indian Band currently based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he reported in central and northern Saskatchewan. Send news tips to Bryan.Eneas@cbc.ca.

With files from Saskatoon Morning

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