When at the end of February I took some days off to attend a swing dance workshop in Germany, I did not expect to spend half of my time second guessing whether I should have gone at all. By the end of the first day, news of the rising number of positive Covid 19 (corona virus disease 2019) cases in Italy made me wary of my environment.
Back in town, I initiated some experiments that should have lasted for 25 days. Two weeks in, it became obvious that an unfortunate timing meant that families who have spent the school break in north of Italy and Austria had highly contributed to the spread of the virus in Switzerland. The talks became very monothematic and rumors started circulating around the fact that research was going to be brought to minimal levels.
The reasons, although easy to understand, were not obvious: identifying key areas of research and experiments that for ethical reasons would have to be continued meant that resources could be managed efficiently. The main aims were
1) avoid spreading of the virus among entire teams, so that at least minimal services could continue running; specially in core facilities.
2) ensure that enough personal protective equipment was available in the clinics.
3) avoid compromising research quality due to lack of optimal reagents, as deliveries and transport across the borders were not certain to happen.
I cut short a couple of experiments, without consequences for the outcome of my research. I worked crazy hours the entire weekend, and on the 16th of March I started working in home-office. I analyzed the data I had just collected and took some time to do an extensive literature search on one of the main topics of my thesis. It was extremely useful but did not go without its ups and downs.
Finally, last week we were given green light for resuming research, under a lot of space and personal interaction restrictions. So, I went back in and started a particularly important experiment that was initially planned to start on the 16th of March. Unfortunately, it will take another 39 days to get the full data set, but I do not mind: I did my part, I learned a lot and now I get to go back to be a more hands-on biologist again.