If, like us, you’re constantly scrolling Twitter in the coronavirus outbreak, you’ve probably come across a bright pink card with the words: #StayTheFuckHome.
The hashtag, which presents itself as a “movement to stop the Covid-19 pandemic”, directs users to a landing page, asking them to follow the “self-quarantine” manifesto. This ranges from staying away from social gatherings to avoiding public transport and not leaving your home.
This campaign isn’t run by the NHS, Public Health England or any official authority – it’s been set up 29-year-old Florian Reifschneider, who runs a software and web developing company. Currently working in Frankfurt, Germany, but based in the US, Reifschneider has followed the outbreak since early January, when there were only a few confirmed cases in Wuhan.
“Looking at the progression of the outbreak, I’ve been very concerned for several weeks now, when the first exported cases from China started popping up,” he tells HuffPost UK.
So, he’s been trying to inform – in some cases, convince – his co-workers, friends and family that the virus has the potential of “becoming a real threat”.
“People don’t want to believe that a virus that emerged somewhere in China could actually affect their lives, or even pose a real threat to them or their loved ones,” says Reifschneider. “I have people in my immediate family that are considered high risk for suffering from COVID-19, so this issue hits very close to home.”
Panic in Frankfurt is “pretty low”, he says, only really noticeable when he goes to the shops where there’s no more hand sanitiser or disinfectant spray. In his office, handshakes and high-fives were banned and then two weeks ago, management implemented mandatory working from home for all employees. He is now quarantining himself in his apartment in Frankfurt.
Why such a drastic message as #StayTheFuckHome? “After the outbreak in Italy and the rising numbers of infected people in other European countries and the US, I got frustrated at the almost negligent reaction that most governments have shown so far,” he says. “In Germany, the government is still discussing if they should allow people to attend soccer matches and other big events and a large number of people still think this new virus is just like the flu.”
Reifschneider says he realised that hoping for governments to preemptively implement measures that could actually slow the spread of Covid-19 was “a lost cause”.
“So the past weekend I had this idea, that maybe I could not only change the minds of my immediate network, but reach out and try to fight this pandemic on a global scale by giving people a guide on how they personally can take actions that will actually slow the spread. And thus #StayTheFuckHome was born.”
He is now planning on expanding the website with more information and resources on how everyone can help in the fight against Covid-19, including a guide on how to self-quarantine at home.
“My goal is to reach as many people as possible with this in order to actually leave a mark, but honestly, if I can keep one person from getting infected or even better, infecting someone more vulnerable to this disease, it has already been worth my time creating this,” he says.
Should you really stay the f**k at home?
Current NHS advice in the UK is that most people can continue to go to work, school and other public places. It advises you only need to stay away from public places if advised to by the 111 online coronavirus service or a medical professional.
If there is a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate). This means you should stay at home, not go to work, school or public places, and not use public transport or taxis. You may need to do this for up to 14 days to help reduce the possible spread of infection.
You can call NHS 111 if you’re worried about your symptoms and are wondering whether you should work from home or self-isolate.
Otherwise, the advice as it stands is to wash hands, cover the mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and put used tissues in the bin immediately.