Do you remember that adage “ask a busy person”, indicating that a busy person will always get things done whereas someone who is slower never finishes the task you requested of them? I feel we have all slowed down – or most of us have. I certainly have. I had so many grand intentions when I heard of the lockdown and expected it to last several weeks – that 2 foot pile of filing that has been sitting in its tray for two years, finishing off the book I had started five years ago, clearing out the garage, doing a Marie Condo on my wardrobes. Have I done them? No, I am ashamed to admit, not a single one.
I am not alone in this. What has happened to us? I think that in many ways we are suffering from the numbness of shock. Rather like post-traumatic stress, we are in a period of discombobulation. Or perhaps that is just the older members of society. I know of several of us who would normally be active but are just about managing to do one or two zoom classes or conversations a week and then feel exhausted. Several of us who go upstairs with a goal of doing something but by the time we have reached the top of the stairs have forgotten what it is, our brains turning to butter somewhere on the way up.
We have all suffered a shock. Overnight we had our health threatened, our freedoms limited, and our most basic needs such as family, friends, food, medication and access to doctors taken away from us. The reaction is a kind of paralysis, where our energy is being drained by the underlying emotions that we may unconsciously be experiencing.
Our fear has been ramped up by the press coverage. Terrifying scenes of ICU units shown to us morning, noon and night, accompanied by tragic anecdotes of loss. This served a purpose to keep us frightened and at home. No doubt we all also experienced fear for our own health, or those of our loved ones, some frustration at the limitations, fear at the economic prospects for ourselves, our families, children, our country and the global economy. How many people will lose their jobs worldwide, how many will have difficulty feeding their children as the impact of this global lockdown takes effect?
Personally, I feel it is now time to get busy again, that we need gradually to crank ourselves up. Maybe not to the frenetic pace of previous times but we can’t allow this malaise to continue for too long without catastrophic results to the nation’s health, wellbeing and economic prospects. The question that is difficult to answer is how much of a risk to life Covid-19 is in the future and how much its threat should dictate the shape of our lives now. As the statistics evolve, we need to analyse how much of a hazard coronavirus is in comparison to many other everyday threats that we tolerate.
Some shops are about to open but what about the hospitality industry? It’s summertime. Many pubs, restaurants and cafés have large enough outdoor spaces to allow them to open again, providing for a reasonable distance between people. If supermarkets, chemists, newsagents and small convenience stores can do this, surely they can make relevant changes to protect their customers too? Do we really want our pubs to go out of business? They have been part of British life for centuries but if they stay closed much longer, they will go bust – they were already having a tough time before all of this.
Likewise, surely it is not beyond the realms of ingenuity for the parks and gardens to open again? As Museums and Galleries are used to staggering entry, then gardens, the National Trust parks and other green areas could provide timed entry to a specific number of people and give their staff masks and gloves. Without this the towpaths and pavements become ridiculously packed with people and this is far less healthy.
Now that hospitals are under less pressure, I think many of my generation – the over 70s (by a week!) – do not wish to be ‘protected’ by others. Yes, there are more risks but we know that there are other factors that can make people more vulnerable to Covid-19 than just the number of age. Those of us oldies who are reasonably fit and healthy may not be at any more risk than men, but no government is going to suggest they should be shielded or locked away (well I can think of some I would like locked away, of course!). And most of us are loathe to put our children’s and grandchildren’s futures and careers in jeopardy for our sake, so accept that in order for them to live a normal life we will all need to live with more risk.
I have now had the Covid-19 antibody test and it was positive, demonstrating that I did have this nasty virus. Phew – I would have been fed up if I had experienced 5 weeks of illness without having had it! I am not sure where it gets me other than that it does show that my immune system has rallied some antibodies to conquer the invasion of the virus and this should give me immunity from succumbing to it again. Hopefully so.
It was a bit of a fandango getting enough blood out of a finger-prick device for the test tube, so it was very useful having a Doctor in the House as David then took some veinous blood from my arm. A little unnerving when I thought afterwards that he hadn’t done this for over twenty years but it was obviously like riding a bicycle as he found my vein far quicker than many doctors and nurses have done over recent years.
So what now? Sadly it doesn’t look as if we shall find a cure or vaccine for this illness in the immediate future and we cannot keep the world in standstill indefinitely. There will be too much ‘collateral damage’ of those who lose their jobs, those who die untreated for cancers or heart disease etc within our health system, and potentially worldwide famine.
Previous generations had to accept that there were illnesses such as smallpox, polio, TB, diptheria, measles, scarlet fever that threatened their everyday lives. We have been so fortunate that vaccination removed these threats but we probably need now to accept that Coronavirus could be with us for some time and some people will get ill and sadly some people will die. But many people will die also if we don’t get life back to some more normality.
The world is gradually opening up and we have so much to learn from this episode in terms of lifestyle, methods of government, systems of logistics, environment, health and infrastructure. I don’t see the point of endless blame. We are where we are. Let’s just focus on how we can ensure this does not happen again. Every country, government and health service has made mistakes, experienced problems with PPE, testing kits and care homes. What can we share and learn? It must be time for the WHO to pull the world together into an objective global investigation and analysis of how this pandemic began, what went wrong, what went right and how the world can work more effectively and cooperatively together in future to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
It feels logical to me that this investigation begins in China, yet I have read comments that suggest it is racist to mention the word China in this context. I am no fan of Donald Trump but surely it cannot be racist to state that the virus started in China? It did. No-one has changed the title of Spanish flu claiming racism and if Coronavirus had started in the UK would we/could we have played some racist card? I doubt it. The world needs to work together now to protect not only individual wellbeing but also the global economy, not to mention the mental and emotional health of the world’s citizens.
The way forward will require analysis and objectivity. We need party and global leaders (where are the LibDems by the way?) to work in a more aligned way to get us out of this mess. In that, they have to admit that it is mainly guess work and no one person can claim to have THE solution. There is always a scientist, economist or medic who will contradict the research of another.
So let’s just make a constructive start to get our lives back: act, then stop and analyse, adapt, review, adapt and keep trying. And for goodness sake, let’s ditch the 14 day quarantine idea. We are a hub for business and tourism. The government is going to need every penny of tax it can get but there won’t be any tax if people can’t regenerate their businesses.
There are those who say that this way of life should continue. It is idealistic to imagine we can all slow down to a halt indefinitely and all will be well. I don’t believe it will. We may be able to evolve some different systems but if this happens overnight millions will starve, especially in areas of the world with no welfare state. “It’s the economy stupid” is not some nebulous capitalist concept: it is people’s livelihoods, mortgages, rents, salaries, bills, debts, bankruptcies and ultimately poverty. Trade is part of life and has been for the whole of human history. It also pulls people together across borders. We can’t afford to bring it to a sudden standstill.
For sure we are going to need the most massive coordination of effort to get this country (and the world) back on its feet again. That requires us all to begin to pull ourselves out of our numb states and get just a tad busier, while still respecting precautions. We shall have to hope that we can crank up our energy and get our brains working again for the good of all!