What has happened to the world? As the reports flood in from too many countries to count now, it seems a small, inconsequential and localised illness that was far away in China, has suddenly become very real and very scary.
So far in Suffolk where I live there has only been one reported case of Covid-19, but I’m not naïve enough to believe that we will escape unscathed. Watching news reports from places like Northern Italy that are under complete lockdown, it was heartening to hear the residents singing to each other through open windows but worrying to think that we might be next. Although the thought of residents in Birmingham cheerfully serenading each other from bedroom windows is a lovely one, I somehow don’t think that’s how us Brits would react to house arrest.
And how do we in the West respond? Do we remain level and calm-headed? No. Do we think about our fellow man and only take our fair share of supplies? Also no. Panic buying on a mass scale not experienced since the countrywide strikes of the seventies has occurred, with people stockpiling items they consider to be essential should the worst occur, and we all have to self-isolate.
Self-isolate. Now there’s a prissy expression if ever I’ve heard one. Why not call it what it is, quarantine? Because that’s what it is. Going into quarantine to avoid spreading the latest plague to cull mankind. A lot of people I know have expressed a fervent wish that they could spend two weeks at home with no work, no school, no college and no physical interaction with anyone outside their own four walls. I must admit, the notion is attractive, and I know both Miss F and I could manage it just fine. Let’s face it, busy introvert that I am I could quite easily fill those two weeks with home and garden activities and wish for more time. But, that’s not to say I want it to happen.
Because if it did, if we were ordered into quarantine, that would mean it was because the virus had reached pandemic status in the UK and that truly is a frightening thought. It doesn’t seem that deadly a virus, yet. The statistics for survival are high, and with Miss F being only sixteen and healthy, and me being reasonably sound despite a few creaks here and there, I think we’d be okay. We don’t smoke or have any underlying immune issues that we’re aware of.
However, you need to look beyond the “I’m okay, Jack” attitude that seems sadly so prevalent. Yes, maybe you would be okay, but even though this virus isn’t particularly deadly, it is extremely contagious and that’s where the real danger lies.
Reports indicate that you can catch the virus and walk around for days, even weeks, without being aware you have it. You may very well feel fine, perhaps a slight cough or flu like symptoms, but not enough to raise the alarm, so off you pop to work, school, the shops, the hairdressers, the supermarket, all the while touching things and coughing, spreading the contagion even further, and maybe one of the people who catches it from exposure to you isn’t so young, fit and healthy. Perhaps they’re elderly, have diabetes or some other debilitating illness. Perhaps they have an undiagnosed heart condition, perhaps they’re on medication or treatment that has compromised their immune system. Suddenly, the “I’m alright, Jack,” attitude is more than just selfish, it’s deadly.
But what’s the alternative? I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media condemning the government for not ordering us all into quarantine now. I’m not sure that that is the answer though. All reports indicate that this virus won’t peak for another four to six months so maybe the government is wise to delay such a move until it’s absolutely necessary. After all, could you cope for six months trapped within your home? Although we have a good supply of food and essential toiletries, they wouldn’t last that long, and yes, I am aware we could order deliveries but like most British citizens, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. The government has promised that we’ll all get statutory sick pay from week one of mandatory self-isolation, and the whole nation went yay, but most don’t realise that SSP is only about £3.50 per hour.
Think about that. £3.50 per hour. Could you live for long on that? Could you continue to pay your mortgage, your utilities and insurances on that? How about buying groceries? And what about paying for those Sky and Netflix subscription, because let’s face it, most people trapped in their homes for six months would resort to becoming couch potatoes desperate for entertainment and distraction.
It’s alright for members of parliament, living in their ivory towers with well stocked pantries and wine cellars, and access to savings and endless funds, but what about the rest of us. Who is going to pay for a whole nation being forced to live on sick pay? More importantly, who is going to keep the country running? If we’re all cowering in our homes surrounded by 300 rolls of toilet paper and enough rice to feed a small Asian country, who is going to be running our hospitals, our factories and our emergency services? Who is going to be running the powerplants and water treatment plants?
Maybe the government is right to keep things going for as long as possible, because I do wonder when the Chinese and the Italians and all the other countries that have adopted extreme lockdown measures emerge, what will happen? I have a strong suspicion that the virus will simply return, and it will all have been for nothing.
Am I panicking? To be honest, no. At the moment it all feels very surreal and a bit fantastical. I listen to the news, none of it good, yet all around me life is continuing as normal. We’re still going to work and college, I’m still going to the shops – not stockpiling, I hasten to add, just normal essential shopping – and things are jogging along as they always do.
Will it hit us? Will we be quarantined? Will anyone I know catch it? Will we catch it? Will anyone I know die from it? These are all questions that I know I won’t be alone in asking, but the answers seem up for grabs in that no one knows with any certainty what will happen. Will it be like Swine Flu again – remember that? All that panic and then it fizzled away into nothing. Unless the virus mutates again into an even more virulent strain, I don’t think we’re looking at a pandemic on the scale of the Spanish Influenza that swept over the globe after the First World War. Killing almost one third of the population, it was one of the deadliest pandemics we’ve had since the Black Death.
Even if the virus does mutate, we are still in a much better position that we were then. Medicine has come a long way since 1919, we have instant communication around the world and understand far more about the spread and containment of infection. Most people are stronger and healthier than they were then. Newly emerged from a debilitating and crippling world war, people were malnourished and vulnerable and could offer little or no resistance to the virus.
So, we wait, and see, and that’s really all any of us can do. Sure, be prepared. I’ve made sure we have enough basic food stuffs and toiletries to see us through a month, I’ve also picked up a months-worth of my hayfever medication, figuring it’s not a good idea to be wheezing and struggling to breathe anyway AND catch a dose of Corona. My edict has been – Be Sensible. Not Greedy.
In other health news, Miss F is being tested for asthma. She’s been plagued by an annoying, persistent cough for months now and initial tests show she has a reduced lung capacity. The doctor seems unsure what it is, with options ranging from long term lung congestion to asthma, so twice a day she has to blow into a breath recording device and chart the results. We’re also waiting for an appointment with a dermatologist to get a mole on her back examined. It appears to have grown and changed in texture and is bleeding colour into the surrounding skin. It’s not cancer. The doctor assures us in one so young with no genetic history of cancer, that there’s a less than 1% chance of it being malignant. Still, you don’t muck about with moles so I’m pushing for it to be examined sooner rather than later.
I had a blood test last week and have an appointment for a follow up consultation next Wednesday. I know they’re going to tell me my anaemia has worsened, I think they’re going to tell me my vitamin D deficiency hasn’t improved and I have a sneaking suspicion they’re going to confirm my calcium levels have dropped again.
With these more immediate, closer to home, medical shenanigans, is it any wonder I’m not worrying about the corona virus yet?
A shorter blog this week. I’m tired and a bit downhearted and lacking in things to say. I hope next week to have more positive things to write about, but for now can only say that I hope wherever you are in the world you are well and healthy. Stay safe, my friends.