Covid-19 Diaries 24th April 2020

27 April 20

Posted at 10:38

Rana Plaza Site 3Rana Plaza Building Collapse 24th April 2013

Friday saw the seventh anniversary of a disaster. The collapse of a building in Savar, Dhaka, Bangladesh. I spent some time in Savar following the disaster for what was to be my first really meaningful documentary project. My naivety coupled with enthusiasm together contributed both to the project being a modest success and to the massive learning experience I had. A death toll of over 1100 and injuries over 2500 made this an horrific disaster.

The Covid-19 pandemic is of course a different scale of disaster in many ways. The anniversary of the grief I witnessed seven years ago does though have parallels with the grief being experienced around the world today.What I find striking about the comparison is that Savar was a different world to mine, although I experienced the grief, the pain and despair I was one of few Westerners to have that experience. At the end of the day although I knew the Western world had contributed to this disaster, and used my work to campaign for change, I also knew that I came from a part of the world where such disasters were most unlikely to happen and should there be a disaster we were better equipped to cope with it.

Fast forward to today and we are in the midst of a pandemic that we are not equipped to cope with at all. In fact many far flung countries are coping much better than western Europe and the USA. I hear that the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918/19 is the nearest in recent history of a situation similar to what we are facing at the moment. As that came at the culmination of the Great War it is really difficult to make comparisons.

The UK government has said that the current lockdown restrictions will be reviewed on May 7th, that is still two weeks ago. In our daily press briefings it is clear from the graphs that vehicle use is slowly increasing and anecdotal evidence all around us says there are some cracks appearing in what has been an exceptionally high observance of the restrictions by the public. The signs are that the lockdown is working and infections and deaths are very slowly decreasing although as yet not for a sustained period. In Italy, Spain and France some severe lockdown measures now have dates over the next few weeks when restrictions will be eased. Those three countries along with Belgium and the UK have seen high death tolls. Death tolls only surpassed by the USA (in terms of total numbers) but it is probably wrong to even consider the USA where a madman president last week enquired whether they should consider injecting disinfectant or even bleach to control the disease. There were two major milestones today, 27th April 2020, one was New Zealand announcing that the virus was now under control in that country and in effect was no longer being transmitted in the population. New Zealand, a large country with a small population was the first to close its borders to the Chinese, early to go into a severe lockdown and still today has its borders totally closed. This gives some hope to other countries with more complex challenges. The other milestone was the return to work of our prime minister Boris Johnson who has been convalescing for two weeks after spending a week in hospital with Covid-19 including three days in intensive care. He made a rousing speech this morning and was able to articulate clearly why we must continue the route we are on with regards to lockdown. His return to the helm is timely.

The next few days will give the UK a clearer picture of if we are past the first peak of the virus and maybe an indication of what our lives may look like in a week or two.

When I thought about the anniversary of the Rana Plaza last week I thought of how the people of Bangladesh would be coping during this pandemic


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