16 April 20
Posted at 2:13
We have just entered our fourth week of lockdown in the UK. Lockdown in response to a global pandemic of a coronavirus called Covid-19. Originating from cross contamination in a wet wildlife market in Wuhan China in December 2019 Over the first couple of months of 2020 the virus, about which very little, if anything, was known, spread throughout the world.
We are now living in a world that would have been beyond our wildest dreams, well wildest nightmares, when we returned home from travelling in New Zealand on 21st February 2020. The situation in China had been in the news and travel from China had been restricted whilst we were still in New Zealand. Flying home there were more people than is usual wearing masks at Singapore airport but really beyond that Covid-19 was a distant threat.
On arriving home we busied ourselves trying to adapt to the British winter and focussed our minds on projects and activity to get involved in as we waited for Spring. We socialised with friends, visited restaurants and so on. Gradually the news contained more about the virus in China.
On 14th March Marilyn and I went to the theatre in east London and then to a restaurant in Islington. It was a strange evening. By then the virus had a grip in Northern Italy. We were being told to ‘ wash our hands’ regularly and to try and avoid crowds and being too close to people. London was strange that Saturday evening, there were a few empty seats in the theatre but it had been a sell out. Restaurants and bars were very quiet, Upper Street in Islington did not look or feel like a Saturday night. After that weekend the country began to change dramatically The theatre we had been to closed. The news media, which has been disgraceful throughout this pandemic, sparked panic buying, it was soon impossible to find pasta or toilet rolls in the supermarkets. The next week was a mixture of fear, confusion and disbelief. The news was dominated by the situation in Italy, financial markets panicked, the virus was now spreading in the UK particularly in London. It was inevitable that soon we would follow some other countries and be in lockdown. It was announced on Monday 23rd March and implemented at midnight.
The previous week we had ordered a new chicken house and run for our four hens. The area of our garden where the chickens have lived for the last 15 years or more had become dominated by a massive palm tree (yes in England) it had basically thrived for all that time on chicken shit and now stood around 12 metres tall with its massive fronds providing a large area of shade over a now dilapidated chicken coop and higgledy piggledy fencing and chicken wire. So week one of lockdown, with thankfully dry weather, was spent clearing the area, felling the tree (a bitter sweet moment) and then assembling, with difficulty, the rather modern chicken coop and run. Having completed that task I turned my attention to some sub standard electrical wiring that had been cobbled together to provide power to the garage, located at the bottom of the garden. It had been a temporary quick fix about 25 years ago. Now for the first time I guess I had enough time and patience to sort it all out and get it up to today’s regulations.
So initially and I guess this is true for many, being confined to the house, allowed out just once a day for exercise, starts off as quite therapeutic. I’m definitely not a one for DIY, I usually rush, go off half cocked make a mess and never get the job done. But for a couple of weeks I amazed myself at what I managed to achieve.
That though did not take up the majority of my time. On 16th March a friend in the village started a Facebook page to offer help to people who were isolated by restrictions or the virus itself. Over seventy year olds were subject to a 12 week period of self isolation, anyone who had been in contact with someone who was thought to have the virus had to quarantine. All of a sudden people who were slightly vulnerable due to age, ability or health now became really vulnerable and isolated and not self sufficient.
The ‘Good Neighbour’ page launched on the 16th March had ballooned into a Good Neighbour help group consisting of a sort of steering group of eight individuals working with over 120 volunteers able to offer assistance to every one of the 4000 houses in our village, The group had a website, telephone, email, every house in the village had received a flyer, posters were displayed throughout. Amazingly this was all completed by 20th March and was achieved with just one initial face to face meeting of four people on the 16th. Everything else was and continues to be done using Whatsapp, Facebook, email and the phone. Within another week the 120 plus members of the group had photo IDs which both helped with safeguarding for those receiving help and with explaining to police why we might be out and about, or to supermarkets why we are purchasing volumes of certain items. Needless to say I was and still are one of the steering group and even more bizarre than me doing DIY I now spend a fair amount of time helping the needy.
So now just a month after that theatre trip the pubs, clubs, restaurants and cinemas are all closed, as are schools and many shops. There are hardly any flights in or out of the country. Only essential workers travel, the message is and has been stay at home, protect the NHS and thereby save lives. By and large that direction has been respected. With 12,000 deaths in the UK to date and 132,00 worldwide the impact of Covid-19 is becoming apparent.