Covid-19 Diaries 20th May 2020

08 June 20

Posted at 12:28

Schools out

It is now ten days since the prime minister's announcement of some potential easing of the lockdown. The daily graphs we are treated to at the press briefings continue to show a positive trend albeit painstakingly slow. After the announcement of a three phase plan to ease lockdown restrictions much more detail was forthcoming although it is fair to say there is still confusion with what is a complicated message. There is much debate continuing around the high percentage of care home deaths and whether some may have been avoided but care homes have been knocked off the top news item by the possible return to school for some children from the beginning of June. It is really difficult to understand the pros and cons not least because there are those whose position is political as opposed to in the interest of the public. The debate is set to continue but so long as there is evidence of the pandemic lessening along with progress in testing and tracing I believe some classes in some schools will return in early June.

There certainly has been a noticeable relaxation now people are allowed out more and that there is a gradual return to work for some. It is clear that change is gradual and that the idea of small steps still shows noticeable change. Assuming there is no indication of a second peak I think a month from now there will be a lot more retail open, I think sport and leisure activity will have increased and I think open air cafes and even pubs may be offering a table service with strict social distancing. That is not a major topic of conversation at the moment but when some schools are back I think it will just follow.

There has been a lot of news this week around the impact of the pandemic of the economy and jobs. Steep rises in unemployment, very low inflation and concern about businesses both big and small. None of it a surprise but a stark reminder when presented in sensational headlines. Some opening up of the leisure industry along with the ability for people to spend a day or two away from home (not possible at the moment) will provide help for the leisure sector which has hit young peoples job prospects the hardest.

There is also constant talk of when professional football will return. Personally although a fan I think it is madness to even consider at this point in time.

Red kite

I include a photo of a kite taken a few hundred yards from my home. I am a keen wildlife photographer. It has been noticeable with so many people walking in the countryside as a result of lockdown how interest in wildlife has grown. It is not a bad thing at all. There is much good that has come out of lockdown. In general people seem more friendly and supportive to each other. Lockdown has broken down many barriers in communities as people have had more time to consider what is really important to their's and their families wellbeing. We appear to be at something of a crossroads now where people are reconsidering their priorities and making changes to their lifestyle which were perhaps initially mandated but now of high importance. Some working from home, replacing travel with technology, greater use of bicycles and of electric vehicles. A realisation at last that morbid obesity that ravages our society does directly impact are ability to survive viruses from Covid-19 to the more common seasonal flu and even colds. There is a much higher level of interest in supporting local businesses and even perhaps a desire to be free from everything we consume coming from China.

When I say we are at a crossroads the general public appear to be reaching these conclusions but our political leaders both national and local - fuelled by a sensationalist media seem hell bent on returning to days of old. I'm sensing that there is a chance that the 'tail will wag the dog' and we will see something of a paradigm shift. I'm hope full anyway. 

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Covid-19 Diaries 9th May 2020

09 May 20

Posted at 2:36

75th Anniversary of VE Day

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of VE day. The anniversary of the end of WW2 was commemorated in an eery way in the UK. Social distancing and the message " stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives" is still, at least for today, the message. So muted celebrations were conducted in some streets, on peoples drives toasting the neighbours at a safe distance. Families who do not live together cannot meet or visit each other. Comparisons have been made between this situation now and war time. I think the parallels are over egged somewhat. The 'pain and sacrifice' is of course significantly less but for generations who came ofter the war and the immediate post war problems this is undoubtedly the most challenging period of their lives.

For weeks the lockdown has been adhered to by the vast majority but now as we see relaxation in some other countries there are 'cracks appearing in the dam'. The resolve of the British people is wearing thin although many are understandably scared stiff of the risks with relaxation. Tomorrow at 7pm the prime minister will give the nation an update on 'phase two'. Newspapers and media have been speculating for days what will be announced. Recycling centres have announced re-opening next week, there is speculation garden centres will open on Wednesday and further speculation that schools will open in June and that anyone entering the UK by air land or sea will be subject to 14 days quarantine after June 1st. All this speculation has resulted in changes, road traffic although still low has increased, sole traders are opening for business slowly and families if not breaking are certainly bending the rules. So tomorrow's announcements will be interesting. I sense the PM will have to officially endorse much of the speculation and go a bit further. If he doesn't take a leadership position further speculation will grow immediately, speculation that perhaps ignores the scientific and medical advice. We are told a second wave or peak must be avoided at all costs as it would be devastating in terms of death and economic damage but there is no clarity as to the likelihood of or possible contributors to a second wave. There is so much written, so many opinions and so many diverse 'expert' opinions it is possible to reach just about any conclusion you wish to.

My personal take on it all is that the virus spreads uncontrollably in the densest populations and is most damaging in dense populations of the most vulnerable people. So major cities like London and New York, care homes and hospitals all have seen high deaths and rate of infections. A sparsely populated area like Sweden for example has certainly not been unscathed but to date has not seen devastating infections or death rates despite having no lockdown even bars and restaurants remaining open throughout. We are told that a real comparison of how countries have faired is not possible until the world is completely through this pandemic. We wait for Boris to update us tomorrow and then next week venture, hopefully with optimism as opposed to fear, into phase two.

 

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Covid-19 Diaries. Care Homes

22 April 20

Posted at 10:15

Chase FarmChase House

I cannot speak with any authority or professional knowledge about care homes of course but care homes have been a hot news topic in the UK for the last week or ten days so it is worth me recording that fact and in doing so share some personal experience and anecdotes. I mentioned in a previous blog that there is  a care home about half a kilometre up a track next to my house. The building that is now the care home was originally a farmhouse, Chase farm, and in fact my own house was originally a farmworkers cottage attached to the farm. The actual farmhouse was sold separate to the farm many years ago, around 1960 I believe. When I was at school in the mid sixties a friend of mine actually lived in the house although at that time I did not live in Arlesey. Fast forward about twenty years and we had purchased our house from the estate that still owned the farm and another acquaintance owned and lived in the farmhouse, now known as Chase House. I remember quite vividly a party I went to in the house, it must have been the early '80s as the guy who lived there had a CD player, none of us had seen a CD before. I remember people stubbing cigarettes out on the few CDs he possessed just to prove they were indestructible, which of course they weren't. I've no doubt some of us will need the services of care homes one day as a result of such parties!

Chase House Care HomeChase House Care Home

The private house went on to become a care home and over the years the building has been dramatically but tastefully extended to three or four times its original size. It is a privately run care home and I believe it has maintained good ratings in terms of the quality and breadth of care it provides. I know people who have had relatives live there and I know people who work there. I've not really heard anything but praise for the care provided and I have the greatest admiration and respect for those carers who work there.

As I said earlier care homes have been a hot topic in the news recently. News nowadays consists of 90% plus related to the coronavirus pandemic. It is wall to wall, it is dynamic and increasing it seeks to apportion blame. Our government is receiving criticism about the number of deaths in our care homes. Personally I feel the only area we can confidently say the government, although strictly speaking it is the previous government as we recently, just last autumn, had a general election. The previous government(s) were responsible for financial cut backs that were severe, had they not been so severe perhaps we would have been better able to respond to this pandemic. Beyond that this present government were in the process of reversing some of the austerity we have experienced. The pandemic though struck too soon for there to be any effect. I am cautious to blame the government for the desperate situation we see in our care homes for a number of reasons:

  • First of all care home residents are by nature elderly, many have underlying health problems, they live in quite crowded conditions with much communal activity. When visitors were allowed earlier in the pandemic they arrived often from fair distances away. Residents are often not located in a home close to their relatives. These factors alone make the care home environment ideal for the virus to spread. Social distancing is nigh on impossible in the average care home.
  • The private sector accounts for a large number of care homes from big corporations managing multiple homes to smaller privately run homes. These are all businesses and in many cases quite profitable. Yet it feels as though the finger of blame for any lack of preparedness points at the government as opposed to the business owners.

Today the senior medical officer Chris Witty expanded on my first point above. I have not seen figures but I strongly suspect that in years when we have bad flu epidemics and winter vomiting outbreaks, care homes see a disproportionate level of fatalities. In reality care homes see a disproportionate number of fatalities anyway. For many the period spent in a care home leads up to and includes end of life. Of course this does not belittle in any way the horrendous situation we face in our care homes at this time made even worse by the fact that care home residents die alone without their family being able to visit.The role of the family is taken up by the already overstretched and I suspect quite frightened care staff. In reality they have done this before on a smaller scale as some people are in effect abandoned with no relatives when they are in care. Never on this scale though and never under the shadow of Covid-19.

The job and the dedication of our care workers is hopefully being recognised. Gradually they are replacing celebrities and sports star as the real heroes in our society. Despite the criticism being levelled at the way the UK has responded to this pandemic I believe our care home sector has faired well against the odds. I remember reading early in this pandemic of care homes in Spain being abandoned, patients being discovered days later all having been left to die. It is a real credit to our care home staff across all sectors that they not only care for every single resident they do so with love and dignity. 

My mother in law lived in a care home for two years (not Chase House), she suffered from dementia and Lupus and had a stoma. She died in the home in 2018. I am thankful she is not there during this pandemic.

I mentioned in a previous blog about applauding with the staff from Chase House last Thursday evening. Tomorrow I will do so again with some extra vigour.

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