Pandemic

Over the last month or so, the world has changed. In my little town on the south coast of England, things changed slowly. Then they changed a lot, all at once.

I wanted to write something about this time and how our small family is faring. Of course, we live in a wealthy western country. We’re the lucky ones. I’ll try and keep that in mind when describing our situation.

The beginning

Throughout February, we heard increasing reports of a new flu-like virus spreading in China. I wasn’t particularly alarmed. SARS, MERS, Swine Flu and Ebola had all appeared and then disappeared. None of them had any direct impact on my life.

In early March new posters started appearing in my office. “Wash your hands more often for 20 seconds”. I felt some alarm, but I’m usually pretty good at handwashing anyway. There was more chat amongst friends and colleges about Cornonvirus.

On 7th March, Katie and I visited Highdown Vinyard to talk through plans for my upcoming 40th birthday party. I asked about what would happen if the government banned large gatherings. It was an off-the-cuff comment. I didn’t think it was going to happen.

On Monday 16th, HMRC asked us to work from home. Later that week, a few people had planned to get together for my friend’s surprise 40th. Even though restaurants and bars were still open, we decided to postpone it. Government advice was to avoid large groups, so it felt like the right thing to do.

On 23rd March, Boris Johnson announced a full lockdown. In less than a month, Covid19 has significantly changed or lives.

Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.

The lockdown means that each person in the UK should:

For our family, it means that we’re now spending much more time with each other. This has been a joy and a hardship. I have to give credit to Katie, who does a much better job of holding it together than I do. She’s taking care of RooTwo who’s 6 months and homeschooling and entering Roo while I work.

I’m working from our cabin at the bottom of our garden. I feel incredibly lucky to be one of the few who’s managed to carry on working in much the same way as before. It’s a lovely place to be. I have a standing desk, plants and a garden to look out on.

Speaking of the garden, we’ve spent a lot of time outside. Of course, we’ve been sticking to our one exercise per day allowance - but the garden gives us an extra escape from the house. The weather has been beautiful too, that helps.

Our children, Roo and RooTwo enjoying the sun in our garden. RooTwo is wearing Roo’s sunglasses.

Our social life has moved online. Chatting with friends and family helps massively. The technology we take for granted has been our saving grace in the battle against loneliness.

A screenshot from Houseparty. Our friends meeting remotely during the lockdown.

Armchair statistician

Early on the news was overwhelming. I found myself obsessively checking the BBC website. I’ve managed to reign that in. At least I feel less depressed when I do watch the news now. Or maybe I’m just numb to it.

I’ve become preoccupied with statistics. Initially, the media narrative was that most people got a mild illness. But more recently there’s been a spate of reports of young, fit people getting seriously ill. It’s difficult to tell if these stories reflect the overall picture, or what’s most shocking and therefore, newsworthy. Hence the fixation with statistics.

Numbers don’t lie. But it seems that reports of 80% getting a mild form of Coronavirus were based on the numbers from Wuhan. I want to know if the numbers here reflect that same story. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere to find out.

When will this all end?

It seems to me that this is going to go on for a long time. Even when we’re through the peek and cases start to come down, there’s no easy way out. Without a vaccine or effective treatment, any relaxing of social distancing rules is going to result in more cases.

There is perhaps some hope in a test and trace program. But here in the UK, we don’t seem to be close to testing people at scale.

All most of us can do is follow the guidelines and put our faith in science.