I was casting around for a blog topic this morning when I received a question about lockdown from Freda.
What are my thoughts?
Is it working? Should it end? How should it end? What next?
Well, as with all my other writing, this will predominantly be opinion – my take on what I have seen and read, which, again, from what I have seen and read is likely to be as accurate or inaccurate as everything else.
Well, over the past 10 days there has been a new public message from the NHS, they are calling this ‘Business as usual’ with the intention that things will be back to normal in six weeks.
I suspect they have chosen six weeks as that is far enough into the future for the hope of some other news or media item to come long and distract from that pseudo-target, or perhaps, and yes, more frighteningly, some people in positions of authority actually believe that normality can be resumed; ever.
It is a little like, well, ‘9/11 has happened, we can go back to normal,’ or, ‘My mum/dad/friend/patient has died, we can aim for business as usual.’
This, I believe is a philosophically bankrupt notion.
We can’t ever get back to normal.
Indeed, now is normal;
I was explaining John Donne to my daughter last week – No man is an island; she got the concept – it’s not that challenging.
So, no, getting back to normal is a bit of a nonsense;
One of the worst aspects of all of this, which yes, is trivial, is the potential that we will have to wear facemasks in public; I read the first suggestion of this yesterday.
What will happen to those kids, cycling around in gangs on deserted streets if they are spotted without masks? Will the police shout them over and hand-out boxes of masks and sanitiser?
You see, the end of lockdown in the UK will likely be different to that in other countries and, in particular the situation in China, South Korea or New Zealand.
The biggest difference, I suspect is the attitude of the population. We won’t be as extreme as those in the US, threatening with assault rifles if we can’t get out and about, but more, a British type of passive-aggressive ignoring or pseudo-interpretation of the rules.
I can’t see us complying to be allowed in an out of Tesco on the basis of a barcode; and, even if they do introduce infra-red scanners at supermarket doors, making that the new normal, how will that play-out?
The beauty of life in the UK is our individualism, our eccentricity, ability to twist normality – again, they do this in America too, it is just that in the UK people tend not to die; We have Monster-Raving-Loonies, they have the Alt. Right.
Back to the original question.
Should lockdown be eased?
Well, again, not answering this directly, but, honestly, it was only on Tuesday that the Office for National Statistics released their data on deaths, taking our real (official) number to almost 30,000 deaths (when in reality, we know the figures are higher – I guess, 40 thousand at the least) – putting us into the lead position for worst hit country in Europe.
Maybe we should look to Germany or Israel who seem to have managed to pull through without as much loss. Again, we are British, German or Israeli, culture, demographics, health services and attitudes are very different.
The reality is that we are in this alone.
Alone and for the long-term.
We don’t even have the EU to blame.
If and almost certainly when things get tough(er) – for example, when the numbers of delayed elective hip, knee and cataract operations make the headlines or the financial impact on tourism, the travel industry or manufacturing is considered, we, the people, and they, the government will seek a scapegoat.
A Paschal lamb.
Now, the Left is blaming the Right and the Right are telling us that things aren’t that bad.
Truth and time will tell.
And so, should Lockdown end?
I’ve given it a capital ‘L’ there.
I don’t believe we actually know the effect of Lockdown in the UK; it is still a mystery. How many people would have died were it not in place, were the kids back at school and I was driving house to house with my doctor’s bag?
America again is probably showing us this in part; it is likely India and Africa will reveal the true cost, taking into account the economic impact allayed with situations of famine and weaker infrastructure than other parts of the developed world.
Recently, I have been talking to people about costs and benefits.
There is the cost of Lockdown versus its benefit; we have yet to realise the latter.
Equally, as with any intervention, for example a treatment in medicine, there is always an analysis of costs and benefits – will the treatment do more good than harm? How great are the potential benefits, are the risks worth taking?
No such thing as a free lunch, as they say.
Are the costs of restricting people to an indoors existence worth the benefits?
Is 12 weeks OK?
What happens after that?
As I have said, there is a new normal, there is no normal.
How is it to sit inside day after day? What toll does that take on an individual’s psychological and mental wellbeing? Particularly those who are not self-motivated to exercise or technologically adept to connect with others on Zoom or WhatsApp.
Imagine the harm Covid has done to families locked away without support or respite?
Imagine the harm done to those people previously ‘living well’ with dementia who for six weeks have had a dramatic reduction in visitors and day-centre attendances; even the bitter-sweet routine trips to GP surgeries or hospitals have been done away with.
Back in the day, when we first opened Mallard Ward, our aspiration was to engage and talk with all the patients as much as possible – in the belief that talking, engaging in conversation, whether reminiscence or just chatting, was therapeutic.Later studies proved us right.
The harms of social isolation have been equally well investigated and publicised over recent years.
I think in many respects the Lockdown has been overdone.
Probably too coercive in some situations and not enough in others.
The queues I have seen outside B&Q are an example – how can this be OK? How much emergency plumbing do people need to undertake?
Yet, I can’t get to Langold to smell the Wild Garlic.
I can’t get in a car and drive to see my family, yet I can order anything I want off Amazon.
I’m lucky, I am not in a position to be making the difficult decisions that influence the lives of millions of people – something Chris Whitty no doubt worries about more than tabloid concerns about his baldness.
How are the people living in multi-storey tower blocks faring?
We have seen today that Covid has disproportionately killed more people from areas of socioeconomic deprivation than those of us lucky enough to live in suburbs, to have gardens and cars.
I like my blogs to either give some hope or a solution.
I am not sure I have one, beyond returning to my medical analogy – weigh the risks and the benefits.
All the stuff the government has churned-out over the past six weeks has been guidance – pointers to what should be done; you can’t mandate the situation for every citizen (unless you want Totalitarianism, which is probably worse than Covid).
The virus is not a supernatural beastie.
Washing your hands works; keeping your distance from others works – aim for two meters but err on three or four if you want to be sure. Take a walk early in the morning when the streets are quiet; don’t obsess about not having a facemask, as they only really stop you spreading not catching, buy a pulse oximeter if it will make you feel more comfortable, check your temperature too, although be aware that there is not much you can do if your numbers are too high or too low – sure, you might be lucky enough to have good old-fashioned pneumonia which responds to antibiotics – this the Black Swan amidst the panic, the usually patterns of disease that have always been and always will circulate in the community. Covid hasn’t protected people from cancer, strokes or heart attacks, don’t imagine that the risks of dying from a stroke are less than those of catching Covid if you call your GP or a paramedic; like this paragraph it is all a jumble. It is too late to go back, too late to pretend that this hasn’t happened, it is here, amongst us, within us, each person dying or suffering is, as Donne said, a part of us, we are a whole, and solutions that work for the rich but not the poor are destructive, systems that support the NHS but not social care are erosive and self-defeating. Never before has there been a greater need for an understanding of Holism – of seeing and understanding the interconnectedness of humanity and our systems of existence, now is the time to reflect and establish was normal will be, what it will become.
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