Unprecedented times

I woke up this morning and looked out of the window to see a brilliant sunrise coming up over the houses at the far end of the farm which backs onto our back garden. I went out into the garden with my work laptop to grab a picture of my new home office desk. There have to be some advantages to being stuck at home, right?

gardentable

You’d think so, but when the girls came around, only Chloe went outside to see it. The other two just looked through the window and refused to venture in to the back garden!

As the news about the countrywide school closures sank in, Hannah became upset again at the prospect of not seeing her friends, while Amelia was bothered about one friend in particular who was quite vulnerable; she wanted to be there to support her friend.

I picked up a few things from the garden centre and set about spending the morning tidying up the rockery area, which for the last 10 years has refused to allow anything but weeds to grow. I laid a plastic weed-prevention sheet, covered it in bark and laid some heavy stones on top to keep it in place when the wind picks up. I found a couple of garden ornaments to decorate it too, including a little dog with a solar powered lamp which is now home to a strawberry plant, hopefully to deliver some juicy fruit later in the summer.

I also planted potatoes in two buckets so we’ll have some fresh homegrown vegetables to eat later in the year. It’s my first attempt at growing my own food. I’m really pleased with the results and it compliments the picnic table to give somewhere nice to sit out in the sun.

We spent the evening watching the news, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is becoming a regular feature alongside the government’s chief medial officer and chief scientist. While China seems to be over the worst of the virus, the situation in Italy is looking far worse. The whole country has been locked down with people banned from leaving their homes without good reason.

Spain are also in lockdown, a phrase which just a week ago was only used by schools and businesses in emergency planning meetings in case of terrorist attacks. France, Germany and other countries across Europe are putting similar measures in place.

In the US, president Donald Trump insists on calling Coronavirus the “China virus” and the “invisible enemy” and preaching about how well he is handling it, and eradicating it. He’s put plans in place to spend billions of dollars on the response, particularly on testing anybody who wants a test, but more than anything it looked like a huge commercial marketing campaign for some of the companies he admires – he had the CEOs of some of America’s top companies at a press conference with him, some such as Walmart offering their car parks as mobile testing stations. He also announced he’d be buying as much oil as the country could stockpile, the price has crashed over the last couple of weeks and he wants to store it to sell on for profit when the price goes back up. Trump also announced a new healthcare phoneline – much like the NHS 111 service that has been live in the UK for many years – and a website where people can check their symptoms with a quick questionnaire to see if they need testing. It’s being developed by “1,700 engineers at Google” according to Trump. I could knock up what he’s describing in half an hour.

I really don’t understand how or why some people in the UK are criticising our government’s response to the virus. It’s an unprecedented event, there is no playbook, no rules. The government are following scientific advice, doing what they think is right for the country. They’ve put massive financial measures in place to protect companies from going bust and jobs from being lost. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, promised that he’d do whatever it takes to see the country through this crisis. Yes, by now it really is a crisis and it’s ramping up every day.

The plan is to stem the flow of the virus. The fewer people that catch it now, the better the NHS will be able to cope. That won’t reduce the number of people catching it, but it’ll spread it out over a longer period, to make sure there’s enough beds, ventilators and staff available to treat those in need. We have 5,000 ventilators in the UK, the government has offered to buy as many as can be manufactured, with no upper limit. They’ve challenged engineering companies to switch their main business and help to make new ventilators. I feel so much happier about being British given our government’s response compared to that of the US.

Something’s happening in China

It’s the middle of January 2020, we’ve had a very wet winter so far, it seems to be becoming more common, while we’ve had no snow that often causes the most disruption, flooding has been all over the news. But there’s something else starting to appear regularly on TV news bulletins and in newspapers: Coronavirus.

A coronavirus is any virus which starts out in animals and is transferred to humans. This one began in a market in Wuhan province, China towards the end of last year. We’ve been seeing it on the news since January; lots of people being infected, lots of people dying, a new hospital built in just days, a whole city shut down, nobody can enter of leave. Britain flying in special airplanes to bring home Britains who are living or visiting Wuhan. They’re scared, and rightly so. Little is known about this new virus, it’s spreading fast across the country and killing people indiscriminately.

The World Health Organisation has named this new coronavirus Covid-19, which comes from COrona VIrus Disease 2019. It’s also been called Novel Coronavirus, where novel means new. This particular virus has never been seen before in the world, nothing is known about it, certainly not how to cure it.

The symptoms are a cough and/or high temperature.  Most people only have mild symptoms, but in the most severe cases – usually in older people and those with underlying medical conditions – the virus can cause pneumonia. Pneumonia is where the walls of the lungs thicken as the virus covers them, this reduces the capacity for air but also makes inflating the lungs difficult, they become hard, like a board and makes breathing extremely difficult.