Applauding the NHS

A quiet day in the home office today, in contrast to yesterday I had just one meeting; a team social to keep everyone in contact while we all work from home.

One team member prepared a quiz with questions from the British Citizenship Test. All the questions were based on British history, such as who is the famous English, Elizabethan playwright?, and which British sportsman won five consecutive gold Olympic medals in rowing? (Shakespeare and Sir Steve Redgrave). I’m quite a fan of British history so was pleased to have won the quiz. There were three out of the 30 on the call who scored 11/15, however I answered the questions quickest out of the three top scorers, so claimed the trophy (it would have been 12/15 if I’d have got to the first question in time!)

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After the quiz I decided to take my “one daily exercise” allowance and walk to the Iceland frozen food store up the road. I was almost out of milk and bread, luckily they had both in stock, and I picked up some other bits as well, including my personal favourites, chocolate Hobnob biscuits and Jaffa Cakes! Life in lockdown is much more bearable with hobnobs and jaffa cakes.

I managed to dig out the rest of the space I needed for my compost bin later in the afternoon, then spotted my neighbour sat outside his house when I was finished. We had a good chat about the surreal situation we’re living in, while keeping a good few meters apart over the garden fence, before heading inside again for the government press conference that’s become a daily 5pm routine. Today, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, put in place a bailout scheme for self-employed people who were unable to work because they have to stay at home. They’ll now get 80% of their annual profits paid by the government for the next three months adding another £9 billion to the aid package the government have put in place.

The rest of the evening news was given over to a campaign to give the doctors and nurses working for the NHS a round of applause. Every household was asked to open their front doors and clap at 8pm. TV news crews covered it around the country and neighbours could be heard clapping along the street and neighbouring streets. It was a really moving and emotional experience with the whole country showing their appreciation for those putting their own lives at risk to save many others.

 

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?

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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.