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Coronavirus - 2020 Vision. The road to Freedom Day Part 1

                          

The complete diary and events of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PART 1.

 

This day-by-day factual and complete account of events throughout the coronavirus pandemic, written as it happened, gives incredible insight into what life was like during this tragic and historic pandemic in the United Kingdom and worldwide.

It includes facts and figures, government initiatives, news events, moving individual accounts, and the horrific consequences, as they happened each day.

There is also a daily, personal slant on what life was like for the author and his family during what threatened to be an apocalyptic event.

Not including the preamble, the diary covers 491 days, beginning in earnest on 16th March 2020 until ‘Freedom Day’ on 19th July 2021. It has been something of a commitment for the author, resulting in around 1,700 pages; well over half a million words; determined to get the best, and most interesting stories for you to read and to keep as a record of the times for generations to come.

It reveals all humanity in its idiocy, compassion and brilliance; the key elements, significant dates, statistics, human stories, tragedies, government strategies, the twists and turns, the humour and the obtuse.

The coronavirus will define this generation and identify these times, like other rare global historical events such as the bubonic plague and the World Wars.

This book is something to show your children and grandchildren when they ask you what it was like during such a frightening time. It can also be used as a point of reference for historians, commentators, and educators. It is also merely for posterity.

Were you alive? Do you recall it? Do you remember our Prime Minister almost died with Covid-19? Remember, murderers in jail being vaccinated weeks before the prison officers? The Queen saying ‘we’ll meet again’ during lockdown? Surely you recollect the EU conducting ‘an act of hostility’ towards the UK to get their hands on our vaccines? The thirty police officers fined for having a haircut, or the first man in the world to be vaccinated being called William Shakespeare from Stratford Upon Avon!

The whole world was plunged into chaos, with death, suffering and economic disaster. How did we cope? How did all of this happen? According to Keith’s wife, Jackie, it was ‘all because a man ate a bat!’

 

Keith Wright previously worked leading Corporate Investigations for a global pharmacy retailer. He has worked on major Crisis Management Incidents alongside senior executives impacting across the world of pharmaceutical product management.

Critically acclaimed crime novelist, and former CID detective, Wright moves from fiction to a factual account of arguably the most historic natural event to blight humanity in modern times.

He has four children and lives in Nottingham, England, with his wife, Jackie.

 

 

All rights reserved ©KeithWright2021

Copyright©KeithWright2021

If you are affected by any issues raised in the book contact:

The Samaritans or check local charities.

All information believed correct at the time of writing.

Diary entries gathered from an array of publicly available visual, audio and written sources and merged

to give a holistic and creative editorial view.

Glossary and source lists are available at the end of the book.

This book is dedicated to those who have lost their lives and the extraordinary bravery of front-line NHS staff, key workers, carers, and everyone who, in their own way, have contributed to help others. We are grateful, and we thank you, wholeheartedly.

 

Authors note.

My mother's first husband was killed in World War 2. His name was Arthur Smith. He was my brother Michael’s father. When I spoke to Mum about it, which, with hindsight, was too infrequently, she said he wasn't a fighter; he was a gentle, kind man, thrown into a hell with which he would struggle to adapt. He was an infantryman who died doing his duty for others, near Geel in Belgium, pushing through from the D-Day landings in 1944.

I use this as a loose analogy for our NHS heroes in the front line. These people are not emergency workers such as the police who are used to conflict and danger, nor are they like firefighters physically battling a fire and saving lives. These are people who have a caring disposition. (Not that the police and firefighters, don't care, bearing in mind that they risk their lives on a daily basis, but you see the point I am making).

 NHS front-line workers are sensitive to the human condition and understand the nuances of helping another human being survive illness and injury. They are also people who have now seen the effects of COVID-19 and the nightmare conditions it engenders. Every fibre of their being is focussed on kindness and caring. Yet they have to find peculiar courage. The courage to risk their own lives and possibly even their families lives to treat others every day. Not only do they have to wear a surgical mask, but they have to display the mask of quiet reassurance, professionalism, and positivity, despite their fears. They have to fight with decisions like holding a hand of an infected dying patient when your instinct dictates you surely must not do this.

Dear reader, this is real courage. I hope they are well looked after once this is all resolved, and they receive counselling to help them recover from this incredibly traumatic time.

AUTHOR'S BIO

There are times in the book when I offer a view on certain scenarios, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes not. My son, Chris, who has a degree in History and Politics, suggested to me that from a historical standpoint it might be useful if I provide a little biography so that the reader can take a view on any biases I might have. (Good luck with that). I think it is a sensible suggestion, however, so here goes:

I am 56 years old (when the outbreak began - I had to check with my wife, I could have sworn I was 57), anyway I come from a working-class background and I have four siblings. My eldest brother Michael is Marie and Arthur’s son (mentioned above), and he is 76 years old. Next is Neil, who is 66 years old. Howard sadly passed away with cancer five years ago but would have been 65. My sister Marie is a year and a month and a day older than me. We scarcely see each other nowadays.

The first seven years of my life were spent in a two-bedroom' prefab.' My Mum and Dad were in one bedroom and the kids in the other. Dad was a functioning alcoholic. He drove tanks in the war, and it got hit just after D Day; the Tank was on fire, and all his friends died, but because Dad had a separate hatch, he escaped but was on fire. He suffered intense burns and PTSD; he called it being 'bomb happy.' Needless to say, I suspect this was a contributing factor to his alcoholism. He left the family home when I was ten years old. There were no goodbyes, just a 50 pence piece on a side table, with a small piece of paper, ripped from somewhere or other, which had two words on it - 'Goose Fair.' I remember throwing it across the room.

Mum was a wonderful person, albeit a little erratic at times; she brought us all up on her own and had a difficult life. She was our saviour. Her first husband, Arthur, was killed in the war. Her second husband (Neil and Howard's dad) was a philanderer, and she caught him in their bed with another woman. His feet never touched the floor, and he was out the door. Then there was my Dad, who strangled her with an electric cable from a table lamp when he had a nervous breakdown and went berserk. She escaped and called the police, but they never came. She sought refuge at her friend’s house. We were still in the prefab with Dad.

When I was seven years old, we moved to a much bigger place at Deptford Crescent, in Bulwell, Nottingham. A council house. It was nice. I shared a bedroom with Howard for a while, but he and Neil were married and out of there when they were 17/18 years old. Michael was at University.

After Dad left, we just got on with things. I loved playing football with friends, and I played for the school and a local club. I played in goal (in second-hand football boots) and eventually played for the Nottingham Forest youth team when Brian Cough was there, when they won the League and League Cup in 1979, with the European Cup-winning side. Nobody from the family ever came to a single game I played. (boo-hoo).

When I had my careers talk at my comprehensive school, we were given a list of occupations, and we had to tick three. I ticked Policeman, Postman, and Journalist. My careers teacher said I could not join the police force as I wouldn't get in.

I started as a Police Cadet in August 1979 and went on to the CID very early in my career. I eventually became a Detective Sergeant dealing with major crime in the community I had grown up. I spent over twenty years as a Detective in the CID.

In 1991 I was fortunate enough to get a literary agent and have my crime novels published by a publisher now known as Little Brown. I had four books published in the 1990s as well as twin babies and a CID career to juggle.

When I left the police, I entered the private sector, eventually heading up a team of investigators around the UK dealing with Corporate Investigations for Boots The Chemist. It was an interesting job that saw me sit on Senior Executive Crisis Management Meetings and advising the executive in America and the UK on major incidents, on occasion. We would investigate alleged deaths from overprescribed drugs, and enquire into alleged corruption, bribery and blackmail. Anything that could seriously impact on the company’s brand or have a major financial impact.

Finally, when made redundant (everyone battled every two or three years for job survival), after 14 years with the company, I became a full-time writer. ‘Living the dream.’

I have four children from two marriages. We are all very close and have a terrific, loving family. I am proud of them all. Chris is a teacher; Andy works for Cancer Research. Harry wants to be an actor and will soon explore this route at University with my blessing. Little Lily, the chatterbox, is ten years old, and my only daughter; she starts senior school in September 2020. More than this they are just decent, terrific people.

I live with my partner of eight years, (now wife) Jackie, who is a remarkable woman. She is amazingly supportive of me and has herself suffered tragedy. She has my immense respect.

I think that will do. My life, like many, could make a book in itself, and so I had better stop there. Quite what you make of all that I don’t know. I hope you enjoy this record of an incredible time in history – ‘The Coronavirus Era.’

Please note that a glossary is available at the end of the book and a list of sources used.

BEFORE WE START THE DIARY. WHAT WAS IT ALL ABOUT?

As I commence this diary, this is what is known; our knowledge will grow over the months and years.

 Coronavirus is a respiratory virus discovered in 2019. In lay-person terms, it causes the lungs to clog up, inhibiting the oxygen supply to the blood, and eventually causing organ failure. Its potency is in how virulently contagious it is. Coronavirus is the virus that leads to the disease COVID-19.

It is believed to be a zoonotic illness, meaning it jumped species to infect humans. Researchers believe the most likely source is the Rhinolophus sinicus, otherwise known as the horseshoe bat which was consumed having been purchased from a ‘wet market’ in Hubei Province, China.

COVID-19 was originally known as 2019-nCoV. It stood for the year of its discovery - 2019, the fact that it was a new (novel) virus (n), and it came from the Corona Virus family (CoV).

 The name was changed to COVID-19 when it became a pandemic. The World Health Organisation had to allocate a name for the disease that did not relate to a person; a group of persons, an animal, a geographic location, was pronounceable, and relatable. Beyond this, the formal name for the virus given by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses called it the 'severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2' or SARS-CoV-2, because it is related to the virus that caused the outbreak of SARS in 2003. For the avoidance of doubt, it will be referred to by the name everyone uses; COVID-19 or ‘Covid.’

Early analysis of the virus suggests that two main strains exist, designated L and S. The L strain appears to be more prevalent (70% of cases); however, it is the S strain that is the ancestral version. L strain appears to be the most aggressive and spreads quickly. It should be noted that this is a new virus to humanity, and we are starting from absolute scratch in our understanding of it. Even as knowledge grows, the chances of mutation are possible, if not probable, and suddenly all bets can be off.

 The coronavirus is transferable by hand to mouth from surfaces or contact and close proximity with someone affected. As with all such viruses, it is also spread by droplets, contact, or airborne particles. It causes a continual dry cough, breathing difficulties, and some aches and pains. Latterly we discovered a loss of taste and smell was also a major symptom. It is a mild to moderate condition for 80 per cent of those who catch it. However, older people and those with underlying illnesses are at a much higher risk of death. As the disease progresses, we see more and more younger able-bodied people in intensive care and dying because of the virus. The World Health Organisation state that 3% of those contracting it will die. There is no cure and no vaccine.

The virus uses its outer prongs to lock on to a living cell. It then inserts its genetic material (RNA – Ribonucleicacid) into the cell. Once inside, it hijacks the machinery of the nucleus of the cell to make numerous copies of itself. It then destroys the cell, and the copies burst out and spread, to do the same thing to multiple other living cells and so the cycle continues, with the virus growing and multiplying exponentially.

The incubation period in a human can be anything from 0-15 days. Some people are asymptomatic and are oblivious to having caught it. Most people's immune system mounts an appropriate response, and they begin to feel better after around 5-7 days after a debilitating flu-like illness. In some people, the immune system goes into overdrive and starts attacking the lungs and other organs and the coronavirus. Infection can cause pneumonia, breathing difficulties, and further organ damage. In others, the immune system cannot cope, and they die. Some can appear to have overcome it and then deteriorate rapidly and die in a day, often with hypoxia – lack of oxygen. Some have been in a coma for 60 plus days, yet still, survive, but forever scarred and impaired.

It is reported that the first case of the disease was presented by a 55-year-old man in Hubei Province, China, on 17th November 2019. It spread and was located in Wuhan Province, China, a month later, in December 2019.

Other theories have emerged around the virus' origins:

  • The eating of a diseased bat (or Pangolin) at a wet market. (This seems initially to be the most likely. ‘Pangolin and chips please, no vinegar.’).

  • A leak or intentional dispersal from the biological warfare lab situated in Wuhan, China.

  • It began in a region south of Wuhan as early as September 2019. Cambridge scientists are exploring the September theory by tracing pathogens. This earlier outbreak could have been carried by humans well before it mutated into a more lethal form.

  • Others suggest that traces of faeces in Italy’s sewerage show the virus earlier than it began in China in the summer of 2019. This was later corroborated by research into blood samples of cancer patients taken in early October 2019 which had COVID-19 antibodies present, which means they would have had the disease in September 2019.

Regardless of the exact trigger point, the coronavirus was initially thought to have arrived in the United Kingdom on 28th February 2020, and the first confirmed case being on 31st February 2020. In August 2020, samples by the University of Nottingham discovered that the earliest person to contract and then die with the virus was a 75-year-old woman from Nottinghamshire who tested positive on 21st February 2020.

It is now understood that a traveller returning from South Korea on 28th February 2020 most likely caught the virus in Nottingham rather than Korea as first assumed. Professor John Ball, one of the authors of the study, said ‘there was widespread community transmission of coronavirus’ in Nottingham in early February 2020.

In the UK, we have the National Health Service (NHS). This means that medical care is free at the point of need for all its citizens. The working population pay for this service through their taxes. Each country around the world has different healthcare systems, some insurance based. The NHS does not have any added complications around whether someone can afford to pay for their care through insurance coverage or otherwise.

Key players in the management of this crisis in the United Kingdom are:

Boris Johnson; Prime Minister,

Matt Hancock; the Health Secretary of State,

Dominic Raab; the Foreign & Commonwealth Secretary of State (deputising for the P.M.),

Rishi Sunak; The Chancellor of the Exchequer,

Professor Sir Patrick Vallance; the Chief Scientific Advisor and chair of SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies),

Professor Chris Whitty; the Chief Medical officer for Public Health England,

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam; Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Public Health England.

The virus has caused tens of millions of infections and millions of deaths worldwide, creating a global lock-down and an almost dystopian planet, of death and deserted streets, never before experienced in modern history. Some describe it as an apocalyptic disease. The fabric of society is changed with people told not to socialise and to stay at home. These changes have a massive effect on our way of life, the economy, and family interaction. What will life be like when we come blinking out of our homes in months or years ahead, assuming we survive, into a new world that is changed forever?

Our hope is for a vaccine, yet this is impossible for many months, probably years, if at all. Sadly, the world has been unable to develop a vaccine for any of the previous coronavirus such as SARS, (or even the common cold, which is part of the coronavirus family), so it would be remarkable if they manage to do so with this one.

Immunity after the disease is unclear. There is nothing to suggest that previous sufferers have immunity, nor for how long it will last if they do. There is even the danger of those recovering from COVID-19 gaining, something known as 'enhanced immunity.' This relatively unknown syndrome happens with Dengue fever, which means you get the disease far worse the second time.

I start this diary uncertain whether I will be alive to finish it or sustain it if I become one of the coronavirus victims. Will I be too ill to continue? Will I die? Things change day-to-day, and suddenly the future is more uncertain than ever before in my lifetime.

No one would have believed, a matter of a few short weeks ago, the changes that this vicious, dangerous pandemic would bring to our lives: the deaths, the uncertainty, the trauma, the separation, and the loss.

This book is intended to bear witness, record statistics, collate news articles, personal stories, front-line accounts, precis government briefings, and offer an intimate view of family life during this historic and tragic period in the year 2020 and beyond.

 

 

MONDAY 16TH MARCH 2020

In the UK (bearing in mind these figures are a day behind), there are 55 deaths and 1,543 cases. In reality, though, there are likely 50,000 people with the virus as they only test those getting treatment. My hunch that it is a lot more than even that figure.

Italy and Spain are in total ‘Lockdown’ with all citizens on a 24-hour curfew. Italy has currently suffered the worst.

Coronavirus started in China; around thirty thousand have died there so far, but they seem to have broken the back of it, and only five died yesterday.

It is all getting quite serious now. There was another televised briefing by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson today. He tells us that,

 ‘Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact and to stop all unnecessary travel.’

The new ‘advice’ from the government is that everyone

 ‘should not go out apart from exercise and then to keep a safe distance from everyone. (2 metres apart). They should work from home where possible.’

 They suggest that to help avoiding the spread of the virus, everyone should immediately stop non-essential contact and non-essential travel.

They should avoid pubs, clubs, and restaurants. Schools are remaining open for now. Emergency services will not support any public gatherings over 500 persons, so they are effectively banned.

Further advice is given- if anyone who lives alone has a cough or a temperature above 37.8 degrees, they should self-isolate for seven days and remain in the house, separate from everyone.

 If anyone in your building has a cough or temperature, then all the people in the building should self-isolate for 14 days.

In the wake of this, all theatres and cinemas have closed. The streets are pretty empty for now, but it will be interesting once people get bored if they creep back out. I suspect that they may have to start instructing people or make laws for this new strategy to work but let’s see.

The stock market has plummeted and is close to a crash; the USA has pumped billions into it and has dropped its interest rate to zero. The UK dropped our interest rate to 0.25 yesterday.

The latest research of the data indicates that while the virus has a limited impact on younger people as a whole, older people can be severely affected, particularly if they have an underlying medical condition. The concern is that older and vulnerable people will catch it from others less at risk. Hence the need for everyone to comply.

The real threat is the ability of the NHS to cope with too many seriously ill patients. The reality is that there are insufficient ICU beds to cope. The government is talking with manufacturers in the UK, such as Rolls Royce, to get new Intensive Care beds made, as there are scarcely any on the market, as the whole world now needs them. We are going to have to make them ourselves, it seems.

The potential indirect deaths that this crisis could cause for those who have ‘non-corona’ illnesses requiring ICU (Intensive Care Unit) beds is coming into focus.

They are trying to limit the severe cases from an unmanageable spike which overwhelms the NHS, to get a ‘flatter curve,’ on the chart, with which it can cope. Why the hell we have so few intensive care beds, is a mystery. Other countries such as Germany have well over ten times as many such beds as we do. It is disgraceful and is likely to cost lives.

  ‘Vulnerable people’ are classed as those with a heart condition, kidney disorder, breathing problems, pregnant mothers, high blood pressure, people overweight at 40 BMI.

  Although I don’t feel it, I guess I am at risk as I take blood pressure tablets, so I should be cautious. Forty years of smoking would no doubt have made my lungs a bit claggy as well. I don’t want to get it, that’s for sure.

 

Family life.

I will severely limit going out of the house and contact with others, as requested by the government to try to avoid it and prevent its spread. I can read and write as entertainment.

The government advise against family gatherings, so we need to embrace technology. I will contact my offspring tomorrow to arrange how we are going to combat all of this.

Why does he not just order everyone to do this instead of giving wishy-washy ‘advice?’

Author’s retrospective note:

We now know that today was the day the Prime Minister received an email from Imperial College Oxford that if we were to carry on at this infection rate, half a million citizens would die! Hence the change of tone I shouldn’t wonder.

I was desperate to have my hair cut, of all things, and thought it might be better now than waiting. When I went to the barber, he wore a surgical mask as he cut my hair. These are bizarre times. I was grateful for his consideration, however.

Quote of the day:

‘No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting.’ - Mary Worley Montagu.

 

TUESDAY 17TH MARCH 2020

Several shops have closed already, Disney Store, Morphe, and Urban have all closed down in Victoria Centre, Nottingham.

The Euro 2020 football tournament has been postponed until next year.

There is a worldwide travel ban announced today for 30 days, in the first instance.

We learn that Iran has freed 85,000 prisoners to prevent the spread. It seems a bit drastic and counter intuitive. It appears to be totally out of control there.

 

Family life.

My partner Jackie works at Next, and we fear that she is on limited time before it closes down for the pandemic. I think I have enough savings to see us through so long as it is only a few months. It looks like it is going to be for the long haul, possibly even 18 months, pending a vaccine.

Jackie’s son Aron has been made redundant from Showcase cinema. My son Harry who has been doing part-time work at The Nottingham Arena has been laid off until May. He should be starting university this year. Jackie’s son Callum, and partner Lottie, are trying to do some work cleaning at the Arena, for now, just to get some money in.

Jackie is also worried she won’t be able to get her hair done tomorrow! She has been growing her colour out for eight weeks and is desperate to get it sorted.

I have ‘What’s apped’ the lads and suggested that in light of social distancing and the request to stay at home, we have a weekly family Skype conference call each Sunday at 4 pm to keep in touch to support each other if needed. It looks like everyone is up for it and can make it. It is Mother’s Day next week, and we were together on Sunday, so it will start on 29th March.

Quote of the day:

‘Although no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.’ - Carl Bard.

 

WEDNESDAY 18TH MARCH 2020

Facts and figures.

There has been a total of 56,221 people tested in the UK so far.

The number of UK cases of coronavirus has risen by 676, to a total of 2,626.

Sir Patrick Vallance, who is the Chief Scientific Advisor and chair of SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies), has said that 20,000 deaths in the UK would be a good outcome, but it could be 250,000. Terrifying figures. Of course, they have no idea.

So far, there have been 8,006 recorded deaths directly due to the virus globally, with over 200,000 cases overall.

Daily news.

Most streets around the UK are pretty deserted, particularly in the centre of London. This will diminish even more, I would think. There are likely to be more draconian measures coming our way.

Schools close.

All schools in Scotland and Wales are to close by Friday – it is announced. A press conference at 5 pm will clarify whether England will follow suit. They say that it is a reduction in staff and teachers through illness and self-isolation, forcing them to take this action.

Author’s note. My daughter Lily leaves primary school this year for secondary school, and this will be an odd way to make the transition. It is a shame for her.

The European mainland closes its external borders.

Glastonbury Rock Concert and the Eurovision Song Contest are cancelled.

British holidaymakers are told to leave Spain as soon as possible as they are closing all hotels from Tuesday 24th March 2020.

Food rationing.

Major supermarkets in the UK are restricting certain product lines to three per person, toilet rolls, pasta, and hand sanitiser, for example. Not that you can get sanitiser anywhere. Toilet rolls seem to be the comfort blanket purchase of choice, with people inexplicably buying tons of the stuff. No-one knows why. Perhaps because when anyone coughs, everybody shits their pants!

 

5 pm Press Briefing – Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It has been announced that all schools are to close in England from this coming Friday 20th March. The only difference with England is that they keep some schools open for children of ‘key workers.’ A key worker's definition has not been given yet other than NHS workers, police, and delivery drivers.

All exams are now cancelled, which is problematic, particularly for A level students and universities.

We can work around all of this, I’m sure. Watching the television news, several people seem to be whinging about the impact. Still, it seems, the severity of this crisis hasn’t sunk in and that norms are going to disappear temporarily. We need to realise that normal life will alter significantly in the coming storm. We will just have to sweep up afterwards.

The belated decision to close the schools seems to signify that the government has given up on the prospect of using the dreaded herd immunity and wilfully allowing much of the population to catch this nasty killer virus. We now know that not so many people are asymptomatic as first thought, and indeed younger people are suffering terribly in ICU, and some are dying. It is a non-starter. We need to try to stop it from spreading by avoiding contact. How does that end, though? Until we have a vaccine, we will be tiptoeing around in full protective clothing one assumes!

 

Family life.

One of my sons, Chris, is a primary school teacher at a private school. I contacted him, and he said that it looks like he will still be paid, which is a relief for him. They will be supporting the pupils via online activity; at least that is the intention for now.

Harry is laid off from his work in the hospitality sector as he waits to go to university. He is taking auditions to do a degree in acting. These auditions are now via video and online.

My son, Andy, works at the City Hospital in Cancer Research. I worry this takes him closer to the virus when working at the hospital, but he is not on the front line at least. Hospitals are notoriously unhealthy places to visit. You go in with one thing and come out with another, only with this virus, you might not be coming out.

Jackie managed to get her hair done, ahead of the storm; I guess it is essential to try to give ourselves these little boosts and as a practicality. Who knows when we will be able to again? I feel pretty sure that this sort of activity will fall away in the next couple of weeks when we get into the mire of it all. The word is that it will reach its height in ten to twelve weeks, which seems quite a long time away. Maybe they are lulling us?

I have spent the day writing and recording chapter three of ‘Trace and Eliminate’ for my next audiobook. This is quite a lengthy process. I am currently editing ‘Fair Means Or Foul,’ my fourth book, which will be out soon.

Quote of the day:

‘My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.’ – Maya Angelou.

 

THURSDAY 19TH MARCH 2020

Facts and figures.

By the close of play, there were 3,269 cases and 144 dead in the UK.

Italy has surpassed China having the most fatalities with 3,405 dead.

 

Daily news.

Call in the army.

The news mentions 20,000 troops put on stand-by and that this is ‘frightening’. I think they forget that they are our troops, not an enemy’s. They will be helping with all manner of things I’m sure, such as deliveries of food, NHS work, burying the dead perhaps, that sort of thing. They may also need them to enforce lockdowns and criminal behaviour.

As an ex-CID Detective Sergeant, I can guess what the criminal fraternity will be plotting once the streets go quiet. I’m sure the powers that be will have a plan in place to deal with this. I hope people are locking their doors.

‘London will never be locked down.’

The Prime Minister reportedly says that London will never be locked down and closed off from the rest of the country.

The Bank of England has reduced the interest rate to 0.1

The Queen has put a message out, which includes:

 ‘The country is entering a period of uncertainty. Our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together as one for the common goal.’

 

5 pm Press Briefing. The Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister states that we can ‘turn the tide’ and ‘send the virus packing’ in three months if everyone complies with the advice. He is suggesting that in this period, scientific progress will come into play. This news feels like the ‘carrot’ part of the government’s carrot and stick policy. The ‘stick’ bit came from a scientific briefing informing young people that they will get very sick, and many are on intensive care units around the world. They are not immune from the coronavirus, and not invincible.

Americans have been told by their government to ‘come home.’ This request sounds like they may be closing their borders soon.

The first British patient is trialling a potential care relief drug.

Hydroxychloroquine.

The President of the USA, Donald Trump, has suggested that an existing antimalarial drug is beneficial, and they need to trial it. Something called ‘hydroxychloroquine.’

Another drug called ‘remdesivir’ originally developed to treat Ebola is also close to being approved.

The FDA, who authorise medications in the United States seem a little cooler to Donald Trump’s enthusiastic reaction. As I watched him talk about medication, he clearly knew little about. Why would he? Yet I suspect because he is the President, he believes this makes him an expert in everything, or that he ‘should’ know everything, when, let's face it, he clearly doesn’t. We have all met people like this, have we not? He has some of the finest experts in the world at his disposal and there he is making stuff up on the hoof. Strange.

 

Family life.

Dad’s army.

I have seen in the magazine Police Oracle that they are considering calling up retired police officers so I may be getting the call-up. I am relatively young at 56, but I have been retired for some time, so where I would be positioned on a call-up list, I do not know. Naturally, I am prepared to do my bit for Queen and country should it be required, although it would be a risk.

Food shortage.

We called at Morrison’s for some bread and bits after Jackie finished work at 8 pm. I stayed in the car to minimise infection. Many shelves are empty, bread, drinks, crisps, baked beans that sort of thing, totally stripped from the shelves.

The first big hit to the family is Jackie’s youngest son, ‘CALLUM, HAS SUSPECTED COVID-19’. He is 25 years old. He texted his Mum to tell her and that he and his partner Lottie are self-isolating. Callum has a temperature and is struggling to breathe and has a cough. It sounds ominous, but there is no way of checking. We are worried but are communicating and ready to drop food off etc. if necessary. At least they are with each other, and he is not alone.

Quote of the day:

‘Ignorance is toxic. If a man hands you a cup of coffee and pours in what he calls liquid sugar when the container clearly says poison, how bliss is your ignorance?’ – James Jean-Pierre.

 

FRIDAY 20TH MARCH 2020

Facts and figures.

39 new deaths in the UK, making a total of 177.

In Harrow, London, Northwich Park Hospital has declared a ‘critical incident’ because it is at capacity. It is unable to take any more patients. One fears this is merely the start, and I can almost hear the howls of derision when this crisis starts to bite, and hundreds, if not thousands, begin dying every day.

 

Daily news.

Key workers.

Today the list of ‘critical workers’ has been issued by the government. These are the people whose children can continue to be schooled to enable their parents to work. It is a comprehensive list – the headings are as follows:

Health and social care

Education and childcare

Key public services. (Justice system, religious staff, management of deceased, journalists).

The local and national government

Food and other necessary goods

Public safety and national security

Transport

Utilities, communication, and financial services.

‘Just a bug.’

I’ve noticed some weird stuff on social media. Many young people are not quite getting it because they think it’s just a bug and they will be fine. They are missing the point that they would become spreaders and possibly affect the vulnerable. Also, they do not realise how bad they could suffer; many young people get severe pneumonia and need to be ventilated, which is a horrendous procedure. Some are just stupid and selfish, but I hasten to add that this is not necessarily peculiar to young people, of course.

I tweeted that we should try to give people a bit of understanding if they say things we disagree with and be kind. We all have different coping strategies, and denial is no doubt, one of them.

Jailed for going out.

News in at 10.40 am that a 26-year-old man has been arrested on The Isle of Wight for refusing to self-isolate. They have a local law that refusal to comply incurs a fine and/or three months in prison. He is in custody.

 

5 pm Press Briefing. The Prime Minister.

Today's science briefing has suggested that social distancing is likely to continue for a year, including closures of premises. This is likely to be an incredible change to our way of life.

P.M. Johnson says, ‘Lives can, must, and will be saved.’

He announces that the government is moving from ‘asking’ café’s, bars, and restaurants to close to ‘telling’ them to shut from tonight. It is the same for theatres, leisure centres, and gyms. It is to be reviewed each month. He expects that all will comply, but licensing laws can assist with enforcement if necessary. - WE ARE IN (SEMI) LOCKDOWN!

Chancellor builds a raft.

The new Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announces a raft of financial initiatives designed to help unemployed people by the closures and the virus provisions. He describes it rightly as ‘unprecedented support.’

They will pay for people’s wages. ‘The coronavirus job retention scheme’ is a policy where the HMRC can be contacted and will give a grant of 80% of workers’ salaries so they will still get the bulk of their pay, topped up by businesses should they desire—backdated to March 1st  2020.

This will be for three months at first and reviewed. Author’s retrospective note - these will become known as furlough payments.

The chancellor hopes the first grant will be paid before the end of April, which is six weeks away, folks.

‘The coronavirus interruption scheme’ is a loan available interest-free for an entire year available for businesses affected.

‘Cash flow support’ through tax. He is deferring VAT payments until the end of June, and you can pay up to the end of the year without penalty.

He is increasing universal credit for the unemployed for the next year by £1000.

He is increasing working tax credits by the same amount.

There are numerous other measures, but these are the mainstream ones. Anyone on the PAYE scheme is included, which also covers non-contracted zero-hours workers.

 

Family life.

Callum is still unwell but not too bad. Lottie is looking after him. There has been a request for soup and other items to be left outside their flat.

Jackie’s children, Aron, Ashley, and Callum seem to be taking it quite light-heartedly. It is probably the best approach. I fear they haven’t seen the awful apocalyptic pictures coming out of Italy and their hospitals. It is horrendous. I just hope that Callum doesn’t take a turn for the worst on day 5, as is the trend.

I felt a bit emotional thinking about it earlier. Maybe it is getting to us all a bit, knowing what is around the corner.

Hiatus.

My son Harry is in a hiatus, pending going to University in September. He has been working as zero-hours contract at The Nottingham Motorpoint Arena in the hospitality sector to earn a few pennies. He was ‘laid off’ when the coronavirus hit. I wonder if he can claim anything. And if so, how?

Similarly, Katie, Andy’s partner, is a music teacher and an operatic singer who is self-employed. I ‘What’s apped’ them on the family group to alert them to the new initiatives, but they seem aware, and they are going to enquire.

I picked Jackie up from Morrison’s at 8.25 pm – she went there when she finished work at 8 pm. She managed to get some tins of soup and some cereal and other bits for Callum and Lottie. We drove over to their flat, and having text them, Jackie left the bag outside the flat and stood well back behind a wall and watched Lottie collect it.

They made light of the strangeness as Jackie waved from behind the brickwork.

Square root.

I have worked out exactly what I am entitled to for my financial support from the government in the creative industry of writing, giving people comfort and entertainment while they are in lockdown. By my calculations I am entitled to the square root of sod all.

Quote of the day:

‘Reality. It is sometimes brought through foreign eyes; because if you do not know any better, you cannot see the worse (and vice versa)’. – Criss Jami.

 

SAT 21ST MARCH 2020

Facts and figures

Wales has 89 new cases and Scotland 551.

There are now 4,145 cases in total in the UK, with deaths at 233.

Church bells.

We see on the news how Italy continues to spiral out of control with the crisis. Just short of 800 people died in Italy in the last 24 hours, making a total of 4,825 deaths in total so far. 53,578 have so far contracted the disease.

It is currently worse in Italy than anywhere else on the planet, and the overstretched and desperate doctors keep warning the UK that this horror is coming to us. It will happen. This is a frightening prospect and is surely unprecedented in modern times.

Italy has today banned people from even going outside to the parks, despite social distancing. This makes all towns like ghost towns. We saw on Sky News; a Mrs Fogo interviewed from Lambardi who spoke about how quiet it was now outside. She said,

 ‘All I hear through the window is the Church Bells and the sound of ambulances.’

 

4 pm Press Briefing. - George Eustace, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Mr Eustace re-iterated the call to only buy what you need from the shops. There is enough food, but there are some problems with deliveries and staffing shortages. Some stores will limit specific items to so many per person. The supermarkets have been struggling with people stocking up.

Their algorithms and the use of loyalty cards enable their computers to anticipate the required stock levels per day per store. Once people overbuy in bulk, of course, it necessarily follows that there is a shortfall of produce on the shelves short term.

‘Every man for himself.’

So far, a billion pounds more food is currently in people’s cupboards than there was three weeks ago because of people stocking up. It is almost a hysterical reaction when you see people buying lots of stuff and empty shelves. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, with everyone following suit. It feels like an ‘every man for himself’ doctrine.

The NHS has done a deal with independent hospitals who are providing 8,000 beds and 20,000 care workers. Plus, thousands of ventilators. This is excellent news and a huge relief as the monster approaches.

Sophie’s choice.

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) has said that doctors should allocate critical care beds to those patients who have the most chance of surviving. This is a terrible choice for doctors to make and does not bode well if I get the virus, particularly if young people keep flouting the lockdown and taking beds from those more likely to die.

John Lewis is closing all their stores to protect customers.

Other large retailers keep clinging on with their fingertips by staying open, which I get, but it encourages customers to group together and risks harm to them and the staff working in them. Jackie’s employers ‘Next’ continue to trade.

 

Family life.

I went out to Morrison’s at Victoria Retail Park at 6.40 am ready for it opening at 7 am as we need some bread and milk and other perishable goods, notably fruit, which were unavailable last night.

Pyjama fight.

When I arrived at 6.45 am, there were already around 80 people outside. It was grim waiting in the cold. A man behind me started coughing without covering his mouth, and I quickly turned away. Then there was an argument. A man called out a woman in pyjamas for pushing in. She didn’t move. There is always one. I’m glad he challenged her, though. I would have, if I’d seen it.

Anyway, I did not get everything I wanted, but I got bananas and a bit of milk and bread. Several shelves were wiped clean.

Callum is still unwell with a temperature, sore throat, and cough. Of course, we don’t know if it is coronavirus, but he has to assume it is.

Quote of the day:

‘Thanks for giving me a place to sleep last night, and for the extra blanket. Vi.’ – Violet’s note to Lincoln. – Jessica Shirvington.

 

SUNDAY 22ND MARCH 2020

Facts and figures.

72,000 have so far been tested, and 5,681 of these are positive.

There have been 48 deaths in the last 24 hours, making 281 deaths in the UK so far.

 

Daily news.

Today’s Sunday newspaper headlines:

Stay home alone to save your life, 1.5m warned.

 – The Sunday Times.

NHS facing Italian-style crisis if we don’t stay home, says PM.

 – The Sunday Telegraph.

Boris – NHS is on the brink.

 – The Mail on Sunday.

Military planners drafted in to get aid to vulnerable Britons.

 – The Observer.

For your Mother’s sake stay at home.

 – Sunday Express.

 

Holiday time.

Thousands of people are seen in parks and beaches mixing together, treating it like a public holiday rather than a global emergency. The reason for this, in my view, is:

  1. They are idiots.

  2. They don’t watch the news. (See 1 above).

  3. They don’t understand how virulent this is. (see 1 above).

  4. They are mistakenly thinking ‘I will beat this virus; I’m not scared of it.’ (See 1 above).

Cycling.

An epidemiologist explained the difference between the flu and COVID-19. If you have the flu, you are expected to spread it to 1.3 people who, in turn, will do the same.

After ten rounds of this, about 15 people will be infected.

COVID-19 is much more contagious, and you will infect 2.5 people. This does not sound a lot, does it? However, if you then times that by ten cycles of infection, it means an astonishing 59,000 would be infected.

The World Health Organisation has said that it will be at least a year before a vaccine is available.

 

4 pm Press Briefing. Matt Hancock Secretary of State for Health.

There is a new initiative announced for 1.5 million vulnerable people. They are to be ‘shielded.’

There is a government list of who qualifies for this. The list includes the over 70’s, some cancer patients and others with chronic illnesses. The NHS is sending a letter to them this week. There will be a community effort to support them, particularly those without family or other support. The medicines and food will be delivered by pharmacies and the local council, respectively.

Admirable.

There has been an appeal for retired NHS staff to give their services. In the first 48 hours, 4,000 retired nurses and 500 retired doctors responded—an admirable response.

 

Family life.

Callum still has a headache and aches. He and Lottie continue to self-isolate.

My son, Chris, has a cold but says it is not COVID-19 symptoms. He is a teacher and, for the moment, continues to work.

Andy, my other son, works for the NHS, and so is naturally working too.

A pair of knickers.

My fiancée, Jackie, continues to have to work. ‘Next’ fashion stores have announced themselves to be ‘essential.’

Jackie says that they still have many customers coming in the shop, who, for some inexplicable reason, think it is worth risking catching and spreading this deadly virus to buy a £5 pair of knickers or a potted plant from the Home section. Bizarre.

Even McDonalds and Costa are closing their stores from today, including their drive-thru facility and take away service.

We have set up ‘What’s App’ pages for Jackie’s family now, as well as mine, so we can update and check in regularly. I am arranging a skype conference call, via Harry, for this coming Sunday for us to attend.

Quote of the day:

‘If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.’ – Noel Langley. (The Wizard of Oz).

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