Soon we will be able to watch the world without us being in it. There are only a handful of things most of us live through that could be called world altering and the coronavirus scenario is one of those. For once it seems like the more extreme tabloid headlines of recent weeks such as `Virus Mayhem` are actually not too wide of the mark. I’ve kept having to re-write this post due to unfolding events as matters escalate so it may well be out of date when you’re read it but I just wanted to record what its like at this time, at this moment.
I will probably be working from home soon and only leaving the house for fresh food shopping if indeed there is any. I’m a part time carer as well so may have to take over all that work if the carers stop coming. It is hard to imagine what three months (or longer) confined in the house would be like though I am lucky enough to have access to a garden so I would not be indoors for all that time. My life has become somewhat limited these past five years anyway due to my caring responsibilities so I suppose for me it would not be quite as difficult as it will be for people whose regular lifestyle involves going out, travelling etc. I suppose you have to look on the bright side.
It is amazing how everyone has now become an expert on coronavirus. Terms like `self - isolation` and `social distancing` were never heard till a couple of weeks ago and now they’re part of our everyday lexicon. I imagine they’ll still be used in other contexts long after the crisis is over. Coronavirus has stuck as a name too even though it’s a more general term and the actual pandemic is of Covid-19 which doesn’t sound as dangerous.
Even before yesterday’s dramatic announcement, every single conversation I’d overheard in the past week has been about the coronavirus, nothing else matters now. All the topics which previously engaged people- Brexit, sport, Trump, climate change, the price of fish- have now been relegated to things we can’t afford to bother with right now. You could also tell who has been listening to official announcements and who has been trawling the more alarming rumours circulating online.
Those of us who’ve watched a lot of disaster / plague sorts of films know the basic choreography of these things and how real life has so far followed suit. Isolated incidents followed initially by official denials despite the valiant efforts of a few trying to get the information public. Spike in cases, things get worse, serious official statements, panic buying, dramatic escalation of response…. We’re sort of at that stage right now. The only thing we know will not happen is some superhero who’ll come in and save the day.
I think all the messages of reassurance would carry more weight if it were not for the shortages in shops. In Tesco’s on Saturday I was alarmed to see huge gaps on shelves where products had sold out. Usually this happens when a shop is about to close. Is this due to panic buying or lack of supplies from countries on lockdown? Not sure but the list of things it is currently impossible to buy in Liverpool includes toilet rolls, baked beans, pasta, tinned dinners, paracetamol and hand sanitizer. In short supply but still around if you look are tinned fish and, weirdly, jam. I didn’t think anyone used jam these days. Whatever statements are made I’ve not seem much evidence of rationing. Fresh food is still plentiful at present. The streets have been noticeably less busy though there are still plenty of cars and the only closed shops so far are three US companies that have shut their stores - Apple, Hollister and Urban Outfitters till today when cinemas closed. Local schools here are open but our universities have moved to online lectures so students really can spend all day in bed.
On the emptying streets the atmosphere is strangely like that time just after New Year when nobody bothers shopping and everyone’s back at work. People are walking about as usual but there are fewer of them. Yesterday I saw two large stalls set up at either end of the city centre, each selling containers of hand sanitizer at £4 each. Stall holders always seem adept at somehow sourcing just what people are looking for – every time it rains they’re suddenly selling umbrellas for example. You’d have to be less cynical than me not to see a connection between all those empty supermarket shelves and these more amply filled stalls.
It is hard to see how some businesses will survive with either no supplies or no customers. However large the outbreak turns out to be its repercussions will be larger with a slew of well- known businesses already saying they can only survive like this for weeks rather than months. There is now a realisation I think that this is a big, serious thing when some people only last week were dismissing things as an `over reaction`.
Some people are having difficulties getting home from wherever they are. I know of someone whose son has been trying to get back from the US and has already had three planes cancelled. He’s had to find a lift for the two hour drive to a different airport. As more and more flights are cancelled it looks like giant dominos falling though you’d think countries would be eager for non- residents to leave. What happens to someone stranded abroad for months?
Someone showed me extracts from a sci-fi novel written decades ago that mentions a Covid-19 outbreak happening in 2020 but is suddenly vanishes and I ‘m hoping this may be the case. Inevitably you don’t have to look too far online to find humorous responses to the situation. My favourite is the famous scene from the 1917 trailer where one of the characters is running towards the camera surrounded by explosions and the troops headed the other way. Only now in his hands he has a pack of toilet rolls!
`They` say (you’re never quite sure who `they` are) this will all go on for a year, especially if there’s no vaccine or that the warm weather will kill it off (so why are there lots of cases in countries with hot climates?) but I think that’s too much to cope with. This sort of thing, like any serious illness, is best to take one day at a time. I’ve never washed my hands as much as I have these past couple of weeks and I hope that might help especially as I use buses regularly. Buses are where you pick up colds normally. I’ve watched people trying to get downstairs on a bus without touching the metal rail but I feel a thorough wash is probably better than breaking something if you fall.
If, like me, you look after someone - whether elderly or children- the sense of dread increases because you can’t really express it. You have to be the cheery `everything will be fine` person whereas half the time you’re thinking `it’s the end of everything`. `They` (again) say worrying never solved anything but that doesn’t stop you worrying. Trying to balance logic, reason and emotion is tricky when things like this happen. The other thing is that normally illness strikes unexpectedly whereas now it feels like we’re waiting to become ill. I think it’s the potential length of it the crisis which also causes a lot of concern. We’re all familiar with Word War 2 documentaries and how that conflict ran for six years- now try and think what all this would be like for six years. This is probably why the very oldest generation tend to be the least concerned even though they don’t seem to think that when they lived through that war they were children or teenagers whereas now they are much weaker and more vulnerable.
I’ve read a lot about this situation, some of it informative, some of it ridiculous, some of it concerning. One thing I do sense is true is that when the media says Life is on Hold it also means that while it will eventually go back to Normal, it just won’t be the same Normal.