We are now in week fifteen of lockdown in the UK and with the arrival of the 100-day mark at least one of my friends, who has been posting daily ‘thankfulness’ updates on her Facebook page, has decided that this is a good point at which to complete her particular project. She has encouraged and uplifted a lot of people with her wonderful pictures of life in rural County Durham and her appreciation of the beauty and variety of all that surrounds her and I have found her daily reminders to be grateful for all the good things really helpful. They have also prompted me to be more aware of my surroundings and today I particularly noticed the colourful roadsides. On the whole, though, my own, much more occasional postings here have been rather different in nature: more of a sporadic diary to remind me at some future date about some of what was going on during the course of this pandemic, both globally and personally.
At this point the total number of reported deaths from Covid-19 has reached half a million, from a total of over ten million reported cases of the disease. Rather surprisingly, according to figures produced by the World Health Organization, the UK figures are disproportionately bad compared to the global figures, which include all reporting countries, in that the UK death rate is running at 14% of reported cases while globally the figure is 5%. This fact does not appear to be getting a great deal of publicity, which is probably a good thing because alarmist reporting is never helpful. It seems most likely that this situation has occurred because of the lower levels of testing, and the differences in the way in which cases in the UK are reported.
This coming Saturday, lockdown measures in England will ease further, and people will be able to buy a drink in a pub, go to the hairdresser and see another household indoors. As has been pointed out in the press, this feels like something of a ‘watershed moment’ but although it might feel as if the worst is behind us many are pointing out that there is still a great deal of suffering, there will be ongoing fallout for a long time to come, and there is the very real threat of a second wave, so ‘stamina and resolve’ are more vital than ever. Indeed, one city has already been placed in a local lockdown for the coming two weeks, because of a rise in infections there.
Along with hundreds of thousands of others, I signed up as an NHS Volunteer Responder early on in the pandemic. Because of the overwhelming response – and my app tells me that there are many other responders living within a hundred yards of me – very little has been asked of me: supply exceeds demand in my area apparently. My first call, received while out and about, was to visit a lady who was presumably isolating; she didn’t want anything at all. The second call was received while I was on a train travelling into London at the end of April. I had forgotten to log off and the only way I could have responded to a need in Harlesden was to leap off a moving train, so I had to reject the call so that it could be passed to someone else. There followed complete silence from the app for quite some time. However, a few weeks ago volunteers were emailed about whether they would also like to volunteer for the ‘check in and chat’ function, and I signed up. My phone’s siren has since blared out a couple of times and I have found myself having conversations with someone in another part of the country. It has been a reminder, if any were needed, of just how isolated some people have been over recent months but also of how grateful they are that someone has picked up a phone to ask how they are. It was very humbling indeed to realise what a difference such a small thing can make. Although finding it tough during lockdown, and with circumstances that meant they could not take advantage of the easing of rules, neither of my contacts were in dire need or depressed. They were in regular touch with family members and were being supported adequately but they were nevertheless very pleased to hear from a stranger. It is really good to know that after almost four months these initiatives are continuing to make a difference and that there are things that absolutely anyone can do to help, no matter what their own situation might be.
Today I was also back in the Cathedral again for the second time since lockdown was imposed. If all goes well then the café will be open when I am next on duty in mid-July and I will be able to enjoy my volunteer’s lunch. That will be a real treat – my goodness, a meal out after four months! And to think that I took it completely for granted last year.