The Easter Bunny fails to call
So that’s the Easter weekend out of the way. For some, today should have been a return to work and a resumption of routine, but of course, we’re in lockdown so many people will find today very much like the days which have preceded it. Stopping at home, trying to find things to do, keeping up to date with friends and news on social media – and watching the daily government press briefings, hoping for some good news in the latest statistics.
I don’t ‘do’ Easter myself (or Christmas for that matter). I’m not a theist so Easter has no religious significance for me, and I’m not that bothered about chocolate – so no Easter treats were delivered or consumed chez nous. I guess the Easter Bunny was also in lockdown.
It’s now just over three weeks since the PM announced the beginning of our own lockdown and it looks set to go on for a while longer yet. The number of reported cases seems to be levelling off a bit with ‘only’ 4,342 new cases added to the official UK tally yesterday (Easter Monday), a slight reduction on the previous two days but a considerable drop when compared with the number of new cases reported on Good Friday, when 8,681 new cases were added to the list. The daily count of people having died because of the virus has also fallen – 717 announced on Easter Monday down from a high of 980 on Good Friday.
It’s still too early to see these reductions as a trend; we’ve seen reductions in the numbers before only for a sudden spike to reappear taking us to new levels. There have now been 11,329 deaths attributed to Covid-19 and that number will go up again when today’s figures are published. It’s widely accepted that the figures being reported are not showing us the full picture as they only count the number of people in hospital where people are being tested for the virus. Deaths of people in the community, particularly in care homes, are not being added to the figures because there has, as yet, been no significant testing for the virus outside of hospitals.
So, the lockdown goes on – we’ve not yet been given any official confirmation for how long it will be extended but it will probably go on until at least the end of April and quite possibly into May. There are concerns that the lockdown will do long-lasting damage to the economy and that, because of this, lockdown needs to be relaxed early to get the economy back on its feet. No doubt there will be some phasing out of the current strictures but it will need to be done carefully to avoid the risk of a sudden upturn in new cases and yet more deaths.
I can see some sense in this – unable to work, people are suffering financially, and some businesses may never recover (an increasing number of retail chains are already going into administration and the future of these companies and what will happen to their workforce is at best uncertain). But there’s another major downside to the lockdown and that’s the stress it’s causing and the impact it’s having on physical and mental health – whether it be due to financial worries, or depression and loneliness triggered by self-isolating or, in some cases, domestic abuse (which is reported to be on the increase while people are being forced into close and unrelenting proximity).
Despite the problems, easing the rules around lockdown will need to be done very carefully. Some workers may have to be coaxed back to work – given assurances that their workplaces are safe and that social distancing can be practised while they do their jobs. If people are allowed out and there’s no upswing in the number of reported infections (and concomitant deaths), then confidence will start to grow. However, until the virus is eliminated, or an effective vaccine is produced and a mass inoculation programme implemented, there’ll be certain sections of the population for whom lockdown may have to continue indefinitely. The elderly and those with underlying health conditions are obviously most at risk – but it’s not just about staying home for them, it’s about keeping their distance from the people they would usually come into contact with, including family and friends, while carers will need to continue exercising caution when in close proximity with the people they are looking after.
Lockdown will be even harder to bear for those people who have to continue with their own self-isolation once the rest of the country starts to return to anything like normal. There’s been a heart-warming upsurge in community volunteers offering to help neighbours, the sick and the elderly. I hope that such community spirit might continue for those who need it once the doors are unlocked. For some, such support has been a lifeline in these troubling times.