Covid-19 Diaries – March 31st

Dearest Blog.

Never have the newshounds had it so good.  Never have they wagged their tails with such glee, whilst sniffing out every single coronavirus tidbit, no matter how tenuous the link.

Today one of the BBC’s old journo dogs, holed up in isolation at home, reported that the UK death rate is actually much higher than official figures suggest.  He couldn’t have been more pleased when conveying this new information via the ONS.  Yes, according to his ‘ropey maths’ the death rate is 25% higher than the figures the government give us.  25% higher!  he exclaimed via Skype (or whatever the Beeb use.)  That’s 40 extra deaths  that nobody’s told you about!  (he could barely conceal his delight) whilst out of sight his hands were happily rubbing together, in the manner of old Fagin were he reading the news.  Yes, let’s hit ‘em with that statistic.  That’ll ruin their morning cup of tea. The daily death-rate floating across our screens isn’t doing it; we need more scary numbers; more gigantic charts; more sobering statistics.

They’re loving it.

Never have we all so clearly been ‘just a number.’  The daily death rate is just a number, but behind each individual bit of that number is a person who had the misfortune to die during a pandemic. And there they all are, publicly displayed on your screen, as a cold, cumulative, faceless figure providing news fodder.  Today we died and you didn’t.  We’re just a number, you’re still a human being.

And as the NHS staff risk their lives and people die from a previously down-played virus, the internet is busily playing its virtual violin, whilst the mother ship goes down.  For Covid-19 has been nothing but a blessing to social media. A proliferation of real-life doctor channels now fill YouTube, giving updates of their daily doings, and insisting that now is the ‘time to talk about death’ (don’t tell me what to do…..and could you be more irresponsibly clickbaity and apocalyptic?)

Celebrities, rich enough to not be bothered about lockdown, are uploading newly created channels, in their hundreds.  There are exercise videos.  The excitable Joe Wicks, who can’t believe his luck. For him The Virus has meant millions of hits worldwide as he goads us into the kind of ‘lunge’ that’s guaranteed to put you in A&E, a place you currently want to steer well clear of.

Cooking ideas in lockdown (this recipe is so easy you don’t even need any ingredients!) Comedians uploading their ‘sets’ ‘cos their venues got cancelled.  Lockdown doesn’t have to be b-o-r-i-n-g.  You can use the time to better yourself (‘cos you were pretty crap before The Virus weren’t you?)  Do a bit of yoga why don’t you.  Take up a new hobby.  Read that book you never bothered starting.  It’s going to be such fun!  Whilst people lose their jobs. Whilst lives are put on hold indefinitely. Whilst the economy goes to pot.

And the fake news/advice. Never has my Facebook News Feed been so full of crap – and that’s saying something.  Keep your political agendas out of this please.  Keep your gullibility for fake posts out of this please. Just stay off my News Feed please.  How about writing a blog that no one reads instead?  How about I cancel Facebook and finally live my life away from social media, in splendid non-virus self-isolation.

My personal journey with Covid-19 began many weeks ago. Back then it was the ‘novel coronavirus,’ that probably originated in Wuhan, China. But the WHO changed the name, to avoid a racist backlash against the Chinese, or any blame at all being apportioned to the Chinese. ‘Co’ (corona), vi (virus), ‘d’ (disease), ’19 (2019.)  So, just another new virus that magically appeared from nowhere (and most definitely not in China.)

Around about that time YouTube recommended a video that came out of nowhere, as my recommendations so frequently do. Mysterious and secret are the ways of the YouTube algorithm. I clicked on a video by a Dr John Campbell.  And I’d found Dr John the Baptist, crying out in the online wilderness about a new coronavirus.  This was in January.

Dr John Campbell is not your average YouTuber.  He’s probably about 70.  A retired A&E nurse who later completed a PhD, whose channel previously gave precise medical information on various diseases to anybody willing to watch and listen. Which wasn’t many. But then Dr Campbell began talking about The Virus, and he’s now hitting nearly a million views a video.

Back in January, Dr Campbell was telling his viewers that, in spite of not knowing just how infectious the new virus was, he advised staying at home if you can, to avoid all public forms of transport, to reduce close contact with people and to wash your hands.  He was of the opinion that the situation would definitely escalate and possibly become dire.

I watched Dr Campbell in the belief that he was scaremongering. That he was a retired, lonely nutjob with time on his hands.  My belief that this was the case was due to the fact that the husband had one of his regular encounters with an NHS health professional during that time, in which that professional absolutely belittled his concerns about The Virus and, in fact, joked about how massively overblown it all was by the media.  Just three weeks ago, I encountered the same mindset from a GP. The first time I’ve seen a doctor in three years. My husband is immunosuppressed, I said. Is he at risk from The Virus?  Not at all, she laughed merrily, his odds of dying from The Virus are minuscule (accompanied by a thumb and forefinger gesture signifying the tiniest of distances.)   As of last week, the husband is on The List – a list of people most likely to die from The Virus.

This now begs the question – how could medics with actual medical training, and plenty of academic degrees, be so unaware of the dangers of a ‘novel’ infectious virus?  When here was this 70-year-old bloke on YouTube correctly predicting Armageddon two months ahead of the curve?

I continued to watch Dr Campbell.  His videos are far from entertaining. They’re just him in a room, and a split screen where he displays his handwritten notes on the virus, and the information he gleans from contacts around the world, the WHO and our own statistics.  The videos are quite mind-numbingly boring.  But, from Dr Campbell I learned about R numbers, and epidemic curves, and how long the virus could last on surfaces, and how it attacks the lungs and other organs.  Admittedly, most of it was stuff I didn’t want to know.

By now people were flocking to his channel and, as usual, the comments section took up most of my attention (I love a good comments section.)  Rather alarmingly, many of the contributors were mentioning that they’d begun ‘stockpiling’ because of Dr Campbell’s messages and that they now trusted Dr Campbell far more than their own governments.  ‘Why stockpile?’ I distinctly remember thinking.  I was still viewing Dr Campbell as mildly eccentric, if slightly alarming, entertainment which basically had no value in the real world. But the stockpiling comments got through.

The husband and I then began to make much more frequent trips to the supermarket to get supplies of tins/dried goods. Not in a panic buying fashion at all, for there was plenty on the shelves back then. My one food cupboard in the kitchen is usually bare, my ‘stockpiling’ was simply remedying this situation.  This sort of preparatory food buying is easily explained, and its root is not entirely selfish.

Stocking up on supplies made myself and the husband feel in control of the situation. It felt like we were ‘doing something about The Virus,’ rather than helplessly watching everything unfold. But, as the weeks went by, we noticed that, suddenly, our local Sainsbury was bereft of Kleenex, sanitiser, loo rolls, dried goods.  Just in time thought I. Thank you Dr Campbell.

The ‘just in time’ is pertinent as we now have to isolate for 12 weeks.  And now the medics, who also told the husband that he was at more risk from seasonal flu than covid-19, are battening down the hatches in terror.

My isolation is not so bad.  As a housewife, I’ve been self-isolating for nigh on 30 years. My routine remains the same. But we’ll probably be more in touch now Blog; now I’ve got (practically) nothing to do and nowhere to go.



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