Friday 17 July 2020

Testing times

Back in March when, whether we liked it or not, we all stepped into this lockdown journey into the unknown  I said then that it would be August before we were back to normal and it is looking as if my prediction was not far wrong. There are still some spanners in the works and by normal I mean the new normal not the old normal. It has been quite a journey and it is not over yet.

Initially the idea of being at home and maybe getting a few jobs done in the house and garden did not seem to be such a bad idea. It was something of a novelty not to need to be rushing around to go anywhere, as everything gradually got cancelled and I am quite good with my own company. Going out was a bit scary as the road were eerily quiet and we had been given the impression that coronavirus was everywhere - it just couldn’t be seen. The weather here was good. So we had a few walks around the village and spent some time in the garden. I even hoped that maybe this would be the year that we finally got on top of our garden - we have now been her sixteen years. Those hopes were dashed when the local council suspended our green bin garden waste collection. With the tip also closed, where were we to put the garden rubbish? Any excuse to cut services. Soon everyday seemed to be the same. We needed a newspaper to tell us which day of the week it was, as we tried to stick to what was left of our usual routines.

Looking back now, it is easy to see the mistakes that have been made. The UK locked down too late, on the advice of the government scientists who thought that if we locked down too early people would get bored with lockdown and not adhere to the rules. OK people have got bored, but the sooner we locked down, the sooner lockdown could be eased. So thousands went to football matches and horse racing meetings, which were considered not to be an issue as they were outside, but there was a  resulting spike in coronavirus cases. At this point they did not seem to be protecting the NHS and saving lives. Then there is the matter of face masks. The original advice was that they gave very little protection. It was also thought that most people do not know how to wear them and would become cavalier about social distancing. So during the worst of the pandemic masks weren’t worn. Now with the infection and death rate falling dramatically, they are being deemed necessary. People still do not know how to wear them and the reusable ones that have become so popular need to be washed at a very high temperature to remove any bugs that may be on them. How many are doing that? Not many I am sure. I have seen them removed, then screwed up and shoved in a pocket like a dirty handkerchief. They have become a sort of status symbol or a fashion statement. Trump and his henchmen all wearing black face masks look like the Mafia. How soon will it be before a bank is robbed and the robbers can not be described because they are all wearing masks?

Here in the UK, from July 24 we are going to have to wear a mask to go into a shop. Well I am not keen on masks - they make me hot and when I am hot I don’t think straight. So I shall only be going to the supermarket and other essential shops, if I have to wear a face mask. We don’t need to worry about wearing a face mask on public transport, as where we live we are a mile from the nearest bus stop. So we have never used it. Even before lockdown I had got into the habit of buying stuff online and since lockdown I have being buying even more online, as shops were shut and items could not be found in the shops that were open. Returns are simple and buying from the comfort of your own home is much more relaxing than fighting with the crowds or having to queue to get into a shop. Also at the moment clothing can not be tried on in a shop. So if an item is not suitable a return trip is necessary to get a refund, which is more hassle and exposure to other people. Not to mention the time it takes.

Recently I have realised how much of what I buy is made in China, particularly clothes. After the events of this year, initially the gift to the world of the coronavirus pandemic and now its actions against Hong Kong, I have decided not to buy anything which states that it was made in China. If I was ruthless and decided to discard everything made in China right now, I would certainly be left with very few clothes, but the past can not be rewritten, so reluctantly I'll be keeping them, but there will be no new clothes from China.

That brings me to the other thorny subject, which has raised its head while the world has been in lockdown - Black Lives Matter. All that I have to say on that matter is that All Lives Matter. We should not be rewriting history, but should be learning from it.

Not to be forgotten is the hoo-ha of testing for the coronavirus infection and then the antibodies or immunity testing, which seems to have been forgotten about recently as the government try to concentrate on track and trace. A consistently reliable immunity test seems to have become a low priority as the scientists scrabble around to develop a vaccine which works. Little is known about how long immunity lasts or how effective it is in preventing reinfection. Research around immunity and antibodies/antigens seems to be low key. By the time that an effective vaccine is available coronavirus could have died out naturally. Testing the UK population to ascertain who may have coronavirus asymptomatically and where there maybe out breaks of the infection continues. Two or three weeks ago I was invited to participate in a study to measure the prevalence of COVID-19, which was being run by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Department of Health & Social Care. The letter that I received said that I had been chosen at random and paticipation was voluntary. I decided to participate as I thought that I had nothing to loose and I that I had had the coronavirus infection some time ago. I was unlikely to yield a positive test and I might even get an immunity test out of it. Well no immunity test so far and my coronavirus test came back as negative. Having to self administer the swab test was exceeding difficult. So I can see why many are not returned. The swab test had too be done by 8 am. I am not a morning person. So set the alarm to get it done. Trying to get a swab all the way back to your tonsils when your mouth is dry and you are half asleep is a conjuring trick. Poking the swab up my nose was not so difficult. If I had to do it again I would do the test the night before or take the risk that the courier would not be on the door step at 8 am to collect it. I waited four days for the result to come through, which if you are ill is a long time. There must be a quicker and easier test.

Now a days nothing happens without broadband and ours has become very slow as a result of so many people working from home. I just wish that they would go back to work where the broadband must be better and faster. So that those of us without a place of work will have better broadband at home.

When and how is all this going to end? Who knows? A crystal ball would be useful. We have one group of scientists predicting a second wave with even more deaths and another suggesting that the UK now has herd immunity - all of those that are going to have coronavirus have had it. I know what I would like to believe.