London

This period of social distancing

This period of social distancing.

That’s what we are calling this moment of time in history in the UK. It is not often that I hear words like isolation and quarantine and that is because very little has changed in the UK thus far.

Experts have estimated that as of 16th March, the UK is about three weeks behind Italy as far as the virus goes. London, of course, is leading the wave in the UK due to the dense population.

When official preparations began in the UK about two weeks ago, the UK set out with a Coronavirus plan that was not in line with how other affected countries (China, Italy) had gone about handling this unprecedented situation. The UK marched forward with a plan of “herd immunity”.

This meant that the most vulnerable must go into isolation whilst the rest of us go about our business, catching the virus, developing immunity, and allowing the virus wave to pass over the island like a hurricane.

I have found the leadership in the UK to be organized and to have communicated very clearly about the stage (we have a 5 stage rating system) we are currently in, when experts anticipate we will move to the next stage, and what each stage entails in respect to isolation, business closures, etc. This information has been presented every day for the past week or so by the Prime Minister and a panel of experts.

After additional modeling by scientists and analytical people that estimated hundreds of thousands of people would die, the UK has recently changed course. We have moved away from the herd immunity plan slightly and into more of an isolation plan, although we are not under any formal isolation rules and things are still very much business as usual here.

As of 16th March, the following has been advised:

  • Avoid social contact situations
  • Practice social distancing when in public
  • Wash your damn hands constantly
  • People aged 70 and over are to go into isolation for up to 12 weeks
  • Emergency services will not support large gatherings and events

A nurse who works for the publicly funded health system (National Health Service), posted the following to a social media group I follow.

The plan is to segregate all vulnerable people (older, ill, disabled, and at-risk) let’s call this group A.

Anyone looking after group A can be group B.

The general population / generally healthy can be group C.

Group C needs to go about its business keeping the country moving, kids at school, us at work.

Group B looks after group A and avoids contact with group C.

Group C is allowed to contract the virus and because it’s generally healthy. it can cope with it better than group A.

Group A and B are almost self-isolating without the virus to avoid putting a strain on the NHS and reducing the risk of getting the virus and then needing the NHS.

Group C (the generally healthy) goes through the cycle of contracting the virus, self-isolating and being looked after by healthy family members, friends, and the local community.

Anyone who has complications gets looked after by the NHS while groups A and B are kept away. The NHS is not strained by groups A and B while it’s looking after complicated cases in group C.

As group C comes full circle and recovers, it divides into groups that take group B’s position looking after group A, allowing group B to go through the cycle.

With groups B and C through the cycle, group A is free to have NHS to itself because groups B and C are now clear from illness and infection and hopefully have a degree of immunity from getting it again this season.

Additionally,

  • Almost no one is wearing face masks because they are not effective
  • Schools remain open in London (for now)
  • Restaurants, bars, pubs, and shops are to use their discretion on remaining open or closing; Peter and I expect the voluntary closure of these businesses in the next couple of days due to decreased patronage
  • Theatres in the West End are closed until further notice
  • Our gyms have closed until further notice
  • Large events have been canceled or postponed (i.e. London Marathon, Country To Country music festival)
  • Peter is mandated to work from home through the end of March, at a minimum
  • The National Health Service, NHS, does not have enough beds in public hospitals to support a sudden uptick in cases and as a workaround, will rent beds in private hospitals (I have so many questions about this!)
  • Doctors who have recently gone into retirement are being requested to temporarily come out of retirement for an “all hands on deck” approach
  • Specialist doctors (i.e. Cardiologists) have been requested to undergo generalist training so that they can assist in the “all hands on deck” approach
  • In some areas, non-essential health procedures and surgeries are being postponed

Panic buying is a real bitch and people need to chill the fuck out.

People have been panic buying for about two-and-a-half weeks. Most people in London go to the supermarket on a daily basis because the vast majority of us do not have refrigerators and freezers than can store more than a couple days’ worth of food so I do not know where the panic buyers are storing all of the food they are buying.

Below are two photos from our fridge. It is to capacity and has about three days worth of food.

For the record, I have no concerns about running out of or getting food. My concerns are (1) financial markets, (2) world economies, (3) coffee shops closing, (4) our May trip to Greece being canceled, (5) our August trip to Kenya being canceled, (6) boredom, and (7) Peloton buffering issues.

The panic buying in our neighborhood has gone like this:

  • Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Toilet/loo roll (aka toilet paper)
  • Heinz ketchup
  • Canned beans and veg
  • Dried pasta
  • Kitchen roll (aka paper towels)
  • Household cleaners
  • Tissues (aka Kleenex)
  • Frozen foods
  • Fizzy drinks (i.e. Coke, Pepsi)
  • Milk
  • Eggs

Last night, Peter and I went to the supermarket at around 9:30pm just to see if it was a better situation than at 9:30am and the shelves were bare, however, to be clear, yesterday was the day of the “avoid social contact” announcement which caused a spike in panic buying.

Items that I have not been able to find for over a week were in stock – toilet paper, dishwasher pods, dishwasher softener salt, washing up liquid (aka dish soap), and laundry detergent. Other items that I’ve had no problems finding were completely wiped out – fresh fruits and veg, meat, and cheeses. So it looks like there has been a shift in the panic buying. People are well stocked on household goods and have now moved on to perishables.

And to be clear, this panic buying is only happening at the big Sainsbury’s near our flat. Sainsbury’s is equivalent to QFC, Kroger, Publix, and Cub Foods in the USA. Higher-end stores like Waitrose and M&S have not had shortages nor have had the crush of people packing in the doors.

So that’s where we are at as of today, the 17th of March, 2020. Things are changing daily and it seems like our world closes in a little bit more every day but this too shall pass, just like the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic. We survived that period of time and Peter and I even managed to host a destination wedding in the midst of it.

May 2, 2009

2 comments on “This period of social distancing

  1. Is that my ‘open hair’ blowing in the wind in that picture? Let’s hope this passes soon. Stay safe everyone!

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