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Saturday, June 22, 2024
COVID-19: Letter from the U.K.: Wary of lockdown being lifted

Longtime NOTL resident Susan Hall, a warden at St. Mark's Anglican Church, has been unexpectedly caught up in the COVID-19 pandemic while visiting family in Brighton, England. This is her fourth letter home to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Susan Hall

Special to The Lake Report

An overview of Britain today shows that the long-awaited opening up from lockdown is already underway, unofficially, in the minds of many, as we see more people and more cars around.

However, in view of the massive, horrifying death figures, 47,000 as I write this (from all sources, home, nursing homes and hospitals), taken together with the knowledge that a new wave of infection is starting up again in Germany, where opening had barely begun, the idea of opening up now was promptly quashed by the government.

Interestingly, a much quoted poll, showed today that over 60 per cent of people said they were too frightened of catching COVID-19 to leave their homes and 54 per cent would refuse to let their children return to school.

A day later and we are beginning “softening up” for life to start opening up again. Up till now, everywhere we turn, we have been indoctrinated constantly with the mantra,” Stay At Home, Protect the NHS” and “Save Lives.”

That unbelievably effective slogan has reduced the wave of COVID-19 cases that otherwise would have completely swamped the ability of the health service to cope, leading to the truly medieval horrific sight of bodies piling up in the street.

The very success of that message is difficult to undo with statements like “the public must realize, if things are to get going again they must be willing to take a certain amount of risk.” 

Similarly, after years of bringing in measures to make it too difficult and unaffordable to drive cars into cities, the message is now to avoid public transport. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how the London Tube will be able to transport the usual number of two million commuters a day if, as planned, social distancing is to be implemented.

Read the full letter at https://www.niagaranow.com/news.phtml/3848




With the continuing lockdown, popular long-running shows like “Coronation Street” and “The Archers” (an everyday story of country folk), are likely, soon to run out of prerecorded episodes.

Before you say “who cares?”, remember “Coronation Street” has been running uninterrupted on television since 1960 and “The Archers” similarly, on the radio since 1951. In fact, many of us, I hate to admit, are old enough to have been present for the first episodes of both.

Disappearance of these institutions during what is already a very difficult time for people would prove dangerously destructive to public morale; so to keep things going, during lockdown they have had to resort to playing archived episodes of “The Archers,” whereas “Coronation Street” has chosen to eke out its prerecorded programming by significantly reducing the number of weekly episodes.

At the moment they are discussing how to start filming again with actors observing social distancing. They announced that Bill Roache, who has played Ken Barlow, mainstay of many story lines since the beginning, cannot be there, because the risk to his health, at the age of 88 is considered to be too high. Even so, in the eyes of many women he’s still “a bit of all right” (good northern expression). The director said, “I am not letting him get sick on my watch.”

Yesterday, Boris Johnson was expected back in Parliament to pick up the reins again but was unexpectedly delayed by his partner Carrie Symonds giving birth to her first, his sixth, child.

This changed his plans but at least he will be back from now on in the House of Commons, for Prime Minister's Question Time. He was congratulated on his return to the house by Jacob Ree-Mogg, who welcomed him into the exclusive club of MPs who shared the good fortune and joy of having six children, the third member being the MP for Gainsborough, Sir Edward Leigh.

The media were terribly excited, the birth having taken them completely by surprise. All anyone had heard beforehand about a due date was a vague comment from Symonds of “early summer.“

It sounds like many others might be joining them. One minute a woman] on the radio is telling us how worried she is because she couldn’t bring herself to bother her busy GP to ask for a repeat of her birth control prescription, an item which was immediately followed by the news, noting that a Malaysian company, which apparently makes one in five of the whole world’s supply of condoms, has recently shut down.

Otherwise, Capt. Tom More, after raising about  30 million pounds for the NHS by walking round his garden, has now reached his 100th birthday, which was celebrated with an RAF fly past. In addition, he was awarded the honorary rank of colonel and received a personal message from the Queen.

Meanwhile the provision of supplies continues to be a challenge. With many people baking at home, the demand for flour has been considerable as many supermarket chains seem unable to get any.

The flourmills pack flour in 16 kg sacks, designed for wholesale distribution and a few desperate people have driven to mills and bought a whole sack. It appears that the part of the distribution chain, which does the bagging, was a victim of the shut down. A local bakery, recognizing the need in the market divided some of its stock into smaller bags, put a notice in the window and generated an enthusiastic response.

Even this far into lockdown getting a delivery slot is still difficult so that anyone who has been lucky helps out by informing their friends and relations, in case they need something that could be added to that order.

Orders can usually be amended a few times before the cut-off date. Smaller organizations, previously not doing deliveries, have managed to develop online sites for ordering and payment. These prove much more challenging to navigate than those of the large, established organizations.

Two of them, in fact, I have found totally impossible to manage. Both allow me, as a favour, to order by email as they obviously consider me a poor elderly nitwit, incapable of managing modern technology – and they’re probably right.

I was amused when my daughter, after ordering from the small Brighton Sausage Company, received a note of thanks signed “Team Sausage.” I have discovered a small bakery that delivers, but whose website is so incomprehensible that I am never sure whether I have successfully ordered something or not.

However last week it announced it was making jam-filled doughnuts, which gave me the motivation to persevere with its website, until I was successful, gaining me considerable brownie points from my grandchildren.

I must say the doughnuts were wonderful, filled with good quality jam. Just as well, for my own health, that I gave all, except one, away as promised. There is an additional incentive for giving my homemade baking to my son or daughter’s households because that generates what I call a “drive-by sighting” of a family member who may have time to exchange a brief word.

Unfortunately, I am on a narrow, one-way street, which allows cars of “permit holders only” to park on the opposite side. Everyone is home and their cars are at home, too, still being monitored diligently by parking wardens. So visits are indeed fleeting.

Regular classes online at home, from their respective schools, are the new norm for my grandchildren but with my son-in-law working from home as well, the routine is accompanied by a certain amount of breath holding, over their aging wifi hub which, before the pandemic, was booked to be updated.

My granddaughter had one of the assessments, now part of the university entrance protocol, in the absence of “A” level exams. This was an essay discussing the role of science in the COVID-19 pandemic, to be written in Russian. Heavens! I would find that a challenge in English.

Jet, the black German shepherd who was a new acquisition at the start of lockdown has settled in well, showing a natural respect for the resident elderly dog, even standing back to let her have first go at treats.

She has a new large bed, which she will fill when fully grown, but at the moment she looks a bit lost in it. Now they are sleeping in it together.

Her only problem is that when out for a walk she barks frantically at other dogs, which is not really acceptable in a German shepherd, a breed of which people, including other dog owners, are understandably wary.

The family’s amateur attempts to discourage this with cheese treats having failed. Sbhe spent yesterday and again today at doggie day care designed for socialization training.

Having adapted to life in lockdown where we are relatively protected, like many others I feel the uncertainty as a way is found that can strike a balance between getting people back to work, under a regime of testing and social distancing, while still maintaining an acceptable level of public safety until an effective vaccine is developed.

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