Sunday 12th April 2020

Daily Diary: A Lockdown Easter Challenge

Happy Easter!

On Thursday Emily left an Easter bag with the shopping. Because we cannot go to the shops, Emily is being our angel of mercy doing our weekly shopping run for us. Inside one of the bags she has composed an Easter booklet, which says the following:

Front Cover:

Easter box

Open on Easter Sunday

(cartoons of a rabbit, a chick, a chick coming out of an egg and a daffodil.)


Happy Easter Sunday

So I thought (cartoon Emily with a thought bubble):

What do we do at Easter?

  • see each other
  • eat chocolate eggs
  • decorate eggs together

Then I thought (cartoon Emily with an idea lightbulb):

If I get some activities together, I could send you these in a box to you, and by joining in the activities we will be having fun, united together.

So, Ta Dah!! Here is the Easter box. (cartoon of box)

The box contains:

  • 5 envelopes
  • Bag of chocolate eggs

Each envelope contains an activity with all the materials you will need, including glue. So no excuses! (smiley emoji)

You can do all the activities in any order. I will (if I haven’t already) set up a WhatsApp group called ‘Easter fun time’ where we can share photos and video clips of each other.

Note on Safety:

With all of our health and safety very prominent in my mind, rest assured that every item (including the delivery box) has been carefully prepared.

Items that could have been cleaned have been wiped down with my favourite bleach and water solution.

Every item (including this paper and pen) has been handled with clean Marigold gloves and I even wore a face mask (cartoon of Emily wearing a mask)

For items that could not be wiped, e.g. feathers, the original outer packaging has been cleaned and dried, then the item removed and placed in a paper envelope.

Every item was prepared well over 72 hours before being sent.

Right! That’s the health and safety bit! Now it’s time for fun!

Enjoy yourselves, have fun and we are looking forward to sharing the photos xx

Back Cover

(large cartoon of rear view of Easter Bunny)

I put a couple of beers in the fridge, pour today’s whisky ration into the decanter and set my alarm for 5 pm, when we take on the challenge.

Meanwhile there’s a cold front coming in to end all the fine weather we’ve been having. The clouds are starting to tower and look dark underneath and from time to time we can hear the rumblings of thunder from the static caused by mixing air.

The Bigger Picture: A Perfect Storm

And on the seventh day was Boris Johnson discharged from hospital. Not only is it the wrong number of days to come back from the dead for Easter but Boris Johnson is no Messiah. Jesus spent his handful of years of ministry encouraging the common good, self-restraint and selflessness. Boris Johnson spent his years in a different kind of ministry promoting libertarianism, the ideology of self-interest and the indulgences it allows to those who succeed through it.

It was that ideology that was always balanced against the advice of scientists in a false equivalence, so he could say he was following the science, while actually doing the opposite. It was also that ideology that led to Brexit, which in turn led to a wilful distancing, illustrated by Britain missing a total of eight conference calls or meetings about Covid-19 between EU states or health ministers – meetings Britain was still entitled to join.

It seemed to some at first that his relaxed manner and refusal to panic was reassuring. Those who had not yet learned that the core feature of Johnsonism – to promise the Earth but deliver nothing more than a kid’s plastic bucketful of earth – but the reality was that in a country that led the world in medical and bioscience, the leader did not engage, did not listen, followed his faith in those instincts he always felt served him well, and in the midst of an alarming public death rate, fell ill himself.

Now he’s out and recuperating at Chequers.

As another, older, both historically and actually, leader, the Queen reassures the nation in her first Easter message about “New Hopes.”

It is formal and formulaic, even though she has never given an Easter speech before. But it projects a strange stability that echoes royal speeches going back ninety years and has a quality of ritual that so many Brits buy into. It’s irrational. But then Brits are, as we applaud the NHS, clapping and banging kitchenware, despite routinely, while voting for a whole decade for a political party with a track record of trying to cripple it.

For now the NHS is heroic – deservedly so – as it battles the rising viral tide. British Covid-19 hospital deaths pass 10,000 after 657 die in England in the last 24 hours. Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and an expert on infectious diseases who’s published over 600 papers, warns that the signs are there that the UK coronavirus death toll could end up being the highest in Europe.

Time will prove him right.

Britain faces a perfect storm. It’s not just lackadaisical leadership and ideological and political instincts that obstruct dealing with the virus. Nor is it an accident of geography that the country finds itself being a hub on the northwest of Europe, actively reaching out to the far corners of the globe. Much of it is what Britain has set out to be for the last forty years – a country that had decided to be a land of individual opportunity. A share-holding, property-owning democracy, as Margaret Thatcher had once egged on the country to be.

There is a school of thought that all political ideas, when put into practice continue down a particular road until they pass the point of usefulness or benefit, and steamroller on, like a giant behemoth until they become counterproductive ay best, and destructive or even absurd at worst. People bought shares in newly privatised industries, sold them to financial institutions to make a nominal profit, and the shares drift from private to corporate ownership. Same with the selling of council houses. Properties become major assets to cash in on and the rental market passes from public housing programmes whose primary purpose is to meet the changing needs of both individuals and communities, to private landlords and a free market that makes homes unaffordable.

“Blessed are the wealthmakers,” Saint Margaret of Thatcher might have said.

“Blessed are the professionals, the organisers,” other noteworthies might well have added. “The players of keys, movers and shakers of software files.”

Most will not get us all out of the fix we’re in.

Much has been said in praise of health and care workers. Rightly so. But it’s also the underpaid, hitherto overlooked and undervalued to meet our needs and make the machinery behind our lives continue to function – the drivers of trains, buses and taxis, the deliverers of groceries and takeaways, the supermarket checkout staff.

It seems that those we have most taken for granted are those who we need most. Our definition of essential has changed.

For the rest of us it’s working from home where possible, furlough on 80% income where it’s not and redundancies for the unlucky who have been caught out by the wrong pandemic, in the wrong place at the wrong time. I count myself lucky – and a little guilty – to be retired on a pension. The whole world of employment has been tipped on its head.

Those who can do their best to hide from harm’s way. The virus isn’t magical. It can’t travel through walls and closed doors.

Italy and Spain have passed the peaks of their epidemics; UK, early in its epidemic, faces an accelerating death toll, as does America whose total number of Covid-19 deaths in the US has overtaken Italy, although the per-capita death rate is lower. But all that’s for now as America’s far-flung geography and relatively sparse population density have helped cushion the country so far.

The exact epidemiology is still unclear. It is much more harmful to some than others and in cases such as the outbreak on the Diamond Princess, the residents of Vò in Italy where all 3,300 people were tested twice and Japanese citizens evacuated from Wuhan at the start of its outbreak half of people who tested positive were asymptomatic.

Covid-19 is looking increasingly like a virus that can spread silently. By being silent it has spread faster than official data suggest. In America just 0.1% of the population have been tested positive. In Italy it’s 0.2%. That’s because testing has happened sparingly, concentrating on the sick. In Vò the rate was fifteen times higher at 3%.

But for most testing for the virus is not part of the course, and certainly not systematic testing. Instead proxies are being used, from smart thermometers to checking out whether there are other symptoms of influenza-like illness (ILI) like a dry and persistent cough to a loss of taste and smell. The spread of the disease throughout most of the countries the virus has reached is still relying on nineteenth century diagnostics, with clinicians reporting the frequency of ILIs as a broad indication of how widely Covid-19 has spread. Germany, one of very few countries to move beyond this, increases its Covid-19 tests to 500,000 per week, so It’s not the fact that testing technology hasn’t been developed – it has. It’s just the fact that in most countries the systems to make that technology work for the common good aren’t in place.

The principle is called test, trace and isolate. Apple and Google have announced they will allow users to share location data to trace the spread of Covid-19. Development is rapid and there are opportunities for the UK to become part of worldwide app schemes, but post-Brexit glorious isolationism looks very much like the reason why the government decides that the NHS, through NHSX, its technology arm, will develop its own app which would trace those who have been in contact with infected people and alert them to get tested.

According to press releases the NHSX system is being developed ‘at breakneck speed,’ and hopes are being lifted by the prospect that tech will be the magic bullet to end the nightmare, by a government desperate to raise hopes during a time of darkness.

There’s also much hope too invested in the new Covid-19 antibody test. Will it allow us to go back to school or work? Will there be Covid-19 ‘immunity certificates’? To some extent the antigen and antibody tests become mixed up and muddled in people’s heads, in the same way that other complex issues like the ozone layer and global warming become confused. Even a number of politicians give garbled responses on this one, unless they’ve been well-briefed beforehand.

Add to that the emerging fact that half of all cases express no symptoms at all and there’s a deeply troubling picture of how out of control most of humanity is at the moment.

And how much in the dark we all are in the face of a lethal threat – at least for some.

Like a tortoise facing a threat, we pull in our heads and feet and go nowhere.

We lock down.

Not even Singapore has been able to avoid a lockdown. The affluent city-state has learned that contact tracing won’t stop the virus on its own. Italy extends its lockdown to May in a signal to European business. The Moscow lockdown is extended as the mayor warns that things are getting worse.

But lockdown is a far from ideal state of play. There is evidence that domestic abuse has risen under lockdown, and this is a global phenomenon. There are worries about lockdowns colliding with natural disasters like tornadoes, floods and earthquakes that displace people from their homes. How do hundreds of people get shelter?

And of course, people don’t behave themselves as yesterday hundreds flock to London’s parks to be in the sun. It resulted in the following message from the Metropolitan Police in my Nextdoor social media inbox:

“So with the sun shining on us this weekend the team would like to wish you all a Happy Easter, and the only thing we ask of you is please stay at home to enjoy it. We are aware of the temptation to be out in the parks having egg hunts, but please stay at home and let’s be honest, the chocolates would melt out there anyway ….. #StayHomeSaveLives

We used to take painted hard-boiled eggs to Greenwich Park and roll them down the slopes near the observatory. I guess that would be frowned upon too.

But friends of our environment see upsides. Country Living magazine lists seven ways the planet is healing, thanks to global lockdown:

  1. Air pollution levels have plummeted.
  2. People have taken less airline flights.
  3. Venice’s canals have cleared up.
  4. Animals have reclaimed land.
  5. Charities are continuing to fight for the planet.
  6. People are reconnecting with nature.
  7. Cows are returning to the Giant’s Causeway.    

I know it’s woolly and I’m sure there are many more ecological imperatives than the return of cattle to the Giant’s Causeway, or at least the grassy bits near the rocks, but the sentiment’s good and it has raised the whole issue about the relationship between all our activities and the state of the Earth and citing pollution decrease, it has encouraged scientists to take the opportunity to call for permanent changes post-covid.

Covid-19, the product of zoonosis – the crossing of the barrier between the natural and human worlds – returns back to the natural world as orangutan conservationists protect their critically endangered species from the coronavirus.

Today was no different from any other lockdown day in the countless woven tales that made it what it is. Here are a few:

  • Tim Brooke-Taylor, Goodies star, dies from Covid-19.
  • Tatiana Datolla and Armanda De Rosa were married on Saturday by a City Hall official in Rome, all of them wearing masks in a ceremony they had booked a year ago. They lowered their masks for a kiss.
  • My new normal: I ditched my day job to become a supermarket key worker.
  • Julian Assange’s partner, Stella Morris, reveals that they had two children and urges bail in the light of the Covid-19 risk at HMP Belmarsh. “I can’t believe there are people today protesting outside Belmarsh prison,” a local
  • “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Lyon choir sings for lockdown.
  • ICE detainees fail to refuse working, despite a lack of basic coronavirus protection. The program pays just $1 a day. There have been reports from some facilities where if detainees refuse to participate in the programme they are threatened with solitary confinement. Detainees from the Bristol House of Correction and Jail went on strike to make sure their demands were heard.
  • Virtual zoo trips are added to the entertainment arsenal for bored children: San Diego Zoo with its live cams, Chester Zoo its additional learning materials and Cincinnati Zoo winning the prize with its  feeding time, home safari and the Fiona the Hippo Show.


  • Human rights groups warn that some regimes are taking advantage of the pandemic to control civil liberties. This has been, almost unsurprisingly, the case with Viktor Orban of Hungary, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel (suspending the courts) and Duterte of the Philippines. On a wider scale, emergency measures have left more than 500 million people unrepresented and another 1.7 billion with parliamentary activity postponed or reduced.
  • It’s devastating for hospitals. Across Europe there are real fears that hospitals could run out of the drugs needed to treat critically ill Covid-19 patients within a week. In America there has been a marked decrease in organ transplants, while military helicopters are deployed across the country to carry Covid-19 patients to hospital as part of a new 300-strong task force.
  • Cracks appear in the Belgian Easter egg market as the Covid-19 lockdown bites.
  • Germany flies in seasonal workers with strict Covid-19 precautions.
  • While Spain continues to battle a dire coronavirus outbreak, the situation is vastly better in neighbouring Portugal.
  • China muzzles its Bat Woman, so named after having spent years in dank caves researching coronaviruses and their hosts. Beijing authorities hushed up the findings of scientist Shi Zengli, who unlocked the genetic makeup of SARS CoV-2, vital for tests and vaccines, within days of the outbreak.
  • Turkey’s last-minute two-day curfew brings thousands to the streets. Maybe, just maybe, giving two hours’ notice before imposing a weekend curfew in a city of 16 million might not be the brightest idea.


An eleven month old girl becomes the second to die of Ebola in the Congo amid fears of a new wave. Reminding us all of the worry that more than one pandemic can be a real possibility.

Happy Easter!

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