Monday 13th April 2020

Daily Diary: Easter Arts And Crafts

Happy Easter Monday!

Yesterday Vicky and I met two of Emily’s Easter challenges. The first was to make an Easter chick out of a yellow balloon, bits of laminated card and felt. A pair of googly eyes  was included for good measure. Then we were to photograph it and share our achievements on WhatsApp. Unfortunately, Vicky’s balloon exploded early in the proceedings, but we sent a picture of that nonetheless. My chick fared a bit better – that is, it survived long enough to be photographed and WhatsApped. Emily responded with her own – a chick with really long legs. Maybe it was a hen-harrier chick!

So far, so good.

Then on to the mask. Vicky goes to town on hers, starting with half a paper plate and turning it into an Aztec-come-shaman creation. I thought of leaving it blank, so it looked like a PPE mask. Bit of a cheat. But I couldn’t resist putting a big toothy grin on it with a black marker pen and produced something deeply disturbing and certainly not Easter-like.

We chat about our endeavours on WhatsApp video and say hello to Tom, who’s resting after a hard-pressed week in Whitehall as one of the civil servants addressing the crisis. We make a point of not talking about his work, but he has been busy and we worry. He’s the most front-line of all of us, taking the train up to London, now largely empty, and entering ‘hostile territory’ a number of times a week.

The weather’s turned. There’s a strong northerly wind and it’s ten degrees cooler than it was a couple of days ago. The common has only the hardiest of outdoor venturers – mostly joggers and dog-walkers. Certainly not the sunbathers. There has been a police request on Nextdoor to stop gatherings near the Slade pond nearby, but today doesn’t look much like a gathering day.

I’ve lost a stone over lockdown. Maybe it’s the rowing machine. Maybe it’s being restrained in what we eat. Maybe the bathroom scales are kaput. Who knows?

The Bigger Picture: de Pfeffel’s Progress

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has been discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital and is recovering at Chequers, his prime ministerial convalescent home in the Buckinghamshire countryside, ahead of a review into social distancing. He’s thanked the NHS for saving his life, especially Jenny and Luis, the nurses from New Zealand and Portugal for staying at his “ICU bedside for 48 hours, when things could have gone either way,” and implores the British to stay at home to beat Covid-19.

He has good reason to as the UK becomes the worst-hit country in Europe, the death toll from Covid-19 passing ten thousand.

Flirtation with herd immunity, slowness to respond and the negligent abandoning of testing when it could have been so effective in the early stages of the outbreak, in the same way a fire extinguisher can prevent a flare up turning into a full-blown conflagration, something more comprehensive like a sprinkler system even more so.

By contrast Germany’s early success, leading to less than a third of the deaths, owes much to 1.3 million tests followed up with a thorough programme of contact tracing. The UK has tested less than a quarter of that and has all but abandoned attempts to aggressively trace contacts. As Johnson saw this as his opportunity to revive his Churchillian wartime bombast, the messaging in Germany was much more sombre and down to earth.

“The pandemic is not a war,” German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at an Easter Sunday address. “It does not pit nations against nations, or soldiers against soldiers. Rather, it is a test of our humanity.”

Dealing with the pandemic is about empathy. Understanding at a deep level about what is meant by the common good and engaging with it. It’s not about the Johnson show with human suffering as a backdrop, or at best a chorus-line.

At the moment, he has suffered with countless others and his personal approval ratings rise to an all-time high of plus 38 as the populace identifies with his very human journey.

Don’t be fooled. It won’t last and any passing parallels with Evita Peron are ephemeral. Madonna won’t be playing Bojo any time soon.

And don’t think there has been any far-reaching consideration of who will make the sacrifices. Even the bailout will make the rich richer still and ordinary people will have to pay.

Structurally, British society hasn’t travelled far since the Great Crash of 2008. Virtually no sacrifices have been demanded of banks, landlords or profitable corporations, such as utility companies. The only people in society not being asked to share the burden are ‘rentiers:’ those who own assets they can charge others to use.

Down the line Covid-19 will make this ever clearer, as it will BAME people, who are still being disproportionately affected by the pandemic. They currently make up more than a third of patients in critical care, yet are only 16 per cent of the British population. It’s the British Medical Association who raise the alarm.

It’s the haves and have-nots. The powerful and powerless and the underlying selfishness that has, in some massive con, been made respectable.

The lack of PPE does arise from a government that failed to create a stockpile. A government that sleepwalked into a pandemic, and as will be revealed in the future, a government whose cronies will profit enormously through untendered multimillion pound contracts.

The price is paid by those in the front line. The carers in residential homes. Immigration workers who are forced to move asylum seekers without PPE, despite deportation flights being grounded. And nurses who have reached an unthinkable point of desperation that the Royal College of Nursing has issued guidelines telling nurses they can refuse to work if they aren’t protected from the coronavirus.

Those inequities are by no means limited to Britain. In his Easter message, Pope Francis calls for debt relief and an end to sanctions.

Across many countries leaders seize powers to fight Covid-19, and fear grows for democracy. France and Bolivia have postponed elections. Peru handed its president new legislative authority. Israel sharply ramped up the reach of its surveillance state.

Countries are facing pressures to loosen Covid-19 restrictions. Money is the new global deity (was it ever so new?) and when it can’t flow so easily It becomes an angry god, demanding human lives to appease It. So much so that Donald Trump, arch-priest of Money, lashes out at Dr Anthony Fauci after the good doctor said more lives could have been saved from the novel coronavirus if the country had been shut down earlier.

Covid and Money are at odds with each other.

Except for the price-gougers and profiteers from the pandemic. But that’s another story.

Other stories from across the world:

  • A Danish journalist watching Sweden’s more relaxed reaction to Covid-19 was like “watching a horror movie.” The exponential rise in Sweden contrasts strongly with other Scandinavian countries.
  • Spain has 619 new deaths from Covid-19, up from 510 reported on Saturday, yet it is to lift some of its lockdown rules.
  • Polish MPs are set to debate an abortion ban, while the lockdown prevents (an otherwise inevitable) protest. A similar bid to ban abortions in 2016 was defeated in parliament after thousands of women demonstrated in the streets. It’s not just Poland, from childbirth to the economy, women’s rights are endangered by the pandemic, particularly with regard to childbirth, abortion, fertility treatment, a parallel pandemic of domestic abuse and carrying the lion’s share of responsibility for children at home under lockdown
  • China’s Covid-19 cases rise to a six-week high, claimed to be primarily down to Chinese people returning home from other countries.
  • Which is also the case in South Africa has a number of stark contrasts with the empty street images we’ve become used to in western cities under quarantine. Poverty and inequality limit safe and distanced space, and unlike Ebola elsewhere in Africa this disease has been imported into the country not by the poor, but by those wealthy enough to have free access to the globalised superhighways of the twenty first century world. The first confirmed case was a South African returning from Italy on March 5th and a key hotspot in Johannesburg has been the financial centre, people who had travelled to other cities around the world, come back and gone to parties. The poor, in their impossible to pandemic-proof townships simply picked up the tab. Some even got to shouting, ‘Corona! Corona!’ at westerners passing through, because they thought it was a disease of rich white people.

In the United Kingdom:

  • Covid-19 lockdown sees Northern Ireland house fires increase by 50 per cent.
  • According to headteachers, schools in England could reopen in June after the summer half term.
  • Lord Sugar says the next series of ‘The Apprentice’ could be delayed until 2021.
  • Tesco introduces changes to adapt to Covid-19. These are one-way aisles, increase to contactless payments, new delivery slots, especially for vulnerable customers, with more on the way, encouraging customers to come at quiet times to avoid queuing, and protective screens. A number of product restrictions removed, as they encouraged stockpiling – the pandemic will long be remembered for the mass hoarding of toilet rolls!

There’s a local request on Nextdoor:

“Is there anyone who can recommend someone who does washing machine repairs please? Due to Covid, just some advice would be great if a visit cannot be arranged.”

We’re grateful it was our dishwasher and not our washer-dryer that went on the fritz early in lockdown. It is what under normal circumstances would be a minor domestic emergency turning into something much more ominous.

And a cautionary request from the neighbourhood police:

“While we would like to wish you all a Happy Easter, it’s disappointing that PC Teresa had to follow up reports of people still congregating at Slade Pond. Please #StayHome. Enjoy your chocolate, it can’t be made any clearer to help. #ProtectThe NHS, #Save lives.”

We see them out on the common. Always calm, patient and forbearing. It’s not a job I’d want to be doing at the moment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s