As a 62 year-old asthmatic with ropey lungs I have been apprehensive about Coronavirus for some weeks, and the news from Italy over the last week or so intensified my worries.
Today, one conference at which I was to give a paper in April (Political Studies Association in Edinburgh) has been cancelled. Last week their expressed view was that they were going ahead. Cardiff University has now taken the decision on the other one where I was due to give a paper out of my hands – PUPOL in The Hague at Leiden University –, saying ‘all work-related travel outside the UK should be postponed until further notice unless it is essential.’ I suspect PUPOL would have been cancelled anyway.
We are waiting on the UK government’s decisions over closures and further social distancing. Obviously Ireland made its decision to close schools etc today. Yesterday, Denmark, where our son lives, took that decision.
My 90 year old mother has been in and out of hospital over the last four weeks, so that has been my main concern as I have been visiting her in hospital, and when she was out last week there were a series of medical and care calls to undertake, before she went back in on Sunday.
My mother’s care and the need to visit her in hospital means that I cannot do what Colin Talbot has done and self-isolate, or ‘cocoon’ as Colin prefers, but from what I know of Colin’s medical conditions they are much more serious than mine. But I have been giving active consideration to that, given the way COVID-19 targets the lungs. We haven’t been stockpiling toilet rolls but our cupboards and freezer have the necessary basics to avoid shopping if we had to. Today I noticed local shop-keepers wearing plastic gloves and using sanitiser after customers touched card machines and counters, and who can blame them.
We also have childcare responsibilities with our grand-children – days spent with them are a bonus to life.
I am currently due to give a lecture on Monday to 2-300 students as a guest lecturer on another course, but there is no reason why the materials couldn’t be delivered on-line, and that is the same case with a guest lecture the following week to a smaller number.
The charity I chair, the Cardiff City Community Foundation, has its annual Foundation year events over the weekend starting tomorrow, as we celebrate how Our Club Changes Lives. We have been reviewing all our activities – and our risks – over the last week in the context of the advice from Public Health Wales.
This is a year in which we were lucky enough to have a concentrated period of holidays in May and June – a wedding in Spain, an educational visit to Sicily, and then the Euros in Rome for which we are fortunate enough to have tickets. How many of these will now go ahead is anyone’s guess. UEFA is meeting to discuss whether the Euros are postponed for a year apparently.
Whatever happens, if I am here in the autumn, I will I know be teaching the social, political and economic consequences of coronavirus on at least two postgrad courses I lead.
If I am here in the autumn. I plan to be, but the truth is no-one knows what outcomes will be. I am sick of hearing about people who have died being described as elderly or having ‘underlying health conditions’. Every coronavirus death is a tragedy. No-one should be dehumanised and no death simply excused away as due to the individual being ‘elderly’ or having ‘underlying health conditions’. I have underlying health conditions. So do millions.
We are living with uncertainty, in a way that few of my generation and those younger have ever experienced. Indeed maybe only those with experience of living through the war have anything similar to compare it with.
I think the advice from the UK government will now change to a more intensified set of social distancing recommendations every few days. I have confidence in the scientists, but I am keeping an eye on what is being said in Italy in particular.
The declared number of cases is not the true number of cases, as the scientists said today. 500+ cases officially in the UK, but more like 5-10,000 in the population as a whole, and they are no longer going to be testing cases in the community, but keeping testing for those in hospital already.
They are, without saying it, planning for the worst, and unlike with swine flu and avian flu, where preparations were made for the worst case, we have practical evidence in Europe of what that worst case looks like.