Saturday 16 May 2020
I looked at my watch today. It is one of those analogue designs that has hour and minute hands, plus a tiny window that reminds me of the date. This morning the date declared it to be 15 May. I looked at the number several times, sure that I was misreading. Yet the number was clear. My left wrist was certain it was yesterday. I had, of course, simply forgotten to change the date more than two weeks ago, when April with 30 days became May with 31.
To be fair, I can be forgetful. I am the sort who is dating letters with last year’s date at least until the middle of February. But the date on my watch? Imagine forgetting to change that, when I must check the time on my wrist several times daily. I have now changed the date, 15 is now 16, and my life is back on track, yet the loss of sense of time is something that has overtaken the world during this period of mass lockdown.
I am in a state of mind where weeks and months pass quickly but the days seem very long. I have plenty to do, and in some respects have not been busier, but keeping track of time, or for that matter seeing it as important, I find near impossible. I know the bin-man collects the normal rubbish on a Monday morning, but I have to set my alarm to remind me of Monday. I know today is Saturday and I was surprised to receive emails from some of my healthcare colleagues yesterday afternoon, saying, “Enjoy the weekend.”
Weekend? Enjoy the weekend? When I think about it, it is a weekend, but I am doing nothing different. I must assume that my colleagues turn off their computers at 1700 hours on a Friday and will turn them on again at 0900 hours on Monday. They are manifestly better disciplined than me, so perhaps I should be doing the same.
The problem with lockdown is having no idea when it will end, which I presume is why the government does its best to give us targets. “Next week we will do this, on the assumption the virus has done that,” or some such statement aims to give the nation hope. Those hopes are dashed when the virus does something different.
The inability to predict time is a dehumanising process, which has been well shown in prisoners. For example, those who are soon to be released, and therefore have a date in mind, have been shown to possess greater mental sophistication than those with more time to serve. Meanwhile to combine incarceration, which is what lockdown essentially is, with social distancing, prevents interaction with other people. Again, prisoners have been looked at to see how their health fares, addressing one simple question. In prison, is it healthier to become friends with other prisoners or keep your head down and do your own time? The finding was interesting, but likely predictable. Social integration, the researchers found, was associated with better health outcomes.
It thus appears that lockdown with social distancing is the worst of both worlds. No wonder society is cracking around its margins and no wonder I have lost the sense of time.
The government has now allowed the country to start moving to a new house, as it sees it as a way of kick-starting the economy. The housing market is closely linked to consumer spending. When house prices go up, homeowners become better off and feel more confident. When house prices go down, consumers feel the opposite. Why am I saying this? Simply because I have bought a new house. I was one of the many who saw a property before Covid-19 was ever thought to be a UK problem. Prices and timings were agreed, everything was done and dusted, and then along came lockdown. By the end of April there were 373,000 home sales that had been brought instantly to a halt. I decided to continue, emails hummed, prices adjusted, and before I knew it, the deed was done. I am happy with the house, I am more than happy with its location, as it is in a part of the country I have long adored. They call it Cumbria, and that is where the problems start. Cumbria is hugely popular with tourists. In 2018, the area received 47 million visitors, who brought £3 billion to the region’s economy. The population of UK is only 68 million.
Cumbria has, over the past few years, done its best to encourage visitors and not always with the blessing of the local people. Having encouraged the world to visit the place it is now trying to stop them and that is where trouble begins. There are few places as beautiful as Cumbria, its Lake District in particular, and there is sunny weather ahead. Heaven knows how Cumbria intends to stop outsiders visiting the place although the public is being urged to avoid the nation’s beauty spots. Millions are planning weekend trips after the recent easing of lockdown rules. The nation is allowed to be outdoors as much as it desires, and to travel within England as much as it likes, on the basis that social distancing is maintained.
Yet the issue is important because there is a remote Cumbrian town, Barrow-in-Furness that now has the highest infection rate in the land. No one knows as yet why the average infection rate for all England is 244.5 per 100,000 but for Barrow-in-Furness this rises to 882.2 for every 100,000. Still want to visit Cumbria now you know that fact?
I was interested to see that dangerous blood clots, thanks to Covid-19, are back in the news. It seems that a third of hospitalised patients develop them. A Chinese study showed that patients with Covid-19 who received blood thinners had a lower mortality than those who did not receive blood thinners, although this study had a number of scientific flaws. It appears that patients with Covid-19 have what they call hypercoagulability. Basically, this means the blood is thicker and has a greater tendency to clot. A study from The Netherlands has confirmed this. The Dutch researchers, who come from six hospitals, looked at 184 patients who were admitted to intensive care with Covid-19 and its associated pneumonia. An astonishing 31% of the patients had evidence of abnormal blood clots, so the researchers recommended that when patients with Covid-19 are admitted to an intensive care unit, blood thinners should be given.
Slowly, ever so slowly, we are learning more about this beastly bug. With luck we can have it on the run.