Current Affairs Health

Stay At Home

For the last few months I have found myself in a rather unfamiliar category of employment: the somewhat nebulously defined “essential worker”. During the period of Covid-19 lockdown I have continued to travel to my 9-to-5 job, labouring within one of the many cogs of the international IT supply chain infrastructure. Or to be more accurate, I have travelled to my 9-to-whenever job as I and a handful of similarly labelled co-workers have sought to compensate for the absence of dozens of our less essential colleagues now residing at home. (While being acutely aware that many of our work-from-home associates continue to be paid three or four times the wages we are on.)

In that sense I’m fortunate. I still have a full-time job and may come out of this turmoil financially okay. Which is a lot more than many other people in the country can now say or predict. Being single I have only myself to worry about, aside from my elderly mother and the families of my younger siblings, while couples and parents are battling to stay strong for each other and their children in terribly straitened circumstances. And god knows how many frontline staff in the health services and elsewhere will never be the same again after all that they have witnessed and will continue to do so. They are the true heroes of this story.

In another sense I’m unfortunate as I’m all too aware of the risks I’m taking by being outside the lockdown shield and less than confident of the preventative measures being taken to protect me and others. Waking up with pains in my hands from the constant washing and alcohol wipes is a new experience and one that I wasn’t expecting. As is, more humorously, the amount of washing I now get through each week. There is hardly an item of clothing left in my wardrobe that hasn’t been boiled to death several times over.

However to add to the occasional moments of moroseness all my exhausted on-site teammates are experiencing we now have the knowledge that people in the wider community are beginning to ignore the stay-at-home advice of the Government and the health authorities. And to such an extent that a few are starting to behave like they are in the middle of a celebratory never-ending long weekend.

Again, this observation is not to deny the difficulties faced by individuals and families across Ireland trying to self-isolate in their homes. Hundreds of thousands of people, from Dublin to Galway, Cork to Belfast, have willingly placed themselves under a peculiar form of voluntary house-arrest for months now. And for most households this is incredibly hard, incredibly stressful. So I don’t blame people for getting, to use an apt Americanism, antsy. The last couple of weeks have been particularly trying as the days have gotten longer and the Spring weather has improved. We’re all feeling it.

But if you have been balancing the travails of lockdown with the challenges of holding a job down, to see some of the behaviour now apparent in public is just dispiriting. Neighbours holding house-parties, gangs of kids on the streets, increased traffic on the roads and the footpaths. The Irish public has been magnificently generous and community-minded since the coronavirus crisis began in earnest on this island. But if we begin to flock into the open-air and each others arms again, in the weeks and months ahead people are going to die. They are going to die before their time. They are going to die because the behaviour of others will have contributed to their deaths. To put it bluntly, your actions, your decisions will become matters of life or death for those you know and those that you don’t know across the rest of 2020.

The lockdown will eventually end. We are all aware of that. But it has to end in a carefully controlled manner, one that will extend across several months and possibly with periods of revived restrictions as we await the dissemination of future vaccination throughout the population (this being the only reliable form of herd immunity). Otherwise all the good work, all the sacrifices of the first quarter of this year will be undone. And we will find ourselves back where we started, but less hundreds or thousands of our fellow citizens.

15 comments on “Stay At Home

  1. Very true (and btw +1 amazing how tough soap and washing is on the hands). The thing I find amazing about the psychology of this is that when the lockdown started cases and mortality numbers were a fraction of the current figures yet the media et al are all abuzz about lifting restrictions. I’d give it a few weeks and then a few more and then perhaps a few more again and those numbers would want to be in serious decline.

    • Agreed on the numbers. It’s mad to have made all this sacrifice then chuck it all up in the air to get things “back to normal” again. And just to satisfy some media ideologues and their TD fellow travellers.

      Sections of the UK press seem obsessed with the UK being out of lockdown before other nations get there first or too far ahead of it. As if it were some sort of fecking competition. And this when the FT is claiming 45000 Coronavirus-related deaths in Britain.

      Yeah, I was surprised how hard the constant washing is on the skin. My hands are in bits. And achy. One of my sisters bought me some handcream which definitely helps.

      I’ll survive. Not sure my clothes will though! 😁

      • Silcock’s Base is the business for hands. Or any hand cream but that is really good.

        Yeah, it is like a weird competition.

      • Truthfully? I see far more going on than just media ideologues and greed in all this.

        One thing I see quite a bit in technicolor is the capacity of lockdown to ruin certain lives even while it’s saving others. For example, one job opportunity I’ve lost out on these year is seasonal work as a professional Standardized Test Scoring for the K-12 crowd. Basically my job involved working with teams who score K-12 students tests in areas where an essay, a couple paragraphs diagram, “show your math work”, “draw a picture”, or other things are required of the students rather than multiple choice.

        Having done this work seasonally for a number of years, I can easily see how the school closures will be horrible for some kids-possibly reverberate down their education careers. In some cases to the point where it means finishing HS or dropping out, going to college or a good trade school or graduating HS with no plans whatsoever.Even those who might not have “outcome changes” of that kind I think can miss out in a lot of subtler ways that can affect their lives.

        My opinion is that the K-12 students who have lost half their school year should repeat a grade with very few exceptions from the best students to the struggling ones. Most teachers I know agree with me, but overall it’s a deeply unpopular point of view. It looks like most districts will decide to promote students even if they missed half a year and had plenty of time to forget stuff!!

        Of course, that’s just one perspective from one specific- if important- cross section of society. I’m sure there are dozens if not hundreds of equally valid vignettes out there!!!

        While I don’t know exactly how, this is going to be ended either, I do see it as a serious matter and not just ideologues who want to keep the economy rolling and earn money.

        PS. If super-hot water is that bad on your clothes, oxygen bleach and detergent are both capable of killing covid-19 and helping wash it away. Oxygen bleach can kill viruses and so can surfactants and a number of other chemicals in most detergents. Most detergents or surfactant can break up the lipid membrane on the virus in a very short time.

        I know some European washing machines use such hot water that I’m afraid to use them on anything but the lowest temperature available.

  2. My partner works in the care sector, looking after mostly (but not exclusively) elderly people in their own homes – motor neuron, stroke, early dementia sufferers etc. On her travels to and fro, she too has noticed a marked dropping of the guard by some members of the public. More cars on the roads, groups of people standing together, cheek by jowl, chatting, BBQs in packed back gardens. A couple of times recently she has even had to back away from acquaintances in shops as they tried to move close to her for a chat. Her major dread is carrying the virus to her clients. It would destroy her. Ffs, it couldn’t be more simple and stark – either we stick to the rules or we risk killing people.

    • +1 It’s certainly loosened a fair bit. Again, I don’t understand it. It’s not like there’s fewer numbers than when this started. One thing I’d be curious about is the levels of community transmission currently given the lockdown of the past 4-6 weeks.

      • Well, you know how people are. We see others relaxing their distancing etc, so we follow suit. No idea re levels of community transmission, and I’ll not be holding my breath waiting for accurate info from the government.

    • “It would destroy her.” I mean emotionally, of course.

  3. The real problem is not just the fact people are under “voluntary house-arrest”. The problem is how to end this social distancing. Every law in history has, unfortunately, had its share of rule breakers. There never was a *Golden Age* where over 99.9% of the population was willing to accept unlimited sacrifice without question or complaint. Not in any country or society.

    Social distancing has meant not just that some jobs are labeled “essential” while others are now being done by “telecommuting”. A good deal of work is simply being put off, with no currently plan for how to “make it up” down the road. This runs from non-emergency medical, dental, and vision procedures, to car repairs and machine repairs, to infrastructure, to manufacturing photovoltaics and repairing windmills, to vaccine programs on more “regular” diseases like measles and polio, to obviously the schooling of 100 of millions of kids around the world has been pu t on hold.

    Anyone knows that with the last item alone that for some post-secondary students anywhere and even young kids in school in a lot of poor countries (especially girls in some places) a surprise hiatus can make the different between staying in and dropping out. Also the infrastructure and wind mill repairs can be worrying with climate change.

    There are a lot of worrying things associated with all the work that has been put off. It’s manifestly obvious, that this situation is not sustainable, even if 99% of the population gets some epiphany and decides that they prefer to live under extreme social distancing to their old way of life. South Korean levels of testing and tracing would take heroic efforts on a global level-although there might be no other choice really.

    My feeling is that if a vaccine cannot be developed soon, that some stop-gap will have to be implemented even if heroic measures are needed. There are a lot of possibilities in development so I won’t try to “bet on a winner”-it could end up as more than one. However many researchers are looking for a way to make people immune to COVID-19 for a matter of weeks/months at a time, without/before a vaccine. At least some of these concepts are less “chancey” than vaccine research.

  4. Niall O Liathain

    Good man!

  5. Just a few random thoughts.
    Lockdown is, and could only ever be, a holding position (a breathing space) it’s what comes afterwards is the million dollar question. A vaccine, hopefully. But if not, then I’d imagine we have to be moving towards herd immunity territory, in the rawest sense of that term. Those who advocated this from the start, albeit most of them for the wrong reasons, might be proved right after all. I’m certainly not advocating herd immunity, but it may come about almost by default. And even that is based on the supposition that some can naturally develop an immunity to the virus, which is by no means certain.
    The economic fall-out from the virus has been massive already, God knows what the final outcome will be. Innumerable businesses collapsing? Mass unemployment? How long can lockdowns be maintained without nations virtually collapsing In on themselves?
    Politically, in a macro sense, it’s hard to imagine that international travel won’t be severely curtailed for a long, long time, with many borders being closed to outsiders. So the world is set to get an awful lot smaller for most of us. Those who favour nationalism over internationalism will at least be delighted with that development, if they live to see it.

  6. Wimbledon’s organisers have been taking out pandemic insurance since 2003, apparently.

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