In the Prime Minister’s statement on coronavirus on Wednesday 18 March, he confirmed that total UK Covid-related deaths had risen to 104 and declared the closure of schools from the end of that week ‘until further notice’. Albeit drastic, the decision wasn’t unexpected. Coronavirus cases were rising and the country was nowhere near the peak of this dreadful disease. We had all seen footage from other European countries that were ahead of the UK in relation to their position on ‘the curve’ and we didn’t want to end up like Spain or Italy. (Look how that ended up.) Parents UK-wide would now somehow have to juggle both working and teaching full-time.
To return to school or not?
Well, after ten weeks of home-schooling, my five-year-old daughter went back to school last Monday. My husband and I were apprehensive in sending her back, especially with UK Covid-related deaths approaching the 40,000 mark. But, so far, so good, for us at least. The school is very organised, parents are abiding by the strict new rules and even the Reception class have had it sufficiently drummed into them not to let anyone step into their ‘bubble’. Don’t get me wrong, home-schooling wasn’t without its challenges, but my husband and I felt more than a little pang of sorrow as she skipped out of school on her first day back and told us she hadn’t missed being taught by ‘Mrs Mummy’ and ‘Mr Daddy’.
So, just as we had got used to the ‘new norm’ under lockdown, so we must get used to the next phase brought about by the easing of the restrictions.
The benefits of lockdown
As a family, we have actually enjoyed some aspects of lockdown. Yes, it’s been strange. The Government essentially took away the nation’s freedom, but very few people resisted because the severity of the problem was alarmingly clear and we knew it was for our own good.
The experience of lockdown in the Scott household revolved around starting each day by working out with Joe Wicks on YouTube, then joining my daughter’s Reception class registration by Zoom, followed by a full-on timetable of virtual lessons using Microsoft Teams. We looked forward to our daily exercise but also went on longer walks at weekends, discovering new woodland paths and places of local natural beauty we hadn’t known about previously. In the process we got fit and appreciated each other’s company without the normal pressure and stresses of everyday routine, work and commuting. Life slowed down and fortunately the spring weather in south east England was glorious.
Technology and missing loved ones
The distance between my wider family and me has been particularly poignant as my brother sadly died on 2 March. At the time coronavirus was still just something we read about in newspapers and which seemed predominantly to be affecting people stuck on cruise ships in the Pacific. My brother Stephen never knew the extent to which coronavirus later rampaged across the UK. How the world changed so quickly after his death. His funeral was affected by it, but thankfully it took place just days before more stringent rules prevented funerals taking place at all in some cases. We had a small number of close family present, and it was live streamed to over two hundred of his wider friends and family.
I hasten to add that work has been pretty busy during this period. My husband and I both run our own businesses and it’s been no mean feat trying to home school a five-year-old in addition to juggling client deadlines and, dare I say it, trying to grow our businesses too.
Thank goodness then for modern technology. Not only has it enabled the smooth continuation of business and the establishment of a decent enough home-schooling routine, it has also allowed families and friends everywhere to stay connected. For every so-called benefit lockdown has brought with regards to quality of life, I think it’s fair to say many people have missed, and continue to miss, being with loved ones in person. I, for one, have felt the separation from my wider family, including my parents, sister and my sister’s family. Technology has offered us the wonderful opportunity of connecting living room to living room to take part in fun family quizzes and, for that, I really am grateful.
The ultimate sacrifice
What really brought home the severity and sombreness of Covid-19 for me, though, was working on the latest issue of leading health publication Hospital Times, and in particular this issue’s list of frontline health workers who had made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on this dreadful disease. As its sub-editor and proofreader, I checked and re-checked the photos, names, professions and other details of all those health and care workers who had fallen victim to Covid-19. The list seemed endless, and what made me feel so incredibly sad was how I couldn’t help but feel their deaths might have been prevented if only they had been provided with the correct personal protective equipment to do their jobs. These people are our heroes and should be honoured and remembered always. I’m sure many of us will still feel the urge to clap every Thursday at 8pm and at least will do so silently to ourselves as we remember those who gave their lives to protect and help others in the battle against Covid-19.
For now, we will continue to take baby steps as lockdown eases and pray the R-rate doesn’t rise again as life tentatively gets back to normal. We must remember that even while the death rate is falling nationally, every one of those deaths represents a family member who is dear to many people. I came across the painting above by Spanish artist Juan Lucena on social media last week. Its messaging around grandparents who didn’t get to say goodbye to their grandchildren really struck a chord with me. My heart goes out to those people with elderly relatives in care homes.
These times have been strange indeed and life might never be quite the same again as we all adapt to new working practices and social distancing measures. But life goes on for all those left behind by loved ones and for all of us lucky enough not to have been immediately impacted by Covid-19. Yet the disease has touched every one of us in one way or another and I don’t think any of us will forget the sacrifices our keyworkers have made to keep the wheels of our society turning. For that I thank them all.
You can read the latest issue of Hospital Times here.
This post is also published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/reflections-end-covid-19-lockdown-debbie-scott/.