Sunday, 12h July, 2020

[Day 118]

Another fine day in prospect which is always uplifting. I was a little disconcerted, though, to make sure I arrived at my newsagent quite early for a Sunday morning (8.30 am) only to be sold that they had sold out of The Observer. I was particularly keen to get The Observer as it featured some interesting articles, such as the 20 councils at greatest risk where the coronavirus threat was said to be greatest. The borough of Oadby and Wigston, where I lived for about thirteen years was actually fifth on the list but this is a statistical artefact as these two small towns are only about 4-5 miles from the centre of Leicester. which was way out in front of the rest with a fairly large ‘spike’ in cases. The Sunday Times reported last week that the spike was probably concentrated in the streets where there are a plethora of small textile factories, many paying only one half of the minimum wage – about which nothing has been done for years if all accounts are to be believed. So when we made our daily trip to the park we extended our journey, donned a mask and dived into our local Waitrose where supplies of The Observer were more plentiful. On our way down the hill, some of our close friends were busy gardening (as they typically are) and we were invited in to look at the progress of their various plants which were all thriving.

This afternoon, we treated ourselves to a long leisurely read of the Sunday newspapers and after lunch, I embarked upon some gardening chores. I thought I had an old hose on a reel which I managed to locate in my ‘stores’ section near the compost heap where the combined effect of being stored under some fir trees not to mention the wind and rain over the months had made it all rather grubby. So I gave it a reasonably good wash down and check over before I offer it to my near neighbour whose need of it is, I think, greater in the short term than is mine. Finally, I had a quick ‘go’ at my latest horseshoe to which I am giving the vinegar and wire brush rust removal treatment.

If I am reading a complex situation correctly, it does appear that various societies (such as Sweden, Portugal) which have tried to bounce back quickly from a lockdown (strict in Portugal’s case, more relaxed in Sweden’s case) do experience various flare-ups and spikes just when they think they have the virus under control. Perhaps the same pattern is happening over here as well because the case of Leicester certainly gives us pause for thought. Some of the Swedish analysts are of the view that the advice given to the population only to self isolate if they had symptoms meant that many members of households where the virus was present but they were pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic did not quarantine themselves and might have helped to spread the virus much more in the non-infected community. And we have a case of an outbreak in a Herefordshire where 73 (one third) of key workers picking and packing vegetables have tested positive and I would imagine that might come as quite a psychological shock as a lot of the farm work is, by definition, in the open air (but what about the packing plants, the proximity of the workers to each other, the quality of the temporary accommodation given to migrant workers? Well – it is a very different scenario to a concentration of the virus in BAME communities in packed terrace houses and textile factories in Leicester)

There seems to be total confusion at the heart of government over mask-wearing. Boris Johnson was giving several very strong hints that mask-wearing might be made compulsory in confined spaces such as shops and was pictured in his constituency wearing a mask. And then Michael Gove said that the wearing of masks should be left to the individual and what they deemed to be ‘common sense’. But there is a massive problem here, not to mention sources of outright confusion – although I might think it is absolutely ‘common sense’ to wear a mask in a supermarket, to all of the other shoppers it might be also ‘common sense’ not to wear a mask! Personally, I think the sooner we all wear masks in supermarkets and other large stores the better. And I would encourage all of the large stores to give away masks to all of their customers so that no one could have any excuse.