Saturday, 5th September, 2020

[Day 173]

This morning, we attended a church service at St. Mary’s next to Harvington (some 7 miles distant but very easily reached) where we formed part of a small congregation of about 14 people. We missed last week because of our Chester trip but this is now going to become part of our Saturday morning routine. Today, as we walked down into town, it was quite a ‘chatty’ day as it turned out because we met a numberof our friends and acquaintances. First we met our Italian friend with whom we chatted for a few minu tes and then, in two halves, first the husband and then the wife of two of our oldest ‘church’ friends. We felt quite fortunate, actually, to get our full complement of Saturday newspapers this morning because Extinction Rebellion and other groups had demonstrated against elements of the Murdoch process (which include ‘The Times’) thereby stopping quite a lot of today’s production. The Saturday newspapers, particularly The Guardian, typically contain supplements and guides to the TV programmes for the week ahead, so it is quite reassuring to get all of the relevant ‘bits’ (as sometimes parts can detached from each other).

Ever since our student days, we tend to make a curry once a week and as it was a little chillier today than normal, it seemed to be a good excuse to make one. Actually, it is a little uncomplicated (starting off with a little mince in the absence of any other left-overs) and then a melange of onion, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and petit pois to which is added a little gravy made of vegetable stock. But what makes this curry a little more special is that I add some sultanas (and sometimes sliced apple/pear in the summer) together with a little Demerara sugar. I tend to add the curry powder mixed to a paste late on the proceedings so that I can gradate the intensity of the curry according to the tastes of the eventual consumers. Finally when dished up (rice for Meg, low-carb cauliflower rice for me), it gets served with a goodly sloop of plain yogurt which proves a ‘counter-note’ to the hotness of the curry.

There is going to be a story published in tomorrow’s Observer that the COVID-19 virus might be epidemic in areas of the country that combine severe deprivation, poor housing and large BAME communities, according to a highly confidential analysis by Public Health England. The five worst-hit areas are all currently in the north-west. Bolton had 98.1 cases per 100,000 people last week, with 63.2 in Bradford, 56.8 in Blackburn and Darwen, 53.6 in Oldham and 46.7 in Salford. Milton Keynes, by comparison, had 5.9 per 100,000, and it was 5.2 in Kent and 3.2 in Southampton. The article suggests that these parts of the country have never really recovered from the height of the infection. The data on housing is extraordinarily important. Overcrowded households are part of public health history. Housing conditions are so important and always have been, whether it was for cholera or tuberculosis or Covid-19. As one commentator has suggested: “Doing something about housing conditions for someone who has an active infection is extremely important and it is not something that can be handled by a call centre run by a commercial company hundreds of miles away.”

This story is quite an important one as it has all types of implications for the way in which we handle such infections. The current model suggests that we should so develop a local ‘trace-and-test’ regime that any new sources of infection are quickly addressed. But if the virus is indeed, endemic and deeply embedded in our poorest communities, then the policy implications are clear but unpalatable to right wing governments. It implies that only a radical redistribution of income and urgent attention given to the housing conditions of the most deprived parts of the community (massive extension of social housing?) can be the only long term solution, unless of course some protection is afforded by a vaccine which may never appear.