Tuesday 24 March 2020

Coronavirus Lockdown!

So, after all this talk of coronavirus firstly hitting Asia, then coming over and ravaging Northern Italy the thing just got all the more real, now that it has arrived in the UK and has claimed the first few victims.
Breeze Yoga, like other leisure places, sadly had to close
After what appeared to be a smug insouciance by many, including the UK Prime Minister, we have been forced to face the harsh reality that Coronavirus disease, Covid-19 (offically known as SARS-CoV-2) is taking hold of the country. In short, we are in deep s***.

Folks thought that it might be the capricious behaviour of certain world leaders, or even Brexit that might cause a socioeconomic meltdown. But no, all it has taken to bring the country into disarray is a tiny monster. And it is tiny. This organism of just one thousandth the size of a pinhead is causing havoc to countries across the world.

I was saddened to hear about what was happening in Asia, when the disease intially struck China, South Korea and parts of Japan.

However, I must admit I felt a certain complacency about the situation knowing they had overcome the first SARS outbreak 17 years ago, and so they would have the means to overcome this not dissimilar situation. I also perceived it has a problem that could potentially affect people in the UK, but not to any life-changing extent.

But then when I heard about the number of people killed there, it became more of a talking point. While I was in Milan, and then skiing in Courmayeur and Chamonix at the start of February coronavirus was a prominent talking point on the Italian news programmes. At that time a couple of people with the disease had been identified in Rome. But in a way people weren't so alarmed because they were folks who had returned from China, and as they were in isolation everything seemed under control.

But then one Sunday evening in late February when I was looking at the figures showing the number of coronavirus cases around the world, I was shocked to see how many people in Milan and the Lombardy region had been affected.

Once the disease had come to Italy everyone instantly knew it would be a matter of time before the scourge would arrive on UK shores.

My friend Silvia, who lives in Milan, spoke to me from her flat where she was holed up due to the government-imposed isolation measures. The thing that struck me was when she said that she did not mind being stuck there if it would help protect people, notably her elderly parents, from succumbing to the disease.

You need this when you go out in Italy during Lockdown
It was then that I first heard about the horror of people who die being left with no loved ones around them. Such is the contagious nature of the disease that sufferers can't make contact with anyone other than the hospital physicians and nurses.

Apparently some seriously patients, on realising that their days were numbered would ask to see their daughter or their husband, only to be told this wasn't allowed. I couldn't think of anything more heartbreaking and ruthless.

The other measures in place in Italy seemed equally alarming. No one in Italy is allowed to go outdoors at all unless it is to see a doctor or pharmacist, or to go to the supermarket. Even then, only one member of the family is allowed to go out and do the shopping and you can only go once a week. Furthermore, you have to go to the nearest supermarket to your home.

No outdoor exercises are permitted including cycling, but dog-walking within 200m of your home is okay.

All this was underpinned by a special form, known as an "autocertificazione". The form has your name, address, date of birth, ID number, reason you're going out and address of the place you're going to. You take the form with you every time you go outdoors, and be ready to show it to the police if you are stopped. Failure to have the form, or a breach of the rules leads to a heavy fine and potentially a prison sentence.

Italy had suddenly become a police state.

And now, given that there are over 8,000 who have tested positive with 422 deaths, including 87 in the last 24 hours the government has decreed the same measures in the UK as in other major European countries - well almost the same. We are allowed to go out and do one form of exercise - cycling or running; there is no time or distance limit, though we just have to make sure we maintain a social distance of at least 2m from others. We can do the activity alone, or just with members of our own household, but we can't do group activities.

So there you have it. We are offially in lockdown.

My first inkling that things were going wrong for us was last Tuesday when the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced that schools would be closing at the end of the week, and then on Friday he suddenly announced that sports centres and bars should close with immediate effect.

At that point I rushed out to get in my final class at Breeze Yoga. When I parted company with the instructors and other regulars some were optimistically seeing it as a couple of months' pause to catch up on other things. But now, given the extent of the disease I suspect that I won't be seeing the guys from Breeze at the end of May. In fact, given that so many businesses are now in trouble as a result of the enforced closure I really hope Breeze Yoga stays afloat through this difficult period.

As for me, I am just going to hope that I can stay in employment as well as remaining healthy. We have a physical and mental health lifeline in the shape of being able to go out and be active, as well as cycling. So I intend to make the most of that opportunity. Here's hoping that the Covid-19 reaches its peak soon so that we can then return to some semblance of normality as sooner rather than later. (Though sadly, it could be later.)

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