Friday, 5 June 2020

When the virus got personal. Becoming virus free. Being late.

So today my little girl (yes, I know she’s 40 but she’ll always be my little girl!) gets to take her little boy (really a little boy, only 9 months old!) home from hospital. I’ve had an almost superstitious reluctance to write about it until we knew that the worst was over. Two weeks ago our cheerful, smiley little grandson turned into a miserable, crying little bundle who was only happy being carried around, who would only really sleep on his mother’s shoulder, who lost his recently developed interest in food other than breastmilk. Over the weekend this got worse and by the Sunday he was developing a rash and ended up in the nearby hospital, where his older siblings could walk his three and half year old sister round to wave to mummy and baby brother through the window.

Diagnosis was initially unsure but within a couple of days he was transferred to the Manchester Royal Children’s Hospital with the confirmation that this was Post Covid inflammation, related to Kawasaki disease and affecting mostly the under-fives. Tests revealed he had the antibodies that showed that he had indeed had Coronavirus at some point, probably some time back when all the family had coughs and colds. Should the whole family be tested for antibodies now?

The NHS staff have been wonderful, trying to find the balance of treatments to stabilise his little body. Our daughter, in typical fashion, has done masses of online research, in snatched moments when the tiny boy did not need to be carried round and round the hospital room, and has become something of an expert on Kawasaki disease. And now, after almost two weeks in hospital the tiny boy has become an outpatient and the family can be reunited. But it will still be a while before we get to see them, except from a safe distance.

But good news is still good news!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world New Zealand has reached the point where they are almost ready to declare themselves Coronavirus-free. One sufferer remains to be declared cured and they are beginning to count the days with NO NEW CASES! 22 people have died from the virus in the country - yes, that’s TWENTY-TWO! - and fewer that 1,500 people have been confirmed infected. Many New Zealanders still don’t know anyone who is known to have had it. In Wellington, the capital, the last person confirmed to have survived the coronavirus was recorded as recovered more than three weeks ago. They must have done something right!

Of course New Zealand is in a different situation from most European countries. It was almost certainly easier to close off the country and prevent the entry of possibly contagious people than it was for the countries of Europe. But still, they dealt with the virus quickly and efficiently and, barring very bad luck, they seem to be doing well.

And now I imagine New Zealand in a science fiction story situation, strictly controlling travel in and out of the country, maybe evolving into a slightly different form of healthy human. Come to that, unless my memory does me a disservice, I am pretty sure that at the end of John Wyndham’s “The Chrysalids” New Zealand was the country where the escaping “mutants” were headed.

Here in the UK we still have a way to go. Our leaders tell us happily that they rate of infection is going down but in the North of the country it feels as though we are still in the middle of it all. It seems that as a country we have got used to being a bit late in making decisions about how to deal with everything. Late to close schools, late to lock down, late to test, late to introduce track and trace (and it still might not be working until the autumn), late to demand quarantine for arrivals to the UK, late to insist on masks in public transport and still not in shops. It will be no surprise to be late in getting back to any kind of normality!

Even the insistence on mask-wearing on public transport has an air of decision-making on the hoof. Here’s something from a newspaper report:

“Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, Shapps said passengers would also be encouraged to cover their face when entering bus and train stations with the help of volunteer “journey makers”.

“We are going to have thousands of people from the British Transport Police, Network Rail, Transport for London and actually a whole army of volunteers from a volunteer organisation who are going to be called journey makers, who will help to remind people. They’ll be wearing purple tabards and they will remind you to put your face covering on,” he said, stressing that the legal requirement applied only when actually on a bus, train or tram.”

And the rail unions have apparently not been consulted about any of this and are rather concerned at “volunteers” being put in the potentially difficult, even dangerous, role of reminding/challenging travellers about wearing their mask!!

I have been reading The Forsyte Saga - we need a BIG read right now - volume 2, and I came across this, as the character Michael Mont reflects on the state of things in 1924 - yes, that’s 1924!! -

“Nowhere could he catch the echo of uneasiness in the hearts of all. the Tories - as Fleur had predicted - would come in now. The country would catch at the anodyne of ‘strong stable government’. But could strong stable government remove the inherent canker, the lack of balance in the top-heavy realm? Could it still the gnawing ache which everybody felt, and nobody would express?”

That sounds familiar, does it not?

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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