Isolation (day one)

Today our little family began fourteen days of self-isolation under the coronavirus guidance issued by the government, all of which seems a little bizarre to write.

More on that soon, but first a little background.

It’s only a few short weeks since the coronavirus seemed very distant; another of those awful problems that happen elsewhere, to other people. The scale of the virus was alarming, but it was far away, as things tend to be for those of us with the privilege to have been born in the second half of the twentieth century into a stable liberal democracy of the northern hemisphere.

Gradually, it got closer. Through January the articles and reports became ever more worrying, and we experienced our first two cases in the United Kingdom. It was here and it was given a name (COVID-19), but new positive test results trickled through February.

As we arrived in March there were less than fifty cases in the UK, and it was still relatively easy to dismiss the increasingly dire warnings rapidly emerging from the World Health Organisation and Public Health England.

It couldn’t be that bad. Could it?

Well, here we are. In the middle of March we’re approaching 2,000 cases in the UK alone, with sixty dead already. Experts expect case numbers to double every five-to-six days, which could rapidly leave us with over one hundred thousand cases before we reach the end of April. Even that mind-boggling number, we’re told, may well be the tip of the iceberg. And left unchecked the virus would likely ravage the population, leaving hundreds of thousands dead in this country alone.

Until yesterday (16 March) our government followed a strategy of mitigation – a noticeably light touch on the virus which, in contrast to most of the rest of the world, aimed to develop a herd-immunity in the community, rather than suppressing the outbreak. Reaction to the plans was (predictably) one of widespread public outcry, and things rapidly changed over the weekend until yesterday, when we began to move headlong towards a more wholesale suppressing strategy as has been seen across most of the rest of Europe already.

So we find ourselves with very strong guidance on limiting social contact and maximising social distance. For now, this does not involve school closures, though that is likely to follow, for everyone, within days.

Except that for us, unexpectedly, it began today.

Our youngest was sent home from school yesterday with a temperature. Overnight she seemed fine, and we planned to take her into school today. On speaking with school staff, however, it became clear that to do so would risk us flying in the face of that clear government guidance and, although we felt that she was fine, the argument of the school as to why we should keep her at home for the greater good was a strong one.

We took her home and called her big brother’s school to inform them, which – of course – meant that he too was to leave under the current guidance. As such, we are classed now as a family that has to self-isolate for fourteen days from today.

How will we do that?

Well, in one way we are fortunate. We work from home and can continue to do so, to a large extent, with the kids around us. There will be significant disruption to our work as we both need and want to spend time helping them with schoolwork so that they don’t fall behind during what is likely to be months, rather than weeks, of school closures ahead.

We plan to add structure to their days so far as possible, and while we will isolate to a large extent, we need to get them out into the air too, so we’ll take walks around the village and local parks while maximising social distancing as required.

I’m able to get to the shops, so plan to do so for essentials for as long as I can until the guidance becomes more strict in the weeks ahead. There is no lock-down here, yet, so we’ll be responsible but have no need to make others go out of their way for us.

Of course the kids can play in the garden, particularly as the weather improves into spring. They can paint, build, play, read, learn. Our eldest is planning on keeping a daily video diary, just for his own record, so that in future he can look back on what are rapidly becoming unprecedented times.

Financially, of course, we need the work to keep on coming, and that’s never guaranteed. The economy, worldwide, is sinking before our eyes, and consumer confidence is sinking with it. Disposable income is diminishing and that can rapidly have an impact on a small business like ours. So as well as the threat of the virus itself we have – like so many others do – the secondary threat of economic impact caused by the necessary measures being taken to suppress COVID-19 so far as possible.

And that is where we find ourselves on day one of our self-isolation. We adore being together, which in itself is a great point from which to start.

We must work. We must play. And we must do whatever we can to turn this very big and very strange moment in human history into something positive on a very small and very family level.