Blog Archive

Friday, May 1, 2020

My April Lockdown, Day by Day

1st April Wednesday - Lockdown Day 9

Not much laughing today. 563 deaths from covid-19 in the last 24 hours in the UK and 499 in France. That's a huge acceleration in the daily death rate and the first time UK deaths exceeds those in France. Not looking good.

Wimbledon Tennis Championship cancelled for the first time since the Second World War.

I popped out to the little Tesco convenience store at the bottom of our road. There was one person in the queue outside in front of me and I had to wait a minute or two on the distancing lines stuck on the pavement outside the door. Inside it was very quiet. I grabbed some milk and cheese, paid at the machine and left as fast as I could. There were more Tesco staff than customers including the doorman, none of whom were wearing any protective equipment. I removed my disposable gloves on exit and threw them in the bin. Feels like a war zone.

Shops have taped the floors and pavements outside to keep us 2 metres apart

2nd April Thursday - lockdown day 10

My mother used her new mobile phone in a video call with us for the first time. She is finding lack of contact hard but recognises how lucky she is to be with my father and to have a nice garden. Some of her grandchildren are delivering food and prescriptions and conversing from the front garden. Who would ever have imagined.....

Almost 3,000 deaths in the UK and 4,000 in France. My understanding is that these figures are hospital deaths only and don't include care homes.

The Prime Minister was seen Clapping for Carers at 8pm outside his house in Downing Street despite his self-isolation. He didn't look well.

3rd April Friday - Lockdown Day 11

"A furlough (/ˈfɜːrloʊ/; from Dutch: verlof, "leave of absence") is a temporary leave of employees due to special needs of a company or employer, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole. These involuntary furloughs may be short or long term, and many of those affected may seek other temporary employment during that time." Wikipedia.

Not a word I have previously used, but one that is being used frequently as millions of workers around the world are being laid off temporarily to start. Some will benefit from government schemes to pay a portion of their salaries.


My black mask and disposable burgundy gloves when I go shopping.  I just went to M & S in the city centre and the city is like a ghost town apart from a few courageous / desperate shoppers and plenty of Deliveroo riders on bikes hanging around and working. 

Heathrow has shut a runway, Gatwick is virtually closed. Debenhams is on the brink of administration. Banks have stopped paying shareholder dividends to strengthen their balance sheets.

4th April Saturday - Lockdown Day 12

It's starting to warm up weather wise which will be great for those of us with gardens and hard for those without. The government is now 'instructing' rather than advising us to stay in for all but essentials.

Lovely sunny, didn't get dark until 8pm. Shame we are not allowed out other than for a short walk or to get essential supplies.

5th April Sunday - Lockdown Day 13

Matt Hancock, Health Minister says he is expecting peak deaths in the next 7 to 10 days. That's pretty much over Easter although bank holidays and long weekends don't exist anymore.

The new leader of the Labour party, Sir Keir Starmer, was interviewed by Andrew Marr. He is very impressive, unlike his predecessor. He says he will co-operate with Boris Johnson during this pandemic, will offer constructive criticism and will bring his party together. I am pleased that we now have a proper opposition leader as democracy needs this. He started off by apologising to the Jewish community for the anti-semitism in his party and saying he would act to address this as a matter of priority.  He appears to be an intelligent and decent man. I hope his party and partners appreciate him and rally behind him.

Sir Keir Starmer has just been elected leader of the Labour Party

6th April Monday - Lockdown Day 14

Thanks to essential workers. There is a big understanding and Thursday night clap aimed primarily at NHS workers and careers who massively deserve our thanks and support. We should also spend a moment thanking other key workers in utilities, deliveries and lots more. Imagine if key workers were unable to maintain our electricity supplies. Everything, including our hospitals would stop working. And our water supplies, transport, etc. There is a whole army of people who must carry on in order for our lives to continue to function. Whilst these people have the privilege of being able to go out and carry on working, they are clearly at far greater risk of catching the virus. Several London Transport workers have already died from it.

The Prime Minister is moved into intensive care at St Thomas' Hospital.

7th April Tuesday - Lockdown Day 15

Dominic Raab takes over the Prime Minister's duties.

Death rates rise to 5373 in UK and 8911 in France. The French figures include some Care Homes.

8th April Wednesday - Lockdown Day 16

Today France officially went into recession with a 6% drop in economic activity Q1 this year. The
economic data is the worst seen since 1945, the end of World War 2.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) released a report that predicted world trade would fall by between 13% and 32% in this year.

9th April Thursday - Lockdown Day 17

This is the third Thursday that we have all stood by our front doors clapping the carers at 8pm. We have progressed to using saucepans and spoons to make more noise!

10th April Good Friday - Lockdown Day 18

It's Good Friday, Easter and its Passover but it doesn't feel like it. It just feels like any other day. Fortunately the weather is perfect and we have a garden. For the last 30+ years, we have spent Easter in France with my in-laws so it feels strange to be locked away and stuck at home.

People all over the world are getting worried about money they have paid for travel to airlines, hotels, travel companies, car hire etc. Many are providing refunds in the form of credit notes or vouchers for future use. But if the firm goes bust, they money may be lost. Some firms are not even doing that. Our Easter trip and car hire was booked with British Airways. A couple of weeks ago they texted me and emailed me to say the flights were cancelled. A few days later, with no action on my part, I noticed a refund on my credit card for the full value of the flights and car hire. I will definitely be using BA again. Most impressed given the mess all around us. Let's see which travel companies survive. Many won't.

11th April Saturday - Lockdown Day 19

Beautiful warm weather. All the cheery blossom and tulips in flower. It's as if time has been frozen and we are in a time warp waiting to come out.

Fabulous weather

12th April Easter Sunday - Lockdown Day 20

Bill Gates told us so in 2015

Interview with Bill Gates on BBC Breakfast, who predicted this pandemic in his 2015 Ted Talk. He asked governments to invest and he was ignored. We have been spending billions on defence in preparation for the wrong war. He says a vaccine will take roughly 18 months to develop. If we had prepared as he suggested it would have been far quicker. Asked how he thought governments had responded, he said "few countries will get A Grade for their response". His suggestion that we should spend a small percentage of our defence budget preparing for this type of enemy was clearly very sensible.

13th April Easter Monday - Lockdown Day 21

We are in this for a long haul

Tonight, we enter the fourth week of lockdown as the number of UK deaths passes 10,000. Spain starts to loosen restrictions on some construction and manufacturing. China claims that all new infections are imported from abroad. Unless we have a second wave, which it quite possible, it appears that Asia is over the worse, Europe and USA are at peak and Africa hasn't really got started yet.

14th April Tuesday - Lockdown Day 22

Last night President Macron confirmed that the lockdown in France would continue until May 11th. Schools colleges and creches will gradually re-open from that date if the progression of the virus continues as forecast. In his live TV announcement, he admitted to failings in the supply of PPE (personal protective equipment) and lack of preparedness. Restaurants, cafés, bars and large events may be permitted to re-open from mid July. The UK is a couple of weeks behind France in terms of virus progression, so we maybe starting to open from early June. However, I think the elderly and vulnerable will be encouraged or required to stay indoors for much longer, potentially until a vaccine is available for them.

Asian economies without doubt handling this best, in part because they have had experience of previous epidemics recently.

15th April Wednesday - Lockdown Day 23

I bought some bread and hid it in the garage. Our house is gluten free as a result of my wife's coeliac disease but the bread we have delivered to our street weekly is so delicious I can't resist. I have an Oxford Sourdough and I sneak a couple of slices in each morning to make my toast. It's really good with marmalade and marmite.

Germany announces plans to start to end lockdown with schools opening in early May. Other European countries like Denmark are also relaxing their lockdowns.

16th April Thursday - Lockdown Day 24

A glimmer of hope? KFC, Burger King and Pret announced they are re-opening a handful of restaurants for delivery / contactless collection only. They have re-configured their kitchens and processes to minimise infection possibilities. Is this a step towards the new normal?

The government will today announce a further three weeks of lockdown. But I can't yet see any improvement in the death rates. There is a deceleration in the rate of increase, but it's still terrible. Latest figures are 17,167 deaths in France including Care Homes, 12868 in UK excluding Care Homes.
But it's great for the environment!

One of the few benefits the current lockdown crisis brings is crystal blue skies. No airplane trails and hardly any vehicle pollution. We have been having plenty of sunny days and the skies are very beautiful.

All ten of the 'most read' stories on the BBC website are still about Coronavirus.

17th April Friday - Lockdown Day 25

First day of rain in about four weeks. So I didn't get out today and I have a headache!

It's starting to dawn on me just how much impact this virus will have on the world and how long it's going to last. We will probably never go back to 'normal'.

18th April Saturday - Lockdown Day 26

Economic impact by country

Interesting chart in The Economist today, estimating the impact the economic crisis is likely to have on OECD countries:

Greece is forecast to suffer the most, which saddens me, having visited for the first time last year and seeing what a beautiful country it is and how great the people are. But it doesn't surprise me. A quarter of Greece's economy is tourism and most businesses are small and family run.

19th April Sunday - Lockdown Day 27

It feels like we are frozen in time; except for the bills which just keep coming.

It's starting to seem like our governments have been negligent in their preparations, or lack of them, for the pandemic. In late January and early February, scientists were warning of the pending catastrophe, but they were largely ignored. Boris was too busy doing Brexit.

20th April Monday - Lockdown Day 28

Hong Kong

I am very impressed with how Hong Kong has handled the crisis. So far just 4 deaths. In fact I have now become a bit of a bore and I am studying what goes on in HK everyday. Why? HK is a city of over 7 million people. It is the world's tallest city, with more people living on the 15th floor or higher than anywhere else. They are literally living one on top of each other. Wouldn't you think this would be very appealing fodder for the coronavirus? Just next door to China? And they haven't even shut their restaurants, just bars and cafés.

99% of the population wear masks, they do 'social distancing' but have a far looser lockdown than the big western economies. Despite this, the mortality rates are almost nil.

How do they do it? In part through pro-activity rather than reaction. The cartoon below sums up how the UK, US, France, Spain and Germany have reacted. In HK, where they were burned some years ago by SARS and MERS, two previous cornaviruses, they were far better prepared for covid19, and have a far better understanding of the best ways to protect both their people and their economy.

This is how the UK, US, France, Spain and Germany responded to the pandemic

I have started to read the South China Morning Post, an editorially independent HK newspaper and I am impressed by the quality of the journalism and the online presentation. HK is now preparing for a second wave of covid-19 and one of the measures is building local PPE (Protective Personal Equipment) supply as they know it may be hard to get hold of through export markets (including China).

21st April Tuesday - Lockdown Day 29

Oil Crazy

Oil prices continue to fall as the pandemic means people stuck at home don't burn much oil. It's great for the environment but produces crazy economics. Yesterday the May contract for West Texas crude settled at negative $37.63 per barrel. That means any one looking to settle their oil contract had to pay almost $40 per barrel to get rid of it! This is because firstly nobody wants the oil and secondly there is no storage space left for it. Meanwhile, Brent Crude has fallen to $26, down from $66 at the start of the year.

Minus $37.63 each

Europe relaxes lockdown, Hong Kong extends

As many European countries continue to relax the lockdown, Hong Kong, where there have only been 4 deaths so far and no new cases yesterday, announce an extension:

"Hong Kong’s leader has announced a two-week extension of the temporary ban on some businesses in the city opening, as well as on public gatherings of more than four people.

Bars, pubs, beauty salons, massage parlours and karaoke lounges are among those that must now remain shut until May 7, at the earliest. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said that, even though Hong Kong recorded no confirmed infection on Monday, the regulations needed to remain in place to make sure the city kept up its battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Restaurants can continue to operate, but their capacity must be capped at 50 per cent. No more than four people are allowed per table, and tables must be 1.5 metres apart.

“This is not the time to be complacent. If we relax, the good work that we have done will be in vain,” she said." South China Morning Post.

22nd April Wednesday - LD 30

The virus comes closer to us

One of our neighbours, an oncologist has been tested positive for covid-19 and as a result his whole family are self-isolating. I spoke to him yesterday and he seems well. I left their food delivery at the end of their path to collect. Goodness me, I am writing as if we are talking about the bubonic plague.

In the 14th century, the plague, known as the Black Death, killed around half the population of Europe. Today it kills a few hundred people per annum, mostly in the DRC, Madagascar and Peru. It can be treated fairly well with antibiotics as it is a bacterium spread by flies that pick it up on dead animals. It is thought to have originated in China.

There have been three global pandemics and it was at the end of the second pandemic that lasted around 400 years that one quarter of the population of London was wiped out in 1665-66. It was known as The Great Plague, and in 1666, The Great Fire of London ensured that it was defeated until the 19th century. As London was re-built, open sewers were forbidden, and the new buildings were made of stone, not wood.

23rd April Thursday - LD 31

Latest deaths: 18,100 UK; 21,340 France. In reality UK has probably surpassed France as the figures exclude Care Homes. This is an avoidable disaster of tragic proportions. And how many more people's lives have been ruined by the deaths and the destruction to their economic livelihoods? Millions I expect, and many many more to come.

24th April Friday - LD 32

Why is it that most Care Workers get paid bugger all whilst many footballers live in mansions? Will we see these issues addressed in the "new normal". I doubt it.

New Popular Vocabulary

These words all existed prior to the pandemic but they have now entered popular use:

Unprecedented - over used by journalists to describe much of what is going on today. It has almost become an excuse for politicians as in: "because it's unprecedented, we going to..."

Lockdown - This is the first time since WW2 that Europeans have had their movements constrained to such a huge degree.

Zoom - online video-conferencing software that because of its simplicity has become immensely popular since the start of the lockdown.

Hydroxychloraquine - a malaria treatment that it was hoped would cure people suffering badly from coronavirus which unfortunately didn't work.  An example of a number of attempts to find cures with existing drugs that most people had never heard of before.

Second Wave - now that most Asian and European countries have seen the death rates plateau and decline, they are preparing for a second wave of infections as the lockdowns are released. In previous pandemics, second waves have been worse than the first.

PPE - protective personal equipment such as gloves, masks and aprons which have to a greater or lesser degree been in short supply.

Contact Tracing - one of the techniques essential to stamping out the virus. Using bluetooth enabled apps, geo location (e.g. Google or mobile networks) and even financial transactions and marrying these to people with covid19, alerts can be sent to people's phones telling them to avoid certain locations and to get tested. At the same time an army of workers need to contact and trace everyone an infected person has been in contact with to get the to self- isolate.

Furloughed - employees who are sent home with no work until the situation gets better. In the UK, the employer can apply for government funding for 80% of salaries up to £25,00 per month until the end of June. Other countries have different schemes.

Wet Markets - a market for the sale of fresh meat, fish, vegetables and fruit. Some markets also traditionally allowed the slaughter of live animals on site, but this was banned in places including Hong Kong and Singapore following the bird flu outbreaks of the 1990s.

Jo Wicks - known as The Body Coach, Jo Wicks has become an internet lockdown sensation. Wicks was awarded a Guinness World Record for 'most viewers for a fitness workout live stream on Youtube', after achieving almost a million viewers on 24th March 2020 for his live stream. It's probably true to say that the coronavirus lockdown made Wicks rich and famous.

25th April Saturday - LD 33

A visit to Sainsbury's

Last night we found a Click & Collect slot at Sainsbury's at 7pm this evening. Normally a very mundane event but this is the first time I have found one since the start of the crisis.

Going to the supermarket is normally a bit of a bore but now I am just terrified! I will be taking gloves and mask and hand sanitiser.

Just back and the journey was surreal as there was scarcely anyone around. The car park at Sainsbury's was almost empty so we drove up to the bays marked 'Collection only' and a lady walked up, asked our name and then opened our boot and put all the bagged shopping inside our car and we drove off. Could not have been simpler or more contactless. 5 stars to Sainsbury's!

26th April Sunday - LD 34

20,000 and rising

Yesterday, the number of UK hospital deaths surpassed 20,000. It looks clear that once care homes and community deaths are included. UK will be the worst performer per head of population. The only plausible explanation for this is the poor decisions taken by government in managing and containing the pandemic.

From analysing the latest information, it seems there are 4 keys to ending the lockdown:

1. Strict social (or as I prefer physical) distancing to be enforced
2. Masks to be worn when you are likely to be 2m metres from other people
3. NHSX app to be used by 60%+ of the population to alert people to cv19 infection
4. Contact Tracing to be undertaken professionally

All underpinned by a huge testing programme of course.

27th April Monday - LD 35

My revenue sources are being squeezed as clients and tenants request reduced terms. Fortunately, the fact that we can't go out has reduced some of my outgoings.

28th April Tuesday - LD 36

It's raining! And for once, everyone seems happy about that!

The government forgot the Care Homes for the elderly

Deaths continue to rise with the shocking admission of around 5,000 elderly people who have died in care homes. The government's belated efforts all went into supporting NHS hospitals. It seems like Care Homes were forgotten. Another failure in the UK's handling of this crisis? It's not as if the same thing hadn't already happened in Spain and Italy...

Official hospital death toll in the UK is now up to 21,678, but many believe that if we were able to accurately include deaths in Care Homes and in the Community, the real figure would be around 45,000. That's a very big number.

29th April Wednesday - LD 37

A friend sent me this link to a website called Covid-19 in Hong Kong

Is shows just how on top of the virus they are there, by tracking, tracing and reporting evert known case and making the information available publicly. It's not hard to start to understand why they still only have 4 deaths when there is this level of forensic-style follow-up and track down of every single known case.

Any acceptable reason why we can't do this too?

30th April Thursday - LD 38

As the month of April draws to a close, the official UK death rate passes 26,000 people. The Prime Minister is now back at his desk and 'taking back control'. I fear his legacy will be a poor one. Over the coming days we expect to start to hear details on how we will gradually return to business. Key to this will be avoiding a second wave which could easily be worse than the first. Given our government's poor record at handling the first wave, it doesn't augur particularly well. Or have they learned now?

UK blue, France red.
On Apr 28th, UK started to include non hospital covid-19 deaths.

To end the month, Oasis and Warehouse fashion groups close for good and British Airways announces it may never re-open at Gatwick.

This is going to be a recession, the likes of which we could never even imagined.

Two Quotes this month

"There are decades in which nothing happens, and there are weeks in which decades happen"
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

"If there's one positive thing that can come out of the ebola epidemic, it's a wake-up call to get ready.  if we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic."
Bill Gates April 2015 Ted Talk.

No comments:

Post a Comment