Hello, I wanted to write a “life lately” post to record a little piece of this crazy life we are experiencing worldwide at the moment. I’m not writing as an expert, I’m not moaning (I’m aware there are people in far worse situations than I find myself in), I just want to state the facts about what life is like for myself, a mum of four in Pembrokeshire, at the moment for me and how I’m feeling. I assume this won’t be of interest to people at the moment and will more likely be read by people in the future so I’ve decided to write an initial post stating how we got to be in self-isolation, and from then on I’ll try and write more regular updates about our daily life during the Coronavirus Epidemic and hopefully after:
Life Before Coronavirus (Now Known as COVID19)
Right now, I find myself over a week into self-isolation for possibly a period of 12 weeks (or however long it takes) with the kids, due to Danny’s “underlying health condition”. Before I come to that though I’ll explain that only a couple of weeks ago I had no idea that life would come to this. Of course, I had heard about Coronavirus in China and kept up to date with the news and tragically, the numbers of deaths. initially, it was known as “Wuhan Flu” after the area in which it originated. My heart went out to China but I went on with my everyday life and went to sleep each night relatively worry-free.
By the end of January, the first Coronavirus cases were confirmed in the UK.
On February 11th, I attended a school meeting about Rebecca’s upcoming trip to France. One parent expressed concerns about Coronavirus and if the trip would go ahead. If I’m honest, at the time, I thought they were overreacting a bit. The advice from the Government and the travel company at that time was to go ahead.
On February 15th we lost Great Grampy and this personal sad news took overshadowed any world news at that time. We had lost the patriarch of our family and were heartbroken. But, of course, normal day to day life carried on. People went to work, schools and shops were all open. The kids went to clubs after school.
On 28th February, it was reported that cases had now been transferred to others in the UK (previous cases had all been carried by people who had recently been abroad). I didn’t hear a lot about that as it was the day of Great Grampy’s funeral. People came from near and afar, and I’m sure they won’t mind me mentioning that there were plenty of over 70-year-olds in attendance that day. “Social distancing” and “self-isolation” were not yet familiar terms to us. We hugged and kissed as usual and Coronavirus was barely mentioned.
Just a week later and Rebecca went off to France. I admit I did worry and wonder whether to send her. But again the government, travel company and insurance company all gave the go-ahead. As far as I knew no other parents pulled their children out of the trip. Just before this, there was controversy over school trips to Italy taken by other schools. Rebecca and her friends were really looking forward to it, so they went ahead and had a lovely time. I knew the virus was already in the UK so didn’t think she’d be any more likely to get it travelling to France. If I knew then, what I know now, then I wouldn’t have taken the risk and let her travel. I think all travel should have been prevented at this point. While Rebecca was in France the first case of Coronavirus was confirmed in our county, Pembrokeshire, a couple who had just returned from North Italy.
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton said:
“I can confirm that two additional individuals in Wales have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total number of positive cases in Wales to four.
“Both individuals are resident in the same household in the Pembrokeshire local authority area and have recently returned from Northern Italy.
“They are being managed in a clinically appropriate setting. All appropriate measures to provide care for the individuals and to reduce the risk of transmission to others are being taken.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to assure the public that Wales and the whole of the UK is prepared for these types of incidents.
“Working with our partners in Wales and the UK, we have implemented our planned response, with robust infection control measures in place to protect the health of the public.”
“Today the Reuters news agency confirmed that a Disneyland Paris maintenance worker tested positive for coronavirus over the weekend, a spokesman for the theme park said on Monday.
The worker has not been in contact with visitors and the park remains open, he added, confirming a report by French daily Le Parisien.
Disneyland Paris said it was checking on staff who have been in contact with the worker.
A spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council confirmed the trips took place and said: “Disneyland worker in question was not in work when they visited.”
One parent said on Facebook: “I think the trips should have been cancelled – we have been worried sick.”
Another said: “I just want my daughter home; I don’t care if we need to self-isolate.””
“I’ve got to be clear, we’ve all got to be clear, that this is the worst public health crisis for a generation.
Some people compare it to seasonal flu. Alas, that is not right. Owing to the lack of immunity, this disease is more dangerous.
And it’s going to spread further and I must level with you, level with the British public, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time. And the Chief Scientific Adviser will set out the best information we have on that in a moment.”
We were now told that COVID-19 was a global pandemic.
“Today, therefore, we are moving forward with our plan. From tomorrow, if you have coronavirus symptoms, however mild – either a new continuous cough or a high temperature – then you should stay at home for at least 7 days to protect others and help slow the spread of the disease.
We advise all those over 70 and those with serious medical conditions against going on cruises and we advise against international school trips.”
On Monday 16th March, we sent the kids to school and college but wondered if Brownies and Guides would still be on, as lovely as the group is, it’s not “essential”. They were, so off the kids went, but as soon as we were back in the door, a statement came through saying:
“We have taken the decision therefore, to suspend face-to-face Girlguiding activity, including unit meetings with immediate effect – your leader will be in touch with further details. We realise that this news may be upsetting for your daughter and your family. We would encourage you to look at this excellent advice from Unicef to talking to children about Coronavirus.”
Boris Johnson started giving live daily updates. Watching all of these and realizing the seriousness of this situation, it felt strange to not see the UK doing more.
The Government were now advising against all non-essential travel and social contact. Great Granny turned 90 on Tuesday, March 17th. We had planned to celebrate with a big family meal but had to cancel as it was now deemed too risky. Mother’s Day plans for the following Sunday were cancelled too but we still didn’t imagine we’d all spend the day apart.
On Tuesday the kids went to school as normal but I didn’t feel happy about it. I felt the only reason the schools weren’t closing yet was to avoid panic in the UK and to provide childcare for those who needed it. Rebecca was sent home poorly (but no cough or temperature). That evening, Dave and I spoke seriously about our plan to keep Danny safe. We had now received information that Danny should be self-isolating, as should everyone in the vulnerable group or over 70’s or people with underlying health conditions. There was confusion for parents of children with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome or other underlying conditions, as they seemed to be left off the guidelines due to “healthy” children being thought to cope with Coronavirus well. As Danny is 16 and under adult care, there was no question that he was in the vulnerable group. He has Hypoplastic left Heart Syndrome, a single ventricle disorder.
“Are you at increased risk from coronavirus and what should you do if you are?
The government has stated that patients with ‘chronic heart disease’ are likely to be at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus. Whilst technically all patients with congenital heart disease have ‘chronic heart disease’, in fact it is likely that most congenital heart disease patients are at no greater risk than the general population (for example because their condition is relatively mild or the heart functions well even if there are ongoing issues). For such patients we advise following the government’s recommendations for the whole UK population on hygiene and social distancing, Here specifically the sections ‘What is Social Distancing’ and ‘Handwashing and Respiratory Hygiene.’
Some patients have more severe forms of congenital heart disease and are likely to be at increased risk of becoming seriously unwell from the virus. These groups include patients:
With a Fontan or single ventricle circulation
Who have cyanosis (low blood oxygen levels)
Who have had a Mustard or Senning operation
Who have heart failure / take regular medicines to improve heart function
With pulmonary hypertension or Eisenmenger syndrome
With Di George syndrome if the immune system is affected
For these patients we recommend following the government guidance for those who are extremely vulnerable from the virus, which strongly advises staying at home at all times and avoiding any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks. Full details are available “Here”: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19.”
We decided that we had to take the kids out of school for the time being. My stomach churned as I made the phone calls. At this point, everyone was attending school unless they were displaying symptoms. The kids hate going below 100% on their attendance and we didn’t know if we’d get penalised by the schools. There was no official advice from the government on what to do if you had a vulnerable member of the family living with you. We knew if we only took Danny out of college but we all carried on with our lives we’d all be putting him at risk, it wasn’t worth it.
We went into college to sort Danny some time off and to ask if he could learn remotely. They reluctantly agreed and said it would just be for 12 days, then he’d have to return. Personally, I couldn’t see how things could have improved by then, but of course, we agreed.
We sorted with the schools too and they were more prepared as of course they wanted all pupils showing the symptoms to learn from home too. So although we were off for different reasons it was fine. So from Wednesday 18th March, the kids and I began self-isolating. Dave still felt he had to continue work. We had discussed it and he had himself said that it wouldn’t work if he kept “socialising” and coming back to the house, he would still be putting Danny at risk, so he agreed to move out until he could stop working. When it came time for him to actually go, he did struggle. I think he felt, he was being thrown out, been when that wasn’t the case, it had been his own idea. It was just a sad situation for all of us. After a few nights, he temporarily moved in with Andy (his brother) and although hard for us all, it’s a new normal and we’re all getting by.
On Wednesday 18th March, it was announced that all schools would close. I’d been expecting this and felt relieved but also even more worried as it confirmed the gravity of the situation.
First, there was a statement from the Welsh Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams:
“Today, I can announce we are bringing forward the Easter break for schools in Wales. Schools across Wales will close for statutory provision of education at the latest on 20 March 2020.
I have been clear up to now that the continuity of education and the wellbeing of our learners has been at the heart of my decision making. This will always be the case.
From next week, schools will have a new purpose. They will help support those most in need, including people involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak. I am working with my colleagues in the Cabinet, with government officials and our partners in local government to develop and finalise these plans.”
Then, Boris Johnson confirmed in his daily u[date that schools in England would close too:
“So I can announce today and Gavin Williamson making a statement now in House of Commons that after schools shut their gates from Friday afternoon, they will remain closed for most pupils – for the vast majority of pupils- until further notice. I will explain what I mean by the vast majority of pupils…. we … need schools to make provision for the children of these key workers who would otherwise be forced to stay home. And they will also need to look after the most vulnerable children.“
In a way, I felt reassured that we had made the right decision to take the kids out of school now that all schools were closing. However, I do feel that the girls have missed out by not being in for their “last days” of school. Especially when it hit me that Caitlyn would be leaving junior school without a proper “last day” etc. Other parents worried as kids would miss important exams like GCSEs and A Levels. On the one hand, it’s a huge thing and I feel so sorry for the kids affected by this, but on the other, in the grand scheme, it has to be done and sadly, there are more important things to worry about.
Once the schools closed, it had a domino effect and everything seemed to close. There were “closing” announcements, left, right and centre. The pubs, leisure centres, libraries, cinemas and theatres closed. Pubs had closed a few days earlier in Ireland, meaning that, for surely the first time ever, pubs were empty on St Patricks Day. At first, all shops were open (apart from the ones who folded due to the upcoming recession). But on Monday 23rd March, it was not enough and Boris Johnson made a grave statement and ordered a “soft lockdown”:
“To ensure compliance with the Government’s instruction to stay at home, we will immediately:
- close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship;
- we will stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with;
- and we’ll stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals.”
Although funerals were still allowed, crowds were not allowed to attend to say goodbye and give there loves ones a send-off. This was heartbreaking, but the way it needed to be and sadly, I think I’ll be writing worse in a few weeks as we look to how other countries are going.
On Sunday, 22nd March, it was Mother’s Day and all over the world, people were celebrating separated from their mothers. We sent mum an Afternoon Tea from a local cafe. Her cards and flowers were posted too and Dave kindly dropped off some presents to her when he also dropped off for his Mum and Gran. It was very strange not to be together, especially as we were due to see my sister and realistically now don’t know when we’ll see her again. Actually, we don’t know when we’ll see people living near to us again either but it is sad when they’re further away. I feel especially sad for parents of young adults who are currently travelling or living overseas.
I was lucky, of course, to have been able to celebrate mother’s day with my own kids. I missed Dave but realise without him making this sacrifice, I would probably have been apart from Danny on this day. He’s not always easy to live with (he’s a strong-minded teen!) but I really am grateful to be with him and able to help keep him safe.
So that brings us to now, I don’t think there’s been that much news this week as everything is already closed. To be fair to the Government do seem to be trying to help everyone financially. First of all businesses and employees were offered help with loans, grants and a job retention scheme. On Thursday 26th March the Self Employed were offered a package too and can claim up to 80% of their declared earnings. Of course, it takes time to all sort out so there are many people struggling already. I’m still being offered work and continuing to take it. I did wonder if this was morally the right thing to do but actually as I can work from home, surely it’s better to help keep the economy going and to not have to have help from the Government so they have more to help others? We will all be paying that back when this is over.
One thing I will mention before I end this initial post (there are so many things I’ve left out as there’s just been so much going on. I wish I’d written a daily update since the start). I have to mention toilet roll! So when the UK began to worry about Coronavirus, people began to stockpile in case of self-isolation, then others started to panic buy and there were toilet roll and pasta shortages all around. People joked, but you can’t get the runs from Coronavirus so why do they need all this loo roll. But I can understand before self-isolating you do need to have as much stuff to keep you going if you don’t have anyone to buy for you. We’re lucky we didn’t stock or panic buy but we’ve managed to always just have enough toilet roll! We did fall short on the pasta. I usually always have a big bag of Tesco fusilli pasta in the house. Well, we ran ut a few weeks go and I hadn’t replaced yet and of course, these were nowhere to be found. My mum kindly got me some wholewheat pasta from Lidl and my aunt and uncle got some for us too for which I’m very grateful. At one point there was no bread or bananas etc in stock and I did think we’d have months without this sort of thing but the supermarkets worked together and bought in a form of rationing and it does seem to have settled down. The first time Dave “delivered” us bread and bananas I cried! I used to make homemade bread every day, but eventually, out well-used bread maker broke. I deliberately hadn’t invested in a new one as I wanted to save up and get a higher spec one where the paddle didn’t always get stuck in the bread. Well, I never managed to save up for that, but with the lack of bread I thought I’d better invest in a maker again- they’d sold out everywhere too! In the end, I bought the only one I could find online, so at least we have that so we don’t have to rely on people to bring us fresh bread. Many local shops are also offering deliveries which are really handy. At the moment Dave is still able to shop for us, but we may rely on these in future. Many takeaways are closing now too. Some non-essential shops are still delivering but I can see this stopping soon for the sake of the delivery drivers. It’s one thing risking your life every day delivering food and medical supplies, but completely not worth it to deliver hot tubs etc. All deliveries are contact-free now. They knock on the door and stand back and sign for your parcel for you. While these outlets are open, people will keep ordering.
Today, on Friday 26th March, it was announced that the current UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had tested positive for Coronavirus and would be self-isolating.
“Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus.
I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.
Together we will beat this. #StayHomeSaveLives”
Schools are working so hard, we’re in contact with teachers every day and they set activities and work for the kids. So many people are volunteering their services, it’s heartening to see.
Last night, there was a UK wide “Clap for our carers” to show gratitude to all the keyworkers, expecially NHS staff who are on the frontlne at the moment. We are all so grateful for them. This is ongoing every Thursday at 8pm now and the least we can do for them (I know they need much more too!).
I’m thinking of all the people who have lost their battle against Coronavirus and sending love to their families.
Are you a key worker, a volunteer or are you also in self-isolation? I know it feels like we’re not doing much by staying home but please remember staying home saves lives and takes the pressure off the hardworking NHS who are putting their lives at risk for us. Please stay safe and well, everyone xxx