It’s taken me ages to write about Coronavirus and the impact the social distancing and stay at home guidance is having. Living so near others but feeling cut off from people around you must be all the worse if you don’t have a family to share this with. I keep in mind those for whom home is unsafe or lonely, who can’t find a bit of green to walk through from home, or whose livelihood has disappeared overnight.
I’m very lucky, I started my new job the day before we were all told to work from home. My children came home later the same day (very mild temperatures at school and rightfully cautious teachers but not COVID-19) so we’ve all 5 been at home for 3 weeks slowly driving each other round the bend, but finding our space and doing some schoolwork and homework here and there. I wasn’t able to attend my dear uncle’s funeral on Friday because of social distancing rules (he didn’t die from Coronavirus), but a video of the service did reach us this weekend so I could think about him.
Ironically, I’ve spoken to my brothers and sisters more than I would ever do normally, and maybe things will be different once this is all over. I have parents to worry about – as do so many of us – and I’m hoping my mum will forgive me checking in over text a bit too often!
While I have purposefully taken the time to be present with my own family in a way that has not been so usual in the last few years, I’ve also been searching for what I can do to help. I’m used to being in the midst of any fight that needs fighting and I’m truly in awe of the bravery of the heroes on the medical frontline, some of whom have died saving others. I’ve signed up as a Compassionate Swindon and NHS Volunteer in the hope of being some use beyond doing my bit and staying at home. I’ve tried to share useful information and to support those doing the right thing, including Swindon Borough Council for whom this is an unprecedented challenge.
Our frontline NHS workers, teachers, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, refuse collectors, carers and many others are still out there working, and many fighting COVID-19, on the frontline. The doctors and nurses who have died are real heroes, and really the weekly applause is only the smallest gesture we can make at the moment to show our appreciation. Once this is over, I hope everyone will reject going back to the old view of the world where those doing ‘everyday’ work such as caring or making essential deliveries don’t deserve the best terms, conditions and respect we can offer. The new Leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, is spot on when he says that those who’ve been last will be first when this is over – absolutely!
The task before the Westminster Government remains huge, and at points they have been found wanting. Learning on the job – and the PM in Intensive Care tonight – has been a true challenge, and after this is over there will be big questions about strategy and why certain decisions were made. I was heartened though by Keir’s approach to Opposition at this nationally testing time. He is seeking to constructively engage with the Government, to scrutinise and support them through this colossal test because it is the right thing to do to for all of us, and I genuinely feel better knowing that he is there doing that.
So, well done to everyone out there sticking out staying in. By doing this, we are all doing our bit. There is a need for an exit plan from lockdown, a gradual one, and a really sound plan for economic recovery so that our small businesses in particular can recover and refind their place as the backbone of our economy. After that has been achieved will be the time for hard questions and holding to account. I wish the Prime Minister the speediest of recoveries and the Government, the new Leader of the Opposition and his new front bench all the strength they are going to need over the coming weeks to get us through this.