I was only halfway through an unexpectedly busy circa-St Patrick’s season when it was interrupted by a certain global pandemic reaching national crisis level. But I had barely planned out what I was going to do with all the unexpected available time and energy before I caught what was almost certainly the coronavirus in question myself. As I’ve seen some questionable responses to this and similar news, we interrupt your usual service of music-focussed blogs for some notes from first-hand experience as a Covid-19 early adopter.
In the immortal words of Douglas Adams, DON’T PANIC!
Statistics from China and estimates elsewhere suggest somewhere between half and three-quarters of the population will contract Covid-19 in the course of this epidemic. I don’t want to undermine the importance of obeying the lockdown (in spirit as well as letter) and practising social distancing (which Londoners are proving remarkably bad at). However, those commenting ‘it might only be flu!’ had almost missed the point: for most people who get it, it won’t be any worse than flu (real flu, not a heavy cold). In fact, as many as 60% of people who contract the coronavirus apparently show no symptoms at all; and as many as 80 or 85% have only mild symptoms. Like me; in fact mine were milder than an ordinary flu. I went to bed about 10:30 on Monday the 16th feeling normal. At 1am on the Tuesday, I woke up with muscle aches, tingly-prickly hypersensitivity all over, a headache and clearly some degree of fever. Clearly a virus had kicked in, and I spent almost all of the following few days in bed (I tried cooking on day 1, because I didn’t have any ready-to-eat food to hand, and couldn’t stay on my feet for 10 minutes straight). However, I was down to a few muscle aches and a slightly sore throat within a week, and have spent the last 3 days or so really only having a runny nose that kicked in as I was getting over the other symptoms. (It seems those cases who get bad respiratory trouble generally get it about a week after the main viral symptoms start; but then again I may have just caught a cold.)
Of course, I was fairly well-placed to tackle Covid-19: I’m under 35 and while I have various underlying health conditions none of them is respiratory and only one affects my immune system (and that, type 1 diabetes, somewhat indirectly – though the NHS classes my immune system as compromised). The point of isolation is for those worse off on one of those fronts, from whom the vast majority of the few per cent of cases require intensive care beds will come; and to avoid symptomless virus spreading. It seems that of the total time the Covid-19 virus spends in your body (3 or 4 weeks), something like half is before symptoms show or there’s any way of knowing you’re carrying it around. But you can still pass it on to others for all that time. And don’t forget that half or so of those infected who never show symptoms at all. They’re potentially breathing out viruses, leaving them on surfaces, and spreading them onto other people too.
So stay at home dammit! Even when too ill to effectively do anything, I didn’t get anywhere near catching up with the films on iPlayer I hadn’t got round to watching, or listening to music on CDs I own and in some cases had only listened to once. Since being back on my feet, chronic fatigue self-treatment, phone calls with my family, house shared dinners and serious viola practice have occupied my time to the extent that I haven’t managed to listen to / watch all the music my musician friends have been posting online. I appreciate it’s more frustrating if you have children or dogs that need walking, but seriously, you can do staying inside. And staying 2 metres away from everyone you don’t live with. Just speak up a little.
Current guidance says we were all (both my housemates have had some degree of it too) allowed out as much as anyone else by the middle of this week, so two of us braved the nearest big supermarket the other day. We had survived 12 days of self-isolation by that point (from when housemate #1 went down), without being able to pre-stock to any significant extent.
Major point: Don’t panic-buy.
We got through that isolation period (and would have made it to the 14 days of earlier guidance (you now only have to isolate that long if you never develop symptoms but someone you live with does)) on what was in cupboards and freezers. All right, plus my veg boxes and milk deliveries, but they’re only supposed to be enough for me! and a bundle from a local butcher that started doing phone order, cash-on-arrival payment local deliveries. My point is, you don’t need to advance buy tons of stuff in case you get shut in. Just google recipes and plan out your meals a bit to cover how long you’re stuck.
However, having cleared out most of the freezer space and some of the cupboards, we did need to do quite a lot of restocking. And so I can say, in London at least: don’t panic-buy in case the shelves empty out either. The vast majority of food could be got in Lee Green Sainsbury’s. The tinned vegetables and dried pasta sections were thin and patchy, flour really was not to be had and dried pulses were nearly gone. I also couldn’t find cotton buds (but I don’t think I’ve bought them from that shop before, so, you know … ) and we didn’t need to look for toilet roll.
But you really don’t need to panic-buy bog roll because neither diarrhoea nor catarrh is a standard Covid-19 symptom! And under normal circumstances, you use the stuff more slowly than some people clearly imagine …
It’s a shame that most of the subscription and delivery grocery / essentials services are currently so busy they aren’t taking on new customers. But my Oddbox fruit and veg box (going bigger and communal from next week) and Milk & More milk deliveries (ditto) are certainly making life easier; and one of the reasons I’m so relaxed about bog roll is having ordered the 24-roll minimum (yes, really) from Who Gives a Crap in January; I’ve still got at least three-quarters of it. Should pretty much see me through 2020 then.
Right, enough writing about being well enough to do things now; I need to decide which to do next out of chronic fatigue self-treatment, ringing my parents, viola practice (video audition relatively imminent, hoping to take a diploma in coming months) or testing my new home-recording equipment …