04/05/20 The number of daily corona-virus deaths in the UK has fallen to the lowest figure since the end of March. A total of 288 deaths were recorded in the latest 24 hours. Of those 229 were in UK hospitals, significantly below the highs of more than 700 deaths a day recorded through much of early April. In total there have been 4 deaths in Harborough attributed to the virus. Quite appropriately it is looking as if on VE Day (Victory in Europe) the UK is over the worst. Perhaps in future years we may be celebrating a similar VE Day, Virus Elimination Day!
In order to meet the 100,000 tests a day target the government has been sending out home testing kits to key workers and their families, care home residents and over-65s. However, Dr Gary Marlowe, London chair of the British Medical Association, believes because people perform the tests on themselves, they may not, “get to the right place to take the swab properly. To collect a sample of the virus in their systems, patients need to scrape a long swab against their tonsils and push it into their nose until it meets resistance. To do it oneself is really uncomfortable and difficult, my anxiety is that a significant portion of those tests will be useless. Which means that there will be a significant amount of people in whom the test comes back as negative when they’re actually carrying the virus.” Hmmm.
Coincidentally, Sarah received her Corona-virus test kit through the post today. Hopefully she will read the instructions carefully and the results come back with a negative.
We woke to a very foggy day in Harborough. The air had a nasty chill to it as I set off on my morning bike ride, not surprisingly I saw very few people out braving the cold. On Mondays I usually divert via Lubenham to pick up Peter’s mail, but today there was none. To my surprise, a few hours later Peter rang me from New Zealand, he was due to fly back to the UK on Wednesday but because of the pandemic his flight was cancelled. He aims to be back as soon as flights start up again, but Qantas won’t talk to him as I booked his original flights. I promised to sort it out for him today and he will ring again tomorrow. The outcome is that Qantas have generously reimbursed the cost of both his flights and they won’t charge him when he re-books his return flight. He now needs to decide on a return date.
Sue made two very nice cottage pies, one went into the freezer and most of the other into my stomach, with a little left over for the cook.
I received a message that Bridget had received her flight tickets and will be flying home to Jim in Cyprus, tomorrow at 12 noon. Fingers crossed all goes well.
The weather improved during the afternoon, the clouds parted and the heat of the sun could be felt. Sue and I went for a walk up through the fields on Farndon Hill which gave us a great view of the town below. Harborough in the spring with the fresh greens of trees peeping between rows of red and grey buildings under a blue sky and May sunshine makes for a really lovely sight. I can see why every year several magazines list it among the 10 most sought after places to live in the UK. We returned just as Welland Park School was ejecting their ‘essential workers’ pupils, surprisingly dressed in the usual school uniform and some wearing masks. Usually they teem out of the school gates like locusts on the feed, but today it was a paltry dribble of socially distancing individuals.
There is little other family news of interest, most seem to be busy with work, play word games or do jigsaws throughout the day, however, Sarah did paint the summer house and its decking.
05/05/20 Depressingly it is reported that there a over 30,00 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK since the start of the pandemic, the highest official toll yet reported in Europe. Trials are beginning on a new corona-virus contact tracing app which ministers say will save lives and help lift Britain out of lock-down. NHS and council staff on the Isle of Wight are being urged to download the Covid-19 smartphone app from today with the rest of the island’s population invited to follow from Thursday. If the tests are successful it could be rolled out across the country within weeks as ministers seek to shape a strategy to allow some economic activity to resume, with the long-awaited “road map” for easing lock-down being published on Sunday. We shall have to wait and see if this initiative, which has been used effectively in other countries does reduce the appealing death toll.
To my mind, an app on a smart phone is not going to be proactive enough to reduce the numbers as quickly as they should. Too many don’t have smart phones or possess the technological know-how to install and use the app properly. Sadly, the generation that would benefit the most fit into the category I have just mentioned. Also, Blue-tooth technology drains batteries and a dead phone is useless. It would be better to simplify and legislate. The government should develop and distribute to all citizens a simple bracelet that when the government decrees, as in a pandemic, it must be worn when away from the home or you are denied entry into any public venue and face a fine. The technology housed inside the bracelet will have the blue tooth necessary to detect other bracelets, GPS to grab the location, memory to store the data from the bracelets and a dedicated SIM to send data to a central server. Most of these facilities are already present on smart watches. The only data required is that from the SIMs (the authorities will know who they belong to) and their GPS location when blue tooth grabbed it. Ideally there should be a small display which illuminates: GREEN to show you are uninfected and have not been near anyone infected. ORANGE to alert you that you have been in contact with someone who was infected (Red bracelet) or been in contact with someone with another orange bracelet, in that case you will required a test a.s.a.p. RED if you have been tested as being infected or have failed to be tested after an orange alert within 48 hours.
Bracelets can only be reset back to GREEN after a negative test. To gain entry to a shop, pub, restaurant etc. you have to show your bracelet. Simples!
The comparison software will be held centrally and receives data from bracelets: Owner’s SIM, a list of met SIMS and the location where they were grabbed. That is all that is needed. The data will be sent from the bracelet at regular intervals when worn and immediately sent if an ORANGE or RED SIM is encountered.
Central software compares all the SIMS met and returns a GREEN, ORANGE or RED signal to the bracelet depending on outcome.
All the user has to do is remember to plug in the charger and wear it when leaving the home. And of course, check the colour.
Well, what else am I to think about during long lock-down days, if not to save the world? It occupied my slowly stagnating mind for a good portion of a chilly day and I feel much better for it! It’s a shame that the rest of the body continues to creak and groan and no amount of exercise seems to improve it. Sue blitzed our very tidy garden with another lengthy spell of tidying-up, where does she keep finding the rubbish to fill her plastic bags? I swear she is taking it out of the neighbour’s bins or perhaps having it delivered by Amazon while I am out cycling! Apart from my morning ride and a bit of watering of veggies, the most exercise (and useful activity) I did today was stroke Millie the three-legged cat. We are developing a very close bond, today both of us could regularly be seen hopping around the garden, having a chat and a scratch when we found a warm sheltered spot.
Late in the afternoon, when Millie went home for tea I did have a look at my DNA profile on line. Apparently I am: 68.9% Irish, Scottish, and Welsh. 14.2% East European 11.7% English 5.2% West Asian. The Welsh comes from my mother but I am surprised that my father’s influence as a Yorkshire man accounts for only 11% English. On reflection, his skin couldn’t be described as pale, he always seemed to have a tan, winter and summer. As a miner I always put it down to the coal embedded in his flesh, perhaps I was wrong?
06/05/20 Italian researchers claim to have developed a vaccine that can neutralise the corona-virus in human cells. Tests carried out at Rome’s infectious-disease Spallanzani Hospital generated antibodies in mice that work in human cells. Great news.
Market Harborough’s tip will re-open on Monday 18th on an appointment-only basis. People will have to book a 15 minute slot in advance so the number of people there at any one time is limited, to allow social distancing measures to be maintained. This is a welcome move but I suspect that there will be chaos on the road outside the tip as cars queue and the occupants inevitably miss their time slot due to those turning up early, because they don’t wish to miss theirs. Much safer to have even car registration numbers on one day and odd on the next etc. When people are not given a specific time, they can’t panic or get irate because they are missing their slot. They now have the choice of turning around and trying later or waiting patiently.
Over the next three days, a temporary drive through Corona-virus test facility has opened in the car park of Harborough Leisure Centre. The appointment only service is being run by the Army and will operate from the site off Northampton Road . Essential workers or members of their family who are displaying symptoms of Covid-19 can book a slot. It is another welcome initiative and as the Army are present, I expect there won’t be any queue jumpers or openly annoyed customers. It is a car park that Sue and I do not wish to visit!
Today was warm and sunny. Sue completed a jigsaw and added to the pile of plastic bags of garden rubbish in the garage and visited Savers in town for supplies. I repeated a route that I had cycled a week ago and found the front mudguard off my bike which had fallen off as I negotiated a stile between fields. It had lain there all that time, waiting. What a good start to the day! Another row of peas was sown and six pots of coriander planted up. During the afternoon Sue and I went for a walk to see the Judith Stone. Around 1066, William the Conqueror gave a part of this area, which included much of Lubenham, to his niece, the Countess Judith, it is believed the stone is named after her. It isn’t as impressive as other ‘mysterious’ rocks, such as Stone Henge but it does have something about it that cries out ‘history’. This solid bit of rock has seen plenty of that over the millennia. On the way back we came across a trailer containing newborn lambs and mums which the farmer was about to release into the field, an exciting time for three wide-eyed woolly babes.