The isolation blues

I myself am best
When least in company.

Well this is all very strange. Every time I start to write something about the situation we’re in and the effect that the coronavirus is having on the country, something changes.

The speed at which things have changed is what’s so alarming. Just 10 days ago I trekked up to Liverpool for a schools athletics event with 2,500 competitors and their attendant coaches and parents. Today, I’m doing PE With Joe Wicks on You Tube for half an hour in the mornings and wondering if getting down to the last chocolate bourbon is serious enough to constitute leaving the house for “essential supplies”.

We knew the need for ‘lockdown’ was coming. You only had to look at the images of Brighton beach last weekend to see there were so, so many people out there who just didn’t get the need for staying away from other people for fear of transmitting a virus that they may not even know they have.

This isn’t ‘just flu’ (though I’ve had real flu and I never, ever want to get it again). This can be, depending on how badly you get it, a killer. I know two people – one over 60, one late 30’s – who have had it and suffered horribly. Others have just felt lousy for a week. Now the 71-year-old Prince of Wales has tested positive for it. We all know someone who’s working in the frontline NHS and who can tell us the horror stories. We are so lucky in this country that we have a health service that, free at the point of access, is staffed with people putting themselves at risk to look after the health of others. So, wherever possible, we need to pay attention to what the Government says and stay in isolation when and where we can.

However, there is, of course, still a need to be mindful of what will happen when this is over. For over it will be, eventually. The economy is going to be rocked to its core over this and as far as we can, we want our businesses to still be able to run when it is over.

So, kudos to the BMF for working with BEIS and getting the agreement that builders and plumbers merchants are essential service providers and allowing them to stay operational where possible and where they chose to do so to help their customers and their businesses get through this.

I was once told that the RMI market can be described thus: R-epair must be done, M-aintenance should be done, I-mprovement doesn’t need to be done.  So a boiler breaking down needs to be repaired and the plumber needs to be able to get the parts or the replacement item. From a merchant. The new bathroom suite can wait. And while we do need new houses building, we don’t need them finish today. Or even tomorrow. So fair play to Redrow and Taylor Wimpey and the other large housebuilders who have shut their sites. It is impossible to maintain the proper distancing and hygiene currently required on a building site, no matter how careful you are. Also, incidentally, Redrow founder Steve Morgan deserves the plaudits for his £1m a week charity donations. Yes, he can afford it. But so can lots of others whose hands are still stuck in their pockets.  And a big hurrah for the merchants who have come together with Williams’ Ray Stafford and the BMF to use their distribution skills and premises to help distribution food to food banks and the vulnerable. Let’s hope the lockdown rules don;t out the kybosh on it.

By the way, for anyone who fears looking like the Michelin Man by the end of this enforced home-leave, I can thoroughly recommend Joe Wicks’ The Body Coach TV on You Tube. 30 minutes live PE lessons across the globe at 9am. It’s fab, it’s fun, the kids love it and nearly 1m viewers globally agree. Also, if you want to really test yourself, Dame Kelly Holmes’ Core Workouts,  on Instagram. You’ll really need the bourbons after that one.

Stay well guys, we’ll get through this.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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