A few thoughts on Covid-19 as we prepare for an Epidemic in the UK

Here in England, we are on the verge of an epidemic. As someone who has worked in the NHS for most of my adult life, I find the whole thing quite interesting. I spent six years working in Critical Care, an environment which exposed me to far more multi-resistant micro-organisms on a  daily basis than most will come into contact within a year. While the Covid-19 virus is causing ill health and, in a very small number, death, we undertake far more risky activities all the time, and there are other conditions society chooses not to address which are far more impactful. It’s easy to say “do not worry” while I sit here without suffering from Covid-19 and, to be honest, I would prefer not to contract it, but I do feel it needs to be put in some context. The way I protected myself, and my family from some nasty infection I came across at work was to make sure I washed my hands and follow infection control practices. It was the simple things that made a difference. However, unlike in the intensive care unit, compliance by the general public with these simple protective measures is not likely to be high so the virus is bound to spread.
Despite the concern caused by Covid-19, there are a few things I am looking forward to seeing which relate to gardening. I was at a conference on Friday, and a representative from Extinction Rebellion and a local MP were talking about the loss of biodiversity. This is something I can see in and around my garden. As a child, I remember the summers being full of birdsong and insects. Now, the birdsong is not as full, and I am no longer surrounded by wildlife. It’s happened so gradually I had not noticed, but it has happened. This appears to be mainly down to increasing temperatures, and we are expecting Norfolk to be an average of 4 Degrees Celsius hotter in 10 years and reaching 40 Degrees Celsius in the summer. The region I live in is dependant on cars. I sit in my car, on my own, as I commute to work. I travel from one site to another to attend meetings in my car, on my own. Mass transport is poor; the roads are not safe for cycling. As the country moves to a state of social distancing, I am excited to see how this impacts how we work and behave, and whether this could have a positive impact on our environment. There is no reason why I need to commute to work every day, and there is no reason why I have to travel from site to site. We have video conferencing and means to connect without being in the same place, but we have yet to make this the norm. I do not expect social distancing during an epidemic to turn around environmental impacts. Still, it would be interesting to see how it affects working how we work in the long term and if this could help reduce the impact we are having on the world around us.
Social distancing will also offer me some personal benefit. I am lucky enough to be able to perform a good proportion of my work from home. This could reduce my commuting costs and give me back hours which I can put into the things I enjoy like gardening, rather than sitting in a car looking at the back of another car. It also brings our reliance on consolidated infrastructure into questions and heightens the importance of a degree of self-sufficiency. Supermarkets are struggling to meet the surge in demand as people prepare themselves for a potential loss of productivity, and we may face a reduction in product availability as supply chains slow. The art of supporting ourselves from our own and local land has been lost in our society. It would be interesting to see if we start to reconnect with some of the skills which were abundant at the time of my grandparents and their parents.
If the infection continues to take hold here in the UK, it will be interesting to see how society responds and how long it will impact lives.

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