Friday, 1 May 2020

April: the first full month in lockdown

I ended my posting of one month ago with an extract from Boris Johnson's letter to all households in UK:
"It's important for me to level with you - we know things will get worse before they get better."
With amazing and unfortunate prescience, a week later he was in intensive care, a victim of Covid-19, from which he has now recovered, thanks to the front-line NHS doctors and nurses who daily put their own lives at risk. By the Easter weekend, less than two weeks into the month, there were over 11,000 recorded Coronavirus hospital deaths in the UK, many of those who had succumbed being these very frontline workers.
Tom Moore
(The Times, April 17th)
But amidst all the gloom there have been many uplifting examples of the human spirit, including that of Captain Tom Moore, the 99-year old WW2 veteran, who set off to walk 100 lengths of his garden before his 100th birthday, which he celebrated yesterday, with the ambitious aim of raising £1000 for the NHS. At the time of writing the amount raised is over £32 million!
This has been a month in which the word unprecedented has been almost overworked, and words such as furlough, which few people would have heard of before, became common parlance.
April was the first month where worldwide lockdown was imposed and towns and cities became ghost-towns. Walking through a deserted Falmouth on our sanctioned exercise has been an eerie experience, and almost deserted beaches an unprecedented sight.
Falmouth's main street
Social distancing outside the town centre supermarket

Easter Sunday, Falmouth's main beach, Gyllyngvase
Good Friday at Swanpool Beach, Falmouth
These images are truly dystopian and I wonder if we will see a summer scene such as this in the next few months:
Swanpool beach on a sunny day pre-Coronavirus
Cornwall is the most remote area of England, and it is that remoteness that has deterred invasion over the centuries, from Romans, Saxons and Normans. Now the modern invaders are the tourists, who flock to our stunning coastline and wide open spaces and provide a massive input to the local economy. However Coronavirus has changed our day to day lives and the government has called for the nation to stop all non essential travel in a bid to stop the spread of the disease that has so tragically claimed many lives in the UK, so the tourists who are normally welcomed are now being asked to remain at home.

Unfortunately not all have heeded this request, which puts unnecessary strain on the already overworked NHS staff at Cornwall's only one major hospital in Truro, and each Thursday evening residents have been coming outdoors to applaud the NHS and other front-line workers. It has been an emotional response, applause being joined by the horns of boats in Falmouth Bay, and the raucous call of the gulls.
Many people are now working from home where possible and social distancing has forced many mines around the world to temporarily close and declare force majeur on smelter contracts. Metal prices have decreased due to lack of demand, and even the price of "king copper" often used to measure the health of the mining industry, is only slowly recovering after a very sharp dip in early March. Copper is at the heart of green energy, lithium batteries containing over 50% copper, so a huge amount of extra copper will be required for the development of electric cars once production ramps up again sometime in the future.
Recent copper prices (source
There is also a growing awareness of something that has been known for centuries, that copper and its alloys have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties, so the red metal is likely to be increasingly used in hospitals to replace stainless steel. It was reported in The New England Journal of Medicine in March that COVID-19 was “detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel". The reluctance to use copper may be based on perceived cost, but making and installing copper fittings is no more expensive than using materials such as stainless steel which, ironically, is considered easier to keep clean due to its bright surface.
Most major international conferences scheduled for this year have been either cancelled or postponed, and tomorrow Barbara and I were scheduled to fly back from Cape Town, after Comminution '20, which is now postponed to next April. Ironically 10 years ago Comminution '10 came within a whisker of being cancelled due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland, which led to the closure of most of the European airspace on the 3rd day of the conference and leaving many delegates stranded in Cape Town for several days. Ten years on, with most major airlines grounded during the month, many unfortunates found themselves stranded in various parts of the world, unable to make it back to their home countries for the foreseeable future.
April has been a surreal month, the likes of which we have never seen before, but it is likely to be just the beginning of a very long haul. Currently there have been over 26,000 Coronavirus related deaths in the UK, and last week the government's chief medical advisor, Prof. Chris Whitty, said "it is totally unrealistic to expect that life will suddenly return to normal soon." He said that the UK will have to live with some disruptive social measures for at least the rest of the year.
Boris Johnson returned to office this week to face an unenviable choice which will define his career - how to ease the nation from lockdown to safeguard the economy, balanced against a potential increased loss of lives due to a possible resurgence of the virus. And all this coping with sleepless nights with a new baby! In comparison negotiations on Brexit (remember?) must seem like a stroll in the park.
Let's see what May brings. These are unprecedented times indeed.
"We will get through it in the end but it might take time, but at the end of the day we shall all be okay again... the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away." Captain Tom Moore

1 comment:

  1. You summed up so aptly-- we are against an unknown ,yet to be identified epidemic ; so any projections or predictions would be futile- but I join you in hoping normalcy to come back soon.
    Let us salute all working so hard ,without bothering about themselves, to help others.


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