FiND iT visits Windsor, England during #lockdown

FiND iT spoke to Sarie Hurter, who visits her daughter in Windsor for long periods of the year, to find out how the lockdown is affecting their lives.

It all started in …

Early February people over 65 were called upon to self isolate – this is when the pandemic started to have an effect on our lives.  The lockdown came later here than in South Africa. It was only instated after 50 deaths. The main request was to stay home in order to protect the NHS (national health system), to flatten the curve.

How the UK handles the pandemic

The government makes decisions on the advice of scientists. Downing St gives a daily corona briefing on BBC – on the testing that gets done, the amount of deaths, the stats on transport.  Large available spaces were equipped to house corona cases (the Nightingale hospitals). In London alone it added 4 000 additional beds with ventilators. Twenty thousand retired staff members were recruited and trained to assist in the pandemic. Initially there was not enough laboratories and testing, but this has been rectified. The aim is to trace, test and track 100 000 people per day. Currently 7 000 patients are on clinical trials at Oxford to decide which medicines will be best to treat patients with the virus. Schools are also closed, except for the children of frontline workers.

Additional health workers

20 000 retired staff members were recruited and made acquainted with procedures.

 Volunteers were needed, 450 000 of them. Within a few days 700 000 came forward to help with the elderly and the vulnerable at home. The support system for each other is amazing. Here in our neighbourhood Whatsapp groups were formed, offering help with buying groceries, etc. Our post still gets delivered daily.

Financial assistance

Financial assistance is enormous. Workers working from home are guaranteed a certain monthly pay. Small businesses will get loans. The payment of bonds is put on hold. All private hospitals in London were taken over by the government for the time being. The NHS runs health care – one system runs everything. Each and every person gets the same treatment. Trials have been approved for drones to deliver medical supplies to people who cannot get to chemists. My daughter, with whom I am staying, is a doctor – they get their full salaries.

Protecting oneself

Masks for the general public is still not available or compulsory. The focus here is on social distancing. Buses are currently free in London – handling money is discouraged to prevent contamination. Frontline workers get preference on trains by producing evidence, like an ID card.

The new shopping experience

One person in our family goes every three or four days, to a shop nearest to us. Only grocery shops and chemists are open. You will be fined if you don’t adhere to the rules. Hand sanitizers are available in shops and on public transport and the wearing of gloves are encouraged. Cashiers are shielded by plastic screens, payment by card is encouraged, customers pack their own groceries. The demand for deliveries is overwhelming, so that deliveries are not guaranteed. The elderly and the vulnerable get preference. Not all items you need – e.g. flour, vinegar, bleach – are available at all times. Space in the shops is limited and quantities are limited per person.

Sadness for South Africa

I feel an overall sadness for the losses of lives all over the world and have great concern for fellow South Africans who are under enormous financial stress and the cramped living spaces that so many people must endure under the lockdown. I feel a sadness for all the mothers and grandmothers who must look after small children now. For all the people who don’t get paid if they don’t work. I wish I could make it better.

We are kept informed

Very early a letter was sent to our homes, thanking us for our co-operation, setting out the basic rules which should be adhered to.

We get graphic reports every evening on the amount of deaths – per district -, the testing that is done, statistics on the use of various types of transport. A global death comparison to other countries is also given. Online booking telephone numbers and other useful information are supplied.

The BBC News is excellent with good news reporting. Downing St gives a daily corona briefing on BBC. The ITB News London is also a very balanced station.

Doctors gets a daily update from other countries on how they handle the virus. Both my daughters are doctors and get a daily feed from the NHS on procedures and protocol that need to be adhered to. We do a lot of comparative studies amongst ourselves in the family.

Economic effect on the economy

I believe the post-pandemic era will affect every country in a different way. England is a social welfare state and were preparing for Brexit before the pandemic. It might have a lesser economic scar, although it is difficult to judge. The Covid pandemic will highlight the gaps that need to be filled in the economy and also teach us to be less dependent on other countries in the future. The cost so far is four hundred billion pounds. Employment losses are enormous. Aviation, the hospitality business, small businesses etc. have been affected catastrophically.

A doctor’s home

My daughter with whom I stay works very long shifts, sometimes 24 hour shifts. She gets home very, very tired, sad and frustrated because she is facing death every day. Health workers are living the scenario and drama, the loss of lives, every day. For each and every person who dies, there is family, and it is devastating. The death toll on London is enormous. Last spring London was so beautiful, now it is a quiet place, except for the noises of the ambulances and the hearses which have to fetch the bodies at the hospitals. The stress and the devastation of the virus are brought into your home. But there is also joy amongst health workers when a patient recovers and can come off a ventilator.

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