A.J. Walker


Some People Think It's All Over

Opening Up, Staying Apart and Being Dressed

I’ve not been sure about writing about Covid-19 as doesn’t everyone want to forget about it? But then again it’s what life is almost all about now, isn’t it? Or at least it should be. I’ve decided to put my twopence worth in on my view of things as they are now anyway.

Throughout the pandemic I have been working. At least it’s not affected me in that way. Listening to the radio on my delivery routes, and finding everyone in, it appeared that most of the world was furloughed. And delivering in North Wales means that this has gone on a few weeks beyond England. The roads in Wales this weekend though were back to normal summer weekend levels: the pandemic is over: huzzah! Not.

Some People Think It's All Over

In Towyn and Kinmel Bay I was stuck in traffic on the coast road on multiple occasions on a very cold and wet Saturday.  The caravan parks were open and busy again. It is understandable how people want to get away for a few days once lockdown has been lifted: my weekend camping last week was lovely for me and the group. But the issues were on the streets and shops where groups could be seen everywhere. I wanted to scream “SOCIAL DISTANCING!”

After the camping last week it was clear that people that have been in work throughout this time have been getting used to rules and PPE. Just the simple things: Keeping two metres apart, wearing a mask, using hand sanitiser. Of course people sat at home for weeks on end doing shopping once a week or getting deliveries haven’t had to get into these habits or mindset. Maybe the opening of the drawbridge now has simply made some people think it is all over. It is not.

The virus is still here and nothing has changed from when lockdown was declared. Well that is not entirely true. What has changed is we know more about the virus (but by no means all – it is an odd little fucker) and we know the ways that we can best protect ourselves.  

I was glad that the Government mandated face coverings for shops from this coming Friday. As much as anything for the psychological impact it will have on everyone. If you have to put on a mask it makes you think that the virus is still here and it is important. Maybe it’ll make people think about the other things - mainly social distancing and also hand sanitising. This is the key thing. Wear whatever your want as a covering. A bandana type does the least but still enough to cut transmission in terms of distance by more than 2/3rds. Personally as I have to wear it all day to over a hundred stops the bandana type suits me best - and I know that if I was putting a mask over my ears each stop then the back of my ears would suffer. Whatever you go for just consider it as an item of clothing – and if you're going out of the house you are not dressed without it.

Wearing a mask is no biggy even if you do find it uncomfortable. I don't like putting my glasses on but if I don't I am definitely a health and safety hazard on the road.

Opening Up

The economy needs to go on. Not for any greedy capitalist reasons, but if you want to eat and drink and get water and electricity in your house someone has to go out and make the stuff and deliver it. Maybe you have to pay for it too. And your favourite clothes shop, cafe, restaurant or pub need money coming in soon or else your favourite place will fall and when you finally leave your house it won’t be there for you.  

It’s easy with hindsight to say we should have closed on such a such date. But we are where we are and saying what can open when are horrendous decisions to make. Put yourself in the place of a decision maker who two weeks after saying “open business type-X”  finds hospitalisation and death rates rising in them. Horrible. At the same time the owners of those businesses are wanting to open them – safely for their staff and their customers.

The Government are walking a tightrope with winds gusting and a horrendous chasm beneath. Whatever they do there will be experts on either side saying they should do more, should do less, should do it later, should have done it before. Don't worry about that, it's a useless thing to argue about and doesn't help you and yours stay safe.

Ultimately you, me and everyone else have responsibilities for ourselves and whoever we may be meeting along the way. I for one went to pubs the day they reopened, as evidenced by a previous blog, and I went camping last week. I am doing my best to keep socially distanced, to wear a mask and to use sanitiser. It’s not rocket science. It’s to reduce your chance of getting and/or transmitting the virus. As a delivery driver in North Wales I’m seeing over a hundred people a day across a large geography, I don’t want to be delivering an extra unwanted package to anyone (or taking one from them – I don’t do pickups). Businesses too are all doing it differently as they are on a learning curve as much as we are. Wherever you go bear that in mind and make your own assessment of how they are doing things. Stick with their rules – as a minimum – and if necessary do more or swerve completely if you're not happy with what they are doing.

The pubs I’ve been in have been very aware of the issues and they have not felt normal at all (bear in mind I go to old men’s/real ale pubs and not bars you may see on TV though). But we are living in strange times and this is just a hardship we have to live with for now. Hopefully this will be the closest I get to being in a war. What our grandparents and great grandparent lived through is much worse than this. For fuck’s sake they used to have to go to school with gas masks and get sent out to live with strangers in the countryside during the Second World War. Putting on a bandana, cloth mask or a medical mask is not really a hardship let’s face it: we can do this! And then there’s keeping your hands clean... I mean how dare the government suggest you should be fucking clean! FFS just do it. 

The hardest thing seems to be the social distancing. Of course it is. Places are designed for people to be people. And people congregate in groups. We don’t stand two metres apart (or one meter apart with mitigation etc). We shake hands, hug, kiss, clap each other on our shoulders, we watch sport or music together, we shout, we cheer... whatever. We are social animals and we do things together. Anything else is odd. It feels wrong. And now whilst I’m travelling around the Welsh coastal towns I can certainly see social distancing just isn’t happening. Like I said before: “SOCIAL DISTANCING!”

Risk Assessments

Look, I know – we all know – that we will be seeing an uptick in the virus and maybe hospitalisation and deaths. And to some extent that cannot be avoided and shouldn’t panic – though some journalists and MPs will try to make us (we can stop car accidents by banning cars but we don’t because.. duh!).  What we have to do is to minimise the risk of catching and spreading the virus. And how do we do that? Well, we do our own personal risk assessment and use appropriate mitigation. It’s not something you need to do any training in to complete your own personal assessment. Oh, no. You can cut and paste previous risk assessments; and guess what you need to do... Yep. Keep your distance – keep your hands clean – use face covering where appropriate. I won’t say “stay alert”, but yeah kind of. 

We are living in strange times to be sure. And people are suffering and dying. Until there is a cure this will continue (unless Trump is right and it just goes away) and we need to remember this. The Government are in a Catch-22 in having to promote businesses restarting, wanting us to get out there and spend money to get the engine of the economy going again. Whilst at the same time telling us to be alert. They basically want us to “stay safe and carry on”.  It’s a difficult message to deliver. And they don’t appear to be selling the safety side of it very well at the moment – all the government promoted Tweets I’m getting at the moment are about going out there and having holidays, spending money in shops and all that: nothing about social distancing. 

So is it any wonder people aren’t keeping apart and continuing as they were before the pandemic? Personally I don’t blame the government or the current messaging for this. If you catch the virus because you went to a house party or had a barbecue then it is on you. I know the virus is still here, you know the virus is still here and you know how best to avoid it. Going to someone’s house for a party where social distancing is impossible is not a thing you should be doing and if you can’t understand that then I suspect you shouldn’t be allowed near water or electricity.

Whatever happens the economy here and around the world will be fucked for years. If margins are tight, which they generally are, then a few percent of people going out of their house less to spend money in their community is disastrous - and at the moment it is not a few percent. Then at the same time there are the groups going out like nothing has changing meaning the extent of the virus will go up . The two sides of this equation are a bloody nightmare. 

Keep On Keeping On

All I can say is that I will go out to places that I feel are doing the right things with respect to health and safety AND I will be doing my part. I will not be attending venues that don’t appear to care or worry and that includes house parties and barbecues. If I have to wait a year or two to go to a party or other social gathering so be it. If you can, and you feel comfortable about doing it, go out and support your local businesses (and the bigger ones too) and do it safely. We all want to get through this and I don't want you buggering it up for everyone.

You guys really should do better. At the moment I’m scoring you all an "E-" but it’s only little things you need to do to get up to a "B" (for pity’s sake don’t slip to an "F"). You know the deal; don’t say you don’t.
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