Gentlemen, as I write this at 9:30am, my phone is bleating that the brewery trip is about to start. I should be enjoying the company of many other diehard beeristas, listening to their brave tales of previous brewery trips they have survived, how many pints they consumed, which brewery has the best loos, and so on.
Instead, I sit here, and look around me, at four grey walls that surround me, and I realise, yes, I was only dreaming. For there’s a …. Wife, approaching with a tin of paint and a sad old paintbrush, saying “get these grey walls painted green please”. I have contracted Tom Jones syndrome – apparently, it’s not unusual.
So, here we are, in the most pressing existential threat the world has faced in a century.
Our entire society and way of life is facing a challenge that few would have expected even a couple of weeks ago. We will have to adapt everything we do and prepare for a long-term battle against not only a virus but also possible financial hardship, restrictions and mental pressures which have only been paralleled in times of world wars.
I’m afraid that we can’t continue to expect that we can ignore social isolation, and that even if we are fit but getting on a bit, then we are somehow, magically, less immune to this threat. It’s essential, absolutely essential, that we isolate as much as possible, and its simply down to maths.
Reproduction factor – R – the number of other people that each infected person goes on to infect. If this value is over 1, then the number of cases rises, and our health service could be swamped. If it’s less than 1, then the size of the infection front reduces, and we can cope – it’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter if you only get mild symptoms – it’s how many other people you may pass it on to. Current thinking is that typical R values for covid19 is 2.4 – and that can cause an exponential rise in cases. We have to use techniques to effectively reduce R, and that means isolation. If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to read the report from Imperial College that caused the government to accelerate its actions: find it here: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf.
So, where do we, in Lichfield 41 Club, now find ourselves? We cancelled our meetings earlier than many other organisations, but what of our club and our members? I fully expect that we will have no meetings at all this year, but I would dearly love to be proven wrong. It may be that the possibility of an antibody test, that shows when someone has had coronavirus and is now immune, will be the thing that allows our society to start to recover much sooner – but certainly, if it becomes available, it will be initially restricted to medical workers and other essential roles. I think that we should aim to maintain as much social contact between ourselves as we can possibly do, but by means of telephone, email, blogs etc etc. Circulate jokes, funny videos (thanks Graham C for the first one), choose someone you haven’t seen for a few weeks and ring them up. Even if someone is fit and healthy, as you get older your immune system becomes less effective, which is why the government will urge all those over 70 to self-isolate for 4 months. That’s a big burden to carry, especially if you live alone, and we should give as much help as we can to those most in need. Join local community groups that ring around the vulnerable in the immediate area, and make sure they have enough food, medicine, household essentials – and help with online ordering if necessary. If they are isolating fully, shopping can be left at the front door.
In terms of the running of Lichfield 41 club itself, I’m open to ideas – but for now, I suggest that we try to at least circulate such reports as council members have prepared for AGM, so that we are reminded what we’ve done this year, and how finances stand etc. David Dimeloe takes over in a couple of weeks as Chairman, and he has a very full and able council in waiting. Events and speaker roles may be slightly less burdensome than normal, but on the other hand we’ll need to maintain as much of the structure as possible so that when we can actually restart meetings and events, we are ready to hit the bar and get the first round in!
I wish you all the very best health, keep washing your hands, self-isolate, and keep in touch as much as possible. Please circulate any ideas for how to maintain and nurture the fellowship we have all come to appreciate and take joy from. We will get over this.
Keep smiling. Now wash your hands.