CORONAVIRUS in Canterbury
We hope that you are keeping well and we wish you all the best for Easter! This is our seventh update on developments regarding Coronavirus. We are expanding this newsletter as we go along, This time we start with a few short pieces and then go on to some comment/analysis. One issue for all of us to consider is how we rebuild our community — as we adapt to the new status quo and go forward.
CASES in our area
There have been 60 deaths recorded by the East Kent Hospitals (up to and including 10 April); Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells (36); Kent Community Health (6); and Medway (16). Of the 36 trusts categorised by NHS as being in the South East, Frimley has recorded the most deaths (139, putting it 10th among English trusts), followed by Portsmouth (95) and Surrey & Sussex (76). East Kent comes 50th in England. The worst days at the East Kent trust were Monday 6th April (9 deaths) and Tuesday 7th (8). The figures do give clear indications of what is happening but they are flawed — as deaths can take a time to report and be included; depend on Covid19 being put on the death certificate (not just viral pneumonia); and are mostly from hospital trusts (so miss out deaths in care homes and the community).
View from across the Pond (2); by Sandra Drew
My brother and his wife moved out of New York weeks ago to work from their home in Greenport, Long Island, a small town by the sea in New York state. Their young children are doing school work from home. Their first biggest problem was lack of wifi, just not enough band width with four of them using it, but they got that sorted amazingly quickly. There were shortages in supermarkets and the same toilet paper shortage. What is it about loo roll? A neighbour offered to get some from Costco, coming back with a pack of 100! Very American result, but where to put it all?
Looking up; by Neil Baker
Stargazing is a welcome, albeit temporary, distraction during these difficult times. Just as the importance of our open spaces, parks and beaches has been underlined in recent weeks, the mental serenity generated by the wonders of the cosmos shouldn’t be underestimated. It is perhaps ironic that one’s mind drifts to thoughts of the future when looking at the stars above us, themselves remnants of the past, shining light generated many years ago. Those moments looking skywards can be the most peaceful, refreshing and relaxing of the day. When a sense of normality - whatever that may look like - returns, let’s hope we can work to target the scourge of light pollution so as many people as possible have the chance to take a few minutes to experience the sheer joy the natural beauty around us can generate.
Covid19 has just taken my friend; by Anon
Yes, he was 94 but he was healthy, happy and lived at home with his wife. He became ill in early March, went into the QEQM a week later and died a fortnight after that. We don’t know much about his days in hospital because his wife (who did not catch Covid19) was not allowed to visit. How did he pick up the virus? A week or so before he fell ill, he took the bus into town and visited the library. We think that that was the only time he was exposed. We miss him. He was full of life.
St Mary De Castro in Bloom; by Yvonne Hill
A rather moribund shrubbery in St Mary De Castro has been transformed into a lovely herbaceous border, filled with interesting plants and over a thousand bulbs. The shrubbery was overgrown and was being used for some rather dubious practices. Last year Canterbury City Council with support from local residents decided to take action and the border was cleared. Two members of the Friends of Dane John and St Mary de Castro chose a range of herbaceous plants which were planted in very wet conditions in November. This was followed by a group of volunteers who planted over a thousand bulbs. Today the area has sprung into life with the lovely warm weather. What a delightful peaceful spot with birds singing and many admiring comments from passers-by.
Forecasting; by Richard Scase
The virus will stall quitting the EU. It would be economic suicide to have the possibility of NO DEAL after all this. And so the transition period will probably be extended for at least 3/4 years. The last thing business wants is further uncertainty and the risk of no deal. Look at the disruption this uncertainty caused last year when the economy was booming!
Canterbury City Council
The Council is working on various emergency fronts regarding the crisis:
- It is helping the vulnerable, and is assessing and helping the 800 people who have contacted it for help. There are 1,000 volunteers who are now working with the Council to help these and other groups.
- CCC is preparing for an increase in domestic violence incidents and family breakdown issues.
- It is giving out 3,600 grants to businesses in the area (payable from a £48m allocated to us from a central government fund). The businesses should receive notification by Wednesday, 15th.
Food Bank — update
The good news is that the emergency appeal that was launched to raise £12,000 has now reached £21,546 (80% more than the original target). The bad news is that £17,000 of that was used up by the end of last month (as the charity told the Gazette this week). If you do go to supermarkets, the Food Bank is particularly looking for donations into the bins there of laundry powder, long-life milk, tins of vegetables and pasta, instant mash, cereal and jam.
Financial Times: free to read on Coronavirus
The new FT editor, Roula Khalaf, is offering access to online FT coverage for free on coronavirus.
Shopping: queues and other changes
It takes longer to get into the main stores now, as distancing measures have been introduced. The main shops usually have someone on the door, and queues build up — at 2 m distances between people — along the streets. So how long are the queues?
On Wednesday, 8 April (a lovely, sunny day)
* at 11am: Boots (7 people for prescriptions; other shoppers could go straight in); Tesco (15 people); M&S (no-one). At a rough guess, it could have taken 30 minutest to get in at Boots and 20 at Tesco.
- at 2pm: Boots (no-one); Tesco (9); M&S (no-one).
The inside appearance of supermarkets has been changing. Aldi has set up large curved, transparent plastic screens to protect the people who work at the cash tills. Tesco has just compartmentalised the self-service cash tills so each customer is separated off from the customer next door.
Footfall in the city centre
We all know that the High Street is deserted — but how much? Footfall data from BID (Business Improvement District) captures the numbers. So, the peak hour in April 2018 was 2—3pm on Saturday, 28th when nearly 5,000 (4,792) people were out and about. That peak hour in April 2019 started at 1pm on Saturday, 20th when slightly over 4,000 (4,134) pedestrians were on the street. In February 2020 the peak hour started at 12 noon on Saturday, 8th — when 3,930 were out. (The first UK case of Covid19 had been announced just a week before on 31 January.)
It is too early to say what will be the peak hour this April, of course. But here are some stats.
On Wednesday, 8 April just over 1,500 people (1534) had trod the road in the whole day up to 5pm. The day after, the total for everyone passed through the centre was 1,860 up until 8pm.
Tentative conclusion: although we cannot make exact like-for-like comparisons, it appears that more people were in the city centre in an hour in April 2018 and 2019 than are now walking there in 48 hours.
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There are two ways to receive this newsletter. You can support us and join the Society (for a minimum of £15 a year). Or you can simply register to receive the newsletter, without paying. In the difficult times that we are now living through we are keen to ensure that people who want to be updated can receive the newsletter even if they don’t have the money to pay for it. But we would encourage people to support us by joining if you can do that. We hope to expand our coverage — and will be able to do that more easily if we have a better financial basis.
The future of our community — Canterbury, the UK and global
Nick Eden-Green and Richard Scase give their views on what a post-coronavirus future could and should look like. Please write in if you would like to comment — as we will have to address some big issues together when the crisis ends. For instance, our councils could well be shorter of money than they are now; education will have been disrupted; but the air will be cleaner and our community might feel stronger.
Who we value now more than ever: The NHS, BBC, binmen, supermarket stackers…
by Nick Eden-Green
To me two strands are emerging from the present crisis. First, we are beginning to recognise what our essentials are. Of course the NHS, but also the BBC for accurate information. Incidentally isn't it interesting that the government now seems to value the BBC after Dominic Cummings has so consistently rubbished it!
Quite rightly we now also value careworkers, binmen, supermarket shelf stackers, corner shops, charities, farmers, postmen, train drivers - even white van man delivering! Let us hope in a post Covid world we change our ways and pay and protect truly essential services. That we ensure we welcome and value the overseas workers who pick our fruit, clean our hospitals and care for the elderly. Post Brexit immigration laws threaten them with second class citizenship when they are actually first class citizens. So in some ways we need to open borders not close them.
Conversely, do we need all the coffee shops, clubs, and cafes? Do we need the fashion shops, flying hours and fripperies? Let's hope for a radical rethink of priorities.
Second, let's not forget we are sociable beings. People care. Look at the thousands of volunteers, those helping with shopping, befriending the isolated. People are talking to one another, queuing responsibly, caring for one another. People need to meet. To be with one another. A wedding - or a funeral - remote and on line with no guests is no substitute
Home working is all very well but it relies to a great extent on remaining part of a team. Team building is difficult to achieve remotely. Whether as colleagues at work or as members of the family or meeting friends, personal relationships are built not by computers but by human interaction and contact. Perhaps the greatest example is in the NHS. Yes, of course technology is vital but doctors and nurses work as teams. They know the members of their team. They interact with them. Rely on each other. Know they can trust each other. And that goes right down the line. There's no point in high end medical intervention unless another part of the team ensures the ward has been properly and professionally cleaned.
Remote working isn't everything. Don't forget we are social animals too.
When will it all come to an end?
by Richard Scase
How long will the coronavirus crisis last? When will life get back to normal? Impossible questions to answer as any of the medical experts will tell us.
Looking at some trends in countries like Italy and Spain it is beginning to suggest the spread of the virus in the UK will peak sometime towards the end of this month. There is still worse to come, then a plateau and a decline.
Of course there are national differences and within countries, regional contrasts. The rate of infection is lower in Sweden (my second home) than in the UK. This is why the Swedish government, so far, has not imposed a lockdown as here. In Sweden, schools remain open as do shops, bars and restaurants.
The explanation for the difference in response is because of life style patters. Single person households are the majority in Sweden, there is less public socialisation and meeting in public places. There is not the same obsession with alcohol as here (no, it is not that much more expensive) and so pubs and clubs are not the centre of life styles for many people as in the UK.
The result is that self-isolation is more a part of every day life and so government lockdowns are less necessary.
In the UK there are big regional differences in the spread of the virus. London is way ahead of the rest of the country. Much more so than in Canterbury and East Kent.
It is more difficult to self-isolate in London. More people live in apartments with shared stairways and elevators. Pavements are more crowded preventing the operation of the two-metre rule. More recreation has to be done in public places.
In parts of London there are more extensive family relations with more intense and extensive social gatherings- birthdays, parties and informal gatherings. Family relations are more complex with ‘dual families’ as a result of divorce and split-ups. None of this can be monitored or controlled by government lockdowns. Unless we become a police state as in the old East Germany when neighbours spied on each other.
In Kent there more possibilities to self-isolate. More of us live in houses with gardens, however small. There are more open spaces for exercise and in Canterbury there does seem to be a high sense of civic duty and community pride.
This cements a feeling of ‘togetherness’ so that in the present coronavirus crisis people are helping each other. Witness the way neighbourhood help groups have emerged, doing shopping for vulnerable people, collecting medicines for them, checking to make sure they are ok on a daily basis. It is something of which we should be proud and of course these charitable and altruistic actions allow the most vulnerable to self-isolate and restrict the spread of the virus. Social factors really do have life or death outcomes.
By the beginning of May, the worst should be over. The lockdown can be relaxed. But how? There can hardly be different regional strategies for basic practical reasons.
By then it should be at least possible to re-open primary schools and day nurseries. This will give parents, particularly those with no partners, a well- deserved break.
Garden centres with controlled customer management should be able to re-open. This, for both psychological and physical reasons, could have a positive impact on personal welfare. Renewing our gardens is good for body and soul.
Important face-to-face business meetings should be able to resume as well as the re-starting of various vital public services.
But let’s hope there is not completely a return to the pre- coronavirus ‘normal’. Why not continue with much of the working from home? It reduces commuting traffic and improves air quality. It has also proven to people that we do not need to use our cars as much. How lovely that the roads are much quieter and less congested (although those who do drive seem to be driving much faster!). This crisis has done wonders for the environment.
Finally, let’s preserve the caring and altruistic life patterns we have developed over these weeks. They are well-worth preserving. It shows every cloud has a silver lining!