Day 100, part 2 – What we will see, what we won’t see.

I’m about to walk the beagle in the sunshine, but I did want to put this quick prediction out before tomorrow.

As described above, some pubs in England re-opened today. Some people thought that this was not a good idea, that it wasn’t the right time, that people would abuse the privilege.
Well, there’s never going to be a right time, and some people will abuse the privilege, and those are the images that we’ll see in the newspapers and all over social media this weekend.

None of this sort of thing, illegal until just this morning:

Because that doesn’t fit the narrative.

There’s already been condemnation that the Government allowed pubs “to open from 6am”. No-one cared to expand that they was because they told pubs that they couldn’t open at midnight.

If you don’t want to go to a pub, don’t go.
I’m not going to a pub.
You choose.

But it’s like:

Only by forcing people to make the right choice can we have freedom to make our own decisions.

But don’t tar everyone with the same brush.

Pub owners (already a dying breed) have worked hard and spent a lot of money getting their businesses ready for today. Please don’t join in with the rabble and undermine their efforts or their right to earn a living.

Day 100 – Searching for the silver lining

It’s 100 days since SA locked down. In that time, we’ve done the hard yards of Level 5, the only-ever-so-mildly-easier yards of Level 4* and then slipped into the sloppiness that is Level 3 (and then “Advanced Level 3” – which nobody quite understands).

Cigarette sales are still bizarrely banned, but other than that, life is going on pretty much as usual, albeit (mostly) with masks.
That and, oh yes, the virus being more prevalent and deadly than ever before.

Much has been made of England’s decision to reopen pubs and restaurants this week, but that’s an example of one of the “impossible” choices that Governments have had to make when balancing infection rates and jobs (in this case in the remnants of the hospitality industry). Those individuals whinging and whining on social media about how it’s “too soon” and “too dangerous” may have a point, but also clearly have no concerns about the close on a million jobs in pubs, restaurants and hotels in the South East of England alone. And yes, there will be spikes in infections as people start to interact more normally again, but we’re going to see spikes all over the world for (probably) years to come. We cannot wait for a the chance of a vaccine before we start to open our economies again.

In fact, South Africa didn’t even have the luxury of waiting until the infection rate began to level out. Our fragile economy meant that the lockdown had to be relaxed right as the virus started to take hold: a perfect storm of natural infection and enhanced movement and social interaction, all in one. Wonderful.

And it is still going to get (much) worse here before it starts to get any better.

It’s easy (and natural) to look at the past 100 days and see the despair, the disasters and the difficulties. It’s been a truly horrendous few months. And – perhaps because it’s such low-hanging fruit – everyone has done it. Regularly. Often. I are also guilty.

So, with 100 days chalked up on the cell wall, I wondered about looking for any positives that have come out of the situation. I’ll start by warning you that there aren’t many, but that doesn’t mean that they should be overlooked. There may be a lot of clouds, but some of them must have silver linings, right?

The enhanced sense of community is something that I have noticed. The acceptance that this situation is bigger than any of us, and that we need to work together to help one another. From friendly tips and offers to help on the local Whatsapp groups, through charities benefitting from people having more time to assist, to a greater appreciation of those services and individuals who have been working to keep things going – as much as has been possible – throughout.

Peace and quiet: fewer cars on the road and an overnight curfew meant that we could hear birdsong during the day and the Spotted Eagle Owls in the darkness. Caracals didn’t get killed on our roads, penguins took over Simonstown. Dolphins returned to Table Mountain.

THERE WERE NO TOURIST HELICOPTERS FLYING OVER MY HOUSE EVERY TEN MINUTES AND IT WAS GREAT!

Seriously, check the carbon footprint on that particular experience, guys.
And then stop it. Permanently.

Family time. Forced to spend time together, we… actually spent time together. We played games together, we exercised together (sometimes in the living room, sometimes in the garden, sometimes (when we were allowed) in the real world! We even spent (online) time with other families, doing stuff like quizzes and virtual evenings out.

We had to find new ways to work: restaurants did deliveries, supermarket apps upped their lousy game to be slightly less lousy, we supported local businesses and stores where we could. Not carrying your laptop to a different desk on the other side of the city each morning and then back again each evening became a thing. (Some) schools successfully managed to teach their students. Technological progress was fast-tracked and shaky, but (mostly) held together.

I understand that these positives don’t outweigh the huge negatives which the country has had to endure, and also that for many people, there has been no bright side at all. We’ve been lucky in that we have the means – and the space – to generally handle what this situation has thrown at us so far.

But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try look for the good bits of what has happened over this last 100 days: this whole state of affairs is overtly negative, and will quickly drag you down unless you cling to the occasional positive. So that’s what I’ve tried to do here.

I’ve decided that The Lockdown Diaries posts will continue for the moment – at least until life returns to normal. (lol!)

That might be a while yet, but together, somehow, I’m confident that we’ll make it.

 

* there was still no alcohol

Day 99 – That was fun

I must admit that when I sat down for Sheffield United’s match with Tottenham Hotspur yesterday evening, I wasn’t exactly brimming with positivity. We haven’t really got going since the resumption of the league (although not everything has gone our way).

But coming off the back of three straight defeats, with key man Jack O’Connell still injured and our midfield duo of Lundstrom and Fleck unavailable (shoulder injury and “physical discomfort” (??!?) respectively), we literally didn’t even have enough players to fill the subs bench.

Not that they had any choice in the matter, but the new format of one game every three days really doesn’t suit the smaller clubs in the league. Spurs have only played a couple of games since the restart, and were unbeaten, so they were well rested and looking confident.

Not. Great. Omens.

We started well, but after a bright 10 minutes, we were under the thumb. Defending well, but trapped in our own half and the commentators were just waiting for the inevitable.

I should point out here that I was watching in the living room, while Mrs 6000 went through her work emails on the couch opposite and the kids were in an online Scouts meeting. The beagle was dozing in front of the fire. An image of domestic bliss, albeit that I was watching in pretty much silence, occasionally muttering through gritted teeth, when suddenly, just after the half hour: Berge, Baldock, Basham… Berge!

It caught us all by surprise.

I exploded quite a bit.

The laptop was well caught by my wife on the second attempt after a brief – but entertaining – juggling act. The boy literally half fell off his chair, headphones dislodged, unwittingly amazed at the speed with which adrenaline can act.

The beagle has yet to recover fully.

If anything, this goal (and the instant reply, which was then disallowed) (hate the rule, not the ref) merely increased the tension in the household. It was a stressful remaining hour.

Of course, history will show that we added a second through Mousset and a third through McBurnie (which was when I began to relax), before Kane scored a consolation goal for them in the last minute.

I’ll pop the video up on here when it’s released later today, because that was one of those nights I will always want to remember.

The beagle? Not so much.

 

Day 98 – Poo studies

Here’s some news about poo studies! Yummy.

A few other facts first.

If you go for a Covid-19 test (which you actually can’t do now, because even our fancy schmancy, first world, private laboratories are completely overwhelmed), you will have a swab thrust into your head (hopefully through one of the holes in your nose) and that swab will be sent to the laboratory.

At the lab, they’ll wash the bits of stuff off the swab, apply a few chemicals to the juice, wave a  magic scientific wand over the little test tube and and put it into a machine which looks for a specific chunk of the RNA – one which is usually tucked inside the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The chunk of RNA that the machine looks for is only found in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, so it won’t detect any of your DNA or RNA, nor the genetic bits of anything that you’ve been snorting recently.

Phew.

The thing is, you can find this section of RNA anywhere that the virus is (like up your nose), just by looking for it. And equally, because it’s so specific to this virus, you know that wherever you find these chunks of RNA, that’s indicative that the virus is there.

For the purposes of this post (and basically all of the scientific rationale behind Covid-19 testing):

Chunk of RNA = SARS-CoV-2 virus

Hold that thought.

Next up: one of the big problems with this pandemic stems from the fact that (even if you have enough tests to go around), we have people who don’t know that they have got the virus (because they show no symptoms), but who are passing it on. And because those people aren’t unwell, they don’t go to get tested (because why would you?), and so we actually have very little idea how many people in any given community actually have the virus. This makes it difficult to work out how many people are likely to be sick in that community and that makes if difficult to successfully and efficiently allocate resources. Ugh.

There’s some good news though: when we are infected with viruses (yes, including SARS-CoV-2) – whether or not we are showing symptoms – we poo out viruses (yes, including SARS-CoV-2). And, as we’ve already deduced above, we can look for SARS-CoV-2 anywhere, just by looking for that bit of RNA.

Are you going where I’m going here? Yes: down to the local sewage farm.

Mariana Matus has spent years studying what comes out of human bodies in order to better understand what is happening inside us. The computational biologist helped develop heavy-duty devices that are about the size of a milk crate and can be lowered into manholes to dangle over wastewater:steadily sucking up a stream of urine and feces through a straw-like tube.

Is it lunchtime yet?

The process in the lab is just about the same as if they were testing you, except that instead of doing the science with a swab from up your nose, they do it on some poo juice.

Even better news is that it seems that an uptick in the amount of RNA (and therefore the amount of virus) in the community’s sewage predicts an increase in local Covid-19 cases by about a week.

This environmental surveillance data were compared to declared COVID-19cases at municipality level, revealing that members of the community were shedding SARS-CoV-2 RNA in their stool even before the first cases were reported by local or national authorities in many of the citieswhere wastewaters have been sampled.

Wow.

It’s early days, but this sewage screening technology has been used to predict other viral outbreaks such as Norovirus and Hepatitis A and could give us some important insights into how widespread the virus is and where we might be about to see one of those already infamous spikes – allowing us to get ready to deal with it by changing rules and/or providing extra healthcare resources. In turn, this might limit the extent of the local outbreak.

(And it works the other way, too: we can note a decrease in wastewater virus levels and predict when to lift lockdowns appropriately.)

This isn’t a substitute for testing people, obviously. We don’t know whose poos we’re testing. But as a epidemiology management tool, it could be hugely useful. It should also assist when (if?) a vaccine for Covid-19 is rolled out, as general community prevalence of the virus will be a good indicator of both vaccine uptake and success.

The only downside is that someone has to wander around your local sewage farm, sucking up the effluent and testing it each day to get these numbers. So just thank your given deity that there are people willing (and possibly even excited) to do this work for the good of humanity.

Stay home. Stay safe. Poo regularly. Microbiology will do the rest.

Day 97 – Beams

Do I stop the “Day n” prefix to these posts at 100, much like I stopped my daily photos at 50?

I have about… [checks notes…] 2 or 3 days to decide. The first thought is that I should keep them going until the actual end of the lockdown, whenever that may be, but it could be that the software can’t count that high.

These are the sort of things that keep me awake at night.
You can see that I am a very light sleeper.

Today has been busy. Lots of little jobs which I have managed to stretch throughout the daylight hours. I’ve now lit the braai and I’m planning on burgers for dinner. Quite what the rest of the family is going to do, I don’t know.

And so, let’s chuck up this morning’s quota photo, taken as a light mist descended over the back garden a couple of hours after sunrise:

There’s another one which you may have seen on Instagram already.

Some readers have suggested that faeries should be added (or perhaps just spotted), and I gave that a go, but my photoshop skills aren’t up to those of Elsie and Frances.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more words and pictures – including notes on how difficult it is to ‘tog garden birds when your beagle insists on immediately chasing anything that moves.

Especially if it has wings.

It’s no wonder I couldn’t get a faerie today.