For years, ministers from successive governments have conducted drills for all kinds of pandemic scenarios. But they never imagined a lockdown. It’s a new tool, and its implications — and side effects — have never been properly tested. So no one really thought about the effect it would have on something like domestic abuse.
Before the lockdown, it was estimated that two women a week were killed by their current or former partners.
In January a friend visited me at my home in Colombo, and I promised him that we would climb Adam’s Peak. That plan was scotched when, days before he landed, I went down with dengue fever. But I’d done Adam’s Peak before (twice, actually), and there would always be another chance to do it, right?
Things changed. When lockdown came to Sri Lanka, I found I was already bored and irritable in the first week. Then I saw a cheery Facebook post about some chap called David Sharp who used his time in isolation to calculate how many stairs he would have to climb in his home to ‘top’ the various mountains of the British Isles.
On Tuesday this week border control cops stopped a van with a shipment of face masks coming through the Channel Tunnel. When they checked the masks they found almost £1 million worth of cocaine tucked in among them. It was a similar story a week earlier. A man called Benjamin Evans was pulled over by the Welsh police on the A40 Brecon bypass. Evans claimed he was a key worker but when the cops searched his car, they discovered nearly £60,000 worth of cocaine.
There’s a friend of mine who likes to torture me occasionally. ‘I really don’t like to tell you this,’ she trills, ‘but I’m looking out on to a field of daffodils. In the hedge just outside the kitchen window there’s a blue tit nesting.’ If she wants to go for a walk, she heads into the woodland behind the house. She’s in her oather home in Wales (normal residence: Fulham) and rather fancies staying there, having got the hang of the whole working-from-home thing.
‘It’s remarkable that bad things don’t happen to us more often,’ notes Bill Bryson in his latest book, a look at the ‘warm wobble of flesh’ that is the human body. He wrote it long before coronavirus upset the world, but parts of it are particularly relevant now.
Viruses worth their salt know how to get around, writes Bryson. Researchers from the University of Arizona infected a door handle to an office and found it took just four hours for a virus to spread through the building, turning up on virtually every device inside and ‘infecting’ half the workers.
I write this on Easter Sunday, sitting comfortably at home, recovering from my brush with Covid-19. I was hospitalised for 12 days, of which five were in intensive care fighting for my life. While the experience is still fresh — I came out of hospital nine days ago — I thought it may be useful to share some aspects of my journey. They can be divided, I think, into three themes: faith, hope and charity. To begin with, faith.
Picture the world before the invention of the bottle: if you wanted a nice glass of claret at home, you’d have to send a boy round to the tavern to fill up a jug — unless you were rich enough to have a whole barrel in your cellar. Around 1630, a new tougher glass was invented in England which, when combined with the cork, meant that wine could be transported and stored safely and inertly. We owe the amazing variety of wine available to us at the touch of a button to this invention.