Yesterday Michaeline shared the events of her week in rural Hokkaido, which began with a birthday celebration and ended with the coronavirus-related closure of schools, the declaration of a state of emergency, and a strong request that people should stay home.
Here in London the Sword of Damocles is still suspended, but probably not for much longer. So far there are 20 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus across the UK. Nineteen of those cases are people who have been abroad recently, but the latest one is a man who is the first person to be infected domestically. The source of his infection is currently unknown. He lives in Surrey, a populous area to the south of London, and attended his local doctors’ surgery before he was diagnosed.
We’re also starting to see precautionary measures taken by employers. Last week the oil multinational Chevron sent 300 staff home from its Canary Wharf offices after one of its employees, who’d spent the weekend ski-ing in Italy, became unwell. Media company OMD, which shares the same building, sent all its staff home after an employee who’d returned from Australia via Singapore reported symptoms. Transport company Crossrail, which shares a building with Chevron and OMD, sent all its employees home. And yesterday law firm Baker McKenzie sent home more than 1,000 staff from its Blackfriars office after a possible virus case was identified.
Canary Wharf is home to most of London’s banks and financial institutions. More than 100,000 people work there. Thousands more work around Blackfriars. I’m no expert, but it’s hard to see how the authorities can contain this. No wonder Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the virus is now the government’s top priority. He will chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on Monday. Emergency plans for the UK are expected to be published next week. Who knows where we’ll be by next week.
Which got me thinking (again) about the story of Eyam, and the Derbyshire villagers who self-isolated in 1666 to prevent the spread of the plague. When I posted about that story two weeks ago, Michaeline pointed out in the comments that what the villagers did was made more remarkable by the fact that they didn’t even know what caused the plague, let alone how to treat or prevent it.
It’s mind-boggling to see how much the world has changed in just over 350 years. How connected we have become and how much we’ve learned. It’s easy to get depressed by the human race’s propensity to use technological advances for all the wrong things—fake news, manipulation, data grabbing, trolling—and overlook the astonishing benefits. Unlike the brave villagers of Eyam, we can find out what’s happening not just beyond our doorstep, but across the world. We can connect with people, to offer and receive support and encouragement. We have the capability to investigate catastrophic health events, identify the causes and take measures for prevention and treatment. And if we’re required to stay home for a period, we have a wealth of ways to keep ourselves informed, entertained and uplifted.
It’s grim, but it’s not all bad. Hoping for better news soon!