Updated: Mar 28, 2020
Exactly a year ago (almost to the day!), Norman and I (with our dog, Beaker) took over ownership of the Horse & Groom Inn. Mother’s Day last year was our first Sunday lunch service, and was so chaotic, a real baptism of fire. We’re old hands now, but as any of you who visit us regularly will know, the chaos occasionally still shines through. At least it did until Friday 20 March when due to the Covid-19 pandemic we were told to close the pub to support social distancing measures.
When I’m not here in Oddington running the pub you will find me working in a central London university where I am Professor and Pro Vice Chancellor for one of London’s largest health faculties. I’m responsible for the safety of around 7,000 student health professionals including nurses, midwives, physios, OTs, radiographers, post-graduate doctors, paramedics, and many more. Most of whom will need to remain working and learning in the NHS throughout the outbreak. The past few weeks have been a (pardon the pun) ‘sobering’ experience. London is ahead of us in the number of cases and the impact on the health services. Many of my staff and students are already working on the front line in London hospitals, helping to manage people with Covid-19 infection.
Coming back to Oddington then last week it struck me that we need to prepare ourselves better here to avoid the outbreak taking hold and spreading uncontrolled throughout our villages. This is unlikely to be over any time soon, so if we are to protect the most vulnerable people in our community a collective effort, the likes of which we have never seen before, will be essential. It is imperative that advice is listened to and that everyone does their bit. These simple, low tech precautions are generally ‘not about you’. They aim to protect those you may come into contact with. Either directly, or even in social isolation more indirectly.
Some key actions we can all take to protect our households and those in our community who are most vulnerable:
1. Keep away from those in high risk groups. Please don’t visit the elderly, sick or those in other vulnerable categories. Speak to them on the phone, on a FaceTime of Skype call, but keep at least 2m/ 6ft away from them.
2. The virus is passed from person to person either from hand to hand, from hand to surfaces (eg. Door handles, gate posts, light switches, door knockers, door bells, backs of wooden chairs, tables) and via coughs and sneezes. Therefore hand hygiene is key. You may think that, as you’ve been washing your hands since the age of 2-3 years that you are an expert. Think again and watch the technique advised by the World Health Organisation via this clip on the internet if you can https://youtu.be/3PmVJQUCm4E
3. In general the virus is not circulating in the air around us. If you are already carrying the virus but are unaware, it will get onto your hands when you touch your face (nose, mouth and eyes). Your hands will then pass it on to other things or people you touch. Therefore avoid touching you face.
4. Get in the habit in your own household of shouting “Face!” at others whenever you see them touching their faces. We’ve all been touching our faces habitually from the moment we are born. Up to as many as 20 times an hour without even realising. It’s a hard habit to break, but it is vital that we do. Shouting “Face!” will help to make someone aware they are doing it and to help them break the habit.
5. If you do touch your face for whatever reason the wash your hands again before touching anything else.
6. It is important that surfaces that are regularly touched by your hands are regularly sanitised. Use a domestic sanitiser/ disinfectant to regularly clean those surfaces in and around your home that other people (ie. Outside your own household) might have touched or may do so in future. So consider door knockers, door handles, gates, door bell pushes, car door handles, letterboxes, etc.
7. Limit your own socialising and shopping etc to a minimum. Avoid large gatherings (more than 5 people) from outside your own household. Where you do meet other people from outside your household, keep 2 metres apart from them at all times. Where you can do so shop online and have it delivered to you. If you do need to shop at a supermarket, make sure you clean the handle of the shopping trolley or basket handle before you use it.
8. Avoid reading or spreading ‘fake news’ on social media. There are many stories circulating about so called ‘cures’, ‘vaccines’ or things that make people more or less at risk. Unless properly verified and from reliable sources, these sorts of stories are a great danger. They can result in people dropping their guard. In complacency settling in and bad habits recurring.
9. Limit your exercise outside of your home to just once a day. Make sure you get enough exercise, fresh air and hopefully some sunlight. Exercising outside will help to keep you moving and fit, it will help you to keep up essential vitamins needed for your immune system and general health. Sunlight will also help with your overall mental health and well being.
Fundamentally, we all need to change behaviours that we have been used to for our whole lives so far. It might be a long time before we are able to revert to former ways of doing things so we need to change now and sustain these behaviours for some time to come.
Protection of those who are most vulnerable is down to these small details. The sooner everyone can observe these rules, the sooner we will be on the other side and the more lives we will have saved.
Please stay safe and look out for each other.