Earth Notes: A Short Coronacast for March 2020

Updated 2021-05-03 07:20 GMT.
A snapshot of the world as seen from EOU HQ, while the UK hunkers down to beat the bug. #podcast #coronavirus #lockdown2020
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Hi, I'm Damon Hart-Davis, and this is an Earth Notes mini podcast episode for 21st March 2020.

Here in London, as many places elsewhere, we're in a fair degree of lockdown, with pubs and schools closed, public transport reduced, and distancing measures in place. All to try to suppress the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 [SARS-coronavirus-2].

It's a lovely sunny day today, and I've just been out for a walk in the cemetery next door, keeping my distance from other people. I did pass a friend on the street and we chatted for a while at a couple of metres' distance. (I confess to nipping to the corner shop to buy some crisps, but I kept interaction minimal and I think hygienic.)

I may have already had my run-in with the bug, possibly catching it at Futurebuild while on stand*. I did 7 days' self-isolation just in case. Then, when the rules changed, my family was dragged in alongside me for a few days. They were just out in time for the likely last day of school before summer.

Tomorrow is Mothers' Day, so we aim to order take-away from our favourite local Italian place, supporting them and having some good food.

I already bought in a bunch of beer from my favourite local brewery, purely to support them in their hour of need. Not because of the hops.

The Radbot business is functioning since we all basically work from home and we've just closed a funding round, but we have to expect sales and further investment to be hard. Never mind lots of day-to-day logistics...

I don't think that my heat storage project counts as 'essential', so it will be paused for a while. Which is a shame, since we'd have filled it up on a couple of recent days.

Older family members seem OK and/or are going to stay with slightly younger relatives for a while, to avoid some risks and lots of boredom.

We cancelled a visit to one, and its not clear if a trip that we've booked to the south coast with the other will need to be cancelled too. Nor am I sure that we'll be making it to the south of France this summer, however green our transport would be.

We'll survive, but the world is likely to be quite different in the eighteen months that a vaccine will take to become widely available.

I hope that people realise that some of their more carbon-intensive habits broken over the next few months can simply be jettisoned. Let's see.

There's more on my "Earth Notes" Web site at Earth.Org.UK.

Show Notes

There were a few production snafus as I was trying to get this thing done quickly. Eg, I have to give Audacity a few seconds to get going when starting (re-)recording, else early sound is not captured. Always learning!

Some Ambient Soundscapes Including Lockdown

Some ambient sound clips, including some captured during lockdown:

Postscript and Timeline

I'm keeping a few coronavirus lockdown notes on this page.

2020-03-23: as of 20:30 we have a three-week lockdown in the UK.

2020-03-30: * the temporary NHS Nightingale Hospital is being built at ExCeL, where I possibly caught my Covid-19 (if that's what I had) at Futurebuild.

I learnt in early August that my infection route may have been via family visits that I wasn't on, with a someone returning from Rome mid-February (and running a high fever soon after) a couple of steps away from me.

2020-04-08: the cemetery has been shut for all but attending funerals. No more taking the day's one allowed exercise walk in there. Bah.

2020-04-23: the cemetery re-opened, after lots of pressure on local councillors.

2020-05-13: with an initial slight easing of lockdown Obviously, recording the ambient sound of a graveyard is the right thing to do...

2020-05-18: for the record, the symptoms that I recall were:

  • General (mild) 'flu symptoms.
  • Quite strong muscle and joint aches. I often get the latter when ill as it aggravates the arthritis that I've had since my 30s, but the former was unusual. The muscle aches took at least a fortnight to go away, I think.
  • Intense shivers a couple of times, though not for long.
  • Loss of taste. I think it's not fully back for coffee, for example. (January 2021 note: it took until maybe November or December for instant coffee to be coffee again, French press coffee a bit sooner.)
  • Slight (dry) cough, like reacting to having breathed in some dust. Chest felt a bit heavy. Took weeks to go away entirely. (January 2021 note: chest still a bit heavy even now, in fact.)

2020-05-20: silver linings: a neighbour locked themself out. With all of us at home they were back in relatively quickly with low drama. 16WW's contribution was a long ladder that we hardly use (and as of July donated to a tradesman down the road who can make good use of it, but only after assisting with yet another lockout across the road)!

2020-09-04: (from diarycast) though I don't normally bother with supplements, to reduce the risks of another run-in with covid, I have started taking D3 (1000iu or 25µg per day) as of today. Six months' supply was less than £4, so a very cheap risk reducer, along with my squats and pressups and 1-mile walk most days.

2020-10-31: we in London having been in "Tier 2" (high risk) for a week or so the whole of England is now due to be in lockdown for November, only allowed out for essentials including work and food. This time, schools (and colleges and unis) stay open.

2020-12-20: we are in tier 4 lockdown restrictions, being in London.

I'll probably stay home for Christmas even though the family will go (as long-standing support bubble) to be with a solo elderly relative on the other side of London.

2020-12-31: Jean did a swab antibody test today as she works in a school. It had to be taken in to a collection point to be evaluated.

2021-01-12: received an invitation to join the REACT (Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission) study. I have signed up to (possibly) be sent a finger-prick test (antibody self-testing kit, 'REACT2') at the end of January, to try to establish whether I have already been infected. (I believe I have, given the above.)

2021-01-22: my dad had his first vaccination shot today, and his sister got hers yesterday...

2021-01-31: I did an antibody test today (Fortress) which showed negative, and Jean did a swab antigen (Xiamen/Innova lateral flow) test also negative.

From memory (I did not take notes while doing it, so as to concentrate!) when asked in the long REACT2 survey after doing my test what symptoms I had (or still have) I included loss of smell and taste, fever, chills, headache, and muscle ache. I estimated symptoms from approx 2020-03-07 to 2020-03-14. I said that I still have some breathing annoynances. I estimated loss of smell as 4 weeks and loss of taste as 12 weeks. I was asked all sorts of questions about when I left the house, our support bubble with Jean's dad, if either of us is a key worker that is in contact with people outside the home. Jean is, working at a school; me not as there is very little I need leave for.

The antigen test took 30 minutes once loaded, the antibody test 10 minutes. We did them concurrently.

My test had arrived by post on about the 25th. Jean was issued a pack of 7 tests by the school, for her to test once or twice per week ideally.

I thought that it would be best for us to take our tests at the same time.

2021-02-03: Jean did another antigen test: negative.

2021-02-04: I signed up to be contacted for coronavirus vaccine studies.

2021-02-06: for the record, my typical daily lockdown exercise is ~1 mile walk around the cemetery, 10+ squats, 10+ pushups, arm and shoulder stretches...

2021-02-09: another negative antigen test for Jean today.

2021-03-04: Jean continues to take lateral flow tests at home twice a week (all negative), and the kids and I will probably take them once or twice a week soon after they both return to school with free kits that will be handed out...

2021-03-05: finished the last of my first bulk batch of 180x D3 (1000iu, 25µg) tablets!

(I have more, but also we have some sunshine and the prospect of starting to get outside a bit more soon...)

2021-03-06: our children will be back in school from the start of next week. So we are being offered free home (lateral flow) test kits to test everyone in the home once or twice a week. The children will get tested at school for the next two weeks. Jean gets test kits from her school and will continue to test about twice per week. I have been into Kingston to collect two packs (I had been intending to get one, but that's what I was offered) today, for myself initially. I aim to test myself once a week for now. Subsequently we may be ordering or collecting the free test kits for everyone but Jean.

I collected two test packs of 7 tests from The Bittoms behind the Surrey County Council building. I was directed at the gate to a 'guard box' where I was asked if I (currently) had any symptoms. I said no, and was directed to a long open tent/marquee. I was first directed to use hand sanitiser. Then I went to a booth where I was asked on what basis I was collecting tests. "Teacher, parent or key worker?" I think was the question: "parent" my answer. I was then offered two packs (of 7 tests) which I accepted, even though I had originally intended to take one.

2021-03-08: schools starting back today, by degrees; we should have an empty house other than me at lunchtime from Wednesday...

2021-03-16: just received an SMS inviting me to book a vaccination appointment. I'm now booked in for the weekend, in the same place that I had my 'flu shot.

2021-03-21: my AstraZeneca first shot received just before 11am, from batch 4120Z003. 30 minutes walk each way (and over 3 miles' exercise), and about a 15-minute queue wait in total. Fast and efficient and painless. (I had a slightly disturbed night though that may have been too strong a coffee too late in the afternoon, a slightly sore injected arm, and possibly existing inflamed arthritic joints a little more so; but nothing dramatic. The following (Monday) evening the arm was a bit more sore, and there was some shivering/chills and an early bedtime. On Wednesday felt quite 'off' during the day, though not helped by failing to get any tea or coffee all morning!)

2021-03-23: Covid: UK marks one year since the first lockdown.

2021-03-29: from chatting to others after their first vaccination, I'd say that women have had considerably stronger side-effects than men. Women's reactions have run to vomiting and night-sweats and even hallucinations.

2021-04-10: went to have an asymptomatic covid test done at the KCMU Kingston Council Mobile Unit just outside the Piper Hall just now. I did the swabbing, the staff will put my results up on against my unique test barcode.

An email about from NHS COVID-19 Notification said: Your coronavirus lateral flow test result is negative. It's likely you were not infectious when the test was done.

2021-04-12: on the morning that pubs are allowed to re-open, outside only: snow!

2021-04-25: I have now been to pub gardens three or four times. Yesterday was sunny and warm and starting to feel more like the old normal.

2021-05-02: I am about to finish my last Valupak of vitamin D3, and thus my 240th tablet (4 left as of today). Shall I broach my Asda stash and keep going through the summer? I think at least until a couple of weeks after my second jab in June, yes...