Isolation diary: Easing lockdown

Whilst any moves towards normality are to be welcomed, I have found all the talk about exiting lockdown rather depressing. Everyone else seems to be demob happy (as well as confused, but that’s another story), but for a couple of million of us in the UK life will not change at all for a very long time.

At least 1.5 million people in the UK have been told to shield themselves, initially for 12 weeks, because they are clinically extremely vulnerable. Someone like me, who does not have health issues but who lives with an extremely vulnerable person, has two options. I can behave like the rest of the UK under lockdown, and go out for exercise, shopping or work. But if I do that then my husband has to self-isolate from me in our own home. We would have to sleep in separate bedrooms and keep 2 metres apart at all times. So it’s not surprising that I have chosen the second option, which is to adopt the same shielding practices as him.

In fact, we had already embarked on strict self-isolation a couple of weeks before the term ‘shielding’ was used in this context.

As a result our home feels very safe.  Any risk to us comes through the front door – post, food deliveries and parcels. As the technically unshielded person I deal with these, bearing in mind how long the virus can remain on surfaces. I can’t be sure that people who pack or deliver anything are coronavirus-free so we have adopted some strategies to minimise the risk.

Non-food parcels are put in quarantine on the doormat for 48 hours, before I open them.

When post arrives I use a grabbing device that we inherited from a relative to turn the post over, and work out who it is from.  Most letters are also left in quarantine by the front door for two days, unless it is something that needs to be read immediately, such as a letter from the hospital.  In those cases I open the envelope and drop the letter to the floor without touching it, then pop the envelope in recycling and wash my hands before picking up the letter. I reckon the letter itself will be clean because it will have been prepared at least 48 hours earlier.

I go through a similar routine with our newspaper which arrives each morning in a potato starch bag. The bag goes straight into the food caddy and I wash my hands. The processes of printing and bundling newspapers are largely automatic so I assume that they are safe.

Food deliveries are another story. Many items have to be put in the fridge or freezer immediately, so quarantining is not an option. I just wipe everything down with antiseptic wipes, even though I know that may not remove all viruses.

The Covid-19 recovery strategy issued today distinguishes between clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable groups. This was not particularly clear in the past.

The clinically vulnerable group:

… include those aged over 70, those with specific chronic pre-existing conditions and pregnant women. These clinically vulnerable people should continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their households, but do not need to be shielded.

The clinically extremely vulnerable group will have received a letter from the NHS telling them to shield themselves. They:

… are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact; this is called ‘shielding’. It means not leaving the house or attending gatherings at all, with very limited exceptions.

The Government is also aware that when – in time – other members of society return to aspects of their normal daily lives, the challenge for those being asked to shield may deepen.

It is likely that the Government will continue to advise people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to shield beyond June.

I find that difficult enough, but imagine how that must feel to thousands of people who, unlike me, are both living alone and coping with a serious, or even terminal, illness. My husband’s multiple medical conditions are controlled well by medication and he lives a life largely free of pain and with only some mobility limitations. It must be horrendous to be really suffering from some medical condition, but having to endure it in solitude for months on end. Kindness is going to be much needed for a long time.


PS. I wish I could claim that the rose is blooming in my garden now, but I took the photo at Polesdon Lacey last summer.


Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Sue Sutherland 11th May '20 - 8:15pm

    We go through a similar process with post, parcels and supermarket deliveries. Early on in the days before lockdown we were told that alcohol killed the virus, so we use meths in a hand spray but, as long as the antiseptic wipes are alcohol based they should do the job. Unless, of course, the knowledge has moved on without us noticing.

  • I ventured out today and went to the post office, that is Thai Post as I live abroad. I wanted to send a birthday card as I belong to the generation that still sends things by post.I was in for a surprise, no more airmail the young man said at the counter which is understandable given all the covid-19 disruption. Anyway as I had already written the card and waited a long time in the queue I sent it surface mail. It won’t get there in time but my pen rai (never mind) as they say in Thailand.

  • John Marriott 12th May '20 - 9:20am

    I’ve a confession to make. Armed with hand wipe and mask, I ventured forth in the car (fuel gauge still nearly on ‘full’ after two months of occasional use by my wife to do some shopping) and went to B&Q to buy some wood and stuff to make a garden seat for my local daughter in law. While I was impressed with the precautions they were taking, they appear to be rather short of timber. However, I got most of what I needed; but, as usual miscalculated and will have to return, probably later this week.

    Now, as a 76 year old, you probably reckon that I have joined the ranks of the irresponsible by not doing as I have been told. Well, I DID wait until after the ‘advice’ (at least I think it was supposed to be advice) from the PM on Sunday evening, although, as Zoe Williams writes today in The Guardian “he always sounds like he’s made it up on the spot”.

    He said something about staying “alert”. In other words; “ it’s up to you, mate. Be it on your head if you catch it or that R figure rises above 1”. Thanks very much, Mr Johnson, just like you did, then? This crisis really is sorting out the sheep from the goats, not only here but around the world. The plain fact is that nobody, politicians, scientists as well as Joe Public really knows what is actually going on in the nanosphere that is the home of our ‘enemy’ aka Covid-19. Clearly cutting yourself off from your fellow men does provide a certain amount of protection; but it’s pretty hard to sustain that for long periods. After all, locking miscreants up as a form of punishment is the favoured method of punishment in most societies, isn’t it?

    So, who knows? Sue Sutherland reckons that alcohol kills Covid-19, so, with that nightly G and T, sometimes supplemented with the occasional glass of wine or beer (in moderation, I add, as I’m trying to lose weight), I must be doing the right thing. However, so far, I’ve avoided the Dettol. Now, if Convid behaves like ‘flu and mutates we really WILL have a problem. So, welcome to the new world, folks. We could be where we find ourselves for some time!

  • Yeovil Yokel 12th May '20 - 11:30am

    Sawadee khrap, Manfarang. I wasn’t able to post a birthday card to my stepdaughter in Lam Lukka last month because of the shutdown of the airmail – she’s a modern young woman strongly influenced by North American culture, whereas her older relatives near Mahasarakham don’t celebrate birthdays and some of them don’t even know precisely when they were born.

    Back to Covid-19 in Somerset: one of the few positive outcomes of the lockdown in my village has been that the main street has become quiet enough most of the time for the children to play safely in the middle of the road – in an ideal world they should be able to do that anyway.

  • On Monday evening I asked a group of people (via Zoom, obviously) whether they now knew what they were allowed to do. In response, a young friend has just sent me the following, which I will post in two parts because (of course) it is complicated. Obviously.

    I think I’ve worked it out…
    * 4 year olds can go to school but university students who have paid for the tuition they haven’t had and the accommodation they aren’t living in, can’t go to university.
    * I can go to school with many 4 year olds that I’m not related to but can’t see one 4 year old that I am related to.
    * I can sit in a park, but not tomorrow or Tuesday but by Wednesday that’ll be fine.
    * I can meet one person from another household for a chat or to sunbathe but not two people so if I know two people from another household I have to pick my favourite. But I can’t go closer than 2m to the one I choose anyway so you wouldn’t think having the other one sat next to them on the other side would matter – unless two people would restrict my eyeline too much and prevent me from being alert.
    * I can work all day with my colleagues but I can’t sit in their garden for a chat after work.
    * I can now do unlimited exercise when quite frankly just doing an hour a day felt like I was some kind of fitness guru. I can think of lots of things that I would like to be unlimited but exercise definitely isn’t one of them.
    * I can drive to other destinations although which destinations is unclear. I was supposed to be in Brighton this weekend. Can I drive there?
    * The buses are still running past my house but I shouldn’t get on one. We should just let empty buses drive around so bus drivers aren’t doing nothing.
    * Our youngest children go back to school first because… they are notoriously good at not touching things they shouldn’t, maintain personal space at all times and never randomly lick you.

  • * We are somewhere in between 3.5 and 4.5 on a five point scale where 5 is all of the virus and 1 is none of the virus but 2,3 and 4 can be anything you’d like it to be really. Some of the virus? A bit of the virus? Just enough virus to see off those over 70s who were told to self isolate but now we’ve realised that they’ve done that a bit too well despite us offloading coronavirus patients into care homes and now we are claiming that was never said in the first place, even though it’s in writing in the stay at home guidance.
    * The slogan isn’t stay at home any more.So we don’t have to stay at home. Except we do. Unless we can’t. In which case we should go out. But there will be fines if we break the rules. So don’t do that.
    Don’t forget… * It will soon be time to quarantine people coming into the country by air… but not yet. It’s too soon. And not ever if you’re coming from France because… well, I don’t do know why, actually. Because the French version of coronavirus wouldn’t come to the UK maybe.

    Stay alert… which Robert Jenrick has explained actually means Stay home as much as possible. Obviously.
    Control the virus. Well, I can’t even control my dogs and I can actually see them. Plus I know a bit about dogs and very little about controlling viruses.
    Save lives. Always preferable to not saving lives, I’d say, so I’ll try my best with that one, although hopefully I don’t need telling to do that. I know I’m bragging now but not NOT saving lives is something I do every day.
    So there you are. If you’re the weirdo wanting unlimited exercise then enjoy. But not until Wednesday. Obviously.

  • Yeovil Yokel 12th May '20 - 2:22pm

    Brilliant, Margaret, you should be a panellist on Would I Lie To You? (WILTY?) !

  • Richard Underhill 12th May '20 - 3:19pm

    Margaret 12th May ’20 – 12:56pm
    The Channel Tunnel has an Anglo-French agreement because Mrs Thatcher instructed her minister (subsequently dismissed) that it should not be an EU agreement.

    President Macron (not to be compared to President Trump) has included the UK in an agreement about the movement of people within the EU, known as Schengen

  • Richard Underhill 12th May '20 - 3:27pm

    Margaret 12th May ’20 – 12:56pm
    Buy an electric car at your own expense and use it to drive to Brighton.
    Please do not get range anxiety because the government is creating more points at which you can recharge/refuel. The Transport Minister made this clear during the previous day. Local councils will create wider pavements for pedestrians. If you have an electric bicycle use that.

  • Sue Sutherland 12th May '20 - 4:13pm

    That’s hilarious Margaret. Please tell your young friend she’s given us a much needed laugh.
    More worryingly has our dear old friend John Marriott fallen into a Trumpian error? In which case I’d better do a bit of Mansplaining. Alcohol kills the corona virus on surfaces, so you have to spray it on and wipe it, not drink it. I suppose there might be a situation in which you have put your hands over your mouth so the virus is alive on your lips, in which case a strong G&T might kill it off if it stayed on your lips for long enough. However, I think that discussion might be like medieval clerics arguing about how many angels could stand on the point of a pin.

  • John Marriott 12th May '20 - 4:36pm

    @Sue Sutherland
    Not even I am stupid enough to take that ‘advice’, although I gather that a few ‘good ol’ boys’ in the Deep South did try something dodgy that Trump mused about. By the way, has anyone seen his latest Press Conference? What a shambles!

    No, Sue, I’ll take your advice in the spirit in which it was offered. However, we could do with disinfecting the body politic, although I don’t think it refers to our physical bodies. But you never know. Stay safe, be a lert, whatever a lert is! 👍😃

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