Isolation diary update: Thinking about the future

I am very pleased that the Government is finally going to enforce the use of masks in shops. Those of us who are shielding will be in lock down until the end of the month, but we will only emerge cautiously after that. Don’t forget that we are at high risk of dying from Covid-19 if we catch it.

People have been telling us that in the town centres social distancing is not being observed, masks are not being worn and many shoppers are flouting the rules about queuing and following routes. Don’t they realise that they are condemning some of us to permanent lock down?

Having got that off my chest I have been thinking about what needs to change from now on.

But first, this is what has changed, hopefully permanently:

  • Neighbourliness – WhatsApp groups for roads have sprung up; neighbours have got to know each other better and have been helping each other out.
  • Black Lives Matter – the timing of this in the middle of a pandemic has focused our attention.  I have heard this said several times: “I am reading to educate myself on the issue”.  There is a widespread new understanding of privilege and unconscious bias, as well as institutional/structural racism. And people who have responded with “All lives matter” have been gently corrected.
  • Online tools –  we now all recognise the usefulness of Zoom and Microsoft teams and will no doubt continue to use them where they bring added value.
  • Value of care workers – we sort-of knew that they were important; now we really know.
  • How we all love the NHS – I found Danny Boyle’s tribute to the NHS at the 2012 Olympics a bit puzzling. I don’t now.

This is what must change:

  • There must be a review of the handling of this crisis and preparedness for a future pandemic. I am pleased Ed Davey finally got agreement from the Prime Minister to an independent inquiry, although it didn’t seem to go as far as committing to a judge-led public inquiry.  In addition, Layla Moran is chairing an all-party group on the coronavirus.
  • There must be proper recognition of the expertise and local knowledge of Directors of Public Health in combating the spread of diseases, as I discussed here.
  • Low paid key workers, including care workers (in homes and community), cleaners, refuse collectors and shop staff, must be awarded better pay linked to proper career structures. I can remember when nursing and teaching were low paid jobs, but the country has learnt to value them financially as well as for the contribution they make to society.
  • We must recognise the importance of care homes.
  • For many years there have been calls to integrate health and social care. We now all understand why this must happen.
  • The management of the NHS needs to be reformed by bringing out-sourced services back in house.
  • Local councils must be funded to cover their Covid-19 expenditure. At the beginning of lock down they were told by Government to spend whatever was needed with reassurances that they would be reimbursed. That has only partially happened leaving huge gaps in their budgets.
  • Beyond the current crisis, the essential services provided by councils must be funded properly. As with the NHS, outsourced services should be brought back in house.
  • We need to rethink retail. With more online shopping, a lot of which will probably continue as life gets back to normal, local shops will become more important for top ups between big shops. Town centres and shopping malls will inevitably be trimmed. The issue will be how to do that in a way that still makes them attractive destinations.
  • Urgent research is needed into why BAME people were disproportionately infected with and dying from Covid-19. We need to know whether it was specific to this illness or something more systemic, and if the latter what needs to be done to mitigate it.





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.


  • My comment concerns the use of masks. I totally agree with you and it is amazing to see the controversial nature of this on television and in the press.

    Masks offer some protection to the wearer and probably even more protection to others. Given the seriousness of Covid-19 to certain people why would we not wear masks? The mindless debate and daft opinions ranging from attacks on freedom to individual choice are just stupid.

    Each one of us has a responsibility to keep ourselves free of the virus. This is because we wish to avoid having it and we should wish to avoid giving it to others, including loved ones and those who may not survive having it.

    Equally, since we cannot be sure whether or not we already have the virus, we should take precautions to reduce the chance of spreading it.

    Wearing a mask reduces the chance of infection. Why is there any debate?

  • Phil Beesley 16th Jul '20 - 10:12pm

    You know what? Whilst living in plague country (city of Leicester), I have never been proffered a mask or declined one.

    100 odd days after Leicester lockdown, you can’t buy a mask at your local newsagent.

  • In March Chris Whitty, Patrick Vallance etc were saying masks are ineffective and can be harmful to the user. The change in position is very strange and probably more to do with reassuring people that they are safe rather than anything to do with science.

    I must admit that I don’t love the NHS and am bewildered by people who do. I have great admiration for the Doctors, Nurses and other workers but applauding the workers is quite different from applauding a state bureaucracy. We need to start differentiating between the two concepts. I would not be surprised if the official enquiry finds that NHS management and PHE made a number of mistakes in their response to the virus.

  • David Garlick 17th Jul '20 - 10:27am

    Agreed. Masks, like lockdown, introduced far too late.
    I believe that masks will be an important tool that we must use until and unless a successful vaccination is introduced.

  • Angela Davies 17th Jul '20 - 11:07am

    Shielding ends at the end of July, I don’t know what rules apply to us vulnerable folks after that

  • David Goble 17th Jul '20 - 3:46pm

    Re the above comment; I also have been shielding and, from a letter I received from Matt Hancock and Robert Jenrick, the advice is, in a nutshell, from 1 Aug I should take particular care to minimise contact with others from outside my household or support bubble. However, I may also return to work, should I have work to go to! and children can return to education. Basically, I am maintaining social distancing at 2 metres as far as possible and avoiding people from outside my household like the plague.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Jul '20 - 8:04pm

    A fine piece from Mary giving us insight.

  • marcstevens 17th Jul '20 - 8:34pm

    Well I do love the NHS, it’s the envy of the world and if there were other organisations working as efficiently as the NHS does and have done during this situation then I am all for more ‘state bureaucracy’ and against those extreme libertarians who want to part or even wholly privatise health care and make life even harder for us who are vulnerable and on lower incomes. In fact its medical professionals have saved my life and improved my health so I am forever grateful. Most GPs and Nurses are very proud to work for it too.

  • jayne Mansfield 17th Jul '20 - 9:17pm

    @ Marco,
    The change in position is not at all strange.

    It is a change brought about by increasing knowledge of the transmission of the virus , i.e. the transmission of the virus prior to an infected person becomes symptomatic, and that many carrying and transmitting the virus remain asymptomatic and appear COVID free.

    May I suggest that you will find such articles as ‘Oxford – COVID 19 study: face masks work act now’ as a good starting point.

    Stay safe and keep others safe.

    @ Angela Davies and David Goble,
    The Government and logic departed company some time ago. As someone who is shielding myself, I suggest you employ the logical thinking that is lacking, rather than follow any ‘rules’ , often contradictory in nature, that make no sense at all.

    I am sorry if this seems negative, but I really do think you will make a better fist of looking after your health than this government.

  • @ Jayne Mansfield As someone else that’s also in shielding, Jayne, it’s good to hear from you and very much hope that you’re doing OK. We’re fine…. and glad to be living in Scotland.

    It’s good to hear your sound common sense again – pointing out the obvious to the flat earth brigade.

    Stay safe.

  • Marc Stevens – The NHS is not the envy of the world. That is socialist propaganda that even Owen Jones would be slightly embarrassed about pedalling.

    The most efficient healthcare systems are the social insurance systems in France, Germany and other Northern European countries. They are less centralised and have more private and voluntary sector involvement.

    Jayne Mansfield – I know there is asymptomatoc transmission. However the case against masks relates to the effectiveness of the masks themselves. If they do have any effect it is marginal but could lull people into a false sense of safety. The science is contested as with most aspects of this virus so yes you can point me to articles supporting your point of view but I would point towards this Newsnight report which looks at both sides of the argument.

  • Phil Beesley 19th Jul '20 - 7:04pm

    It won’t get any better until government recognises that the big consultancies providing services are the cause of problems. Their business models are the problem.

    It’s always easy to shout about things which are wrong. For eternity people have been shouting about the same old things. Things going wrong.

    Intelligent solutions are more difficult. But, at least, stop doing the wrong thing.

    The companies providing government services are largely rubbish. Some are performing actions — imprisoning people, probation services which have an effect on people which ought to be a government act. Or less obvious iniquities such as benefits queries.

    Everyone who deals with government should meet a government employee. Nobody who is not a government employee should be permitted to lock anyone up or take away ‘social security’.

  • Thanks all for your comments. Those of us who are shielding are really in a quandary. Do we remain out of sight – and presumably out of mind – of the rest of the population? How can we correctly calculate the risks of joining the rest of you?

  • richard underhill 19th Jul '20 - 9:38pm

    Mary Reid 19th Jul ’20 – 7:31pm
    Here’s hoping your husband’s health improves.
    You are an example to us all.

  • richard underhill 21st Jul '20 - 2:59pm

    Mary Reid 19th Jul ’20 – 7:31pm
    Maybe we will fight a general election on how to deal with a virus infection which has put the whole of India into lockdown.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Jul '20 - 5:06pm

    Mary, feel really strongly for you, about this. My father had TB twice, my wife, pneumonia twice, and asthma. My wife and I, a generation younger than you, are doing as you have been, and intend to continue it,working, from home, though work, is scarce, and as a result of this limited , all in public sphere, educational seminar deliver, performing arts areas, even writing in that field, difficult to find anyway, dried up now, or on hold, we are struggling, but determined.

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