The SARS-Cov-2 (Coronavirus) family dilemma: what’s the best action to take for you, and for others?

It’s a rapidly changing situation – a key dilemma for families today, the first Sunday after the announcement of a global pandemic and where the Government has not closed the schools, is whether or not to risk sending your children out to school tomorrow morning. It’s not an easy decision to make.

Listening to the news yesterday morning felt like I was living in the opening scenes to a film. It still does. Multiple reports suggest the main reason for canceling large events is to reduce the burden on the emergency services and NHS, who have to provide cover and support. In the same vein, schools aren’t being closed because this may affect the ability of the emergency services, nurses and doctors and crucial supply chain employees to go to work if they have to look after their children instead.

At the beginning of March one of my daughters and my wife were both ill with sore throats, cough and fever. It reads back exactly like the typical symptoms of COVID-19. At this point, we didn’t think that the disease was in the UK population. No one did. We were simply voyeurs of what was happening in other parts of the world, with mouths agape. And we will never know when it arrived as testing was only done on a very small scale. A stark contrast to the approach taken by countries like South Korea.

The following week I had the same illness, although my experience was atypical, also coming down with a head cold. It certainly wasn’t the worst episode of Flu any of us have had, but it did stop me for two or three days. At this point no one was being tested unless they had travelled to an infected area, or come in to contact with someone who has been confirmed, so we don’t know if we had it or not.

Strangely that decision to test doesn’t seem to have changed all that much today. In fact things might have gone backwards with the authorities abandoning testing in all but those who’s health is in a serious condition.

My youngest daughter, who’s 5th birthday is on Monday and who has a chronic health condition, is currently suffering from an infection and fever – possible Quinsy diagnosis. We only just returned from an out of hours appointment in Cheltenham hospital late last night.

Now, I often work from home – it’s an advantage of working in a ‘considerate’ field and with a mostly field based team. Having had a fever and cough last week I am now to self isolating from my colleagues – which is easy for me to do whilst continuing to work. This will be for at least the next week and under the instructions of my employer. The government advice to self-isolate following a fever came later than that from my employer, who believe that the Government’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic is inadequate. They are not alone in that line of thinking – many other organisations have quietly issued these thoughts. My wife is a teacher employed part time on a zero-hours contract as a substitute. Her line of work has dried up despite the schools remaining open.

This morning there are yet more reports (in abundance) of UK authorities refusing to test, even when family members are confirmed to have caught or even died of the disease. Are these decisions being taken for economic reasons? It’s a common question on social media. Personally I’m a fan of the quote “never put down to malice what can be explained by incompetence” and so try to avoid spreading any conspiracy theories. Regardless, in my opinion, the spread of the disease may surely be far higher than the official figures say.

Right now, the schools look to be opening again tomorrow morning. So do we trust what is being done and said by those in charge and send our eldest off to school? Could we (would we?) be fined for not having a good enough reason for our children being absent, were we to refrain?

In light of all this, and since we are in the privileged position that we could afford to do so with minimal disruption, my wife and I have taken the decision to pull our children from school for the next week, and then reassess the situation. My youngest will be staying home in line with government advice. The need to self isolate (and reduce the spread of any infection we might have) as well as the need to protect ourselves (in case we haven’t already had the Coronavirus) has to be a higher priority.

My wife is a teacher and my children are young, so the risk of lost education from a few weeks of missed school is one we can manage. It’s one of the few variables in this scenario that is within our control. I’m painfully aware that this will be a tougher decision for many others who may face lost income, or whose children will have key exams coming up soon.

With that all said, could I please ask you all to stop hoarding toilet roll? By all accounts Covid-19 does not give you the shits so there really is no need.

Some references:

Questions or comments? Let me know!