Here in the United Kingdom our Met Office declared that May 2020 was the sunniest calendar month on record. The world certainly feels a happier place when the sun is shining but there was little else to feel particularly cheerful about if you follow the news. As of yesterday, we have 2816,194 confirmed cases and the second highest death toll in the world after the USA with 40,542 fatalities, a very sad milestone to reach over 40,000. The overall numbers are in decline but not as quickly as was hoped. However, we have started to come out of lockdown with numerous guidance documents being published daily, it’s hard to keep up.
With some restrictions lifted, I’ve noticed far more traffic, more groups gathering on my daily walks and in some respects people acting as if everything is over, yet we know the UK is still at a critical level if a second peak is to be prevented and a second wave is anticipated as we come into winter. So considerable preparation is being developed to maintain social distancing and life will certainly not go back to any form of normality for a long time to come. I sense a real feeling of weariness amongst my medical friends as they now start to also tackle the backlog of work awaited as normal services resume, and even if one takes a well earned break, holiday periods may possibly not be as restorative as they need to be. As politics come into the mix, documentaries and articles are emerging adding to a mountain of information that possibly divides opinion and whilst these are important factors we need to know, it’s somehow premature to be having such detailed analysis, everyone seems to have an opinion and I find it adds to the frustrations and confusion. So the clear message is that we need to continue to continue as we’ve been doing to prevent the spread of this virus, and bide our time as some amazing work goes on behind the scenes on research and development.
Globally, the total number of cases according to the World Health Organization stand at 6,799,713 cases and 397,388 deaths on 7th June (WHO situation report 139). Real time numbers on the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) illustrate over 7 million cases. Now the top five countries for case numbers are the US, then Brazil, Russia, United Kingdom and India. Whilst Russia reports 476,043 cases as I write this blog, it records a much lower number of deaths compared to other highly infected countries at 5,963. Brazil has seen 691,758 cases and almost 36,455 deaths with great suffering from the disease, particularly in the slum districts of many cities where social distancing is simply impossible. This country was also severely affected by the Zika virus which the WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) back in 2016, with the same cohorts of people more severely affected.
On 3 June, Channel Four evening news reported on the situation in the Yemen and it made for difficult watching. A country with the world’s worst manmade humanitarian disaster. Five years of conflict, disease, poverty and corruption have already killed at least 100,000 people. Now they are battling the COVID-19 pandemic as well. The WHO predicts they will have 65.000 deaths. The film features healthcare centres in Aden where the hospitals have had to close and 85% of the deaths are happening outside in the community. JHU records 484 confirmed cases and 112 deaths to date. Added to that the country is battling outbreaks of measles, malaria, cholera and dengue. Global battles to fight disease such as measles and malaria are under significant threat – for example a new modelling analysis by the WHO and partners considered ‘nine scenarios for potential disruptions in access to core malaria control tools during the pandemic in 41 countries, and the resulting increases that may be seen in cases and deaths.
Under the worst-case scenario, in which all insecticide-treated net campaigns are suspended and there is a 75% reduction in access to effective antimalarial medicines, the estimated tally of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 would reach 769 000, twice the number of deaths reported in the region in 2018. This would represent a return to malaria mortality levels last seen in the year 2000’.
In the face of the tragedy right now, to say nothing of the very troubling political situations both at home and abroad, one has to find a way through. Kindess, empathy and compassion have never been more important.
Recent research published by University College London’s MARCH mental health network – formed in 2018, with members including the Crafts Council and the Museums Association – showed that engaging with the visual arts can reduce reported anxiety, and that visiting museums can protect against development of dementia. Well we can’t currently do the latter, but crafting has certainly had a resurgence and I’d be interested to know if any of you are trying your hand at any such activity. The BBC surveyed 50.000 people from March to May 2018. This was the largest study of its kind and results showed that ‘Making – whether creating physical or digital artwork, working with textiles or wood, or engaging in pottery, calligraphy or jewellery – emerged as the most popular category of creative practice, with 23.9% of 47,924 people across Britain pointing to one of these as their favourite pass-times. This was closely followed by musical activities – singing, playing an instrument or composing – at 23.8%. Gardening, reading, cooking and writing also proved to be popular.
The full results can be seen here. I just wonder if the study was repeated if the latter four activities would have moved up the ranks!
I make hand-made greetings cards with Liberty fabrics and I’ve certainly gone into overdrive in production during some sleepless nights. The online choirs I’ve watched are simply amazing for example the Camden Voices, the Sofa Singers and Gareth Malone has a daily choir rehearsal on YouTube at 5pm entitled the Great British Home Chorus – Session 45 (Week 11) was held yesterday, see here. Museums were mentioned earlier and whilst you can’t visit in person right now, many are viewable on virtual platforms.
Wherever you are stay as safe as you can, continue to follow the rules and look after yourself and those around you.