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My Story from the Great Plague Isles

By Msunderstood

As far as COVID is concerned, Australia is one of the safest places in the world to be. Msunderstood is an Australian vet living in Scotland, where the situation is very different. Here is her powerful account of life in the UK right now.

After graduating from UQ Vet School and spending two years working in the Snowy Mountains, it was time to explore the world. Following several months wearing out my Eurail pass, I found myself in Edinburgh staying with a school friend on a teacher exchange. I instantly fell in love with Edinburgh and decided to seek work in Scotland. A series of locum jobs, some for a week, some for months and others for years, then came marriage, kids, a farm and lots of debt! Many years later, I am divorced, with two teenagers and juggling two jobs. Then fate intervened, and I met my Someone… only one problem… he lives in Australia. So about two years ago I decided once the kids had finished secondary school it would be time to return home and start a new life.

Pre Covid, my Someone and I had managed to see each other several times a year. Then came 2020. As I write this I am in the depths of a Scottish winter, the thermometer barely above freezing for the past week. Again we are in lockdown. For the third time, thanks to the utter mismanagement and corruption of the ‘WestMonster’ government. Official figures show well over 80 000 dead and we are now losing over 1000 daily due to Covid.

We initially went into lockdown in March – stay at home orders were issued and many (including me) were furloughed. We were allowed out to exercise once a day and for essential shopping. It wasn’t much fun, but being allowed to binge watch Netflix without feeling guilty about not working seemed ok for a while. I was called back to work after about 6 weeks, as the surgery had been working on skeleton staff and the vets and nurses were starting to burn out under the strain. Honestly, I was glad to be working again, as it kept the mind occupied and we seemed to be coming out of the first wave.

The death toll was huge and many of us assumed that Boris’ close shave with the virus may have changed his approach. Sadly, as we now know, this assumption proved false. The lockdown was eased when the numbers in London showed the virus was in decline. Unfortunately, the rest of the country was some weeks behind and this opening up too soon proved to be a disaster.

The ‘Great British Summer’ arrived (not summer as any Aussie would know it) and as everyone knows the Brits love their summer holidays abroad. The government encouraged travel, so they went, in their hundreds of thousands. Evidence now show that the main strain identified in Scotland after the summer was from Spain. “The strain from Spain comes mainly on the plane”??

Then the government had a brain wave to aid the hospitality sector – ‘Eat out to Help out’ where dining out was subsidised. This was also a great success… at spreading the virus.

By the end of summer the virus in the north of England was out of control, and Manchester and many other areas were put into heightened restrictions. By November, London was in a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown to try to control the spread again. The bright idea to allow households to mix for 5 days over Christmas was eventually reduced to one day, after pressure from the scientific community. Numbers since then have rocketed and the NHS is at the point of crumbling under the stress.

Although each of the four nations of the UK have taken a slightly different approach and have slightly different fatality rates, the mismanagement of the whole saga has been one of too little, too late, not following the scientific evidence and corruption of the highest order. From the purchasing of PPE, the awarding of contracts to Tory cronies, the billions thrown at a test and trace system that is not fit for purpose, and an app that does not work, the setting up of emergency hospitals with no-one to staff them-every step taken has been wrong footed.

So lockdown again. Yet for the last 10 months there has been no border control. You can still land at Heathrow airport and walk straight through onto a tube and into London. Self-quarantine is required if you fly in from non-exempt countries, but it is not policed. There is talk of pre flight testing being required now, but considering we now have the highest infection rate per capita in the world, it seems rather pointless.

But life goes on… for some.

To avoid the mental scars on the staff that followed the first lockdown, the surgery staff have been split into two teams working week about, so that contamination and contact is minimised. Vets had to fight during the first lockdown to be considered ‘key workers’ and are restricted to essential and emergency work only. Interesting that some clients consider clipping nails an essential service!

Children are again off school and I doubt will be back before the summer holidays. In the past 11 months they have had about 15 weeks at school. For my son, that will mean he may go to university having never sat a formal examination.

Since March 2020, I have been to work and to get the groceries. The kids and I have had two day trips away, with a picnic, far from the madding crowds. I have not been for a swim, shopping with my daughter, I have had only two haircuts in the last 11 months, I wear a mask all day, every day at work and will do for the foreseeable future. It feels like being half alive. I realise that I am very fortunate to have a job and so far we have all been healthy, there are so many terribly sad stories to have come out of this crisis.

My plans to return home depend on all the other ‘stranded Aussies’ getting back first. My Someone and I Skype at least twice a day, every day, sometimes for hours when our schedules allow. It is not easy, and every day is a day closer but I am so scared that I will not live to enjoy the life we have planned together.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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  1. Michael Taylor

    Edinburgh is my favourite city, but it’ll be a horrible city to be stuck in during a lockdown, especially in winter.

    As with any UK city, poverty is rife and most people live in flats. Going shopping in winter would be an ordeal: chances are it’s snowing, raining (believe me, it rains a lot in Edinburgh), freezing or blowing an icy wind. The rest of the time you’re stuck inside in front of the heater.

  2. Pete Petrass

    What Boris has done over there is exactly what Morrriscum and his incompetent government wanted to do here so we should all be very thankful we have some Labor Premiers in the States who took control and did the job of protecting the people properly.

  3. Karen Kyle

    Sounds like a nightmare

    My sympathies……..Ihope you make it home to be with your Someone.

    And I hope these catasrophic failures put people off right wing populist governments.

    And we are so lucky to be living on a big island continent at the arse end of the world.

  4. Marcia

    Msunderstood, thanks for your views.
    Doesn’t sound good living in a plague,
    Do you have an exit plan, one that’s not too vague?
    Dr Scott a friend of mine calls as he sees it,
    A medical technocracy where dodgy governments squeeze it.

  5. Karen Kyle

    Marcia….the article you recommended is downright weird.

    Last I heard the UK is still a democracy and not an authoritarian state. People who break the rules during a pandemic lack common decency and any kind of public spirit. And, under these extreme circumstances the Government has every right to impose their will.
    After all they are hardly dragging people off in the middle of the night to unknown destinations or destinies. Enough with the comparisons to Communist regimes. Such comparisons are wrong and downright stupid. People are dying in great numbers……do you mind?

  6. Wam

    The Pom’s dominate and the poll tax of last century showed how little they think of the scots and welsh. So the pommel, being consumed by brexit dropped the ball and even the top pollies flouted the regulation to such an extent that EnglandIt is right up there with trumps septics. But don’t worry about exams Queenslanders have been going to uni with exams for dinkie years. Although that has changed.
    It is sad that charter planes were not used to bring Aussies home to quarantine at the start for now the drips and drabs seemed always to have an infectee. It is a worry for us, at 80.

    We are teachers and have visited Scotland, with children as toddlers, in Xmas holidays in 73, 75, 82, 83, and many times in 89 when based in seal, Michael, our family are east coast with mum’s sisters in Largs, Perth and Ullapool So we are for Glasgow where, if you visit they put on the kettle, in Edinburgh, they put on the wireless.
    My second preference in January is Aberdeen dark and cold it is and daylight is weak but there is something in the air.

  7. Andrew J. Smith

    Hiding behind this incompetent national governance and denial or avoidance of science in the US, UK and Australia is radical right libertarian ideology that a majority, or significant proportion of electorates and society believe in, and voted for… why?

    Now looking at the Brexit car crash that will continue, now backgrounded by Covid19, in the UK for some years, while support for Brexit declines…. Trump being impeached for a second time and ‘our’ Australian government looking for distractions to impair Australia’s standing in the world, or at least region, to support our ‘sovereignty’, why?

    As New Yorker’s Jane Mayer says, the US/UK or WASP like radical right libertarians have been very clever with their long game, seeding influence, promotion through their PR and communications ‘architecture’ e.g. NewsCorp, in pushing (ageing, less educated, but often middle class and monocultural) voters’ buttons through divisive sociocultural issues, catering to their gripes, rank populism, Christian/conservative ‘values’, dog whistling EU/immigration, praise feeding their narcissism and negativity, ratcheted up to the crazy level; while ignoring the actual working age population……

    Now the reality check is happening…… will be interesting to see what tactics or strategy now seeps out of related think tanks while e.g. GOP reps jump ship, UK Tories in chaos and the LNP are an incompetent cabaret act directed by producers NewsCorp, trasnmitted by 9Fairfax, 7, F’book and Twitter, while being scripted by IPA/CIS, Minerals Council, LNG Covid Commission and ASPI.

    There may even be a permanent return to (at least elements of) Keynesian economics (vs. trickle down myths masquerading as social science and policy), and social policies e.g. funding of public services/agencies, especially health and socal security, employee conditions improved, public infrastructure investment and ensuring equitable tax takes keep budgets supported e.g. in the UK, both UK and non EU companies trying to avoid regulation and financial transparency through Brexit (which has simply not been highlighted enough by media; ‘follow the money’).

    On Edinburgh great, stayed in winter decades ago, always tell young backpacker Australians to go there, and not to get stuck in London……

  8. Karen Kyle

    Andrew J Smith……Oh Libertarians…….I get it.

    Any wonder American ideas of Liberty are often so skewed. I do believe there are left Libertarians as well. Equally weird.

  9. Marcia

    Karen, weird can be true. Heard of the ‘Great Barrington Declaration 2020’, signed by some 53,000 MDs and scientists. “As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.”

    There was and is a better way to handle the pandemic but govts saw an opportunity to change rules to entrench power.
    I doubt if most politicians understand whose hands they are playing into.
    We are in the final stages of a communist-originated takedown of our way of life and liberties.
    Russia and China are aligned in this 7 decade-long plan hatched under the loving gaze of the UN.

    Remember the Ed Griffin interview with KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov (1985)?
    We are this side of Stage 3 of 4 of the Subversion Plan for the West.
    Yuri noted that “a country could be brought to a state of crisis, the third step, in a short time as six weeks”.

  10. Jon Leeson

    This is what a botched response looks like. Murdoch’s attack dogs were braying for Daniel Andrew’s blood for the “second wave” but Boris loses 1000 a day, Donald loses 4000 a day. Any word from Newscorp? Anyone?

  11. Karen Kyle

    I wrote a long comment in answer to your opinion….but I lost it and can’t retrieve it. Suffice to say your theory is another conspiracy theory and all of the bullshit is just getting out of hand. Trump voters in the US are sure Biden is a communist and there will be red flags flying over the US and now it has spread to the UK.

    Please……grow up.

  12. Marcia

    You showed promise Karen and then you showed your lazy inability to join the dots. That’s life.

  13. Karen Kyle

    If anyone is interested in good investigative reporting on the insurgents in the US try Googling Bellingcat.

    There is a lot of research into Qanonand the White Supremacist Militia movement.

  14. DrakeN

    Marcia, there are many ways to join dots – yours appear to be just a bit circuitous.

  15. Joseph Carli

    One can see with some comments that there is an absurdity creeping into the general populace that is creating an almost hysterical panic in some people’s lives….I would suggest we adopt what I would call ; The philosophy of STOP!……just STOP…and think about it for a while…

  16. DrakeN

    Yup, Joseph.
    As Sergeant Jones was want to cry out: “Don’t panic! don’t panic!”
    (Dad’s Army, for the uneducated 😉 )

  17. Matters Not

    Don’t want to rain on the tea party but

    The American Public Health Association and 13 other public-health groups in the United States warned in a joint open letter that the Great Barrington Declaration “is not a strategy, it is a political statement. It ignores sound public health expertise. It preys on a frustrated populace. Instead of selling false hope that will predictably backfire, we must focus on how to manage this pandemic in a safe, responsible, and equitable way …

    And there’s more.

    sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian think tank that is part of a Koch-funded network of organizations associated with climate change denial

    Needless to say it’s all about a particular (and peculiar) view of freedom. And it’s all about which dots you select and what links you care to theorise.

  18. Matters Not

    It’s not as though the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration lack medical expertise – clearly they don’t – they seem to have it in spades. But good public policy must go beyond particular expertise in one specialist discipline(s) – such as medicine in this instance. Thus good public policy must draw on a range of expertise and not be limited to the physical (hard) sciences but also include the social sciences – those which deal with the whole range of human behaviors.

    David Gorski , an outspoken critic of alternative medicine, speculated whether the scientists fronting the Barrington Declaration were simply being useful idiots for American Institute for Economic Research, the organization promoting it, or whether they were actively being “motivated more by ideology than science”, but said that the practical effect was that the declaration provided a narrative of scientific division useful for political purposes.

    No easy answers but at some stage it must be recognised that political actions taken must remain within the political domain. It’s politicians who must ultimately be the accountable ones because it’s only they who have the ultimate power.

  19. Brozza

    I hear you Pete Petrass.
    Dr. Bruce Scotts article reads like a conspiracy theorists wet dream.
    It was like reading the comments section of the (now unsubscribed) Off-Guardian.

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