Philip Evans: My Isolation Diary – Day 9 (Wednesday, March 25 2020)
THE question more and more people are asking me is whether anyone in the Lyme Regis area is, or has been, suffering from coronavirus. The truthful answer is that we really don’t know.
I’m aware of a limited number in Lyme who have had a virus and have recovered. But we are not aware of anyone who has been hospitalised.
The number of recorded confirmed cases in the whole of Dorset, including Bournemouth, is 29 with one death at Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester.
The authorities will not release and details of admissions or deaths, other than the statistics, and are certainly not taking any calls from the press. However, should anyone from our patch lose their life, God forbid, I’m sure we will be the first to know.
The Press has an important but difficult job in reporting on this epidemic. In war-time a great many restrictions were placed on newspapers by the government as to what could be released into the public domain but these are very different days. Back in the 1940s, there was a far more reverential relationship between politicians and the Fourth estate.
Today that relationship is nowhere near as cosy and it has got to the stage where some leading politicians flatly refuse to be interviewed by the big beasts of TV journalism – the likes of Andrew Neal, Andrew Marr, Eddy Male, Emily Maitlis and Laura Kuenssberg – in case they drop a clanger or two which comes back to bite them.
In the recent General Election, Boris flatly refused to be interrogated by Neal, and the only party leader who came out with any real credit from their interview with the Scottish inquisitor was the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon.
However, when lives are at stake, it is essential that those who make such life-changing decisions are forensically examined by those whose job it is to inform the public and held to account for their actions.
It was a bit worrying to see on Facebook yesterday, and on Breakfast television this morning, that a man from Leicester had collapsed and died suffering from the virus with a photo of him and his family clearly taken on the seafront at Lyme. But we don’t know when that picture was taken, possibly way before the epidemic broke out.
Throughout the West Country there has been severe criticism of those coming into the region to second homes and holiday homes with a number of highly caustic comments from the Facebook community aimed at Lyme’s two holiday letting agencies, Lyme Bay Holidays and Toad Hall Cottages, some of it quite unfair in my view.
Both firms employ quite a few people and they have to do the bet for them, but their business has been virtually wiped out by this crisis. They have both stopped taking bookings and Lyme Bay, who over a number of years has sunk tens of thousands of pounds into local projects and good causes, have cancelled all bookings for April and May.
Lyme is bathed in sunshine again this morning, after a frosty start, but it would seem the townsfolk are taking notice of Boris’ plea to stay at home. It was like a ghost town early on, very few people on the seafront when I was doing my early morning walk, and hardly a car passing through.
I was more than interested to see yesterday that a new 4,000 bed temporary hospital is being set up at the Excel Centre in East London. I know this area well, having lived in a flat fairly close to the Excel when I worked in London.
It’s a massive place and turning it into a hospital will be a huge logistical challenge, which is why the Army has been called in to help. But this does highlight the severity of the epidemic in London and that the government expects the number of infected cases to explode over the coming weeks.
It’s important to keep our spirits up and with that in mind can I urge everyone in Lyme to open your front door tomorrow (Thursday) evening at 8pm to join in the mass clapping to show our appreciation of our wonderful NHS workers who are putting their lives on the line.
That’s it for today – stay safe and don’t forget to do what Boris says – stay indoors. In doing so, you will be helping to save lives.