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Column 14th October 2020

Is staying a home keeping me safe or affecting my sanity?

Last week’s Herald had an interesting leader column which focused on the fact that because of an error with an Excel spreadsheet our health authorities in Oxfordshire didn’t know about an additional 218 cases of Covid-19. These cases were not reported to the contact tracing system for several days (if at all) so even the opportunity to track people that had come into contact with infected people had been lost. Given that the latest figures reported by the County Council to 7 October were a total of 361 cases in the County in the last 7 days, then the phrase “monumental cock-up” [used in the column] for mislaying about 4 days’ worth of figures seems about right. As many people have reported, most of the cases in the UK seem to be north or west of us and no-one really knows why. Many of us haven’t really noticed much difference between the lockdown which started in March and the current situation. We still can’t give our grandparents a hug if they live in a care home. We still don’t feel comfortable on public transport or in any busy public space. So we still spend much of our time at home. Trying to stay a safe distance from other people (at least 2 metres apart - or 1 metre with a face covering or other precautions) means that having other people in our homes is difficult and going to a pub, restaurant or café requires knowing that they are also following the rules. According to conversations with friends, one place recently didn’t ask for any contact details but did have good distancing between tables and staff wearing masks. Another did take details but staff weren’t wearing masks. So how safe do you feel when you go to these types of places? According to the latest figures on the Government dashboard, there were 5 cases in Wantage in the last week, 10 in the area from East Challow to Shrivenham, 6 in East Hanney/Kingston Bagpuize, 8 between Lockinge and Blewbury, but less than 2 in Grove and in Steventon to Sutton Courtney. Should we be taking more precautions? If so what more should we be doing? Staying at home for almost all of the time in the last 6 months and communicating with friends, family and colleagues via Zoom, telephone or email seems to be keeping me alive but at what cost to my sanity and to the economy?

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