Bob was in the middle of making a triple decker, cracking a can and getting ready to watch Sky’s rerun of the last day of ‘that cricket match’.
His mobile rang. It took a while to find it, jammed between the cushions on the sofa.
Forget it. Someone else telling him he’d been in an accident, he hadn’t been in.
What a game of cricket it was…
The phone kicked off. Number unknown. Bob stuffed the phone back between the cushions, put his feet up and thought about getting a Ben Stokes look-a-like, as soon as the tattoo place, on the high-street re-opened.
Half an hour later, the phone again… number unknown.
Bob cursed, paused the greatest game of cricket the world would ever see.
Hello, he grumbled.
Mr Whitehead, Bob Whitehead?
Who wants to know?
Mr Whitehead this is Jane Norton from the NHS Track and Trace team…
It took a while for Bob to get his head around the news. Someone he’d been in contact with, Jane Norton wouldn’t say who, has gone down with the CV thing and that meant he would have to self isolate for 14 days… it was his civic duty.
Just as he was getting his cleaning business back on its feet. Just scraped together the money to buy the PPE, the signs and the tape.
The shops were opening, they needed cleaners. His regulars had been on the phone. He may, after all, survive.
He needed another fourteen days, banged up, like Cummins needed more SpecSaver jokes.
Bob looked at the triple decker. It was the last of the bread. He was low on just about everything, particularly cans.
Within twenty minutes he was in the short queue outside Sainsbury’s. Stocking up.
Back on the sofa Bob ran through his options. If he rang his customers they’d almost certainly find another firm of job hungry cleaners.
Bob pulled another can, got into his thinking position, horizontal on the sofa and cogitated… civic duty. Mmm… no Old Bill knocking on the door.
Could he get a test? Find out if he was going to be sick or a carrier, or clear? Jane Norton said he couldn’t get a test until he felt ill.
He felt well. If he kept quiet, he could go back to work and no one would be any the wiser. If the very nice Jane Norton rang him again, he’d answer the phone and pretend to be home, feeling well.
By six the next morning Bob, togged-up in white disposable overalls, had driven the transit van off the hardstand at the front of his house and was busy, top-to-toe cleaning the first, of four shops, he would clean that day.
… and you can see, how it is, our world-class, track and tracing has a barn-door.
‘You can’t fight a virus if you don’t know where it is,’ said the WHO’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
If we isolate the contacts, of every CV-19 victim, we still won’t know who has the infection.
What are we to make of this? World beating?
There are thought there could be 9,000 new CV-19 cases a day, successful programmes like South Korea and Australia were doing around 50-60 tests for every new case. We’d need 495,000 tests a day.
Add to that, testing contacts, without symptoms marooned in the new lock-down and the number of tests goes off the scale.
I guess we are doing what we can do with what we’ve got. Persuading ourselves it’s a lot.
Never has there been so fragile a policy called upon to deliver so tough a job.
Will it work?
Not for the want of effort from its designers and constructors.
For the want of the statutory backing public health tracers enjoy, it may well fail.
For the want of public support in the post-Cummins era, who redefined civic duty, it may fail.
But, if we fail to get our nation safely back to work, we all fail.
It has to succeed.
News and Comment from Roy Lilley