When I last wrote, Covid-19 was not yet a pandemic. And it had just only been definitively named. But, since then, the plague has descended nearly everywhere. Now, people are dying from it in droves, and ordinary life has been disrupted in ways that are reminiscent of wartime. Most countries in which the infection has taken hold have entered into a phase of lockdown, with anyone having the merest suspicion of Covid-19 exposure being required to go into a form of purdah for a period of not less than 14 days. And, as would be predictable, new words and expressions, such as “social distancing”, have entered the common language, a phrase that commands you to keep your distance. No less than six feet of separation. Ominous enough. ‘Home quarantine’ is another expression that Public Health authorities invoke to help contain the virus’ spread. Thankfully, the full meaning of ‘quarantine’ does not apply to this infectious agent. In the word’s original use, it meant being confined for a minimum period of forty days, usually on board a ship on which an infectious disease had broken out, and forty days being the usual length of time required for such outbreaks to run their course. In today’s world, of course, our mode of long-distance travel is much more intrusive, practically resulting in the direct injection of potentially infective individuals into the very heart of our cities, the airports. One may note, however, the irony (without schadenfreude, one hopes. After all, we're all in this together) of cruise ships being denied berthing at ports around the world because of outbreaks of Covid-19 on board. So, all in all, fourteen days is not bad.
So, Tell Fren Tru is prepared. 'Lockdown', another word frequently used, has been clamped down on all but essential workers, among whom TFT is no longer counted. But, although far from home, he is prepared, and sees an opportunity in potential adversity, reading the books that he otherwise might not have found the time for. But alas, there is a problem. My usual access to books was severely restricted due to the loss, in transit, of my kindle reader. It took me quite some time to find an alternate source for books in Kingston, Jamaica where, after trolling around the town by taxi, I finally came upon a place, tucked away in a shopping mall, where you can buy and exchange books. It turned out to be a gem.
So, I have made full use of the opportunity and stocked up for the duration. No binge buying, though: In the same way that you cannot eat or wipe your way out of quarantine, a similar limitation applies to reading. I should say though, that Jamaicans are sanguine about how much extra buying they should do in these times when in other countries around the world, TV images of adults misbehaving themselves at supermarkets and big-box stores abound. The last time I looked, the local supermarket here was fully stacked.This is the kind of balance that should prevail all around but, unfortunately, man is mostly driven by irrational impulses.
And talking about irrational tendencies, what a harvest we have had: of rumours, half-truths and downright lies. And, it would seem, that in times like this, everyone becomes an authority and is ready to dispense advice. We won’t consider what the President of the United States says about the epidemic or how to treat Covid-19. But you can be sure that whenever an opportunity arises for making a fool of himself, he takes it.
My quarantine regime would have to start all over again as we have to cut short our holiday and start wending our way homeward where, once again, I would be confined to barracks as the regulations require. But I am ready, and even eager, to make my own contribution towards ‘flattening the curve’. Every input counts, however small.
Tell Fren Tru