A pandemic “plan” is the ultimate balancing act. I put plan in speech marks because every time I have ever ‘exercised” the plan all the energy runs out of the room by the point we have come to now, for real. There are just too many big decisions. It stops being a plan and starts being an ethics seminar. Somebody calls “End Ex” and we crowd around the tea urn, muttering. One of my key roles in disaster planning is to predict the future and that has always been my thing. I find tea leaves unreliable. Instead I use knowledge, instinct, insight, evidence base, isomorphic translation (one for the disaster scholars) and an obsessive gathering of past case studies that can tell us a bit about what next. The pandemic plan for this stage is a breathtaking ride of decisions that seem brutally necessary, one after the other. Us, society, friends, family are left gasping at the speed that their lives change. But if you know what I stand for, you know that I believe in recovery more than anything. And sometime we HAVE to make some decisions in response with one eye on the future. We need to take actions to protect our collective future right now. We have to decide the society we want to live in and how we get there. A few that have occurred to me this week are:
1. If you know a woman due to give birth to a baby in this time, take extra good care of her. Women should be able to have a birth partner with them when they give birth. But many won’t. We don’t have enough PPE for this and the inquest can happen about that later. I gave birth alone and one suggestion I would have is to help her over the next few days to access as much inner strength as possible. Help her to get ready and discuss whether technology will be possible so that people can still be “with” her…Her baby is such an incredible source of hope at this time and as communities we need to support each and every one of our pregnant ladies. If you know a midwife, support him or her too as their usual practice is fundamentally changed by all this.
2. If you know someone who works with animals and in our zoos and wildlife parks they are going through a really hard time and for them it will get harder. Animals in a pandemic plan are a luxury item. PPE and equipment has had to be understandably diverted but I was shocked to see that those working with certain animals, for example at London Zoo are not key workers. Vets and all animal care staff need to be supported to continue to provide welfare and care of our animals, many are struggling to do so but carry on because welfare is at the heart of what they do.
3. Finally, I am taking ridiculous amounts of comfort from our village response scheme. By this part of the plan, people who live on their own are starting to run very low on food and meds. People who don’t live on their own, but live with their abuser, start to be beaten to death. It is all part of that ‘brutal balance’ to allow focus on disease control. I have worked in this field for two decades and NOTHING has given me more job satisfaction than delivering milk and bread yesterday.
I have taken a lot of advice from family about using my tea leaves a bit less this week, and just surviving this time day by day. There is a peace in that. But I have also been galvanised and invigorated by contact from so many international colleagues who are now looking to 2021. People who are seeing into the future too. When you feel so very out of control, know that we get to craft a lot of what happens next, for ourselves.