Covid stories part 9a — how will life change post-Covid?

Saturday 13 June / Sunday 14 June.

So it’s nigh on three months since we hit lockdown. And it’s two weeks since I wrote one of these. Last weekend was a no-go, bizarrely I think because the last fortnight have been dull, gloomy, cold, wet weather (jeez … I sound so much like my Mum). That said, Joe and I have managed a couple of games of tennis …

Tom did an amazing job fixing the summer house roof which had blown off …

I had Mastermind in the Wednesday evening catch-up with the where we all chose a specialist subject. Mine was West Ham — the Redknapp / Roeder years but frustratingly didn’t do well as many of the questions were of the statistical geekery type (‘who scored on a wet Wednesday at Stoke in 1995?) but was fun nevertheless. That said, I sensed in our last catch-up that we are all perhaps tiring of quizzes a touch. If there is a future pandemic, I know that I need to read Harry Potter, watch the Marvel films and brush up on my knowledge on wonders of the world. None of which do I have any interest in doing! Oh and we had a great Book Club talking about Girl, Woman, Other which got a series of 5 star ratings …

and then I saw Bernardine Evaristo on QT talking powerfully about race (and found out that Lily’s dad’s cousin’s wife is Bernardine). Like six degrees of separation. We have extended an invite to a future book club! Oh, and on the nature front, we saw this massive (well large anyway) frog in our pond, and today Rebecka saw one in hers too!

In the meantime, transmission of Covid runs on … although does seem to be dissipating now. But that is still very comparative, 181 deaths today sounds low … despite the attempted gaslighting of the nation, the numbers are stark. Brazil has just overtaken us as the second highest deaths due to Bolsonaro literally denying its existence. But we seem to top the charts when we take into account population (apart from Belgium).

Those charts are obviously not presented anymore in the slightly ridiculous daily presentations, where yesterday the Chief Nurse was pulled because she couldn’t sign up to Cummings’ eye test.

So in the spirit of looking forward rather than backwards, I am going to return to something I said I’d try to do back when I started this series of blogs and interestingly highlighted in this thought-provoking piece sent over by Ben. In what ways might Covid change us? Whilst that piece primarily approaches the topic from a macro perspective, I intend to do so in a more micro way!

So firstly birth rate. My inclination is that there will be a very distinct drop in birth rate in 2020. Until people feel confident that the world will not be like this for ever, one would think that people would pause on any plans to bring children into the world. Certainly in the UK. Compound that with much less sex going on with couples often living apart … and much less prevalence of casual sex (and therefore unintended sex), my expectation is that birth rates will dive, creating a strange problem where the numbers in schools will dive and followed presumably by a large spike and increase once (or if) people feel confident that the world is a place they want to bring children into. All on top of a declining birth rate.

The other end of the spectrum is the scandal of care home deaths (go here for an extraordinary piece of journalism by Newsnight). As of mid-May, 40,000 had died, nearly 10% of its overall population. Of those who have died in all settings, 53% have been over 80, and 90% have been over 60. Apart from the financial pressures this will place on care homes (who will lose over 10% of their income whilst incurring the costs of PPE etc), it seems highly likely that few families will place their elderly relative in a care home until they are very sure that the pandemic is beaten (presumably through a vaccine). And even then, I guess people may have an inbuilt concern around the susceptibility of older relatives if there was to be a pandemic. We already know that after years of increasing life expectancy, recent years have reversed that trend, arguably due to austerity years. With what is expected to a long depression (never mind a recession), future life expectancy will depend on whether policies genuinely seek to reduce inequality (hard to see how that is done by levelling up, more likely levelling down). Social care is the big imponderable — the issue no government has grappled with for decades. How will smaller independent care homes survive, unless through reputation and a willingness to pay for something better (and thereby creating even more inequality).

Both issues (birth rates and the care of the elderly) suggest there will be a significant change (if not a sea change) in our demography moving forward, particularly when we know birth rates drop and death rates elevate during recession, let alone in a depression — social policy is likely to be key in mollifying or exacerbating those impacts.

part 9b coming up on air pollution, eating out and football…

Still love The Clash, inequality, class, social security, food, stigma. Trustee @ Welfare Benefits Unit. 5ker. West Ham till I die.