Panic Buying, Shielding & Breakdowns: A Coronavirus Diary

What an unbelievable few weeks we’ve all been through, and there’s prospect of more looming on the horizon. My household is one of the many going through some stress and uncertainty right now, especially since we were moved into shielding, and I want somewhere to write everything down… so consider this a coronavirus diary. I’ll do my best to resist cliches and hyperbole when talking about all things COVID-19 and how it has been impacting us, but – man – this shit has been hard.

Luckily I’ve barely been over the doorstep since the beginning of the year, but my husband Andrew has been commuting back and forth between Edinburgh and Dundee on the train. By chance, as things were starting to change mid-March with regards to the seriousness of the threat, Andrew had a weeks leave booked. Then by the end of his leave we received the news that he would be in the highest risk group due to his Cystic Fibrosis so should self-isolate. This was on the 17th. By the 23rd, our category became ‘shielding’ and the government had declared the lockdown.

In that bizarre no-mans land between self-isolation and shielding we had no news from anywhere, but not for lack of trying! We were mainly worried about securing food deliveries, as people had already started panic buying, and how to get Andrew’s medication to the flat. I remember feeling that surely there must be some guidance or provision somewhere for disabled and vulnerable people in this position, but at that point in the proceedings we’d reached a dead end.

With no information forthcoming the situation forced me outside, I went to the doctors and pharmacy on Andrew’s behalf, then to Sainsbury’s for a handful of essentials to tide us over until we could get a slot for the big shop. The system that the GP had put in place resulted in a queue of vulnerable people in a small enclosed space, and my experience in the pharmacy was similar.

This was before the social distancing and 2 meter rule that we’re now so familiar with had been implemented, so by the time I got to Sainsbury’s to find empty shelves I completely lost it. I felt so utterly hopeless that no one was telling us anything, and scared that I was about to take the virus home to Andrew after being cramped up with people at the GP and the pharmacy. I’ve not left the flat since.

Never wanting to feel that demoralised again, I kicked into hyper-organised mode and the very first thing I did was set up a ‘decontamination station’ by the front door. This included things like gloves, antibacterial wipes, disinfectant and hand sanitiser – all sent to us in care packages by our parents – to instantly disinfect anything that came in the front door. We asked all delivery people to kindly leave our parcels on the doorstep, which I’d then unpack at the door and leave the packaging outside of the house. We also implemented a process for Andrew’s prescriptions, this was harder to sort out as nothing had been established yet and Scotland does not offer the free delivery services for prescriptions like you can get in England.

Next up, I knew we were running low on everything from shampoo to moisturiser as I was due to grab some more on our next supermarket shop. So, using my Boots points, I grabbed us a three months supply of basic toiletries. My parents sent up a box of toilet roll, because we couldn’t get our hands on any of those, that tided us over until I was able to source an office supply company that agreed to set me up an account and sell us some. It took most of the rest of the month to get to a point were I felt anything other than tense, and I honestly don’t know what we would have done without our folks.

With no grocery slots left (look, I know I keep referencing the lack of delivery slots but I can’t emphasise enough how much it’s been a main source of stress for me) it was time to get creative and make our remaining food last. I hate throwing food out at the best of times and pretty much never do it, but we were now a completely zero waste household. I had something in the slow cooker most days, batch cooking meals to be frozen, and banana bread… so much banana bread!

As I was so fixated on not being able to get those supermarket deliveries, Andrew did a bit of investigating and turned up a local grocer who had started doing a veg box (pictured further up). Similarly we found a butcher with a meat box service, then for anything else it appeared that our local Premier shops had put themselves on a delivery app.

Yes we’re confined to the flat and we’re isolated with no one nearby who can help. And yes all of this has so far been very expensive and has, quite frankly, left us stoney broke. But our parents really came through for us with help like care packages while we couldn’t get the things we needed delivered to the flat. If this is what our experience has been like with the resources that we have, I can’t begin to imagine how this all must feel for those in a less privileged position. I’m sure there are people working so hard to put things into place for those in shielding, and the pair of us being in shielding for three months is absolutely saving Andrew’s life, but we haven’t been communicated with and don’t know when things will be happening which is incredibly tough.

Honestly, I’m still scared, but slightly more secure now we’ve made some small progress like sourcing local deliveries. We were told in the daily briefing from the Scottish government that we will have contact from them in the form of a letter with a full breakdown of shielding and any available support so we’re looking forward to the clarity that will bring. Next on our agenda is to establish something approximating a routine and reaching out to friends and family to socialise a little more. And a supermarket delivery maybe? Also, I really need to stop watching the news all day as it is doing absolutely nothing for my brain.

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