200320 coronavirus

Public Health Wales has reported that the number of coronavirus deaths in Wales has reached 997, with nine here in Powys.

But the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of deaths in Powys by April 17 alone was 35.

Public Health Wales was recording only hospital deaths, but the variance here is huge, as the ONS said 18 people had died there of Covid-19 – by that date more than two weeks ago.

The ONS reckons 16 died in care homes and one at home.

The figures are alarming as they mean we can’t trust the daily numbers we’re seeing from the national public health agency in Wales.

And it makes me concerned for my friends.

Despite the pandemic and the lockdown, I am still working – news-related websites like mine aren’t affected because we still have access to the information we need and we still have the means of production that get our service out to users.

So I don’t have much time to check up on friends and family. This was brought home to me a few days ago when one of my oldest remaining friends – who I haven’t seen for the best part of 20 years – contacted me and said he had spent two weeks in bed with Covid-19.

He’s a teacher in Oxfordshire and had been working, looking after children of key workers.

He told me: “Had mild symptoms. My son too. My office manager too. ”

Was he not getting regular tests, then? “I know many people who work at John Radcliffe hospital and they and their kids get tests. Teachers not.”

Fortunately, his earthy sense of humour survived the experience: “It gave me the flu and the shits. No sense of smell still. Although… I farted earlier and smelt it.

“It was like a major moment. Who needs a test when you can smell your own farts again?

“Last Thursday at 8pm my entire street clapped for my farts.

“Special community moment.

“You appreciate small things. I have never been happier to smell my own wind again.”

He said several of the key worker children at his school had Covid, “and they want to reopen schools soon”. So I think we can work out his feelings on that topic!

But when did the opinions of people at the sharp end matter?

“Seriously,” he stated, “how do you socially distance primary kids? They carry and spread it rather than get ill. All my staff are worred and want PPE.”

Good luck with that, I thought.

Later in the conversation he said, “Well, if corona teaches us one thing… When this is over we should meet up before one of us dies.”

He’s right and I intend to.

But the comment flared up a bit of guilt. One of my oldest friends died a few years ago, when I had been unable to get away and see him and I have to admit a nagging sense of guilt about that.

Now, thousands of people are dying, locked away from their friends and loved ones, and I think my guilt may soon be in very good company.

Who was it who said everybody is tied to everyone else by guilt? Oh yes – Douglas Adams.

(Well, actually he said we were all tied to our places of birth by it but I think my version is more accurate in this instance so I’ll paraphrase.)

He wrote: “Most of the things which stir the Universe up in anyway are caused by dispossessed people. There are two ways of accounting for this. One is to say that if everyone just sat at home, nothing would ever happen. This is very simple.

“The other is to say — as Oolon Colluphid has at great length in his book “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Guilt, But Were Too Ashamed To Ask” — that every being in the Universe is tied to [everyone else] by tiny invisible force tendrils composed of little quantum packets of guilt. If you travel far from your [buddies], these tendrils get stretched and distorted.

“This compares with an ancient Acturan proverb. However fast the body travels, the soul travels at the speed of an Acturan Megacamel. This would mean, in these days of hyperspace and Improbability Drive that most people’s souls are wandering unprotected in deep space in a state of some confusion, and this would account for a lot of things.

“Similarly, if your [friends are] destroyed then these tendrils are severed and flap about at random… And these flapping tendrils of guilt can seriously disturb the space-time continuum.”

I think there will be a lot of guilt sloshing around the world after the Covid-19 pandemic eases off.

It would be encouraging to think that it could be used to achieve something useful – for example a consensus opinion that we all need an up-to-date, well-equipped, publicly-funded health system that puts people ahead of profit at all times – to ensure that the stupidity that has already cost so many lives in the United Kingdom alone can never happen again.

And that’s just for a start.