How our community is coping
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How our community is coping

As the nation adapts to life in lockdown, we hear from a doctor on the front line, a secondary school teacher, a would-be oleh, a self-isolating pensioner and a Year 6 pupil

Four of our contributors: Derek, Oliver & Joanna Vinacour, Shelly Jacobs and Jo Pearlman
Four of our contributors: Derek, Oliver & Joanna Vinacour, Shelly Jacobs and Jo Pearlman

Derek Taylor – Self-isolating 87-year- old

Self-isolation for the over-70s for 12 weeks. Yes, the government means me and I’ll tell you, it’s better than being bombed by the Luftwaffe every night.

I also only just avoided the V2-rocket, which fell a couple of streets away in 1944.

Then I had to worry for donkey’s years about the Russians and the IRA, so a virus from which almost everybody recovers is no big deal.

The isolation brings out the best in the grandchildren. They may be busy with their own lives normally, but we now have proof that they rally round in an emergency. It isn’t the help; it’s the love with which it’s offered.

Derek Taylor

I also know a lot are finding it tougher than me. An in-law who can’t visit her husband of 50 years, suffering from Alzheimer’s in a home.

The widower who lacks a family to support him. They may be too proud to ask for help, so we need to ask them if they need any.

Many people are pitching in. The newsagent is delivering milk with the morning papers. The Charedim are coming to their doors to have street services instead of in synagogue. The 18th century uniforms may be a bit outré, but they will tell you they don’t have to face the problems of the world by themselves.

So what to do for 12 weeks? I have a 1,500-piece jigsaw with no picture on the box and I doubt I will have enough time to finish it. There’s also YouTube, which has favourites from the past, including Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. I’m sorry about the London theatre, but Holmes and Watson is an acceptable alternative.

Jonathan Shamir – University graduate

After completing my master’s in September, I decided to move to Israel as an ezrach oleh (a ‘returning citizen’) to begin a role with an organisation dealing with the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel. During this period, I was exposed to many journalists and editors and eventually applied for and landed a dream job as a news editor at Haaretz.

When I left Israel for a brief holiday at the start of March, the coronavirus was starting to making inroads in the country, but it still felt distant: after all, almost 6.5 million people had just participated in an election.

Jonathan Shamir

Within days, however, the situation had declined dramatically: lockdowns across Europe matched only by the novel and numbing experience of daily death tolls on our news cycles.

In light of all this, I had a phone call with Haaretz, where I was tactfully informed that the role would be delayed.

While this is frustrating, I know that I personally am lucky in the grand scheme of things.

Yes, the world is living through an unprecedented health crisis, but I do not have mortgage repayments hanging over me, I do not have dependants, and my life and the lives of those I care about are not
at serious risk from the virus.

I also like to believe that living through this crisis will help to recalibrate our perspectives and priorities, both individually and as a society.

Dr Michelle (Shelley) Jacobs, emergency medicine consultant

This week we’ve seen a lot of patients coming in with suspected coronavirus symptoms. There’s a feeling of uncertainty, because the national advice has been changing almost daily.

Shelly Jacobs

We’re trying to isolate patients, so anyone with respiratory symptoms goes into the respiratory areas out of the way of other patients, where the doctors and nurses and staff are all gowned-up.

There’s a massive amount of preparation going on for the inevitable increase in numbers that we’re going to be getting.

But there are problems when we get somebody coming in with issues that are not a coronavirus-related symptom, but we don’t know whether those patients are potentially carriers of coronavirus.

I had a patient last week with chest pain who later started coughing. He was not in an isolation area, but then he told us that he had been coughing for a couple of days. These things can coexist. So it just makes it really difficult to manage.

Like everyone else who is working in an NHS settiing, I don’t want to catch the virus and bring it home with me.

I know some people have been talking about staying in accommodation away from their family, but we have no idea how long it’s going to go on for and it will certainly be months, if not longer.

For now, I want to stay home with them, but like others, we’ve had to change our plans for Pesach drastically, and there is certainly a chance that I could be called in to work anyway if things are as busy as predicted.

As emergency medicine doctors this is what we have trained for. It’s a job we spent years at medical school and then speciality training to do and it feels like we’re ready.

It hasn’t hit us hard yet, but it will do soon and we have to do what we can to save lives.

Jo Pearlman, secondary school teacher

I’m gutted for my Year 11 students, because they’ve been working towards doing these exams for two years. They understand what has happened, but feel cheated. There is a plan that maybe if we come back in time, they’ll do another mock to help me decide what their final mark will be.

Jo Pearlman

I’m going to have to reassess the work that I have marked. Where I’m normally really strict I’m going to have to go back and try and be a bit more generous, because it’s their final mark.

I give them marking to push them, now I need to give them a mark that will actually reflect their ability more closely.

Will this affect children’s education long term? I think because everyone’s in the same boat, probably not.

The year groups that will be affected the most are Year 10 and 12.

They will do the exams next year, but they’re missing a whole term towards what’s going to happen at the end of 2021. As for lower year groups, there’s enough time for them to catch up.

For parents of young children, my advice would be not to worry too much. Parents are trying to self-educate their children and every little thing does help.

As for my husband, who’s a paramedic in west London, he’s working nights at the moment and has said it’s crazy out there.

The volume of calls is beyond anything he’s ever known. He’s very worried about any of us getting sick and him then having to self-isolate.

Already a significant amount of paramedics are in self-isolation, so the pressure on the system is immense.

Oliver & Joanna Vinacour, year six primary school pupil & mum

Oliver & Joanna Vinacour

Although our children are enjoying the treat of a weekday lie-in, they are still in a routine. Oliver has been given assignments to complete while his sister Chloe has regular online lessons. They even have co-ordinated break times on House Party, a group video chat app, to break up their studies.

While my daughter is older and more self-sufficient, I have stepped in to help my son out with some of his assignments.

The timing is a huge shame for the Year 6 pupils, for whom it is the last year of primary school. There are many experiences that they will miss out on: their residential trip, the school play, leavers’ assembly, and so on.

Oliver feels disappointed that he won’t have the opportunity to sit his SATS at the end of the year as he had been working very hard.

But, of course, we are trying to make the best of it. The children have managed to organise their leavers’ jumpers, while the parents have been exchanging pictures on our WhatsApp group, with the intention of making a collage.

Having that group has been a really good support.

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