Blog: Learning to live with coronavirus

Jessica Dunsdon with her mum, son and dog
Credit: Jess Dunsdon

Since my dad died, spending time with my mum has been incredibly important to me. It's made me realise how little we appreciate our loved ones until they they're no longer here. Statistically speaking, it's shocking how little time we have left. My mum is 70. On average, we see each other four to five times a year because we live in different countries.

Given the average life expectancy of a woman is 82, that could mean I'll only have 60 more times to see her. How scary is that? So you can imagine my delight to have her fly over to Jersey last Monday and spend two wonderful weeks together again.On the basis of how my colleague Clare's blog was received when she wrote about her recent trip back to the UK, I am fully expecting a barrage of criticism on social media. I can hear the furious taps from the keyboard warriors now: "How could you let your 'at risk' mother take a flight?", "You selfish woman for putting her and islanders at risk", "You have contributed to the risk of bringing Covid into the island", "It's people like you who are putting our health service at risk". Risk, risk, risk. 

I can understand the concerns and everyone has a unique approach when it comes to managing risk. Depending on your own circumstances, you'll have a different view on what risks you personally find acceptable. Jersey's government will NEVER please everyone on this one. Their approach is to 'delay, contain and shield the virus.' They have decided, on the basis of the scientific evidence, there needs to be a balance here. In order to mitigate other harmful effects (irreparable damage to the economy and long term damage to people's mental health), we have to learn to live alongside Covid.A former Supreme Court judge, Lord Sumption, criticised the UK's lockdown rules for being too draconian. He said "You cannot imprison an entire population. It is entirely disproportionate. It is up to us to decide what risks to run with our own bodies, not the state, and that those who do not want to run the risk of meeting infected persons could voluntarily self-isolate and the rest of us can then get on with our lives. We have never lived in a risk-free world. We're never going to live in a risk-free world. We are going to have to live with Covid-19 because it's going to be around for a long time until a vaccine is found." My mother takes a very similar view. She is a remarkably healthy 70-year-old. She lives in an area that has had no Covid deaths whatsoever, despite having a significant elderly population. She has been very careful managing her own risk with diligent hand washing, social distancing and getting deliveries where she can. On travelling over to Jersey, she did not take public transport, wore a mask and gloves and had a whole row to herself on the plane. She was very impressed at how her arrival to Jersey airport was managed, and took the coronavirus test, which came back negative 22 hours later. Within that time, she stayed at our home and did not go out. In short, she managed the risk for the sake of herself and others, while also living her life. 

And you know what, life is full of risks we all have to manage. According to insurance companies, the risk of being killed in a car accident is one in 200, in a train crash one in 65,000 and a plane crash one in 7.6 million. And other very real but conceptually remote risks are things like climate change, nuclear war and famine. But because the pandemic is here, it's all our worried minds are focusing on. That's not a bad thing, it's just that we need to put the risk in context, understand how individually we can mitigate it, and work out how we can live our lives while it's here.

Credit: Jessica Dunsdon

For what it's worth, I support her decision, not least because the effect of lockdown on her emotional well-being has been huge. She is still coming to terms with dad's death from just a few years ago, and so being totally alone for the past four months has been her worst nightmare.

She told me she hadn't had a hug since she last saw us in December. That broke my heart. It's made me re-evaluate the next 60 visits (hopefully more) we have left together. 

More hugs, more love, more gratitude and more hand washing.