Norfolk MP describes what it’s like to be self-isolated

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant

This is a worrying time. A lot of people will be thinking of their elderly friends and relatives and working out how to stay in good health in the face of the new coronavirus.

The coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation. It calls for dramatic action, at home and abroad, of the kind not normally seen in peacetime.

Why? Because we need to protect life. We don’t want to lose loved ones before their time. We don’t want to see suffering. We don’t want to risk getting this wrong.

So the government has set out a comprehensive plan and is asking us all to play our part. It’s guided by science. This is the right approach. As the chief scientist has explained, by following the advice, we can protect ourselves, protect others, and protect the NHS.

There is a curve to this disease – although it’s new and unknown – and it is paramount that we do everything possible to squash the peak of the curve. If we succeed, we will be better able to look after the NHS and put it in a stronger position to respond in the months to come, and make sure it is better equipped to offer better care to those people for whom this disease has more chance of being fatal.

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Please follow the clear advice given on the government websites.

But – avoid social contact and non-essential travel; shield the most vulnerable for twelve weeks; self-isolate for days if you have symptoms – isn’t this really hard, some will say?

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I was asked to self-isolate after a colleague was confirmed with Covid-19. I was worried about how to do it. Luckily I felt well, and still do. But we’ve got two small children, normally at nursery, and two busy jobs – how would we handle all our responsibilities? If I did get ill, how would I avoid copping a cuddle from a boisterous three-year-old, and passing it on to him? How would I protect others at work when I do a public job?

My husband and I decided to try to make it as positive as possible. We set up an exercise bike so we could stay healthy while we didn’t have symptoms. We thought of games and learning we could do indoors with our children. We aimed to be considerate of friends, family and colleagues. We found that working from home by conference call was manageable in our jobs in the short term. I held my usual constituency advice surgery by phone.

I am fortunate to be in good health with great family and friends. Others may not be. As an MP, I want to support constituents in these troubling times. We are blessed in Norwich with charities, churches, community groups and more that can help people including by keeping in touch when you are staying at home.

I’m using my own webpage and social media feeds to pass on the most up to date, accurate and straightforward information about this disease and the public response.

I pay tribute to all those working tirelessly in the NHS to help tackle this virus.

I’d also like to thank any manufacturers in Norwich that may be able to respond to the call to make essential ventilators.

I know it is going to be difficult for many businesses too, given what people are being asked to do.

The next few months will look very different. It will be a huge national effort. But we can do this, and it’s right to do it.

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