Coronavirus's priceless gift
The freesias that my daughter sent me are long dead, but the clematis in my garden is in full flower, and the flowers smell of vanilla. It has taken over six weeks for my sense of smell to return. But I was only mildly ill. For many people, the road to recovery is much longer.
Initially, coronavirus was thought to be a respiratory illness causing cough, fever and breathing difficulties. But the range of symptoms that the virus produces is now known to be much wider. Headache, muscle pains, fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea are all now recognised as symptoms of coronavirus infection. There is growing evidence that it disturbs the blood clotting mechanism and can trigger heart attacks or strokes. It also seems to have caused renal or liver failure in some patients. And there are worrying reports of long-term problems such as a weakened heart or immune system.
It's also difficult to diagnose. Some very sick people don't have a cough or fever, or obvious breathing difficulties. Some people's only symptom is sudden loss of the senses of smell and/or taste: this is now regarded as a definitive indicator of coronavirus infection in people without other symptoms. Most worryingly, some people don't get any symptoms at all, and can therefore spread the virus widely without knowing it. Tracing asymptomatic people is now known to be crucial for controlling the spread of the virus.
So coronavirus is a slippery customer. But we are learning more about it all the time. Eventually, I believe, there will be a treatment, and perhaps a vaccine. Then we can return to something like our normal social selves again.
The virus and the measures taken to contain it are causing untold grief and misery. But there is an unexpected benefit. Under lockdown, the air has cleared and nature has re-colonised our empty spaces. Deadly though it is, coronavirus has brought us a priceless gift - a glimpse of what a pollution-free natural world can be like, and the opportunity to rethink our relationship with nature. We should use this gift wisely, designing new ways of working, producing and caring, so that when the time comes for our economy to wake from its induced slumber, the beauty that has been restored through our collective sacrifice can stay with us for ever.
We will return to our empty spaces again: but this time, I hope, with love and consideration for the plants, birds and animals with whom we share them. And also for our own future selves, and those who will live here when we are gone. Lower pollution levels and greater diversity of wildlife benefit humans too. There is so much loss: but there can also be healing, not only for those who like me have survived the virus, but for the world.
Surely this would be the best memorial for those who are losing their lives.
The scent of flowers
The broken contract
In the countries of the old
We must avoid repeating the same mistakes in our economic response to the coronavirus - The New European
Photograph by me.