Imagine being nine years old , getting up in your cold house, going down to be given a meagre breakfast of milk and toast, sitting in the front room and watching the news for 20 minutes. Seeing figures in hospitals wearing those masks that look like the ones welders used to wear. Seeing them covered from head to toe in dark blue plastic uniforms with bright yellow gloves that reach up to the elbows. Hearing talk of 70,000 people dying so far. Seeing a learned man putting forward that opening the schools will put hundreds of thousands at dire risk. Seeing the footage of ambulances in long lines outside hospitals and the reporter getting more and more visibly upset as she details the fatality numbers for that area. Then, realising that your house is actually just up the road from that very hospital.
Then, you ask mum why you have to go to school today and her saying "don't worry Charlie it will all be fine, they have bubbles for you to be safe in". Then pulling on your old and faded coat and picking up your school bag and setting off on the 15 minute walk through the ice and the snow, left shoe leaking because it is way past its usual life time. Noticing how the roads are very quiet for this time of the morning. Walking by one of those headlines boards outside a newspaper shop that has written across it "scientists plead with Government not to open schools" then wondering if Jason will be in today, Jason is funny and always cheers everyone up. Jason is a year higher at school, Charlie wants to be like Jason one day.
The other kids are wandering along in groups of three or four, none of them is talking about the Covid stuff, most of them are too busy talking about what will go on at school today, if they will have to come in tomorrow. Charlie hopes that all his friends will turn up. He looks at the sky, clear and blue, going to be cold all day. Quite a few of the kids are coughing and spluttering but they ignore it and just keep chatting away.
He gets to school and a teacher is at the gates directing them straight to their classrooms, they are not to gather on the playground, they are to be told some "important" stuff by their form teachers right after the bell. Charlie spots Lydia and smiles, she smiles back, they have always got on well, sometimes they meet outside school, Lydia's dad drives a big truck, he's just come back from a place called Ostend. He was not very well this morning and got angry after phoning the doctors, they wont see him, told him to ring 111. Lydia is not in the same class as Charlie.
The bell rings and form 1C is sitting quietly, 28 of them, wondering what all the fuss is about. Miss Claridge tells them about their "bubble" and how very important it is that they do not burst it by mixing closely with any of the other bubbles. Lydia and Jason are in other bubbles. Charlie is starting to feel very worried. Miss Claridge is wearing one of those black face masks, None of the kids are. None of the windows will open due to the problems the school has been having with vandalism. His left foot is cold and damp.
The Headmistress (Mrs Hayburn) opens the door and asks Miss Claridge to step outside for a minute, she tells the kids to sit quietly until she returns. Mrs Hayburn tells Miss Claridge that Mr Wright has called in saying that he has to shield because his mother has been told she has the virus, she is 72 years of age, it does not look good. The school now only has 52% of available staff on site. It is no longer possible to safely keep the kids in today. They will have to go home. For at least one week. Mrs Hayburn was in France 10 days ago and only just now is starting to feel a persistent headache and rather run down. She felt unwell in the staff room earlier on. She will be glad to get home.
The kids are very pleased when told to go home. They form a huge queue at the bus stop, the single decker that runs this route will not hold them all. It is quickly crammed full, not an inch to be found. The noise is ridiculous and the driver soon gives up trying to make a difference. There is lots of sneezing and coughing. And giggling.
When Charlie gets home the news is still on, a man in an expensive suit is saying that all schools must remain open, "education is vital", this is followed by another old man saying how dangerous it is to have children in schools. Charlie is puzzled. His mum is on the phone, the pub where she works will not be reopening. The next news item is about 300 kids being abducted by people with machine guns somewhere in Africa.
Charlie wishes he could have spent some time with Jason and Lydia.
Twelve days on, Lydia's dad is dead, Mrs Hayburn is on a ventilator, the unit where she is being cared for only has 68% staff attendance, they are wearing bin liners , TV crews are gathered outside the hospital gates. Charlie's mum has fallen behind with the rent.
It comes out that the Government is talking of sacking teachers who have closed schools. Charlie does not like this. Those teachers at his school are friendly, more like mates. School is good, hot food and games of football and cricket. Charlie does not have a computer to keep in touch. He feels very sad, Lydia's dad was funny. He misses her.
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Society not Economy.