OPINION: Humanity has to prevail in our battle with Covid rules

PUBLISHED: 11:07 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:07 24 September 2020

Rachel Moore calls for us to think of those living at home alone or those suffering from long-term medical problems who may be cut off from people because of coronavirus guidlines

Rachel Moore calls for us to think of those living at home alone or those suffering from long-term medical problems who may be cut off from people because of coronavirus guidlines


We’ve got to keep a check on reality and humanity in the face of coronavirus rules, says Rachel Moore

Despite the best efforts of TV drama and behind-the-scenes documentaries, hospitals remain sterilised centres of fear and dread to most people.

Lonely places to be at the best of times, being hospitalised during a pandemic with a ban on the comfort of visits from loved ones feels more barbaric than careful.

Obsessed by Covid, we forget those long-stay patients being treated for the zillion other conditions and diseases that attack the human body and mind denied the company of their family and friends for weeks, sometimes months, on end.

Rules are rules and visitors risk spreading ‘the virus’ we’re told, so that’s that. No grey areas. However much a distraught family or patient might plead.

We’ve all felt upset for those coronavirus victims, dying with a nurse holding their hand, taking their last breath without seeing the faces of those they love.

But, every day, sick and desperate people are being delivered the worst news they can hear alone, with no one to hug, no shoulder to cry on and, most importantly, no one to share the burden and help cushion the blow. Because rules are rules.

No grey areas or flexibility are causing unnecessary suffering and a cruel and heartless feeling – the polar opposite of caring. Even if there is no Covid in the hospital, risks are still risks, staff say.

Care talked about today feels perfunctory. It is about looking after people and making sure boxes on the end-of-bed charts are ticked. It’s doesn’t feel like making people feel cared for, which is very different.

Ticking a patient’s chart – like cleaners do in a McDonald’s loo – demonstrates to the authorities that they have done their work as expected. But the person in the bed isn’t made of porcelain. Caring means so much more.

Less than two months ago, my close friend’s wonderful mother was alone in a London hospital when doctors told her there was nothing to stop an aggressive tumour they had discovered rampaging through her brain.

She had known something was wrong when she went into that scan but had no idea of the death sentence about to be delivered or the presence of a tumour.

Her daughter, her only child, begged and pleaded with medics to allow her or her father to be with her mother when she heard the results of the scan. Doctors were moved and pleaded her case to the nursing staff. Absolutely not, they said. Because of Covid. Rules are rules.

What had begun days earlier with forgetfulness and the odd stumble, was a rapidly-spreading mass butterflied on both sides of her brain. She had months to live at best, she was told, alone.

I’m convinced the trauma for those three separated people posed more risk to health than Covid ever would have, to them or anyone else in that hospital, but no one was prepared to bend the rules, or act in a more humane way, acknowledging that this was a once-of-a-lifetime situation that required sensitivity, love and reassurance.

She lived just five more weeks.

This scenario is standard. The comfort of a nurse’s hand, if they have time, is no substitute.

It’s difficult for medics too, used to breaking bad news and comforting patients during their times of need, but not usually when they are alone, then leaving them alone to move on to the next patient..

The fear of Covid is pushing us all apart and imposing an unprecedented solitariness for so many people, and it’s just going to get worse.

Living with Covid means we all have to get used to our own company, facing life alone and doing things solo.

Working from home has been a boon for many, mainly those with families, cutting out travelling time to get home stuff done.

But for people who live alone, every day deprived of human contact and the stimulus of colleagues has become a nightmare. We are made to thrive on contact with others. We are pack animals, not solitary beings.

The concept of long-term WFH through the winter is a terrifying, and devastating, thought for so many lone livers, now the novelty of the dreaded Zoom and Teams meetings has long worn off and real isolation looms.

People who boasted they were far more productive at home in May now crave the ‘normal’ of office routine, chat and colleagues’ quirkiness.

We might not be able to change a hospital’s rules, but we can make sure our solo-living friends are OK, feel included and have plans. It’s going to be a long winter.

Keeping it local: Next week I’m going ‘off grid’ for a holiday away from it all after a long summer at work. A digital detox, immersed in fresh air, nature and peace and quiet.

This time last year, we flew off to the French Pyrenees. Next week, it’s a mile-and-a-half mile drive to a Broads boatyard to board a traditional sailing cruiser to explore the Norfolk Broads from the water. Just the two of us, and the dog.

My sons think it’s hilarious that I’m setting off on ‘holiday’ from the village where we lived for 13 years.

But why would I spend my money anywhere else in a pandemic than the beautiful county where tens of thousands of people flock every year to marvel, and I’ve never really bothered?

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