Yesterday, I ventured outside for the first time since the lockdown began. At first it felt like when you’re a child doing something naughty. I was heading to the doctor’s surgery to collect my prescription scripts and then going to the pharmacy to get them filled, but it still felt like I shouldn’t be out on the street.
The way people have reacted to the lockdown says a lot. The vast majority of people have closed their businesses and are following government advice. But there was this one shop on the high street, it’s been a florist for as long as I’ve lived in Northern Ireland, and now they’ve covered over the “florist” sign above the door and written “hardware” then they’ve printed off a very self-important piece of paper claiming they are keyworkers and that their shop is an essential business. Now, I actually needed some hardware because our central heating isn’t working properly, so I stepped inside, assuming they had changed what they were selling in response to the crisis.
There was no hardware for sale in this shop. It was just flowers and decorative plant pots. The proprietor was standing 2 feet from someone having a long chat with them, completely ignoring social distancing rules. Honestly people like that are the reason this virus has spread so badly throughout Europe. “The rules don’t apply to me” types. I’ll have to get the thing to fix the heating from Amazon and increase the pressure on our postal workers instead (sorry Mr. Postman). It’s irresponsible of the florist to pretend they’re a hardware store though because it increased the time I was out mixing, it wastes customers’ time, and it means people who are asymptomatic have more unnecessary places to spread their germs.
Anyway, when I got to the pharmacy, they only let 3 customers in at one time so I stood outside the door, 3 metres away from the next person in line, until it was my turn. Then when I got inside, there was tape on the floor around the counter, with 1, 2 and 3 next to these lines, to tell you where to stand. Behind the counter was one of my usual pharmacists and someone in “civvy street” clothes, who it turned out was a pharmacy lecturer from the University who had been drafted into the front lines.
It’s a sign of the times that they couldn’t fill my prescription for my brown inhaler. Usually these are readily available and easy to re-order. But they had plenty of blue inhalers (relievers for asthma attacks). People’s priorities with the panic buying are just odd. Although I suspect that anyone with the slightest whiff of asthma is trying their best to take their inhaler correctly right now because asthma + coronavirus = baddddd.
So anyway, I could clearly see that they were short-handed and it occurred to me, I used to work in a pharmacy for 6 months about half a dozen years ago, I have a really good understanding of procedure and I know my medications quite well, and I could help with this coronavirus outbreak. I asked the pharmacist if she knew of any list of reserve pharmacy staff and she gave me an email to contact. So when my maternity leave ends next week, I am going to be an on-call pharmacy assistant. All GP surgeries are urging patients to nominate pharmacies to collect prescriptions for them now, instead of patients going to the GP to collect their own scripts, and that means a LOT more work for pharmacies. They have never been so busy. And that’s just the community pharmacies. Hospital pharmacies are also busy, and they will also need people to help.
My husband isn’t thrilled. He doesn’t think it’s very smart for me to put myself on the front lines, especially with my asthma, but someone has to, and I just feel like I need to do this. Honestly I think he just doesn’t want to be alone with the baby all day. It’s all hands on deck right now if our population and our health service is going to make it through this crisis. The infection rates are not very bad in Northern Ireland, yet, but they will be. We’re not being as stupid as they were in England at the weekend, but it’s coming.