THE GOVERNMENT extended the coronavirus lockdown, in its present form, for “at least” another three weeks last Thursday.

But while the isolation period presents a challenge to everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing, there are opportunities too, says Dr Ed Wernick, Farnham’s Covid-19 lead GP.

Dr Wernick told the Herald: “One of the things that’s been on my mind this week has been mental health and physical health, and what we can do. Although we’re in a terrible situation, what are the positives?

“There are lots of people who used to have a long commute – so how can you switch up exercise for your usual commute?

“People are spending more time at home – so how do we make that quality time with partners and family? Sitting down to have a family meal: it’s such a simple thing but busy families with lots of evening clubs, long commutes and jobs with long hours made that not possible before.

“And then also, with this slower pace of life, can people reconnect with themselves, practice meditation, mindfulness?

“There are lots of things we will look back on and think there were some great opportunities to slow down and be able to concentrate on some of the things we lose touch with in our busy lives.

“Just on the road I live on, I see more people on foot or on bike going past than in a car now, which is an incredibly healthy thing to see.

“It’s obviously for bad reasons, but there is some good out there. People need to look after themselves and take the opportunities where they can.”

As for the possible relaxing of lockdown measures next month, Dr Wernick added this “is not all or nothing”, and GPs expect to see “graduated steps” rather than a complete ending of the current isolation period.

“I’m imagining there are trigger points for relaxing and trigger points for escalating again, and I don’t think we’ve seen all of those laid out by the government,” he said.

“They are talking about schools re-opening and then you may have different industry sectors allowed to return to work, too. But I also think there’s a strong argument for having a localised approach.

“The broader needs will be different in rural Cornwall as opposed to inner-city London, and I don’t think having an absolute standard approach everywhere would be right. The government has been a proponent for localised healthcare for a long time, and I think the same for Covid.

“As we step down, we will need to have new terms. So what does full lockdown mean, as opposed to the next tier down of relaxing, where different people will be able to go to work, but you still practice the social distancing, the hand washing and so forth?

“We’re still going to need to keep a very tight control for the vulnerable groups, the high risk and the very high risk, so I think it’s going to mean different things for different people.

“But certainly for parents and children at school and other groups, we need to need to find something that’s sustainable – balanced against health risks.

“I think we’ll start seeing the beginning of that in three weeks’ time, as they said – but what that will look like, I don’t think we have the exact detail yet.”

Dr Wernick added an outbreak of suspected coronavirus cases in the area’s care homes has “stabilised” in the past week – and thanks to the outstanding efforts of volunteers (see Page 16), Farnham’s care homes and GPs have ample supplies of vital personal protection equipment.

* What would you like to ask Dr Wernick? Email your questions to [email protected]