Unfortunately, my partner is no longer talking to me, following a misunderstanding over a thermometer. She was putting it in her mouth and I was putting it in my…oh, not really. Christ, need some light relief at times like these, don’t we?

I took a trip to the Mall at Cribbs Causeway this morning to panic buy some urgent items, those being a new umbrella and a light, storm proof coat for those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. I succeeded in the former, in Boots the Chemist, but failed dismally in the latter, most of the coats in John Lewis being in the “You’re having a fucking laugh?” price range.

The Mall was as lacking in atmosphere, as per usual, and this time it was also lacking in people. A handful of staff members stood outside the Apple shop, politely reminding potential customers that all of their stores had closed down for a couple of weeks due to you know what. I didn’t hang around too long and left the store via Boots the Chemist. There seemed to be as many customers in Boots than there were in the whole of the shopping centre. It was panic as usual.

To be honest, I’m panicking, at least inside. I share their anxiety, which is part of my illness, if not the need to stock up excessively on products which will, in all likelihood, do nothing to prevent coronavirus or indeed treat it. They’re feeling helpless and desperate and worried that if they don’t acquire sufficient toilet rolls or packs of Rich Tea biscuits, they will succumb far easier to the virus. I just want to go to sleep and wake up in August when, I hope, we will be over the worst and can prepare for the depressing arrival of winter.

My sleep patterns are all over the place, ranging from light, repeatedly disturbed sleep, to deep, anxiety-ridden dreams and both are leaving me exhausted, something you probably don’t want to be when you are looking down the barrel of a very dangerous virus indeed. But my fears are nothing compared to many others.

We don’t just have an epidemic in coronavirus; we have an epidemic in loneliness. I know that from my experience of working in the third sector and I know it from people I know. For the lonely, this must be terrifying. I know how valuable it is to elderly people in particular to meet with and talk to people. The idea of something like four months of not seeing another soul and still living with the fear that this virus might kill you is bound to be awful. Add that to the worry that you might fall ill, or even just fall, and that no one will find you and you have a perfect template for desperate levels of stress and anxiety.

So, Covid-19 has the power to make us very ill and even kill us and on top of that many of us are getting anxious and depressed. Do not underestimate the power of the mind to make people even more ill.

Whether it’s the newspaper headlines – “Eight million people will end up in hospital this year” – or it’s the mixed messages from doctors and scientists, we so need some clarity now. And we need leadership. And unity, from politicians at the top to panic-stricken shoppers in Asda.