Sunday, 24 May 2020

More thoughts on Covid-19 Pt 2

This is a follow-up to a posting from late last month.

A recent article by Rick in his Flip-Chart Fairy Tales reinforces the point about changing attitudes:

What we are seeing now could become a major cultural shift. Apart from those in particularly exposed occupations, most of us in the developed world, with clean water, clean living space and good sanitation, went about or daily business on the assumption that we were not likely to be infected with anything. Like all deep rooted assumptions, it was so deep rooted that infection barely crossed our minds. If we worked in city centre offices, we would get off filthy trains, go to work at our keyboards, pop out and buy a sandwich, sometimes (but not always) wash our hands and then eat the sandwich while bashing away at the keys we had been touching all day. We would then go to meetings where we would shake hands with, or even kiss, colleagues who had been doing the same thing. We knew, intellectually, that we would probably get a cold at some point during the winter yet it still came as something of an irritation when it happened. If we were unlucky enough to get flu or a stomach bug, we would respond with indignation. ‘How the hell did I get this? I bet it was that restaurant we went to at the weekend.’
That assumption has now been turned on its head. We leave the house now under the assumption that there is a good chance we will catch something and that, if we do, it is likely to be extremely unpleasant or fatal. This risk may be lower than a lot of people think, especially for younger age groups but, for the moment, that is beside the point. People fear this disease and that fear has changed our assumptions. When we leave the house, we react to people in a different way. We get a taste of what it is like to live in a dangerous neighbourhood. We look upon strangers with suspicion and are wary even of people we know. Suddenly, we see other people are a risk in a way they weren’t a few weeks ago. We applaud the bravery of essential workers because, in the course of their jobs, they are going out and mixing with people in a way that would scare the hell out of a lot of us. As we clap, many of us are thinking, ‘Thank God I don’t have to do that.’
(The whole piece is well worth reading for all too plausible scenario for our post-Covid future.)

In Radio 4's Inside Health last week, there was further evidence from Margaret McCartney (practising Scottish GP and beady-eyed analyst of PR from both pill-pushers and the government) that there was no substitute for traditional methods of tracking and tracing, shoe-leather and feet on the ground. The system as cobbled together by the governments north and south of the border is too top-down, insufficiently integrated so that GPs who should know what is going on in their area, do not.

The Times publication of the numbers of lives lost as a result of the Johnson government's delays (where has The Thunderer been for the last month?) emphasisesd the fact that the countries which have been most successful in counteracting the virus are those which applied good old-fashioned public health measures. They did not wait for technology (though it helped when they had it, as in Singapore and South Korea) but just got on with the job. Nor did they write off old or already poorly people in pursuit of some long-term "herd immunity".

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