Tuesday 30 June 2020

Day 106 of self-isolation - Death or butter?

Death or butter?

Hermann Göring, announced in a speech: "Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat."

Now that global deaths have passed 500,000 and global infections have passed 10,000,000, what of the future?

We can hope that the IFR (infection fatality rate) will be less in future than it was in the past, now that we have some treatments that have proven effectiveness. We can hope that awareness of the benefits of mask-wearing will reduce the rate of spread of the virus. And we can hope that vaccines become available soon, such as the Oxford University vaccine, which could be available in millions of doses in autumn.

But we're still taking casualties in this war - Covid-19 is killing some 5000 people per day. Globally infection numbers are rising - India, North and South America are all going the wrong way.

Europe had got the virus under control. This was done by a strick lock down, supported by citizens who understood the need for it. And now, the countries of Europe are opening up - cautiously.

But in other countries, a strange idea has taken hold. This idea has several aspects.

    The pandemic is a hoax

    The death numbers are fake

    There are simple cures for Covid-19

    Wearing a mask is a sign of cowardice

    Getting back to work is more important than health.

I'm going to discuss the fifth of these, because the first four aren't worth wasting breath on.

In every country, the economy has taken a beating. This is because of the natural wish of people to stay alive. But in Western countries, this is really just a distribution problem. Forecasts for 2020 are of a 10% drop in GDP. Now remember that, in normal years, GDP growth is 2 or 3%. So, obviously, the total GDP has dropped back to where it was 3 or 5 years ago.

Even if you take a 20% drop in GDP, and assume historic growth of a mere 2%, that just means that GDP is where it was in 2010. But how many people in Western countries were starving, unable to pay bills, going bankrupt in 2010? Some, yes, but not so many that it was a crisis.

Some countries have addressed this distribution problem. In the UK, for example, people on "furlough" from work, get 80% of their salary paid. In the USA, the main payment was to companies, who might or might not pass it on to their workforce (probably not). Similar schemes have been used elsewhere. So it is possible to solve this temporary distribution problem so that the 20% drop in GDP is shared more evenly, and we go back to the standard of living we had in 2010.

But it isn't "health or economy". Because as long as the pandemic is raging, there will be neither. In the UK, consumers are being urged to "spend spend spend" to get the economy moving again. No - people aren't that stupid. As long as the pandemic rages, people are going to be careful. Careful with their health (except for a small percentage of people who think they're invulnerable) and careful with their money. Because we've just had one major economic shock and you can't be sure that another one is coming along.

So, even if you think that getting back to work is more important than health, let me tell you one of the few things that I've actually learned from Facebook. On Facebook, I have met people with all sorts of health problems, both physical and mental. It has made me aware that of all the various pieces of good luck that I have, my good health is the most valuable. I have a few very minor health problems, but I've encountered so many people with significant health problems, that crucially affect their way of life.

Maybe young people don't realise this, because when you're young, you're probably in very good health, and all the people you know are also. But when you get to the middle of your life, you start to become aware of the fragility of health.

While the pandemic is raging, can we have an economic recovery? As the daily death numbers grow, will people still be willing to congregate in bars and concerts?

Is it possible to actually choose between good health and good economy?

I don't think so. You have to have both.

Monday 29 June 2020

Day 105 of self-isolation - A small piece of optimism.

A small piece of optimism.

Maybe we'll be seeing lower death rates in future. Back in March/April, healthcare systems were hit, out of the blue, by a tsunami of Covid-19 cases. This was all new. What to do?

Now it's late June, three months later, and we know a lot more than we did then. We know what people are most at risk of fatality, and we know some treatments. I am reliably informed that some hospitals are using hydroxychloroquine, and we have dexamethasone, a treatment that has passed double-blind clinical trials. We also have found that statins can help, and vitamin D.

The early shortages of testing, PPE and ventilators are now past. So I would expect Covid-19 survival to be rather better than the 0.7% or so that we've seen in the past. And let's hope that there are further treatments developed and tested. And we all hope that the Oxford University vaccine becomes available in the autumn.

But the virus hasn't finished yet.

Worldwide, we just passed ten million cases and half a million deaths.

The USA daily death numbers are down to 512, the UK down to 100. I had wished that by now, the UK would be down to dozens. But neither did I get the bicycle I wished for until I went to college.

The USA is on a strong uptrend in cases, especially in large states such as Texas, Florida and California. Also some small states like Arizona. This has led to a re-application of control measures, but they're a bit half-hearted, and there's a big fight going on as to whether these measures should be voluntary or compulsory.

In the UK, we're supposed to be opening up on July 4, but this got widely anticipated, leading to big crowds on the beaches, and we could see another wave of infections.

And by now, you know that in Mexico and all countries south, the pandemic is raging unchecked. That's today's problem, but in a few months, focus will shift to the huge populations of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Sunday 28 June 2020

Day 104 of self-isolation - What is going on in Texas?

What is going on in Texas?

The most obvious answer is, a pandemic of Covid-19, as you can see from the graph.

Now some details.

Yesterday was the 15th day of record hospitalisations in Texas; there's 4000 Texans in hospital with Covid-19. The Texas Medical Center’s intensive care capacity is at 100%. Texas is not far from the point at which the healthcare system is swamped. The current unused capacity in Texas, is 12,600 beds and 1,300 ICU beds.

The medical director of critical care medicine at the Houston Methodist hospital system, said they were managing for now, “but if this trajectory is what it was the last 10 days when we literally had a tripling of our cases — we can’t do that for a couple weeks at all.”

Healthcare authorities are thinking about temporary hospitals. At the Austin Convention Center (starting from mid-July), at tents, stadiums and hotels.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 USA boss Pence is claiming "remarkable progress" - well, that's true from the point of view of the virus, which has progressed from 20k new cases per day, to 40k. And just to pour gasoline on the fire, Pence pointed out that the constitution guarantees freedom of speech and assembly, and it would be illegal to ban large gatherings of people. Nobody would wish him to become a victim of the virus, and nobody would claim that he is in the pay of the virus, but it would be nice if he masked himself.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has hit "pause" on the reopening of business. "This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread". John Wayne rides again. Elective surgery is cancelled in Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties — home to the cities of San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Austin.

Abbott has banned local jurisdictions from making masks compulsory. I'm getting tired of the story of different levels of US government giving contradictory orders. The CDC says "mask", the president says "not me". The state governor says "not compulsory", town mayors say "must mask." Harris County says "mask or be fined $1000". Judge Hidalgo says "mask or be fined", Lt. Gov Patrick said "that's government overreach". It really makes me want to bang heads together. No wonder Americans don't know what to do. They aren't just getting mixed messages, they're getting government officials contradicting each other.

Abbott said "I urge all Texans to do their part to help contain the spread by washing their hands regularly, wearing a mask, and practicing social distancing."  Greg - make it compulsory. Take this seriously.

For me, this is very simple, it's a health and safety thing. Restaurants don't have the freedom to have rat-infested kitchens, people don't have the freedom to drive while drunk. Why? Because doing so can injure other people, just like not wearing a mask can lead to other people getting infected.

Every county in Texas, every town and maybe even every street seems to have different rules, and groups that are pro and anti the rules. There's a group called "Freedom to breathe" who claim that going unmasked is a human right, just like drink-driving.

This is springtime for Coronavirus.

A lot of the spread is in bars, so the governor has closed the bars. Restaurants have been told to go from 75% capacity to 50%.

And Texans travelling to New York will have to endure a two week quarantine. New York went through this ordeal once, they don't want to have to do it all again.

Information about Covid-19

Meanwhile some more information about the disease. There has been a study on the use of statins, which is a drug very commonly available and in use by 10% of the UK population. 1219 Covid-19 patients were given statins, and 5.2% of them died. But of the group not given statins, 9.4% died. Statins are already well tested and rarely have negative side effects, and they are an effective suppressant of inflammation. They cost about £0.03 per dose.

On the transmission of the disease - a study has shown that 40% of transmissions are from pre-symptomatic people. So they don't know they are infected, but can spread the virus. That's why we should all mask.

If you do get infected, most people will recover (or not even know that they are infected). But if you get it badly, you will (on average) be in hospital a week after the first symptoms, and if you get it really badly, the average time to death is two weeks after symptoms.

Saturday 27 June 2020

Day 103 of self-isolation - Florida


As soon as the Florida governor DeSantis announced "Beaches open" several weeks ago, I added Florida to the states I was tracking.

Today, Florida had 8942 new cases. Miami is now requiring masks, with a $500 fine for non-compliance (check your local laws, things are changing rapidly). But has the governor mandated masks statewide?  No. Has he rolled back the reopening? No. He's going to leave it to the next level of government down - sound familiar?

Look at the graph for Florida. It is scary.

No-one wants to grasp the nettle. And when you delegate these decisions all the way down to individuals, people will make a decision based on their own needs, not on the needs of the community.

Trump says America is doing too much testing. Crazy talk. Testing tells you where the problem is. Don't you want to know where the problem is? How else can you stamp on the fire?

And at a time when Americans need health care more than ever, and so many Americans are unemployed and have no job coverage, is it really the right thing to do, to strike down the Affordable Care Act? And when there are a ton of people with long-term damage from Covid-19, is it right to pull away pre-existing coverage?

Dr Falci says "Something is not working". He's right. You need to see who is infected, and isolate people who are infected. You need to mask, mask, mask. Masking is not a political statement, it's an IQ test.

I get that people need to get back to work. I really get that. I understand why Americans want the economy to get back. But I don't understand why people can't mask on the street, mask in buses, mask on metros, mask in the workplace. It's a nobrainer.

It's not about freedom. Healthcare workers mask - why? Because they wouldn't be safe if they didn't (and even with masking they aren't 100% safe). Seatbelts are compulsory. You aren't allowed to drink and drive. Don't talk about freedom - you already gave up your freedom to drive your car over the speed limit. And please don't try to argue "If you want to stay safe from people driving cars too fast, stay home".

And looking at the big picture - Brasil is still the country suffering the most, with 1055 deaths er day and 47,000 new cases per day. But America is at the same level in new cases at 47,000. Some good news (by which I mean not as bad as historically) deaths are 642. But the upturn in new cases (which started in mid-June) is likely to be followed by an upturn in deaths per day, a couple of weeks from now.

In the UK, new cases are 1380, yesterday's deaths were 184. So we're still in the 100-200 range, and I'd hoped that we'd be under 100 by now.

The weather in England is great - hot and sunny. But that means big crowds, cheek by jowl on the beaches. We might suffer for this a few weeks down the line. The only hope is that the virus is less infectious outside than indoors.

South of the Rio Grande is still looking dreadful, in pretty much every country there. Brasil and Mexico are now the top two countries for death numbers.

But India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are climbing fast, and I predict that at some point, maybe a few weeks down the line, they will become plague-pits.

Friday 26 June 2020

Day 102 of self-isolation - trouble in Bournemouth

Trouble in Bournemouth

Today, the USA hit 2.5 million cases, 1/8 million deaths.

Navajo nation has hit 2000 deaths per million, more than any US State, more than any country in the world. Why? I don't know. There's only 174 thousand people, but 347 of them are now dead. Someone should be looking into that.

South America is bad too. Mexico had 947 deaths yesterday, and Brazil 1180. The other South American countries are likewise bad, with a smaller population base.

In the UK, the weather is hot hot hot. 32 C, 90 F. That might not sound like a lot to some people, but in the UK, it's HUGE. So, people went to the beach. What's wrong with that?

Everything was closed. We're not opening up until Benedict Arnold Day, which for people who don't know is July 4th. And here's what happened in Bournemouth, a lovely seaside resort, I've been there. The hotels, pubs and restaurants were closed. The various attractions were closed. The car parks were closed or full. Cars blocked the streets, emergency services were banjaxed.

And the toilets were closed. Nowhere to "go".

So what do you do when the toilets are closed? I'd rather not tell you, do your own research. The town was packed. Twice as many people as they get on a normal holiday weekend, and the town wasn't ready for it. The beach was all there was. The beach was packed from the sea wall to the waterline.

The town council declared an emergency. People were cheek by jowl on the beach, so much for social distancing. And masking? Optional. And, of course, it wasn't just Bournemouth, it was every seaside resort.

We don't need Republicans and Democrats. We have plenty of idiots who haven't even heard of American politics.

Thursday 25 June 2020

Day 101 of self-isolation - Trouble in the Americas

Trouble in the Americas

Brasil, 1103 deaths yesterday. Mexico, 793 and the other Latin American countries are also looking bad. So the pandemic still rages south of the Rio Grande. Bolsinaro, president of Brazil, has been ordered by the high court, to wear a mask in public. But will he? We'll see, but I'm guessing he's even more stupid than we thought.

Things are getting bad in the USA (806 deaths). Arizona, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, have all reported their highest Coronavirus hospital admissions. And there will be more to come. In Florida, hospitals are reporting that their ITU is at 100% capacity.

But I have a suggestion. If you can reduce the number of cases by slowing down on testing, as Trump suggested, you could slow down the number of hospitalisations by closing some of the hospitals.

Only kidding, Don't slow down testing, because that's how you discover that you have a flare-up to handle, and don't close hospitals - indeed, state governors should seriously look at their hospital capacity, and investigate whether they need to build temporary hospitals like we did with the "Nightingale" hospitals

New York state is going to have restrictions on travellers from the states that can't control their infections.  New York won their battle against the virus, and don't want to fight it all over again.

In Europe, there is also a movement towards restricting travellers from the USA. We don't want your infected tourists.

There is still an attitude with too many Americans that it's their right to infect as many of their fellow-Americans as they want to, and with the president going unmasked and organising Covid-19 parties at Tulsa and Phoenix, with more to come, the pandemic in America has turned from being a fight against the virus, to a fight between the Rs and the Ds.

The virus doesn't give a toss. It will spread without regard to attitude or political leaning. But it will especially spread in large gatherings in indoor venues where masking is rare and social distancing is not done.

Good news on the vaccines. There are now 13 vaccines around the world in human trials, including the Oxford University vaccine that we hope will be available late summer 2020, and the Imperial College vaccine which will take several months longer. Maybe some time in 2021.

Meanwhile, the economy. The IMF has forecast that the UK GDP will decline by 10.2% in 2020, and recover by 6.3% in 2021. The USA, they predict, will decline by 8% in 2020, and recover by 4.3% in 2021. I think that they're optimistic; also that unemployment will be bad for a long time.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

Day 100 of self-isolation - Pubs to open!

Pubs will open on July 4th

This is my 100th blog of self-isolation, and what better way to celebrate a century than a trip to the pub?

Non-Brits won't understand the significance of this. It's not the fact that it's "Benedict Arnold Day" (in the USA they also celebrate the attempt by the patriot Arnold to foil the dastardly plot by the traitor Washington). It's the pubs.

The pub is the quintessence of Britain. It's not just a place to get drunk. It's a place where you meet your friends, have a meal, and maybe a glass or two. The closing of the pubs told us that this pandemic is serious; the announcement of the reopening was greeted in parliament by "Hallelujah!"

As I predicted, the social distancing rule is reduced to one meter. But that has to be together with a "mitigation", which might be a screen or a face covering. I suspect that the "mitigation" will be widely ignored. Restaurants are also to open, table service only (no crowds at buffets). Hairdressers will also open. There will be new "health and safety" restrictions, to accommodate the additional dangers of Covid-19.

How can we do this? It's because Covid-19 cases are down and falling. They aren't as low as I would like, but we need to balance the health issue with the economic issue.

Deaths are also down and still falling.From a peak of 1000 per day, to about 100. Again, still too many, far to many, but hopefully they will continue to fall.

I hope the Oxford University Vaccine works, and is available in September.

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Day 99 of self-isolation - one meter distance

One meter distance.

It won't work.

When you make the rule two meters, people really are separated. But if you are one meter away from me, I can reach out and touch you.

People will bump into each other, breathe each others droplets. Cough. Sneeze. Speak, shout, sing.

Yes, I do understand the need to get the economy going again, and I do recognise that the death rate has come down from the 1000 per day at peak, to under 100. I do understand that people have to go to work. And that this means, for many, public transport, shopping, and so on.

My feeling is that masking in public should be compulsory, the same way it is on public transport. Obvious exceptions would be people with breathing difficulties, people eating or drinking. In pubs, people should mask except when actually taking a sip of drink.

Should it be legislated? I would hope that this would not be necessary. Just as it is no longer acceptable to spit (indoors or outdoors), no longer acceptable to smoke unless invited to do so, it is no longer socially acceptable to drink-and-drive. Someone who drink-drives is no longer seen as "a bit of a lad", he's seen as a plonker. Likewise, we need to move to a culture where going unmasked in public is a sign that you're a bit of a plonker.

From July 4th, the most vulnerable (that is, people shielding) will be allowed to meet in groups of six. I'm not one of those who were told to shield, but myself and ladysolly were still taking the most prudent position, because right from the start, my objective has been these three priorities:

1) Avoid being one of the infected at the time when the health service is swamped
2) Avoid being one of the infected as the health service started to recover
3) Avoid being infected until the vaccine is available.

The vaccine will likely be available some time in September, and it's been announced that people over 50 will be in the first wave of vaccinations.

So, again priorities. I can't do anything about the behaviour of the rest of the country, that's for the government. But I can choose my own behaviour. So we will be avoiding crowds. We won't use public transport, ladysolly isn't going to bridge games (except online) and I don't know when we'll be visiting daughter.1, daughter.2, grandsons.1-4 and all the others.

On the other hand, the Visitation we had last week, went very well. We were out in the garden (outside is a lot more hostile to the virus), and mostly stayed apart.  So I hope we'll e able to do more Visitations this summer.

Monday 22 June 2020

Day 98 of self-isolation - UK is reopening

Another delivery from Waitrose. With extra excitement - I'd just finished alcohol spraying the three gallons of milk, when the man with the van came back to explain that he'd unloaded part of someone else's order. Apparently, Ladysolly had not gone overboard on milk. So we gave him back the stuff that wasn't ours, three bags full.

The UK death number on Saturday was down to 43, from a high of 980 per day. This isn't quite as good as it looks, because the numbers are always low at the weekend, but it bodes well, and I'm hoping that the non-weekend numbers will be under 100.

So the reopen continues, and we all hope it goes well, because a second lock down just isn't going to fly. It will be so unpopular, it won't happen. But the numbers are comnig down, and it was always ging to be true the the downswing would be slower than the upswing.

The Trump Tulsa Farewell Tour went very well. Of a predicted (by Trump) 1,000,000 attendees, only 6000 turned up.  That's a 99.4% no-show. Sad.

The slogan is "Make America Great Again". Wait, I thought you were doing that over the last four years. America still isn't great?

Sunday 21 June 2020

Day 97 of self-isolation - a retrospective


Three months ago, before the official lockdown started, I thought about what it would be like  after 100 days. So I wrote this piece.

It turned out to be not nearly as bad as I thought. We didn't have to eat next door's cat (although I haven't seen it for a suspiciously long time), and we were OK for toilet paper, because we bought a shedload a year ago in the run up to Brexit on March 29, 2019. Also, we get food deliveries from Waitrose, and the local pharmacist delivers our drugs.

What I hadn't predicted, of course, was the catalogue of blunders perpetrated by our government. Who could have predicted that B S Johnson would sashay into a hospital, swap germs with everyone, and come out infected with Covid-19?

By the way, B S doesn't stand for what you think it stands for. He's a character in Discworld.

Day 97 of isolation

It was a very good day today.

I finally trapped next door's cat, so we killed and skinned it and Ladysolly made a stew with this and the last of the cardboard that we're been living on recently. Delicious!

It was my turn to collect leaves from the trees in the garden. They're starting to look a bit bare, but needs must, because we ran out of toilet paper weeks ago.

More good news - there's plenty of grass. Yes, I know what you're thinking, humans can't digest grass. But I have a cunning plan. Cows don't really digest grass, they ferment it on one of their stomachs, and get the nutrients that way. So that's what I'll do. I cleaned out one of the plastic dustbins and stuffed it full of grass cuttings. Then I topped it up with hot water, and added yeast. It should be ready to eat in a week or so. Meanwhile, I've been thinking about the boots.

Some of my boots are real leather, and leather is edible, although a bit tough. But anything gets tender if you cook it right, so I'll cut one up and put it in the pressure cooker at 50 pounds of pressure, give it an hour, add salt and pepper and it should see is through until the grass is ready.

When, oh when will this all end?

Day 96 of self-isolation - school's back in September!

All children will be at school in September.

We hope.

Sorry, but I've heard so many missed dates by B.S. Johnson, I'm not holding my breath.

Some questions. We now know that the track-and-trace app, promised for June, won't be available until winter - and even then I'm not sure it'll happen, since we're now being told that this "crucial world-beating" app is no longer the cherry on the top of the tracing cake - it's more like a forgotten raisin at the bottom of the bowl.

And we still haven't forgotten the PPE bungling.

Will the "following the science" two meter distancing, now be reduced to one meter? Is this alternative science? Has the virus become less infectious, somehow?

And will masking in schools be compulsory?

Will parents be willing to send their kids back to school?

Friday 19 June 2020

Day 95 of self-isolation - wolves in sheep's clothing

Wolves in sheep's clothing

The UK government has just announced that the NHS app  won't work on Apple iPhones, because of the Apple security system.

Wait, what?

I knew this a month ago, and I'm no expert on IOS. Someone explained it on Slashdot. Don't UK government experts stay in touch?

The trialled this on the Isle of Wight. Didn't anyone notice then?

We are sheep led by donkeys.

But there are wolves around.

So. I open my front door, go into a different room while they burgle my home, and then realise I've been robbed.

Deputy chief medical officer for England Dr Jenny Harries said “it will be very obvious” when a member of the public is contacted by someone from the programme. Jenny, I'm sure you're a great doctor, but if someone wants advice on security, you are not the one to give it.

Thursday 18 June 2020

Day 94 of self-isolation - what happened in Iran?

What happened in Iran?

At first, like so many other countries, they didn't take the virus seriously. On Qom, there's a shrine that many Iranian pilgrims visited before returning home, carrying a feeling of holiness, a soul filled with joy and lungs filled with of Coronavirus. In March, a lockdown was declared - too late, as in so many other countries. By late March, the number of new cases per day hit 3000 and the total death toll so far was 2898.

But the economy was suffering. Iran was, once again, suffering under economic sanctions because of their nuclear program. Pre-pandemic, in November 2019, the regime put fuel prices up by 200% and there were mass protests and calls for regime change. The government reacted by killing 1500 protesters and shutting down the internet. But the lockdown was a serious additional blow to the economy.

In early May, new cases had dropped to 1000 per day, and deaths per day had halved from the peak. So the lockdown was eased. And, to the surprise of no-one, the number of infections started to climb.

Is there a cure? Some people thought there was. Prophetic medicine says that "black cumin seeds cure all diseases". Iranian cleric Ayatollah Tabrizian has written extensively on violet leaf oil as a cure, applied anally (I kid you not). Maybe some people believed this; most people laughed. Hossein Ravazadeh, another prominent quack, recommended bitter gourd oil dropped into the ears twice a day. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, says covid-19 might be the work of jinns (evil spirits) working with America. The remedy, therefore, is prayer and Quran recitation.

Several top clerics have died after relying on herbal remedies. They include Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, an ayatollah who was tipped to succeed Mr Khamenei, and Mohyeddin Haeri-Shirazi, another firebrand. In March a junior cleric, Morteza Kohansal, posted a video of himself in a hospital ward, not wearing any protective gear, applying the "Prophet’s perfume" to covid-19 patients. Hundreds of Iranians have died from drinking high-proof alcohol, which is wrongly believed to kill the virus. At least they didn't try bleach, as so many Americans did.

Ali Akbar Velayati, heads the Traditional and Islamic Medicine Group at the Academy of Medical Sciences in Iran. Mr Velayati went into self-isolation after showing symptoms of covid-19.

Iran’s best medical schools have opened departments of homeopathy. The health ministry requires apothecaries to study it for a year before getting a licence. Good grief.

The Islamic version of "evidence-based medicine" consists of examining the Quran and the Hadith, to see what the prophet recommends. Yes, really. There are academic papers on this.

So during May, the number of new cases per day was rising. And what did the government do in early June? Lifted controls on offices, mosques, shops and schools. The border with Turkey was reopened. No surprise - the pandemic is getting worse.

The daily death toll is rising. The total butcher's bill so far is 9272.

Will they order another lock down? I don't think so. The effects of a failing economy will be seen as far, far worse than the loss of a several thousand elderly people. A failing economy leads to protests, perhaps even rebellion. The regime is not as stable as it would like to be, so chancing another lock down looks unlikely. On the other hand, will people take to the streets in anger if several thousand grandmas and grandpas die? It's a cold calculation, but one that every country is facing.

Some countries show how the virus can be controlled; South Korea, for example. We can learn from how they went about it.

Other countries serve as a dreadful example of what not to do; USA and UK, for example. There, it was the blunders of politicians in not taking the virus seriously early on despite knowing what had happened in Spain and Italy.

But in Iran, the blunders of politicians were exacerbated by the unjustified faith of the ruling clerics. A lesson for us all.

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Day 93 of self-isolation - a second lock down?

A second lock down?

It is clear that in some countries, the lock down did not do what was needed. In some countries, the economies were such that people who didn't work, didn't eat. In some countries, adherence to religion was more important that the lock down. In some countries, people were so focussed on their own freedom, that they forgot that we have given up the freedom to drive while drunk for a very good reason.  And in some countries, the leadership of the country was pathetically weak, didn't give good science-based advice, and didn't set a good example.

Some of the countries that are heading in the wrong direction, include USA, Brazil, India, Iran, Pakistan and Sweden. And that's looking at the situation in June.

I wonder what it will be like in November? In the northern hemisphere, winter draws on, and it's getting cold. People will be more indoors than outdoors, ideal for disease transmission. Every year there is "annual influenza" from October to March. So will there be a resurgence of Covid-19, even in the countries that have managed to pandemic very well up till now?

Will a second lock down be possible, either now or then? Will people be willing to make the same sacrifices, all over again?

I think, no.

Because we now know what the sacrifice looks like.

And individuals now know that the sacrifice feels like.

There has been too many people flouting the rules. When I'm told, "One rule for you, another rule for the elite", I respond with two words, of which the second word is "you!". Too many politicians who don't wear masks, too many politicians who don't stick to the rules, and too many protesters what have mingled droplets with no apparent consequences.

Dominic Cummings. That name will be used a lot.

And now we are more aware of the trade-offs. Yes, Covid-19 is a killer, but so are cigarettes. Cigarettes kill 220 per day - yesterday's deaths from Covid-19 were 184. Please explain to me why we haven't made cigarettes illegal?

We know that Covid-19 kills the elderly, and those with co-morbidities. We think that the death rate, if you get infected, is estimated at 0.25%, plus or minus 0.15%. But that is biassed; if you don't smoke and are under 50, that is much, much lower.

We didn't know that back in March, but we know it now. We also, at last, have a treatment for the worst cases, those so badly affected as to need a ventilator. Dexamethasone cuts the risk of death for those on ventilators, by a third, and this is a clinically proven effect, not some pious hope spouted by a bloviator.

The people most at risk (the elderly) are not the breadwinners. Many of the breadwinners have been without pay (or on low pay) for months, know what it feels like, and will not want to repeat the experience.

In countries that put patriotism ahead of selfishness, another lock down might have some support, but there are precious few such nations, and the more general attitude is "I'm all right, Jack". I think that a second lock down will be widely ignored. And, because politicians know that, it won't be ordered.

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Day 92 of self-isolation - bungles, blunders and butchery

Bungles, blunders and butchery

There are many. Some mistakes were inevitable - we didn't know three months ago what we know now. But some were obvious even at the time.


The first blunder was the late lock down. Even if a full lock down wasn't obvious, it was obvious to everyone that racing at Cheltenham on 16th to 19th March should have been cancelled, together with the mass attendance at football matches at the same time. How was it obvious? By looking at the situation in Italy and Spain, by looking at the infectiousness of the virus and by looking at the fact that we were seeing several hundred new cases each day on March 14. The lock down wasn't in force until March 23. My personal lock down was on March 17th, and would have been sooner except I had a tooth extraction on the 16th, and I'm glad I took that risk, because otherwise I'd have lived with a painful and broken tooth for months.

The next blunder was ordering millions of testing kits from China that didn't work, because they were the wrong sort of test kit.

This was followed by the blunder of releasing patients from hospital into care homes, at a time when it was already known that Covid-19 is fatal to the elderly. And with no PPE, and no isolation, it was inevitable that the grim reaper would tally a huge harvest in the care homes.

At about that time, there was a minor blunder. Boris Johnson visited a hospital and shook hands (exchanged viruses) with patients infected by Covid-19. This resulted in Bojo nearly dying of the disease, and in Bojo infecting other senior politicians. This was minor, because it only affected a few useless people.

The next major blunder, was on PPE. This turned into a major scandal, when it turned out that we were completely unprepared for an epidemic, let alone a pandemic. It was always clear that if a pandemic struck, it would hit many countries at the same time, and that PPE would be vital for healthcare workers. So the obvious thing to do, is have a stockpile that will be adequate. Obvious, but omitted.

The next major blunder was when senior politicians and medical advisers flouted the lock down rules. The first two times this happened, they were sacked (asked to resign, which they did at once). But when Dominic Cummings was found out, he stood his ground, wasn't fired, and that resulted in many people thinking, one rule for them, another rule for us. And that undermined the shared sacrifice.

An ongoing blunder is the failure to recommend masking; this has now become compulsory on public transport, but not in shops, parks and streets.

And then there's track-and-trace. There was supposed to be an app for that, trialled in the Isle of Wight from the start of May, but obviously the trial failed, because here we are a month later being told that the app won't be ready until the end of June, being told that this "world-beating and important" app isn't really needed after all, that we can do the job just using people paid to contact those who tested positive and ask them who they've been in contact with recently, ("No, I mean apart from your least favourite politicians") so that they can be phoned and asked to self-isolate. And will this work? It looks like security theatre to me.

At this point, new infections have fallen substantially (but are still well over a thousand per day) and the death numbers have fallen from the 1000 per day peak, down to a couple of hundred. Still very high, but the lock downs are now eased to the extent that all shops are reopening.

Many people think that's too soon. And will track-and-trace work?


The whole policy was a blunder. The idea in Sweden was to rely on the willing and voluntary cooperation of the citizens, thus avoiding the need for compulsory measures. And so Sweden would reach "herd immunity" without pain. Meaning, we'll sacrifice several thousand oldies.

It didn't work. Sweden has a death-per-million rate as bad as France, Italy and Spain, and is nowhere near herd immunity (60-90% is needed, Sweden has 10-20%). It also didn't work to protect the Swedish economy.

Sweden levelled off for a while, but is now seeing a severe upturn in cases.


The USA had two huge advantages. First, it could benefit from the experiences of China, Italy and Spain, because the USA got hit later than they did. The other advantage is the physical isolation of the continent.

The first advantage was thrown away when the government took the line that there's only a few cases and they will soon blow away, and that this was no worse than the seasonal influenza.

The second advantage was thrown away when the government assumed that the infections would be coming from China (a few did), whereas in fact the mass of infections were flying across the Atlantic to the East Coast. The European travel ban was delayed until March 13, and even then UK was exempted. The UK was added on March 16th. Too little, too late.

This was followed by weeks of pretending that the problem was minor, and would soon disappear as if by a miracle, and when it didn't, the government started pretending that Hydroxychloroquine would be the answer "Try it. What have you go to lose?" It turned out that what you had to lose, were heart problems, and also a lot of time wasted chasing this phantom cure. Plus someone died from it.

Eventually, lock downs were commanded. But there was very little provision for people to have any sort of income during the lock down ($1200 doesn't go far after rent and other payments). So, people quickly started chafing under the restrictions.

Let's not mention the suggestion from a senior member of government that people could be injected with disinfectant. At least that provided some comic relief at a grim time.

At which point, the US government poured gasoline on the fire by undermining the state governors and supporting the people who wanted to end the lock down. Also although the CDC recommended masking, top government refused to mask, which set the example for the rest of the country.

The most recent blunder is to open up too soon.


It's difficult to know exactly what went wrong in Iran, but religious gatherings in large numbers was a problem, and so was the sight of people kissing shrines, and thereby passing on the infection.

But the main problem in Iran, is that after doing well in reducing infections during April, something went wrong, and numbers have climbed alarmingly. Lack of free media in Iran means that we don't know what the blunder was.


Brazil is the worst country so far.  The president has taken the line "It's just flu" and "We can't do anything about it", has refused to mask, has claimed Hydroxychloroquine is a cure, and has generally been behaving like a tinpot politician in a third world country.

As a result, infection numbers have been climbing like a rocket, death numbers are even worse than the UK and there's no end in sight. Maybe the little wiggle in the numbers n the last few days gives some grounds for optimism.


Just to show you how it can go, let's look at Italy. Italy was one of the first countries hit by the virus, after China and Iran, and it was always difficult to know what's really going on in Iran and China, the countries with a controlled press.

But in Italy, we knew. We watched the videos of exhausted tearful healthcare workers, begging. And they weren't begging for help, they knew there wouldn't be any. They were begging us not to make the mistake of underestimating this virus, not to lock down late, not to let the healthcare system be swamped by dying people.

We watched the videos - and ignored them. We were told "There's a lot of elderly people in Italy", as if there isn't in other countries? We were told "Couldn't happen here" and then it did.

But Italy recovered, and this chart shows how well they did. From six thousand new cases per day in mid March, down to a few hundred per day, and still falling. From a peak of 919 deaths per day on March 27, to a few dozen per day now.

So. Bungles, blunders and butchery, but it is possible to beat this virus; in Italy, Spain, France and Germany, we see tragedy and then triumph. It can be done. But not if the blunders continue.

Monday 15 June 2020

Day 91 of self-isolation - God save America

 God save America

California has a population of 40 million, comparable in size to the major European nations. What's happening there?

A steady rise in infections. It doesn't look like a pandemic under control.

 And a steady rise in deaths. At this point, the numbers are low, but that rise in the daily new cases, predicts a rise in deaths.

What about the whole of the USA?

A slight down trend, but that's mostly because New York state has brought their numbers down so much.

And now, the USA is opening up the lock down. What will happen, and when?

It looks to me like a race between the virus and the development of the vaccine, which might happen in September 2020, or could happen a year later. Or not at all.

So that's the pandemic.

Now let's add the economy. The response to the pandemic has been to close a large amount of the economy. As a result, unemployment is now at 13.3% (the normal rate is between 3 and 4%). This has been really tough for a lot of people.

And then George Floyd got murdered, leading to a widespread understanding that the racism in America has to be addressed; protests, demonstration, and some riots.

Put yourself in Donald Trump's shoes. He was confidently expecting another four years of presidency, but in 2020 the wheels fell off the bicycle.

November is five months away. Trump is in troube. What will he do when he loses the 2020 election? What will his supporters do - they're already claiming that the election is rigged.

And they all have guns.

God save America.

Sunday 14 June 2020

Day 90 of self-isolation - the Visitation

The Visitation

Yesterday, we had a Visitation. Daughter.1, daughter.2 (plus one) and grandson.3 all visited Drsolly Towers.

The weather was great, the sun was hot and we dragged out of storage the garden upholstery, a high chair and a huge shade umbrella. We haven't seen them (except via Zoom and Facetime) for three months, and grandson.3 was showing us his locomotive ability (he hasn't got the hang of reciprocating action yet, but he does a caterpillar crawl).

Half way through the Visitation, the Waitrose van arrived. Once that was the highlight of our week, now relegated to an annoying interruption. We quickly dealt with the non-ambient items, and went back outside.

I had sandwiches, chicken thigh, sausage rolls, crisps, coffee and cake.

The sun was very hot. And I now have a slight case of sunburn on my arms and knees. Never mind, it's more vitamin D!

Saturday 13 June 2020

Day 89 of self-isolation - Dulce et decorum est

Dulce et decorum est

The number of deaths in the USA, is now more than the Americans killed in the Great War.

The symptoms of Covid-19 are very similar to being gassed.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Friday 12 June 2020

Day 88 of self-isolation - two fat ladies

Two fat ladies

Today I went out, for the first time for three months. I've been postponing my routine blood test, but I do need to get my INR (how runny is it?) tested. The test is quick and simple, just a prick to my thumb, and the results are immediate.

So. I put on my mask, and my goggles. I look like a bank robber on a motorbike.

I arrived at the clinic, and a nurse who looked like a bank robber on a motorbike asked me if I had any sneezing, coughing, loss of smell, or if anyone else had. Then they took my temperature by sticking something in my ear, I passed, and I went on to the blood testing clinic.

The waiting room chairs were not distanced, I didn't take a token with a number on. I was asked to wash hands before the test, then we did the usual test (a little pricking of my thumb) and my result was exactly as desired. Next appointment, three months.

I used one of our paper disposable masks, and between that and the goggles, I can understand why people don't like wearing them. I'll use my cloth mask for ordinary use, and instead of goggles, I'll just wear my glasses.

On the way back, I noticed that the barbershop, which I had used occasionally, was now "to let". I doubt if he ever got much trade, being somewhat out of the way, but the lock down must have been the last straw. I would guess that the same is true for some other shops.

Thursday 11 June 2020

Day 87 of self-isolation - the end of Nigel!

Daughter.1 and daughter.2 have bubbled; included in that bubble are grandson.1-3. Everyone is bubbling. But we aren't bubbled, we don't meet the criteria, there are two of us. Maybe bubbling will be expanded in future.

Or track and trace system fails a third of the time. No surprise there. A third of people needing to be contacted, couldn't be, or refused to give any details. What will you say when you get the phone call "I'm Karen from NHS contract tracing ...".

Death numbers are down to 151, so we're still winning.

As we come out of lock down, people will have bee outside less than normally. Many people will, therefore, be vitamin D deficient, because we get 90% of that from the action of sunlight on the skin. Vitamin D is important for our immune system; that's why I'm taking 2000 IU per day.

Nigel Farage has left LBC! This is excellent news at the Solly household; we both listen to LBC as if it's a radio (it is, actually) but during the two hours that Nigel is on, we switch off (and sometimes forget to switch back on) because he is so transparent in his tactics and so irritating in his speech pattern.

Maybe he shouldn't have made a comparison between Black Lives Matter and the Taliban.

Looking at the whole world; new cases are rising after being on a plateau for some weeks. This is especially in South America and the Indian subcontinent. I do understand the economic reasons why countries like India couldn't continue the lock down, but we are facing a gory butcher's bill.

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Day 86 of self-isolation - burning 4G masts

I learned a new word today - proning. It comes from the word "prone", meaning, lying on your front. The opposite is supine, lying on your back.

Proning is a medical term. You breathe more easily lying on your front than on your back, because of the positioning of your lungs. So, if someone is having trouble breathing, you prone them. It's useful to know that, because in my ignorance, I thought it would be the other way round. So now I know.

There's been a reversal of policy; children won't be going back to school, except for the ones already doing so. Instead, they're off till September.

Michael Whitty has been sentenced to three years in prison for arson. The thought he was burning down a 5G phone mast - actually it was 4G. Do your research.

There's a conspiracy theory going around, that says that Covid-19 isn't a virus, it's a reaction to 5G phone radiation. But 5D frequencies are much lower than the light we all enjoy from the sun, and the amplitude is tiny. Of course, "Do your research" doesn't include "spend three years studying physics" and usually means "watch youtube videos made by ignorant idiots".

Sometimes I think that people should be required to pass a gullibility test before being allowed on the internet. I recently saw a woman being charmed (the word commonly used is "groomed") over the internet, and she was convinced that the charmer was going to marry her (she in New Zealand, he in Nigeria). It was only when someone noticed that the charmer had publicly announced his marriage two months ago and pointed this out to her, that she realised that he might not be entirely honest.

These 5G idiots are mostly in the UK; we've had three times as many attacks here as in the rest of the world combined. Why is this? All over Europe there must be villages wondering where their idiots went.

But maybe the USA will catch up, as soon as they've finished protesting about the Covid-19 lock down and police murders. There's a fertile soil of people eager to believe anything that someone tells them. Most of them are signed up to the God theory, and half of them voted for Trump. They'll believe anything.

I expect mast burnings to be the new black.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Day 85 of self-isolation - A New World Order

A New World Order

It's not so much that Covid-19 has changed everything - it's that our reaction to it has forced us to rethink many things.

Take food, for example. We've been getting a weekly food van. The big disadvantage of that is that some of the fresh food has a use-by date only a few days away, but the big advantage is not having to trek to the supermarket. Maybe we can get the best of both worlds, post-virus, by having a food delivery twice per week.

Take haircuts. I have an electric barber's trimmer. Do I really need to schlep down to the barber each year for a professional cut that leaves me looking like a sheared sheep, pay out £20, and then schlep home? And some people get trimmed more often than I do. When the hair cutters reopen, they might find less business available than before.

A lot of people have bought electric bikes. Even more people have access to the Lime rent-an-ebike system. Will the usage of cars be permanently diminished?

A very large number of people have found that they can work from home. OK, you miss the hurly-burly of office social life, but maybe many people could work from home 80% of the time, and only commute one day each week? If so, the demand for transport and for office space will fall dramatically.

Is your journey really necessary? Do you really have to attend that meeting or conference in person, or can you Zoom it? Yes, many things require personal attendance, but many don't.

Yesterday, I consulted my doctor for something minor. Last year, I would have had to attend in person, with the concomitant inconvenience and infection risk. But yesterday, we had a phone call, it lasted just a few minutes, and dealt with the issue (a repeat prescription issue). Last year, there was no such thing as a telephone consultation. I think that, post-Covid-19, telephone consultations will still be available. Yes, I know that they aren't always suitable, sometimes the doctor needs to see you in person. But quite often, he doesn't, and it's better all round if that is also a possibility.

Ladysolly was worried about her throat. Last year, she would have had to book an appointment, open her mouth, the doctor would have shone a light down it and inspected it. Instead, I took a photograph using the flash, she sent that to him, and he was able to see what he would have seen the old way. I turned out, nothing was wrong.

Changes that were already happening gradually, have been forced to happen immediately. Systems have been devised, infrastructure put in place. Things that we might have done gradually over the next 20 years, have happened all at once, and will we really want to go back, entirely, to the old ways?

Look at all the changes we've already seen. The daily milk delivery, once thought essential, no longer exists. Horses are no longer to be seen in most city streets. The steam locomotive has become a museum piece. The old Bakelite black rotary dial phone, once ubiquitous, is now an antique rarity. You can't buy a monochrome TV, or an TV with a cathode ray tube.

Progress marches on - slowly, but also in leaps and bounds. Necessity is the mother of invention, and once an invention has been invented, it can't be put back in the box.

World War two lasted six years and led to radar, jet planes, electronic computers, atomic power, rockets.

Covid-19 has not had such a profound effect in the few months since it appeared, and it might not lead to radical new inventions (although the mRNA vaccine might be one such), but it has certainly led to ways of doing things that were already possible but not in general use, and some of those new ways will persist, because now that we've tried them out, we've found that some of them are better than the old ways.

Monday 8 June 2020

Day 84 of self-isolation - the Waitrose van, bearing gifts

The Waitrose van, bearing gifts.

Another week, another delivery.  I sprayed with alcohol, Ladysolly put it away in the fridge. It's all routine now.

But we don't get to choose the expiry date of purchases, and since this delivery has to last a week, menus need to be planned very carefully. Ladysolly is an expert at that.

There have been black lives matter protests all over the country. It's hard to comment. They are right to protest, and have the right to protest, but the virus loves a gathering of crowds.

We'll see an upsurge of infections in a couple of weeks, but only partly because of this. The main reason will be the premature easing of the lock down, but who will be able to say what the cause was? And to add to the agony, darker skinned people are hit disproportionately hard by Covid-19.

It's like the economic downturn that Brexit made inevitable. Now, that will be entirely blamed on the virus - and the effect of the virus was several times as great as the effect of Brexit.

The USA has asked us to send Prince Andrew to them for questioning, on the Jeffrey Epstein case. He did say that he would, but now he's being asked. If he does go to America, he could be subpoenaed and made to appear in court. We should at least get an assurance that he won't be knelt on and asphyxiated by a rogue policeman, of which the USA has an ample supply.

Sunday 7 June 2020

Day 83 of self-isolation - What's happening in India?

What's happening in India?

It's a slow motion train wreck. We saw this coming a month ago. We saw the exponential rise in cases, and in deaths. Testing is currently at a level of 3 per thousand (UK is 80 per thousand) so there are probably a lot more infected than we know about.

The same might be true of deaths. In the big cities of India, there are some very sophisticated healthcare professional, but in the countryside, in the villages? Someone dies, does anyone know what he died of?

All we have to go on, are the reported numbers. So let's look at those. We've seen the pattern of how this virus goes. It starts off with a rapidly increasing uptrend, an exponential growth. After a while, this reaches a plateau. The plateau is usually caused by a stringent lock down. If people stay apart from each other, the virus cannot spread. The third stage, is a decline, which is much slower than the initial growth. There can also be a fourth stage, a second upsurge (that's happening in Iran now).

What are the causes of these stages? We know that there is no vaccine, and we know (from testing samples of the population) that we are a long way from saturation, where a very large percentage of the population has been infected and is now immune. Right now, only a few percent of people have had the virus and are immune.

The initial exponential growth is because this virus has an R of 3 - each infected person will infect 3 other people. This continues until either most people are infected, or else some action is taken to reduce the R. Reducing the R doesn't happen all at once, it takes effect rather slowly, so the curve stops climbing so fast, and then levels off. When the curve is level, the R is 1; each infected person infects one more person.

So what reduces the R? Separating people. You ask people to stay at least two meters apart, to wear face cloths, and to hand sanitise. If everyone does that, R immediately falls to zero. But not everyone can do that, because some people are in essential jobs.

What jobs are essential? The short answer is, your job is essential if people die when your job isn't done. So, healthcare workers, food distribution, transport, water workers, electricity, some teachers (because some essential workers need childcare). And these essential workers become vectors for the virus.

And there are always arseholes, who haven't understood why this is important, and try to behave as usual. So R doesn't come down to zero.

If R comes down to 0.5 then the number of infections falls rapidly. It if comes down to 0.9, then the number falls slowly. And if you cancel the lock down too soon, then R goes back above 1 and the numbers start to rise again.

It's as simple as that.

As you can see from the charts, India is in the first stage, exponential growth. When will it plateau? We don't know. India is, we're told, already on lock down, but from these charts, and from pictures we've seen, they aren't taking it seriously.

I feel as if I'm watching a train wreck in slow motion.

Saturday 6 June 2020

Day 82 of self-isolation - D-Day

76 years ago today, 150,000 brave men waded ashore to liberate Europe from the Nazi jackboot. 4,414 of them died.

Today, 4901 people died of Covid-19.

Here's the good news.

There are now ten different vaccines in human trials. Surely at least one of them will work?

The Oxford University vaccine (it has a name AZD1222, but it isn't the sort of name that stands out) is currently being tested in Brasil. Why Brasil? Because to test a vaccine, you need lots of people to volunteer, and a high likelihood that they'll be exposed to the virus, and that makes Brasil ideal. If the tests are good, then Astrazeneca say that they'll be able to make two billion doses. We'll want 60 million, the USA has pre-purchased 400 million, and I hope that the rest go to where they are most needed.

The ModeRNA vaccine is in human trials, and will be going to phase 3 trials if all goes well, in July.

USA unemployment fell from 14.7% to 13.3% so there's only 21 million unemployed now. America is starting to get back to work.

The Health Ministry in Egypt has distributed a million doses of vitamin D to health workers. They've spent most of the last two months indoors, and are probably very D-deficient right now. D is a vital ingredient in the immune system. I think more people should take this seriously. It's cheal, readily available, and if you hae a dark skin, it's slower at making D than light skins. This might be part of the reason why dark-skinned people have worse outcomes if they get infected. Or it might not, but evidence says that it is.

Fun fact. Each time you breath out, if you're infected, you emit ten million virus particles into the air around you.

Friday 5 June 2020

Day 81 of self-isolation - masks at last!

Masks at last!

It's common sense. It's a common practice in many countries. And we have scientific research to back it up.

I get it that we don't want 60 million people buying hundreds of masks each, and depriving the healthcare workers of the N95 protection for people working in a high-risk situation. But that isn't a problem. We don't need anything special, just cloth masks. You can buy them for a few pounds, you can make you own. You can use an old scarf. You can wash them and reuse them.

The effect is to trap the droplets that you breathe out, to stop a cough from reaching out 5 meters, to stop a sneeze from reaching out seven meters. Even when you just talk, you're spraying our virus particles to a distance of one or two meters.

The point is, they stop YOU from spreading the virus, and if you don't think that you have the virus ... how do you know?

It's like drunk-driving. We don't criminalise drunk driving to protect the drunk, it's to protect all the other road users. You might think that you're capable of driving while drunk, but all the research says that you are not. And, just as you should not have the freedom to drink-and-drive, you should not have the freedom to spread Covid-19, because drunk-driving kills people, and so does Covid-19.

So from June 15th, users of public transport, are required to wear masks. I hope this is properly enforced - by the bus and railway people, but also by the other passengers. "Put that mask on!" should be the cry. Because if you're unmasked, then you're endangering the rest of us.

But why isn't masking required in all public places where there's a possibility of not being able to maintain two meters of distance?