Not that any of these dire warnings seem to have affected the behaviour of many people, although a supermarket I visited in town on Friday was busier than expected and seemed full of older people presumably stocking up with essentials before, as one put it, ‘the storm comes’. Maybe they all have short memories or perhaps we all get less confident in our abilities as we get older, particularly as anyone over 60 these days is seen as fairly useless by the media which suggests that if your neighbour or relative is over sixty, keep an eye on them and pop around and see if they are alright. In my experience watching the antics of many of the millennial generation and how they perform in anything which is outside of their mollycoddled safe space environment, the reverse is likely to be necessary.
‘Carry on’ may well be the order of the day as the next apocalypse rears its ugly head in the media: the Corona Virus a.k.a Covid-19. The media seems to be having an effect on this, since it was announced that our ever-caring government was to give something called ‘public health professionals’ powers to detain and forcibly quarantine people suspected of having or carrying the virus, using police officers wearing Hazmat Suits to detain the suspect. The number of people visiting Health Care Surgeries has declined, apparently that and the graphic account of how unpleasant the ‘test’ for the virus is, (swabs down throat and so on) will be an effective way of keeping down surgery waiting times.
As for detaining someone presumably not wanting to be detained while wearing a Hazmat Suit, which, to put it bluntly, tends to make even the fittest person sweat, I can’t see it being a popular duty for your friendly local police officer:
“Jones nip up to the Doctors will you, there’s somebody refusing to be quarantined in ‘The Pod’.”
“O.K Sarg, what do I do with the suit when it’s been contaminated and how do I get back afterwards?”
“Don’t worry Jones there’s no danger, just keep two arms lengths away from the ‘detainee,’ don’t take more than fifteen minutes to do the job and wash your hands well while singing ‘happy birthday’ afterwards.”
“Hang on Sarg that’s sounds a bit iffy to me, I’ve got three kids” –
“Look Jones there’s no danger, those coach drivers took all those people to that quarantine centre without so much as a pair of protective gloves to wear. Although maybe they were given some hand wipes like they told us to wear during that novichok thing in Salisbury”.
Anyway, the latest advice from somebody in government circles is that you ‘self-quarantine at home for two weeks’, so detaining people shouldn’t now become an ‘issue’. Who will compensate employees and employers who will lose pay or staff has not, as yet, been made clear. And there has been no word on how people who live alone will get out to purchase essential supplies of food for example or let alone take the dog for a walk. If things get that bad, the supply chains to supermarkets and fuel service stations and so on are likely to get a bit erratic along with the attendance of essential staff in all sorts of services, who will not be immune to the effects of the virus. Worst case scenario we would very soon grind to a halt and actually find out just how much ‘we are all in it together.’
The media seem not too sure about how to sensationalise this latest virus, first reported with little coverage some weeks ago now, usually as a one-line comment, medics in China are reporting a new strain of ‘flu’ type virus and so on. Many people will be aware that the 1918/19 flu killed millions and was one of several pandemics over a period of 300 years. Since the second world war there have been several, the Asian Flu which apparently also started in China went around the world and killed it is said thousands in the United States and its reported between 1 and 4 million worldwide including several thousand in this country. In more recent times Hong Kong Flu in 1968/69 in both China and Hong Kong killed 650 people and apparently 203000 worldwide. Middle East Respiratory Corona Virus reportedly killed – as of January 2020 – 862 and the Ebola outbreak mainly in West Africa between 2013-16 killed 11300, while swine fever in India killed, in the last epidemic, 2035 people. But all this pales into insignificance when you realise that HIV/Aids has killed 30,000,000 million people worldwide.
What makes this epidemic worse it seems, is poor reporting of fact by the mainstream media at both national and local level and as far as I can tell, not a particularly good information circulation by the Department of Health or the responsible minister. Some clear advice would be welcome, at a time when a poll conducted for the Daily Express suggests that 69% of respondents will not travel abroad for holidays and are ‘terrified’ of the consequences, and a BBC reporter has suggested that the government may close schools, but the only advice that I can find suggests that wearing a mask is a waste of time (and most are useless anyway, medics wear a specialised mask, but even those have their limitations), keep away from crowded places such as the underground in London, and presumably crowded aircraft come into this category as air is recirculated around the cabin.
Stay away from people who show signs of having a cough or sneezing fit, you are safe if you stay two arms lengths away from these people and are not close to them for more than 15 minutes, keep washing your hands and/or use alcohol wipes or hand sanitiser as well. All very well, but an authoritative statement by the Chief Medical Officer or somebody who actually knows what they are talking about would be nice. I don’t want to be advised by a broadcast media personality or a ‘public health professional’ (who are those for goodness sake?). Given the fact that a huge number of our fellow citizens are given to panic at the drop of a hat it seems, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ is not actually the advice that many would like to hear. Mind you – and I’m not sure if this was an attempt at the fabled British humour, but one media source reported, without it seemed to me a hint of humour, ‘that curried bats were still flying off the shelves at street markets ‘ in China …