Took a pandemic to get me to post here again, huh?
I was in Spain briefly before the country started to take things seriously. The first few consumer tells had begun to register in supermarkets: shelves mysteriously empty of hand santiser, a shortage of antibacterial wipes (really?). Fortunately there was no sign of TPSDS (toilet paper shortage delusion syndrome).
The news was on televisions in local bars; Italy was already happening; yet still the older generation were still shrugging and wondering what the fuss was. Schools remained open. Event closures were being discussed but nothing enacted. A right wing political rally and a march for International Women's Day both went ahead.
When I left, the airport was a little quiet. Many Asian passengers were wearing masks. I improvised one for the flight. I won't lie, I modelled a low risk seat in the cabin and sat in it.
(Yes, I isolated once I got back to the UK, for the good of the species. No symptoms thus far.)
Then, things happened very quickly. The Spanish goverment shut schools, then brought in a state of emergency (only the second since 1978). They have now shut everything but supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies. People are being asked to stay indoors except for urgent travel.
Meanwhile, back here in the UK, everything continued as if nothing were happening. Restaurants full, concerts ongoing, just the odd mask wearer on public transport.
Here in the UK, there have been panic buys, starting with toilet paper and now moving on to pasta. The epidemiology of nervous middle class shoppers' actions is surely a field for study.
I think this is partly due to the timid messaging from the government which leaves a vacuum that social media is starting to fill.
The UK is enacting a very strange strategy, quite at odds with the rest of Europe (of course) but also seemingly at odds with WHO recommendations. (Offered by the same team who fought and learned from Ebola.)
Instead of a heavy-handed total lockdown, or even focused messaging on establishing a cordon sanitaire in a coordinated way following a South Korean model, the conservative government here has decided it wants to allow as many people to become infected as possible before restricting movement. I know, to the untrained layman, or one who might dabble in global epidemiology, that might sound fucking insane, but hear them out. One explanation they have given is apparently to achieve herd immunity.
Now, my understanding of herd immunity is that it results prophylactically from innoculations, rather than letting a disease with a 2-4% CFR ... you know, kill people. But, please, continue...
Part of the justification is that they feel the British public will tire of being in lockdown and, just as transmission begins to decline, will start back up with their lives and cascade another wave.
We are quite clearly in the second phase of their plan, on from Containment (we did not) to Delay. As part of this plan, the new guidance for testing suspected cases is not to do so unless admitted to hospital. And generally you are not admitted unless you are in the 20% of severe cases.
I know, that does sound a little like it would make tracking accurate infection rates, how you say? impossible. But maybe we can extrapolate it. Obviously it would be spectacular if we put in the same kind of open data effort Singapore has, which might help the rest of world too, but why bother, eh?
So, yes, we are in the Delay phase and yet we have not officially asked people to enact NPIs like social isolation etc. This is because it is all part of the UK's plan to allow lots of people to become infected. Remind me why this is a good idea, again?
Another explanation is to suggest that this will allow us to "time" the stress upon the health services, in order to allow it to reach 95% capacity, then control further intake by restricting movement. Presumably this will also balance damage to the economy by keeping things ticking over, rather than slamming on the brakes as in other more sternly responding countries. It is certainly a tricky and vital balancing act. It does look a little like trying to control the behavour of mulitple, intertwined, self-modulating feedback loops with a fucking dimmer switch but let's give it a go, eh?
The trouble is, none of these explanations are really clear since the government messaging and communications has been typically Nanny-state British. The public doesn't need to know, just let us get on with it as we know best.
The government hasn't revealed the modelling that led them to this decision either, although it has been pressured into doing so and apparently will comply this coming week.
Into this hazy space flows conspiracy theories about a greedy right wing having already squeezed the country financially through austerity hoping to kill off its older population so it doesn't need to pay their pensions.
Whatever the justification, the action is going ahead. Unless it doesn't. Because, you know, they're not exactly engendering faith in their steady-handed control of the situation.
Considering the UK's per capita hospital bed ranking is below that of both Spain and the USA (it's 35 of 40 just above Canada) this is a very interesting strategy which I urge you all to keep your eyes on. And by interesting I mean that ancient curse "may you live in interesting times" interesting.
I am getting quite tired of hearing expert scientists repeat variations of the phrase "We can avert X, as long as we act urgently and with determination and coordination" about every single species threatening crisis, only for our goverments to fuckorate it all sideways through the usual cocktail of incompetence, ignorance and greed.
Anyway, Vitamin D is indicated in reducing pulmonary infection rates by 30%, zinc ionosphores like chloroquine might be a cheap, easily accessible tool in fighting viral replication, you can control infection rates without lockdowns as South Korea has demonstrated and getting lots of sleep, eating well and not stressing too much is great for your immune system.
How are you all doing?