Geez – they say a week is a long time in politics but apparently a week is a very long time in a coronavirus pandemic. No sooner had I found some analysis which helped me understand the government’s strategy to manage the COVID-19 pandemic (posted only 3 days ago) the strategy has changed – you’ve probably noticed. Big events are being closed left, right and centre, schools and universities are closing, we have been advised not to visit pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, and anyone who can work from home is being asked to do so (alongside home-schooling their kids). What has happened? Put simply, a recent study from Imperial College London calculated, based on emerging data, that if the UK remained with the previous strategy it would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and a healthcare system utterly unable to cope – we had to change course. It is hoped that, as illustrated by the short video below which shows a fire traversing a line of matches, with the right measures and all of us playing our part (following public health advice, hand-washing and social distancing). we might be able to halt the epidemic in its tracks, and save lives.
The UK strategy has changed from that of mitigation – which focused on slowing but not stopping the epidemic (‘Flattening the curve’ See Random tweet illustrating principle of spreading the peak of a pandemic with intervention‘) to suppression – which aims to stop the epidemic. We have moved from targeted social distancing (home isolation of suspect cases, home quarantine of those living in the same household as suspect cases, and social distancing of older people and others at most risk of severe disease) to social distancing of the entire population. For more detail, do read the Imperial College London report – but you may wish to have a stiff drink in your hand as you do so. The suppression strategy is going to be a massive inconvenience to us all, life is going to be very different, and for a lot longer than you might think (hint, months rather than weeks). It is going to have a potentially devastating effect on those with businesses that are no longer being frequented, on the self-employed whose services are no longer sought, and a huge worry for those still working on the NHS frontline and at higher risk of exposure while their children remain at school. And that is not to mention the devastating effect on those who, to paraphrase the Prime Minister, are going to lose family members before their time.
Our NHS health professionals and other staff are going to show us now, more than any time in the history of the NHS, just what amazing people they are. They are putting themselves at risk (as they always do, but particularly so now) for the country and all who live in it. Through their help and expertise, and all of us taking public health advice seriously, thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of lives, could be saved. Like many of you I’m working at home now and looking after my children while my amazing wife continues to go to work in the NHS – she’s been redeployed to help with the COVID-19 fight (alongside many other amazing people who have been or will be redeployed). I’m going to do everything to support my family through this while doing my best alongside my amazing colleagues at BU to help support our students, and continue to give them a fantastic learning experience online.
For now, stay safe, be kind and support each other. Oh, and if you’ll let me lighten the mood a little, COVID-19 does not appear to cause the ‘runs’. So, to ensure there’s enough to go around, maybe just get your usual amount of toilet roll next time…?