Coronavirus Outbreak: Thoughts From the UK
Author: Paul Dodenhoff
Contact : Paul Dodenhoff
Published: 2020-03-12 - (Updated: 2020-03-30)
Paul Dodenhoff writes from the UK regarding the possible effects and outcome of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in Britain.
- Recently, senior health officials connected to government argued that a worse-case scenario may see around 80% of the UK population infected with the coronavirus.
- While the general thinking seems to be that most people infected with the virus will only suffer minor to medium symptoms, those who are elderly or those with underlying health conditions are extremely vulnerable.
I only really started following this worldwide crisis a couple of weeks ago and primarily just to get the facts straight for myself. In a UK that's dominated with fake news, misinformation and the 'white noise' generated by social media, an escalating out-of-control 'pandemic', certainly needed to be checked out. So, what have I concluded?
I am extremely worried. To say that this is an extremely serious issue is not an understatement.
But considering how the problem quickly effected China and the drastic measures they imposed as a consequence, the western world seemed incredibly slow at taking this issue equally seriously. That slowness has arguably led to Italy effectively placing itself in quarantine from the rest of the world, with the US and UK looking like they have make exactly the same mistakes. Putting it crudely, for most western countries this crisis arguably turned into a trade-off between protecting the health of its citizens or its economics. China locked down infected areas as soon as they realised the seriousness of the situation. A lock-down that impacted upon the world's 'markets'. Therefore, the West may have simply stood back and waited to see what developed, fearful of upsetting the markets or their own economies even further. That may be a risky gamble.
Two weeks ago, I was shocked to see that the coronavirus stats doubled every three to four days.
Therefore, if you start off with one case, by day 24 you will have more than 100 cases on your hands. In another 40 days, that one case will become 100,000 cases. In two to three weeks 100,000 becomes a Million. Hence, the virus starts off slowly and spirals out of control extremely quickly. Therefore, standing back and just waiting to see what developed was always a tactic doomed to failure. Italy was reporting an increase in respiratory illnesses back in December 2019 and may have therefore missed the early signs. Research coming out of China also indicates that the coronavirus was present in China before the end of 2019. No doubt, the virus was in other countries too. Chinese research also points to there being at least two strains of the coronavirus, one serious, the other, not so serious.
While the general thinking seems to be that most people infected with the virus will only suffer minor to medium symptoms, those who are elderly or those with underlying health conditions are extremely vulnerable. As Italy discovered, this vulnerability places extreme pressure upon health care systems when you suddenly get an explosion of cases. If you have 100,000 people infected with the illness, 5% to 10% of those may indeed need hospitalisation, often intensive care. And as we have seen worldwide, there has been many deaths from the virus, particularly amongst the vulnerable.
What this means for the UK in particular, is that the elderly, sick and disabled people are also extremely vulnerable to the decisions of its government concerning the virus. A government with a track record of not really caring about those who are not in work for any reason at all - viewing them all as lazy and merely a burden upon the state. In my view, this government has indeed taken a step away from taking aggressive containment measures against the virus, simply in order to let life in Britain proceed as normal -- for now. They have simply been watching the stats, hoping that the situation resolves itself somehow.
Data suggests that the UK are just under two weeks behind Italy.
So, the situation Italy finds itself in today, with a health care system in meltdown, will undoubtedly be us in the not too distant future. Currently, the UK case total is more than 500. So, using the logic that coronavirus cases will double at least every 4 days, there will be thousands of Brits infected by the end of this month alone. Without intervention and containment measures that figure will no doubt be in the hundreds of thousands in no time at all.
Of course, the UK is starting to think about closing schools and other social distancing measures, while throwing money at the problem, with £30bn promised by government to 'protect' the economy. However, it is notable that only £5bn of that money will go directly to the NHS - the front-line in fighting the virus. Listening to the noises that have come out from central government so far, there have been suggestions that the UK government could simply choose to let the virus take its course, without imposing strict control measures upon its population. The hope seemed to be, that the virus will eventually burn itself out naturally, or that if enough of the population becomes infected, that in itself will act as a form of 'herd immunisation'. Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson was talking about that last approach in a recent TV interview.
So, it looks likely that we Brits are simply to brace ourselves for what may be coming next, riding our luck or not, as the case may be. Recently, senior health officials connected to government argued that a worse-case scenario may see around 80% of the UK population infected with the coronavirus. But it is interesting that an infection rate of around 80% would indeed be needed in order for 'herd immunisation' to occur. So, is this really a worse-case picture or simply a thinly-vailed warning of what is to come?
Of course, for the elderly and the vulnerable, this would simply be a deadly trade-off between their survival and keeping the UK economy ticking over. Muddling through, in other words. Sure, the decisions Italy have recently taken may not even work, but to carry on as 'normal' as we have done over the last month or so, seems almost as drastic. For example, we are supposed to be in a 'containment' phase, yet we have done little in the UK to actually contain the spread of the virus - except tell people to wash their hands more frequently. There are also few restrictions on movement into or out of the UK. Life indeed continues as normal. In short, government seemed willing to play Russian roulette with the health of elderly and vulnerable people in order for the rest of Britain to carry on going about its business, going to work, going on holiday, carry on shopping and to carry on enjoying ourselves at sporting events etc.
But is it realistic?
The government itself has admitted that we will not hit the peak of this virus until May 2020. But this is a Britain that has also suffered 10 years of austerity measures. Measures that has seen the NHS under considerable strain and people forced into drastic poverty. Malnutrition is at record levels and we have even seen hungry school children going through the bins, looking for something to eat. We are therefore not best placed to survive such a dangerous virus, neither in terms of the current state of the NHS nor the current health of the UK population.
Ironically, while we are being told that this is not 'flu', the lack of serious intervention from the UK government has effectively treated the coronavirus as indeed a form of flu. Ordinary flu kills people off, so why should government panic by stopping large groups of people congregating at sporting events or quarantining individual towns and cities? Let's carry on as normal in order to 'protect' the economy. One problem of this approach is the incredible strain that the coronavirus will undoubtedly place upon the NHS. NHS managers say they do not have enough staff as it is. Doctors say they do not have the beds, intensive care capacity nor enough personal protective equipment. The second problem is when health-care professionals start dropping from the virus themselves, what will happen then? In short, the UK's health-care system is highly likely to implode and quite easily within the next two to three weeks. And I'm damn sure this government already know that, they are simply looking to ride out the storm.
If we had listened to the experts at the very beginning, it didn't need to be like this.
Wearing a facemask in public may have limited the transmission of the virus, and stopping mass gatherings early on, may have slowed its spread to a pace where care systems could cope. However, we didn't have access to the amount of facemasks the world needs, so we just told the public that facemasks simply don't work. And with an eye on 'the economy' first and foremost, most of the world still seems reluctant to take the tough measures needed to slow the transmission rate of the virus to a manageable rate.
What this means, is that we in the UK are undoubtedly in quite deep and serious trouble.
Unless the coronavirus burns itself out soon or a vaccine suddenly developed, we are living in a real life disaster movie. And like all good disaster movies, we are being told that there is nothing much to worry about - by the fools and buffoons who are running the show. Of course, the economics of this are important, but what we are arguably seeing is countries like the UK actually reluctant to take the tough decisions needed in order to protect its citizens. They have simply placed the perceived needs of the economy before the health of people, particularly the most vulnerable. However, it is a completely unsustainable situation to be placed in considering how quickly the virus spreads and accelerates through a population. And at some point, the strain placed upon the NHS could simply blow the whole system apart. Just like the disaster movie volcano that the politician promised us would never, never erupt.
COVID-19 Official Informational Sources
- Questions and Answers: COVID-19 and Coronaviruses Q&A
- Europe: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
- Australia: Latest medical advice and official reports
- Canada: Coronavirus Symptoms and treatment
- USA: U.S. CDC and Department of Health & Human Services
- 1 - Coronavirus Outbreak: Thoughts From the UK : Paul Dodenhoff (2020/03/12)
- 2 - Will Britain's New Immigration Policy Impact Upon Disability? : Paul Dodenhoff (2020/03/02)
- 3 - EESC Urges Commission to Make Disability Rights Strategy Far More Ambitious : European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) (2019/12/18)
- 4 - EU Disability Conference Examines Disability Strategy for the Next Decade : The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) (2020/03/03)
- 5 - Media Needs to Start Breaking Down Stigma Surrounding Disability : European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) (2019/07/11)
- 6 - UK Road Atlas for Blue Badge Drivers : The PIE Guide (2011/07/06)
- 7 - The Catastrophe of Disability Welfare Within the UK : Paul Dodenhoff (2014/06/30)