The pandemic is out of control because we’re not protecting ourselves and each other! We can do this better!!

01/01/2021 Comments Off on The pandemic is out of control because we’re not protecting ourselves and each other! We can do this better!!

LA Times

Far too many people in the UK are not taking the two most important precautions to protect themselves and each other from Covid-19 when they are not at home:

* always wearing a mask &

* always staying away from other people (2 feet at least and 6 feet whenever possible)

When I go outside for a walk every day I am constantly faced with other people not wearing masks and not keeping any distance from others, more often men than women, especially young people, rambling along the pavement absorbed in what’s going on with each other — or totally absorbed in what’s going on in their earphones or on their mobile phones — laughing with their mouths wide open, running huffing and puffing and coming up right behind me before they pass me, walking right next to me even when there’s lots of room not to, including those on a bicycle. Never seeing me or anyone else. I must look like a drunkard, because I step off the pavement often and walk into the street to avoid them, or swerve to the right or the left to create space between us, with almost every person who passes. They don’t notice. When I was still taking walks along the north bank of the Thames, I would hold both my arms out to the sides when people approached who were ignoring my existence and were about to walk right next to me. That succeeded a lot better than saying anything, because it was inoffensive, unexpected and caught their attention. No one walked straight into my hands. I got at least a bit of space and with a lot more dignity than shouting. But other people’s lack of awareness can make going for a walk very tedious, even infuriating.

I have to ask: is it a sign that most people are not taking this pandemic seriously or don’t consider themselves (let alone others) at risk enough to change their behaviour?? This is why HIV & AIDS reached pandemic levels. And yet surely changing your sexual behaviour, i.e. always using a condom for penetrative sex, is a much more demanding form of behaviour change than wearing a damn mask. Which is nothing by comparison.

People aren’t stupid. But the pandemic is invisible for most people apart from a few brief shots of hospital staff covered in protective equipment on TV and the daily cases and deaths figures in the newspaper. How many of us have watched someone gasping and unable to breathe for hours, coughing their guts out, delirious, pouring sweat with fever, let alone dying from this virus? Not many. Unlike in the poorest countries, there are no bodies in the road, we see no images in mortuaries. Although we have the 5th highest number of deaths in the world, 73,000+ deaths, this is a tiny percent of the population. Never mind that Taiwan has had only 7 deaths since February, with a third of our population. Why haven’t we, why hasn’t our government, learned lessons from them — and from New Zealand?

Most people haven’t yet twigged that we are doing this to ourselves. Most of us probably know someone who has had it by now, but we only tend to see them after they’ve recovered. And we may hear someone talk about how awful it was, how weak they were, how they were on oxygen, or how they passed out and fell down and broke a bone. But we haven’t watched it happen, nor had to look after them while they’re ill or get them to hospital. And we’re not allowed to visit them in hospital or be with them when they die.

Equally importantly, a whole generation has grown up without a public health education. There is no Health Education Authority anymore in the UK, not since 2002 when it was shut down, for no apparent good reason. Maybe someone with no foresight thought that with the “end” of HIV (which is in fact still with us) or the advent of HIV treatment, it wouldn’t be needed. We’re paying for that decision daily. A vaccine isn’t going to get us out of this on its own either. And now we have an incompetent government with no public health knowledge, who have thrown away billions by putting a string of commercial companies with no public health competence in charge of the services we need. The government has grossly mismanaged this pandemic from Day One, and at this rate, they will go on doing so for the duration of their tenure in office.

Vaccine? We wouldn’t need one if we paid attention to what is in fact very simple science. There is already a very effective treatment for avoiding Covid-19 right now and there has been from the start. This is it, in case you didn’t hear what I said above:

STAY SIX FEET AWAY FROM OTHER PEOPLE, ALL THE TIME!!!

DON’T BREATHE, COUGH, LAUGH, SNEEZE, OR BLOW SMOKE NEAR ANYONE ELSE!!!

DON’T LET ANYONE BREATHE, COUGH, LAUGH, SNEEZE OR BLOW SMOKE ON YOU!!!

ALWAYS WEAR A MASK WHEN OUTSIDE YOUR HOME.

I REPEAT: ALWAYS WEAR A MASK WHEN OUTSIDE YOUR HOME!!!

The virus is spread by breathing on other people. No public message has been this clear. No public message has used visuals to show all the wrong ways people are masking (when they bother) – e.g. with their noses uncovered, with the whole mask on or under their chin, with it hanging from one ear, holding it in their hand, taking it off as soon as they exit a train – even while still on the platform, the escalator and in the corridor to the exit. Everywhere they walk that is close to other people, such as on the pavement of every street – in every shop – and on the bus. At work, in school, in a public toilet. Get it??

How often have there been videos on TV or on online news media showing how droplets of moisture in your breath make a fine spray all around you when you breathe, cough or sneeze, and travel long distances when you breathe hard, while running, laugh out loud, blow out the smoke of a cigarette. This spray carries the virus if the virus is in your lungs. Everyone’s breath makes this spray all the time. Including yours! These visuals should be shown daily.

WEARING A MASK SHOULD BE COMPULSORY THE WHOLE TIME THAT PEOPLE ARE NOT AT HOME – AND ENFORCED. This would reduce transmission immediately and enormously.

We’re the 5th richest country in the world. Why do good masks cost so much money, so that most people can’t afford to buy them? They should cost pennies or be free, and be distributed everywhere.

Why does a country full of intelligent people not realise any of this? Because no one has told them all these things so bluntly. Not in school. Not in the newspapers. Not on social media. Not on television or the radio.

In a war, sirens go off when there is danger. In a pandemic, when breathing on other people is the danger, these messages should be like sirens. They should be shown constantly. They should make noise and use bright colours to attract attention to themselves. Not just one-directional arrows on the stairs, half-worn away by now and ignored.

Young people think they aren’t at risk, they’ve been told again and again that even if they get the virus they’re likely to be all right. So they don’t understand how much they may pose a risk to others, spread the virus to friends who spread the virus, especially affecting people over 60. Many people with the virus have no symptoms. Many of them may be infecting people completely unknowingly, as they walk close to them, breathe on them, again and again and again, day in, day out. Children of all ages were sent back to school and university, but many schools were not made safe, and now children are spreading the virus.

People have been told to stay home, not to gather in crowds. But remember the beaches in summer? And just look at the crowds in all the public parks and along the river, all the time, with so many not wearing masks.

We are one of the richest and most educated countries in the world. Yet our government has allowed this to happen, and we all need to act and make fundamental changes in what we are or are not doing about it. Starting with our own behaviour in public and shared spaces.

At the same time, we need a competent Prime Minister and government to take charge. We went from bad to worse getting Boris Johnson. He can’t handle it.

Lastly, and most importantly, we all need to listen to the scientists and public health experts who do know what they are talking about. I strongly recommend following Independent SAGE, who are currently calling for an immediate national lockdown. They are a group of scientists who are working together to provide independent scientific advice to the UK government and public on how to minimise deaths and support Britain’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. They do research, gather evidence, talk to journalists and write articles, and they broadcast a public report on the web and answer questions every Friday at 1:30pm for an hour. Journalists are finally starting to quote them. You can quote them on social media. You can share this blog too.

Make safe behaviour your new year’s resolution, and stick to it!!! So that we can indeed have the chance of a happy, healthy, safer year in 2021.

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