So, our tousle-haired ruffian Prime Monster has given advice. It’s not compulsory, not yet, but some of it inevitably will become so.
Despite the frothing, hysterical demands from some that ‘The Government Must Do Something’, it seems to me he’s gone about this the right way.
This is not China. The people here are not conditioned to do as they are told by government. Most of us delight in doing exactly the opposite, and there is nothing the UK government can do about it… yet. Do these foaming loons really want Boris to turn this place into a China lookalike, where any deviation is punished and any criticism of the government results in disappearance? That’s what they are demanding after all. And yet, they’d be first!
Let’s have a cup of tea, chill, and look at it calmly.
There is much muttering about ‘oh it’s only flu’ and ‘flu kills many more so what’s the problem?’ and even some who don’t believe the virus exists at all. The truth is, it’s a new virus and the facts of it are not fully pinned down yet. I’ve retired from a microbiology career and I know it can take a long time to work out what a new species is capable of. When it’s a nasty one like this one all the stops are out but you still can’t fix it overnight.
It’s related to flu but it’s not plain old flu. It hasn’t killed as many as flu yet because it’s still in its first year. The symptoms look a lot like flu so some of those flu deaths could be this virus. China admitted to it in December but it had been around for a few months before that so it was already spreading around the world. Many people reported a bad flu over Christmas (my brother and his wife had it but they spend a lot more time with people than I do) which could well have been a first wave of this virus.
The big problem with this one is not the death rate. It’s higher than flu, but it’s still not the big problem. The issue is spread. You could be spreading the thing for anything up to two weeks before you even know you have it. That will cause a very rapid spike in infections and a massive surge in cases pretty much overnight. 80% of those cases only need to drink lots of fluids and lie around going ‘urgh’ for a while, but a high percentage will need hospitalisation. Higher than flu, and that already stretches the NHS. Remember, there are other diseases too.
With flu, only a small percentage need to go to hospital and it’s spread out over the winter. The new kid on the block is far more contagious than flu and sends a higher percentage to hospital. As we have seen in other countries, that spike can rapidly overwhelm the health service leading to doctors having to make horrible decisions over who would benefit from treatment and who they should just let die.
If you’re wondering how doctors sleep at night after making those decisions… they don’t.
So the advice is to avoid large gatherings, avoid interactions with people, only go out when it’s really necessary and generally become… me. I’ve been doing this most of my life. It’s great, you don’t even need to get dressed most days.
There are calls to shut all the schools. This is a good idea and a terrible idea. Children don’t seem to get this too bad but they can spread it. So one infected kid can, over the course of a few days, infect most of a school before that first kid even coughs. All those kids will take it home. Close the schools!
But wait. If the schools are closed, the parents have to stay home to look after them. Those parents include doctors, nurses, policemen, postmen, delivery drivers, shop staff… if every parent has to stop work because the schools are closed, where will you panic buy your toilet paper? Who will you turn to when the magic toilet paper cure doesn’t work? When the ferals come for your toilet paper hoard, who will you call?
Closing schools will happen but do it too soon and the whole country will fall apart.
Total lockdown? That’s been demanded. The Italians tried it and the death rate soared to 9%. If you’ve seen ‘Watchmen’ you’ll recall the scene in prison where Rorschach shouts ‘None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me’. Lockdown gives the virus a captive food supply. Nevertheless it will have to happen eventually.
Do it too soon though and you’ll have people looking around thinking ‘This is silly. Nothing is happening.’ Then they’ll break quarantine. The neighbours will see them break quarantine and think ‘Oh, it must be okay then’ and that is the end of the lockdown. You cannot have a lockdown too early or nobody will accept it. I repeat, this is not China. We do not simply do as we are told without a clear and visible reason.
Quarantining the over 70s. That is like herding cats. My mother is 78 and has been checking her flight to Aberdeen in April is still okay. That generation were born into and grew up through the second world war and aren’t scared of things they can see, never mind those they can’t. They grew up through the nasty flu pandemic of 1957 and are still here. They came through Harold Wilson unscathed, the three day week, the power cuts, the Winter of Discontent… you are not going to scare them into staying at home because of a virus.
At the other end are the Indestructibles, brought up to believe that everyone wins and nobody should ever be hurt, not even their feelings. They do not believe the measures they demand will apply to them, why would they think a virus applies to them? You see them online all the time, delighting in the death of the old through this new virus. They will not observe quarantine, they think they can spread it unharmed and kill off all the old people they disagree with. They will never accept that it can kill them too.
It does kill off the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions mostly, but those are averages. Recently an 84-year-old woman successfully recovered from infection and 30-year-olds have died of it. Pre-existing does not mean pre-diagnosed. You can have a heart condition in your twenties and you, nor anyone else, will know about it until your autopsy. Don’t laugh at this virus. It’s laughing at you.
All the measures Boris outlined are, for now, voluntary. He will need to force pub and restaraunt closures soon and ban all large gatherings such as sporting events and concerts. Here, the GP surgeries have closed and there is more to come. The suggestions will become rules. Because you won’t do it otherwise. Those measures… will they ever be reversed?
And so the no-physical-contact world of Panoptica becomes reality. I am up to 17 chapters on that one. I promised a chapter a week and we are about 12 weeks into the year so I’m taking that as a success so far, despite personal mitigating circumstances.. Those reading it will have noticed that the authorities need no permission to enter your home, they just come right in. That’s now being proposed in the real world.
I have to get back into working. My father’s ghost will be poking me in the back with his stick otherwise, he never had an idle day in his life. Even after two strokes. His funeral was epic though, there were people sat in the choir stalls because the church was full.
Best quote of the dark day was when the undertaker asked how many pall bearers we had. Four. My cousins. The undertaker said that for a man of my father’s size (he wasn’t fat) they usually used six. My brother just said. ‘You wait until you see them.’
They did a fantastic job. And they are all gentle giants.