UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that containing Covid-19 phase is over; UK is now into the delay phase—the next phases are research followed by mitigation.

All these phases are explained in detail in the government’s “Coronavirus: Action plan”. Government says they are guided by science, everything is under constant review and the advice will change, the disruption will last many months as the disease will be slowed to save lives. After so much early commentary about overstretched medical resources having to prioritise who to treat, the PM bizarrely said “I must level with the British public, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time”. Not everyone thought this was reassuring.

Washing hands regularly remains the pre-eminent advice to safeguard against the virus. The soap breaks down the fatty barrier around the virus and makes it inactive.

The government says social distancing will become inevitable later on (possibly in three weeks?), but the timing of this is thought to be critical to avoid fatigue; experts say if it is done too early in the course of the pandemic, people will get bored/lonely and start ignoring the distancing, which could be during the peak crisis.

This is contrary to the advice being given in Ireland where Leo Varadkar has stopped public events and all schools, colleges and childcare facilities have been closed until 29 March. Nicola Sturgeon has planned to restrict large gatherings in Scotland including football and rugby matches.

UK’s plan is not to test every case. All testing will be in hospitals. The maximum transmission rate is during first symptoms for 3-4 days, people with mild symptoms can spread it exponentially. The government says people with continuous coughs or a temperature above 37.8 must stay at home for 7 days. This will help reduce the peak, and allow time to develop more counter measures and not overwhelm medical services.

As this is a new disease no-one has immunity, everyone is vulnerable; UK’s trajectory is apparently circa four weeks behind that of Italy. At the time of writing, there are 590 diagnosed cases in UK, 20 are in ICU, the real number of cases is thought to be more likely between 5,000-10,000.

The government cannot reduce the number of who are going to be infected, but the objective is to spread out the infection to reduce the number of cases at the peak.

With the emphasis on spreading the burden on the NHS, it does suggest the NHS will struggle to cope. Will the army be mobilised if necessary? Will UK have to accept assistance from another country? Taiwan seems exceptionally well prepared, or would China be offended?

A certain amount of pan-paranoia induced by social media has afflicted the nation. Some folks are already hermits, existing on food deliveries and only virtual contact.

Those with a less apocalyptical view are socially cautious and businesses have already taken the initiative and many employees are working remotely. For many young people and workers there is no luxury of choice, travel to work is invariably by crowded train, bus or subway.

Alas, deplorable behaviour has been apparent. There are some accounts of racism towards East Asians. Students at universities have suffered and Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai people have been avoided and abused.

Will this menace teach us to be more self-sufficient or are we addicted to the instant gratification of globalisation, will UK increase the percentage of GDP spent on bio-tech development and preparedness for future menaces?

 

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