We are beginning to think of ending the lock-down. How different will it be afterwards?
That little strand of RNA wrapped up as COVID-19 has altered our behaviour. It has shut our institutions; schools, universities, travel, industries, retail and the legal system. Health, policing, food and pharmacy remain active with some local travel.
Some of us have been able to work from home and found it satisfactory. A friend is wondering why he keeps a London office; a weekly meeting in an office hired for half a day may be sufficient. Others strive to work amid the domestic activities of children and housework. The fashion for open-plan living areas in houses has not helped.
Social events, sport, theatre, concerts, festivals and fairs are ideal means of spreading COVID. We can limit the risk by having more but smaller events. There is an attraction to watch the very best in the field, but we can get as much pleasure watching a school concert or football team striving to be the best.
Lessons I learnt 65 years ago
Getting things moving again is exercising our politicos. They are thinking countrywide but should be thinking locally. There are areas of the country without COVID and other regions with low levels. Chandler’s Ford has had four COVID deaths, Hiltingbury two but Colden Common has none. I cannot find the figure for how many of us have been infected.
Now we are remembering the basic lessons that I first learned 65 years ago at medical school, we could get local areas working. The first lesson is to make a diagnosis, then you know what the treatment must be and what is likely to happen. We have tests, we can make a secure diagnosis.
The second lesson is that, in the event of a threatened epidemic, act quickly to isolate those affected, cut off the source of the infection and trace the contacts. We have got round to thinking about this – Track, Test, Trace and Treat.
A smallpox epidemic in 1961
I had direct experience of this when the country was threatened with a smallpox epidemic in 1961. My flatmate, and his girlfriend, were traced as contacts and both were quarantined in my flat. I had to find somewhere else to live. We students were recruited to do vaccination clinics. The old methods worked, and only 40 people died of smallpox.
I was surprised not to be checked for illness when we returned from Sri Lanka in March this year. A week or two later, the President of the Sri Lankan Medical Association, travelling in the opposite direction, from London to Colombo, was taken to an old army camp out in the bush. There he spent two weeks in quarantine with builders and housemaids returning from the Middle East.
Support local initiatives when you can
By the end of this summer, Chandler’s Ford will be different. Schools will be half-open, and many of our local firms and shops will have disappeared. It is a reminder to support local initiatives when you can. Shops, banks and GP surgeries will operate in new ways. What will we do for our holidays?
Looking to the Autumn and Winter, we are likely to have the second wave of infections which may be larger than this one. Another, smaller, is probable early in 2021. When 60-70% of us have recovered from the virus or have been vaccinated, the pandemic will fade away. Buckle up. We are in for a rough 12 months. Like many of you, I am locked-down for a while, but that is better than being underground for eternity.