Gosh, today is one of these days … I really cannot be bothered! The weather has changed, here, and the skies are grey as smatterings of rain pitter patter on the window. No real concept of days of the week, yesterday was summer! The sun was a constant and the warmth which radiated through the brightness was mirrored in the outdoors. Dressed completely inappropriately, I was not to be caught out today. What were the chances of Nature having the last laugh?
Venturing out, yesterday, to the garage and to pick up supplies (always sounds like a line straight out of an old western!), I went straight to the beach about 4.30pm. People! Is this what it has been like, routinely, and, as though a sketch from Little Britain, everyone, miraculously, disappears before I arrive? Granted, it was unusually hot but there has been a marked change this week. Suddenly, there are cars everywhere; parked in streets which have been empty for weeks. The town seems almost alive with students again and there is a steady stream of people on the pavements. Where are they going? From whence have they come? There are no more shops open than before. Does this mark a rebellion or reflect a mood of dissent? The fear is tangible but so is the frustration and I sense that everyone has had enough. The bombardment of figures continues; the cloud of gloom shows no sign of abating and leadership seems characterised by chaos. Moreover, the resignation of Professor Neil Ferguson from his Government advisory position two days ago, has served only to further undermine any trust in said leadership when, once again, those in position of influence and authority deem themselves above any jurisdiction. Remember Dr Catherine Calderwood? One does question our part in all this: mere plebeians who must be controlled for the general good? Some time ago, I suggested that this pandemic had afforded the ambitious few, prone to the dramatic, the opportunity of a lifetime: leading roles in a production whose audience is captive in the true sense of the word! Methinks, however, that the proletariat has become restless. The reviews are not good. The protagonists, fallible. The burden of responsibility is weighing increasingly heavily on those who may, merely, have craved applause.
Returning to the subject of Professor Neil Ferguson who believed himself above the lockdown he instructed, on googling his resignation, I found it interesting to note that his mother-in-law, Ms Pirie, has leapt to his defence: ‘All of this derision because he invited a woman into his flat? Is this really such a big deal? I think we need to get things in perspective.’. Oh, but we have! Perhaps, though, ‘perspective’ means something different to the intellectually challenged?
Further detail of this story may be found in the fact that the married woman in question, Antonia Staats, lives with her husband and two children but is said to have been angry at the label of ‘mistress’ as she is in an open marriage and free to meet other men. Delightful. Deserving, too, of a higher echelon than everyone else?
Actually, I am angry. Subscribing to The Telegraph online, the other evening I spent some time digesting an article on Sweden and its unconventional response to the COVID-19 pandemic which, as of now, would seem to have proved the most successful. Following a strategy advocated by Anders Tegnell, an epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, the country did not go into lockdown or impose strict social-distancing policies. Instead, the focus was on individual responsibility. While it was advised that the elderly and vulnerable avoid social contact, that those able to should work from home, non-essential travel be avoided and, of course, regular hand-washing be practiced, borders and schools for the under-16s remained open as did many businesses including restaurants and bars.
Sweden saw an early and sudden peak in mid-March followed by a steady decline through April. In the article by Richard Orange, dated 5 May 2020, it is stated that Anders Tegnell now estimates that as much as a quarter of the population of Stockholm may already be immune. He believes that the capital might have herd immunity within weeks! This does not, however, take into account the rest of Sweden and only time will tell whether a rapid spread elsewhere may alter the overall figures of success.
At the end of April, Uno Wennergren, a mathematician and pandemic modeller at Linköping University, estimated – on Swedish national TV – that between 10,000 and 20,000 people will, ultimately, die of coronavirus in the country. If this be the case, the virus has, so far, claimed – at most – only a quarter of its likely victims with Wennergen intimating that this is down to a combination of herd immunity effect and lower infectability acting simultaneously. Sweden’s Public Health Institute has maintained, from the start, that the virus’ longevity will far exceed any period of time conceivable for a country to maintain full lockdown. So, what, now, of the dilemma faced by her neighbouring Denmark whose numbers have begun to increase, once more, since the re-opening of schools on 15th April? Does further relaxation mean a second wave is inevitable?
A second wave. Logic dictates that it is inevitable following lockdown. Of course, it is! At the end of April, I was sent a YouTube link by a friend entitled Perspectives on the Pandemic, Episode Two. Here, Professor Knut Wittkowski, PhD (interviewed in New York on the 1st/2nd April 2020 by John Kirby, among others) states the obvious. Formerly, Head of the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology & Research Design at the Rockefeller University for twenty years, Professor Wittkowski advocates herd immunity. This, he says, can only be achieved if 80% of the population has contact with the virus. The majority will either be unaware they have been infected or display very mild symptoms. Whilst the elderly and fragile should be protected (and this is key) others – particularly children, who are equipped to cope with and develop immunity to such viruses – should continue as normal, infecting each other. After 4 weeks – at most – the virus will have been extinguished thus allowing the vulnerable to integrate once more. Mission accomplished.
Containment – or lockdown – on the other hand? Professor Wittkowski advises that this, merely, prolongs the duration of the virus.
It makes sense. Yes, the argument for lockdown here, in the UK, was to stagger the impact with a view to protecting NHS resources but, in hindsight, prohibiting the virus’ natural course has only delayed the inevitable and prolonged its devastation. Meanwhile, in enforcing this strategy, the Government has ensured economic collapse and a nation, sufficiently brainwashed, crippled by fear. We shall not forget. Ironically, on the eve of the 75th Anniversary of VE Day, perhaps we should have had the courage to face the enemy head on …
‘Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt.’
William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure. (Lucio, Act I, Sc 4)
This is Trish, signing off – reminded of my dislike of everything scientific!