Is it over yet?

Is it just me who remembers how this year started? I ask because we find ourselves in the same situation as we were at the start of the year. I was amongst those who believed I was safe from the virus because we were told it hunts down the elderly like a shady cold-caller hoping to con them out of their pension. From the very start, I worried about the old people who live nearby. For me, there was nothing to worry about because I’m young-ish (almost 40), and after all, it’s just a bad cold, right?

Every day I see experts call for various measures, I see the frustration and anger that they’re not being taken seriously. On the other hand, I see some doctors and politicians saying this is all but over and we should throw everything open and get back to doing things the way we used to. I still find myself swinging between blind optimism and deep fear that something very bad lies ahead. This daily Jekyll and Hyde stuff is not helped by the fact the government have retreated into the shadows. Do they think it’s over or do they still think it is still a danger to life?

Some arguments against carrying on with social distancing, local lockdowns, masks and all that stuff are: There’s a mutation in the mix that is more infectious but less deadly. There are now more people dying from the flu, cancer and suicide. If we damage the economy, people will die. We can’t eliminate all risk and we need to ask how much risk we’re willing to live with.

There’s more and some arguments involve mind control, aliens and demons.

I read there is a strain circulating in Europe which is more infectious and less deadly. Do we know if it’s the dominant strain? Is it an outlier? I know that hospitalisation’s and deaths are extremely low, it’s something I’ve been watching for a while. It looks like one explanation is the fact it appears to be spreading amongst younger people at the moment. Don’t think for a second that I don’t want to see cancer and suicide eradicated, I do. Both have impacted me to some degree personally, and I know the damage they both cause. I understand we can’t eliminate all risk, some risk makes life interesting. If the economy collapses, we have no cash to fund the NHS, so I won’t argue against protecting the economy.

The thing is, we have no clue how this virus affects people over the longer term. It has already killed close to a million people this year and that figure will only rise. Who spins the roulette wheel to see who gets to live and die? It’s like flicking the switch on an electric chair, someone needs to do it and the weight of those consequences will have to be carried by someone. There are still people who could and would die if they became infected, we can keep them safe by doing simple things like wearing masks and keeping our distance. Who wants to tell those people their lives matter less?

Then there’s the zero-COVID debate. Pushing for a COVID-free UK is how we get back to “normal”. Some people don’t want that and I can’t understand why. They’ve convinced themselves that the only way to achieve it is to lock down until the virus is gone. I have no idea where that came from but no, that’s not how you get there. Actually adhering to social distancing, hygiene measures, wearing masks, avoiding crowded places (especially indoors), finding cases, tracing contacts, isolating the infected and their contacts are some of the steps you take. There is no silver bullet and a permanent national lockdown sure as hell isn’t it. I really didn’t think so many people would be willing to give up so easily. If you drive cases as close to zero as possible, then keep on top of flare-ups, you then focus on imported cases. It’s not a complicated concept.

Ultimately, it’s not me or anyone else in the general public who will decide how things go. That burden lies with the men and women who were elected to make those calls.

Let’s entertain the idea that the virus is just as deadly now as it’s always been. “Oops, I was wrong” won’t bring much comfort to the grieving families who would have their world torn apart if we force a return to “normal”.

I’m happy to accept I could be wrong. That’s why I’ve said countless times we need to listen to experts. There doesn’t seem to be many good options which is why I’m willing to accept that it’s politicians who ultimately need to weigh up the evidence and pick the least worse path. All I ask is they put the public first and not the interests of their donors or friends.

As things stand, the only way we get answers to many of the questions we face is to wait and see. If we did nothing during this time and over the winter we see hospitals fill again, it’s time wasted that will have led to even more deaths. If we did nothing and it turns out we’re past the worst of it, it’s great news and we can get back to some normality. When it comes to gambling with human lives, I’d personally take the cautious approach. The cost is too high for me to support a cavalier approach.

I read that Matt Hancock is ramping up testing again and he’s aiming to test everyone on a weekly basis. You’ll know by now that I’m all for mass testing. I just wonder why we keep going private when we have the NHS and the Armed Forces. Sticking with private companies hasn’t worked out well so far and I have to ask, have we learned nothing? I like his ambition, he likes to think big. Why the constant obsession with handing massive contracts to the private sector? Relying on them to provide PPE makes sense. Getting help with logistics also makes some sense. Asking them to lead a massive testing rollout on the scale he’s talking about just sounds like a recipe for chaos and even more bad headlines and scandals. Not to mention delays with results. All of this could potentially destroy any trust in testing. I’m not criticising his vision, just the methods he’s using to achieving it.

Some thought needs to be given to whether or not testing will be compulsory. Yes, in an ideal world everyone would be willing to get tested but we don’t live in an ideal world. That said, you cannot physically force swabs into orifices. Would G4S be employed to hold down unwilling members of the public? One option would be to offer free tests to everyone who wants one whether they have symptoms or not. Making them available at as many locations as possible so they don’t need to travel seems sensible. One reason I supported rapid saliva tests in workplaces and at home is because they could be used daily and they’re less of an inconvenience. They’re also cheaper. Obviously, experts will have their view on them and their opinions should definitely be taken extremely seriously. It’s all fair and well me bumping my gums but these people didn’t get to where they are by accident.

Speaking of experts, where is “The Science” these days? Is it frolicking on a farm somewhere, chasing bunnies and butterflies? Whenever I hear politicians talk about “The Science” I immediately picture something that looks like “The Gruffalo” wearing a lab coat with its head buried in a stack of books. I hear it likes baby tears. Could we lure it back by leaving a trail for it to follow? Do we have a net big enough to capture such an unruly beast? I miss “The Science”, those were simpler times.

Did you hear about the nasty consequences of low blood sugar? Who knew that “you’re not you when you’re hungry” slogan was so accurate? I think I might start carrying massive amounts of chocolate when I’m out and about because damn, I’ve been putting myself in danger all this time. I’m relieved to know that it wasn’t poison because that would mean there was yet another poisoning linked to Russia.

Let’s entertain the outlandish claims that it was a nasty substance which caused Alexie Navalni to have such an awful reaction to a cup of tea, what can anyone realistically do about it anyway? You could tell the Russians they’re naughty, you could impose sanctions, you could isolate them. That’s pretty much it. If I was a creepy-ass dictator with access to the second-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, I don’t think I’d be all that bothered if people thought I was an arsehole and a maniac. The “alleged” poisoning is, on the grand scheme of things, not a big deal when compared to the other things they’ve been accused of. Bombing hospitals and killing women and babies, that’s up there with some of the worst things a person can do.

Be under no illusion, I think that the clinically deranged who get their kicks from murdering babies should, of course, be punished. I just don’t see how it’s possible. There’s no realistic way that happens.

I haven’t heard Trump mention anything about the “alleged” poisoning. I know he has a lot on his plate, with an election coming up and his friends being rounded up for various crimes. I’d mention the virus but…

Are we heading for a situation where only the EU is willing to stand up to tyrants and maniacs? We isolated ourselves and as much as I love my wee corner of the world, we don’t have the clout to go toe to toe with the big boys. No point getting all bent out of shape over it, I suppose.

We still need to find some sort of solution to our own problems and for some, that’s the situation with quarantine and holidays. We’re watching a new batch of holidaymakers rush to beat the quarantine and again I find myself wondering if it could have been avoided.

I keep coming back to some form of traffic light system because it’s simple. I know it’s far from perfect but if travellers know what the risk is before they leave the UK, they can make arrangements for the possibility of a two-week stint at home when they get back. They can also factor in the possibility of cutting their holiday short or even changing their destination if there is a risk of their holiday being affected.

The idea of testing multiple times when someone gets home is a sensible one and I agree with Grant Shapps that it creates further hurdles. One possibility is testing at the airport and again at a pop-up or a drive-in testing centre a few days later. It’s not a perfect solution but nothing is. You would have to enforce it or else it’s pointless. All I know is the current situation isn’t working.

Once again I want to point out that mental health issues are on the rise. People really are struggling and it won’t fix itself. I know there are already so many problems that need immediate attention but as is the case with cancer and other illnesses, it still needs to be addressed.

I’ve seen some of the government tweets urging people to call some of the various helplines for support and I’m glad something is being done. I’d also like to see mental health treatment expanded. Some people need a chat, other people need so much more.

If hospitals are in a position where they can breathe a sigh of relief, we should be resuming as much of the day to day stuff as possible. There is no point in people missing out on treatments and operations unnecessarily. If hospitals avoid a second surge, then we can carry on close to normal. If we do see another spike in COVID admissions, making sure as many people as possible have had life-saving treatment before they are swamped is vital to prevent an even larger backlog.

I hate even typing the word, but cancer doesn’t give a damn if we’re in the middle of a pandemic. There are lifesaving treatments available elsewhere that we have decided are too expensive. Too many are missing screening and some of the most severely ill were asked to stay at home because the virus posed a huge risk. I hope we’re prioritising treatment based on who needs it most. Again, there is no ideal way to resume treatment because it seems like some people will always be left holding the shitty end of the stick. Again, all I know is people need to be treated. Pandemic or not, we need to get them in and we need to make them better.

Matt Hancock has shown he’s willing to attempt the impossible, the big question is, will he show the same ambition when it comes to defeating cancer?

I just want to say once again that I hope you’re all taking care of yourselves and the people who matter. A smile can hide an awful lot. Don’t be afraid to ask twice if someone is coping. It’s better to be a bit of a pain in the ass if it helps someone to feel like they matter. If you’re struggling in any way, there’s no shame in asking for a little bit of help. We’re all human and sometimes we just need a helping hand.

Please stay safe, please stay healthy and please look after each other.

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