I have had the benefit many emails offering a great deal of advice on how to deal with the latest conovirus Covid19, in the expectation that I will pass it on to ministers. The one thing that government ministers are not short of at the moment, is advice. Indeed, they have access to the best medical and crisis management advice that can be had.
One email correspondent, responding to the false news -published in Times last week- that Parliament was to go into recess for 5 months, told me that he was glad that I was being sent home to my constituency to get ill along with everyone else.
I responded by pointing out that the danger from the covid19 is not so much to our health as to our wealth (as demonstrated by the collapse of Flybe and the consequences for Southampton Airport that will follow from it).
Some 17,000 of our fellow citizens die of flu in our country every year but we don’t hide ourselves indoors to try and avoid it. Covid19 is unlikely to kill many more than flu does and most sufferers will experience only mild symptoms, some won’t even realise that they’ve had it.
The difficulty is that Covid19 is much more ‘catching’ than flu, with the prospect that one in five of us may be off-work at when it peaks, and for those who do get severe reactions, hospitals will be overwhelmed.
It is for this reason that we need to delay the progress of the contagion, pushing its peak as far into the summer as we can. First, this will relieve the NHS of other winter pressures, including flu, so that it is better able to cope with the numbers that will have to be hospitalised. Second, there may be a seasonal decline with covid19, just as there is with flu.
The key issue is what to do to slow the progress without wrecking the economy. Clearly, we want to take measures that are effective in retarding the spread but don’t have a downside. That’s why washing your hands frequently is so helpful: it is very effective and has no economic downside whatsoever. Once you start banning large gatherings like sporting events, or even closing schools you will cause major economic dislocation for what might be only a marginal impact on the spread of the disease.
If you already have a damaged immune system or are weakened by other health or age-related conditions, I can understand the need to take precautions and to isolate yourself from the risk of exposure to Covid19 as far as you can. The rest of us however, should take advantage of the opportunities to be had, carry on going shopping, going out, and eating out. There are bargains now to be had from the holiday industry, I see no reason why they should be passed-up.
Don’t waste your money on expensive gels and masks when soap and water will do well enough.
And why people would imagine that they need to hoard loo paper -God only knows.