By now I believe no adult in the country can be unaware of how Coronavirus spreads its infection. Nonetheless, I will repeat NHS advice on avoiding it because today I want to consider just what impact this wretched virus is having on the way we are having to live, whether going out to work or stuck at home.
Essentially people catch Coronavirus from others who have the virus. The disease infects from person to person through small droplets coming out of a nose or mouth which are released when a person infected with it coughs, exhales or even speaks. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around that person. Other people then catch Coronavirus by contact with those objects or surfaces, before touching their eyes, nose or mouth where the virus gains entry to the body. We can also catch Coronavirus if we breathe in droplets from a person with the virus who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is recommended to stay more than 2 metres (6 feet 6 inches) away from a person who is sick. Some suggest face masks may help to protect us.
I am not so sure though. The jury is still out on the efficiency of masks over our mouths and noses. I wrote about my doubts on this in my post on 24 April. Coronavirus could squeeze 1,000 copies of itself into the width of a human hair. So, can a cloth, even with an ultra-fine mesh stop the passage of coronavirus; especially when propelled inwards or outwards by the force of breath by our lungs? Surely, if air can penetrate a mask, which it must so that people can breathe, then piggybacking along with it could be millions of the Coronavirus germ? But I will stop here on this subject as I have examined it before (24 April). In short nonetheless, I am unconvinced of the efficacy of face masks.
Neither is it certain how long the Coronavirus survives outside a body. Studies suggest that coronaviruses may persist on surfaces for a few hours - or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment). If a surface, like a doorknob, may be infected, we should clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect ourselves and others. Hands should be cleaned with an alcohol-based hand rub or by washing with soap and water.
So, when we are out for shopping or whatever we should try to avoid being nearer than 6 feet 6 inches to anyone else and we should avoid touching surfaces as Coronavirus might be lurking there despite the infected person not being present. On returning home, having been outside the best safety precautions should involve washing hands and disinfecting anything we touched until we do that. I suppose when outside too our outer clothing might also have brushed against an infected surface. Maybe we should wash them at a high temperature as well? All that is a pretty tall order – especially if you have children to decontaminate as well.
The latest Government briefings suggest that social distancing and safety Coronavirus safety measures will be with us for a long time and we will just have to find a way of living with them.
So, it is pretty important that society determines who is sick with Coronavirus and who could spread it. Thus, testing is important – even if, currently, it only determines whether a person has the virus, at that time, in their body.
We have now reached the figure of 100,000 tests a day which is great news. To be honest I thought we would not but we have! I was wrong. Well done Matt Hancock and the NHS. It has involved a massive effort and we should be very grateful for all involved. That includes our Armed Forces too.
Locally we have had a pop-up test centre run by the Army established in Norman Park (see photograph). It opened this morning and, after taking advice from the Coronavirus Emergency Control Centre that I could visit it, I went there myself to thank them on behalf of everyone.
The Pop-up Test Centre was manned by a platoon of soldiers from 1st Battalion the Grenadier Guards commanded by Lieutenant Alex Fetherston-Godley. They are based in Aldershot. It was great to see them there and the soldiers told me that they really felt they were doing valuable work. Hurrah for them. Of course, I was only there briefly and stayed well away from anyone. I was not tested myself.
Once we can get a feel as to who is infected and who is not, we should be able to try and get the country back to some form of normality. For instance, if nobody in an office has the virus surely social distancing rules need not apply to that group of people? In Westminster, where I have not been for six weeks, 4 people including myself normally work in my one room office. It is impossible to keep 2 metres away from one another the whole time. We all work from home at the moment and thankfully none of us shows any symptoms of Coronavirus.
Actually, MPs have been hugely discouraged, although not forbidden, from going into Parliament. However, if I and my office staff were tested and the result was negative there would be little risk.
That having been said, it seems to me that if everyone who worked together, was to be certified as fit for duty by testing, surely, they could go back to work – with social distancing practised carefully if they were to meet others.
Of course, I am skipping the problem of possible risks on the commute to work – particularly on the Underground.
I understand there are no tests yet that prove if you have had Coronavirus. That is pretty important too – assuming, of course, that we cannot catch it again. This latter point is still uncertain although reports from research in South Korea suggest that once a person recovers from having Coronavirus, they are actually immune. Good news there.
The way ahead is clearly to find a vaccine. If it works and everyone receives it then we might be able to get back to life and business as normal. As I have written in previous posts this may not be too far away now. But I think we should not count on it being available for large-scale distribution fast. From what the experts suggest we are still in for a long haul.
I wonder if pubs, restaurants, cinemas and indeed barbers and hairdressers will be open by Christmas? Please Lord, I hope I am wrong there and they are back in business long before then.