#COVID19 – Observing #Coronavirus

With the ensuing fallout from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, perhaps we need a massive virus outbreak every year? At least now some of our communities are coming back together and supporting each other, which is absolutely a refreshing change! Maybe not but, placing all flippancy aside for the moment; as with any major ‘disaster’ covid-19 is bringing out both the good and bad in our society. My hope is that the former becomes the norm.

Perhaps a tad belatedly in some communities, I’m thankfully starting to see some of those positive human traits – the ones that should always be evident but sadly, they are often hidden or buried under the festering boils of self-interest. Often, it’s not until the levels of adversity that we are currently experiencing become almost unmanageable, before we start to see/find the people that can truly be relied upon for some support, when the proverbial shit hits the fan!

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans. (World Health Organisation)

Common Symptoms

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. (WHO)

Preventative Measures

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. (WHO) See NHS recommendations also.

Covid-19 Realities

Thankfully, I’m not too worried about covid-19, at least not from a personal perspective. If I catch the disease I catch it, realistically there isn’t much I can do to prevent that.

Doctor Abdu Sharkawy, of the University of Toronto, said he was more scared about the ‘loss of reason’ and the ‘wave of fear’ sweeping across the world, than the number of deaths that could be claimed by the virus. (metro.co.uk)

As Dr Abdu Sharkawy espoused recently; “I am not scared of Covid-19” but also like him, “I am concerned about the implications… for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised.”

These vulnerable are the ones who stand to “suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge.”

I’m scared about what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, open-mindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested. (Dr Abdu Sharkway)

Response & Outcomes – So Far!

Almost all the initial negative social impacts of this pandemic, predominantly within the UK but also further afield, have not been as a result of illness from the virus itself. They have come from the ‘illness’ that is frustratingly endemic within our society. By that I mean the far too common traits of self-interest, personal and political agendas, overt greed and that almost constant desire of self-promotion in our digital age. All too common factors, amongst many individuals and organisations in our society.

Much of the panic buying has resulted from the misinformation that has spread like a wildfire across social-media platforms. But,  how much of this ‘news’ actually has a base in fact?

Perhaps this newly coined infodemic is becoming far more of a risk to our society than the actual virus?

But thankfully, and contrary to some popular belief (see below), our Government does have a Coronavirus (COVID-19) action plan. Whether its successful (or not) remains to be seen however; many with personal/political/academic agendas and self-promotional narratives, are already doing all within their power to pull it apart, and at every opportunity.

Yes, the actions of any national administration should always be open to robust scrutiny however; I remain unconvinced about the validity of some of the vitriolic challenge. Is it really helpful, in what is an “unprecedented” national and international ‘crisis’ situation? Again, time will tell.

Labour has branded the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak “shambolic” (The Independant)

The UK is adopting a much more limited response than other countries. It may be ignoring essential lessons from elsewhere (The Guardian)

When circumstances and the impacts of the virus can and do change, on an almost daily basis, due to exponential growth of the problem(s) we face; is it useful to put additional barriers in the path of any response? How will these ‘barriers’ impact upon end results? 

As far as I’m concerned; whether you agree with or accept the Coronavirus (COVID-19) UK government response (or not) is mostly immaterial. We need to try and accept; most of the government, the scientists and public service professionals are doing their best to navigate uncharted territory towards a (hopefully) safe and successful conclusion.

Find out the number of cases and risk level in the UK, what to do if you have symptoms, and what the government is doing about the virus. (Gov.uk Guidance)

During what is, in reality, an unprecedented situation, we really should try to trust and accept what the political leadership of all nations are trying to do i.e. protect the populations of their societies. Now is really not the time for petty-political squabbles or unhelpful conspiracy theories… that often originate in America. Time for a reality check perhaps?

But, it’s also worth remembering that; some authoritarian administrations might not be as open and honest as perhaps they could/should be!

All said so far, we should also accept that the present situation is hardly a surprising phenomenon, given that “Coronavirus is a political problem“, particularly but not exclusively in the USA, currently.

International Researchers Conclude COVID-19 is Not Man-Made: Conspiracy theorists have suggested that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is manmade, leaked from the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory that is in the area where the pandemic originated. (biospace.com)

To my mind, perhaps more than some regimes across the world; UK political leaders are (mostly) doing all they can, as fast as they can. And that response IS based upon science, rather than political agendas but; we also have to accept that things can and do change as the ‘experts’ continue to learn more.

Boris Johnson will forever be defined by the coronavirus crisis. It is now clear that – for good or ill – Boris Johnson will be remembered for his handling of Covid-19 (The Guardian)

The levels of political indignation are commensurate with the overall standards of public-health systems and government policy, in any nation. That and the availability, or lack of,  accessible health-care provision in those nations. It’s worth remembering that; not all countries have the high quality health-services that we (currently) enjoy in the UK… at least for now.

The coronavirus is likely to go down as a significant moment in our history. But how will it change our politics? (theneweuropean.co.uk)

If we accept and acknowledge the prominence of high levels of self-interest in today’s society, we should be able to see and understand many of the impacts on any coordinated, timely and effective response to the crisis. The optimistic pragmatist in me is thinking; perhaps some of these old traits are starting to dissipate as we move forward… together!

The Insidious MSM

To my mind, one of the foremost and major impacts to all the issues we face in this epidemic has been the prominent scaremongering media methodology. Sensational headlines reporting half-truths and statistics out of context, all of which are rapidly circulated in pandemic proportions across social-media platforms. 

Infectious disease doctor is more worried about mass panic than coronavirus (metro.co.uk)

The media are actually responsible for so much of the panic that has grown in this crisis. Yes, these are worrying times however; the irresponsible actions of many media outlets have compounded and increased the problems we face. In no small way, they are undoubtedly the cause of all the panic buying and stockpiling of household items that has taken place.

NHS to the Rescue

We are lucky in the UK, we have a public-health system and a comprehensive health-care provider that (for now) is still second to non.The problem is that too many are unable to recognise the fact; many people in that service put us before their own needs yet some, are still happy to vilify the service. OK, much of that angst is aimed at the politics behind and management of the system however; how much of our anger rubs off on professional individuals who are trying to do a professional and selfless job of work for our society? 

By all means berate and castigate the ‘political’ leadership, if they are impeding NHS service, but FFS recognise and value the front-line people. And importantly, if you’re minded to stockpile another 50kgs of bog-roll etc. Spare a thought for those who can’t shop when you can, because they’re caring for the sick people… the next one might be you!

Spare some thought for all those in the NHS who are doing their very best to help keep us all safe!

UK Retail Industry

Like the Government in some respects, the retail industry has (arguably) been caught with its pants down, when it comes to keeping the nation supplied with essentials (like bog-roll). Allegations of actions based upon commercial interests and/or profiteering aside (there has undoubtedly been some), I don’t think retailers ever expected the levels of panic stockpiling that have sadly been evident.

Once again, perhaps a little slow to respond to developing situations? Events and subsequent response clearly don’t materialise at the anything like the speed at which disinformation travels via social-media. Thankfully the industry is starting to do the ‘right thing’ but they will probably need legislative support like rationing from the government. For all their best will and effort, how can we realistically expect any diminutive shop assistant to stop some self-interested amoebae from grabbing their next pack of 24 bog-rolls?

One amusing comment I saw this week went along the lines of…  “Stockpiling fresh food and veg? How come so many people responsible for panic buying, who have always previously relied upon take-away meals, can suddenly need so much fresh food? It’s as if they learned to cook overnight?”

The Early Legacy of Covid-19?

Download Hand Washing PosterNow there’s a difficult question for anyone to try and proffer a realistic prediction about, let alone arrive at the definitive answer; anyone got a crystal ball they can lend me?

There are likely to be diverse outcomes from this pandemic and sadly, I suspect that not all of them will be good ones. Many are already predicting that coronavirus will be our nemesis, one that will lead us into a post-apocalyptic and dystopian society

But, the stoic in me drives me towards hoping for positives and not worrying about the negatives… until I am forced to deal with them, personally. One of the greatest positives so far perhaps is; many more people actually appear to be helping others, rather than shitting on them (with a few notable exceptions) and… more people are now washing their hands, for a change!

Anxiety & Mental-health Impacts

Thanks, in the main to social-media misinformation, and a good smattering of those emotive, alarmist and sensational headlines from the insidious MSM, often hiding behind the mask of public service journalism, social and individual anxiety abounds. There will be many negative impacts for people’s mental-health as we go forward, and undoubtedly for some time to come.

Many people don’t posses the capability to observe life events with a stoic resolve but thankfully, I’m grateful that I don’t sit within that particular demographic. That said, I totally empathise with those who will be impacted by the common methodology of the media efforts.

National & World Economics

Already many are saying that economic recovery for most nations (after coronavirus), will be measured in years, rather than months. That is probably correct, it’s almost impossible to forecast the financial costs to most countries.

The conspiracy theorists (as to be expected) are having an absolute ‘orgasmic’ field-day at the moment. Some, like David Icke, are suggesting that the world response to this pandemic, and the ensuing financial Armageddon around Covid-19 is actually intentional (see the London Real YouTube Interview); I’ll leave you to formulate your own opinions.

The end of our current situation is uncertain, to say the least. The socio-economic impacts of the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic will be profound and probably long-lasting.

The coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China, has infected more than 200,000 people. Its spread has left businesses around the world counting costs. (BBC News)

As an ‘Opinion’ piece in The Guardian pointed out recently; “Since the 1990s, faith in ‘the market’ has gone unchallenged. Now even public shopping has become a crime against society” (in many ways).

Coronavirus has shattered the myth that the economy must come first… (The Guardian)

Perhaps the past proverbial Holy Grail of commercial interests and our overt consumerism in society will change, over the coming months/years? Possibly beyond all recognition!

Supply shortages are expected to affect a number of sectors due to panic buying, increased usage of goods to fight the pandemic, and disruption to factories and logistics in Mainland China. There have been widespread reports of supply shortages of pharmaceuticals, with many areas seeing panic buying and consequent shortages of food and other essential grocery items. (wikipedia.org)

But, the present financial factors, for individuals and businesses alike, are the pressing bits that need to be urgently addressed, especially for the most vulnerable in our society. We will need to ensure that the likes of Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, are held to their words – “we will do whatever it takes to support the economy during the crisis.”

Some Conclusions

How to debunk covid-19 conspiracy theories: In the whirlwind of news about the novel coronavirus pandemic, it can be hard to figure out what’s a scam or rumor [sic] and what’s vital information. The ways in which the COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has transformed the way we work and keep ourselves entertained already feels unreal. (The Verge)

Yes we are undoubtedly facing difficult, troubling and worrying times however; above all else we need to try and stay calm, if we want to see any success in managing the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions based upon political or personal self-interest.

Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education. We have an opportunity to learn a great deal about health hygiene and limiting the spread of innumerable transmissible diseases in our society.  (Dr Abdu Sharkway)

As Sharkway pointed out; we need to meet this challenge together, “in the best spirit of compassion for others, patience and above all, an unfailing effort to seek truth, facts and knowledge as opposed to conjecture, speculation and catastrophizing.” Facts not fear – because our children will thank us for it.

 

Trying to develop a modicum of Stoicism wouldn’t go amiss here, to help us all prevail in uncertain times. We need to try and keep calm!

Most importantly, whatever you are doing today – before, after and at regular intervals throughout your day – FFS Wash your Hands! 

NHS Coronavirus advice & guidance

And the final words of this blog, which also echo so many of my own thoughts, go to The Daily Stoic

Epictetus Quote

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