I feel compelled to comment on the coronavirus outbreak and the associated panic which appears to be sweeping several parts of the world.
It is clear the line between firm and fact-driven advice to best protect against the spread of the virus and concern about under responding with accusations of not doing enough is growing more difficult to negotiate each day. What is absolutely imperative is we collectively listen to those doctors, virologists and researchers who actually know what they are talking about, and not to stupid newspapers and pathetic pundits interested only in selling more papers and/or creating more social division.
If we were discussing a worldwide outbreak of bullsh*t I could understand why a public broadcaster would seek the opinions of an expert bull-sh*tter and interview Nigel Farage of the Brexit Party. But this is an adult virus that requires adult responses and comment.
For the BBC Newsnight team to elicit comment from Farage the other night was downright irresponsible and reprehensible. Sure he is an expert in drawing a massive salary and gold-plated pension from the EU institution he loves to loathe but he knows as much about coronavirus as Boris Johnson knows about integrity or how to use a mop. At a time when the BBC is seeking support for survival such editorial decisions are crazy.
Ignore the Idiot Pundits and Unreliable Rags
Similarly, the headline in the rapidly declining Murdoch owned rag the Sun, which is reporting record losses year on year now as sales plummet and the cost of paying for their years of criminal hacking of phones kicks in, underlines how unreliable a newspaper it is and how much it relies on sensationalist distortions:
“Ban handshakes to stop coronavirus, NHS warns.”
The Sun, 27 February 2020
The NHS has warned no such thing. As Full Fact states:
“Public Health England, which is in charge of giving health advice to the public, has confirmed to us that no advice around shaking hands has been issued by the government.”
The latest NHS advice recommends covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve—rather than your hands—when you cough or sneeze and putting used tissues in the bin immediately. It also advises frequent hand washing with soap and water, or hand sanitiser gel if soap and water aren’t available, and avoiding close contact with people who are unwell.
The Advice Is Not Rocket Science – Wash Your Hands Well & Regularly
The advice is clear, sensible and informed. What idiot pundits like Farage and idiotic newspapers like the Sun do is inspire panic by spreading false and unhelpful stories and messages. Undoubtedly Italy has a major problem with a virus which incredibly to date there seems to be no universally available antidote for. In a twenty-four hour period they moved from quarantining 16 million Italian citizens to essentially locking down the whole country of 60 million citizens. It is sad indeed to see wonderful cities like Rome effectively closed. However, Italy has over 10,000 sufferers of the virus and rising with a death toll that had reached 631 last night. Medics are describing the impact of the virus on several Italian cities and their medical facilities as the equivalent to a bomb. They are at breaking point in relation to hospital isolation beds and proper testing equipment. Emergency measures have been imposed.
Globally more than 4,000 people have died from the coronavirus and over 113,000 cases have been confirmed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, about 64,000 people have recovered around the world so this is by no means a fatal virus.
It is more dangerous for the elderly population over 70 years of age and those with underlying illnesses and/or respiratory complaints. The sooner an effective antidote is developed the better and if a fraction of national resources dedicated to devising more effective and deadly weapons of death was instead diverted to proper medical research such viruses would not catch the world so off guard.
In the UK the picture is radically different to Italy. The number of coronavirus cases rose by 54 yesterday to 373 and six individuals have died but all had already existing health problems. The number of coronavirus cases in Scotland is 27. We need a strong sense of proportion and perspective. Panic buying of toilet rolls, tinned foods and pasta is daft and unnecessary.
Those filling trolleys with hand sanitiser clearly don’t listen to the medical experts who advise soap and water is much more effective at cleaning hands but given the virus is an airborne disease possessing the cleanest hands on the planet wouldn’t stop you contracting it in any case. Stop panicking. You will only make matters worse. The things you are being medically advised to do you should already be doing anyway. WASH YOUR HANDS PROPERLY AND REGULARLY. It’s not rocket science.
Be Informed By Science and Reason – Not Fear and Ignorance
The best message I have come across out with NHS official advice was posted by an experienced doctor and infectious diseases expert. Rather than engaging in irrational and ill-informed gossip fuelled panic I would implore you to read his post and follow his sage advice. As he wisely suggests the mottos for us all should be:
Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts. Our children will thank us for it.
“…I have worked in inner-city hospitals and in the poorest slums of Africa. HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis, TB, SARS, Measles, Shingles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria…there is little I haven’t been exposed to in my profession.
…I am not scared of Covid-19. I am concerned about the implications of a novel infectious agent that has spread the world over and continues to find new footholds in different soil. I am rightly concerned for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised who stand to suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge. But I am not scared of Covid-19.
What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world. I am scared of the N95 masks that are stolen from hospitals and urgent care clinics where they are actually needed for front line healthcare providers and instead are being donned in airports, malls, and coffee lounges, perpetuating, even more, fear and suspicion of others.
Please read his post, share it widely and urge reason, common sense and human compassion, not unhelpful and ignorant dangerous panic.