Friday 6 March 2020

An Excursion into the Topical

As the death toll mounts to a terrifying total of, er, 1, the nation stands braced for the greatest threat to life and health since the bubonic plague...
  Don't you sometimes – no, make that practically all the time – feel that things are getting a little out of proportion (and not only with Coronavirus)? In the ceaseless babble about Covid-19, the measures being taken (or not), the measures that will have to be taken (or not), our media and government seem to have lost sight of what kind of disease this latest Chinese export is: highly infectious, yes, but in terms of seriousness closer to flu than to Ebola. If you catch it, you might (or might not) get ill, but, unless you're old (or, it seems, Chinese) or your health is already compromised, you're very unlikely to die of it. Every winter, flu viruses infect and kill people on a much larger scale. Since October, there have been more than 70 confirmed flu deaths in England alone – and this has been an easy year. Last winter, there were more than 300 deaths from flu, plus another 1,700 that were flu-related (despite all those vaccinations). Covid-19 might be new, but it seems unlikely to pose any more of a threat than what we're already used to, and deal with, winter after winter, without treating it as a national emergency. And, unlike flu, this Coronavirus will not be with us year after year. 
  In the midst of all the noise and panic, the government seems to have managed to get one simple message across – wash your hands more frequently, with soap and water. This is always sound advice, especially in the germy British winter. The trouble is that, these days, when people hear the word 'soap', they don't think of solid, pleasantly scented bars; they think of chemically-'fragranced' gunk that comes in plastic bottles with pumps that often don't work and are always unrecyclable (a great contribution to the environment) – or they think in terms of biocidal sanitising gels (more plastic, more waste). The latter are, I gather, selling out as fast as the manufacturers can make them. Meanwhile, soap (as in bars of soap) seems to be as available as ever – if you can find it amid all the plastic bottles of chemical gunk. Pharmacists are usually the best pace to get soap; they often have good old-fashioned scented bars, with fragrances that will lift your spirits – even in these dark days when the nation stands braced, etc, etc.


  1. Amen. Our approach here in the States has been a complete overreaction. On the other hand, car crashes kill ca. 50,000 people a year here, and none of the powers-that-be bats an eye at that.

  2. In Brazil, measles is even more lethal ...

  3. You need to talk to someone who reads the Chinese-language news if you want to find out about concern.

    Meanwhile, the guys who make their living sanding or spray-painting surfaces, grinding mortar, etc., are having a hell of a time finding the masks they need. I wish them luck.

  4. Since I wrote this one, I've looked further into figures for flu deaths. Between 2014/5 and 2018/9 the average was 17,000 a year, with a high of 28,330 in 2014/5 (these are the official PHE figures for England). On present trends it looks unlikely that Covid 19 deaths will top 2014/5's flu deaths.