The story so far. As most European countries are moving towards lock-down – Eurpoe is officially the epicentre for the world pandemic having taken this role on from China – the UK government is following its own path despite massive criticism from 100s of doctors and experts. We are not trying to contain the disease. We are trying to roll it out across the population in a controlled way so that it is eventually defeated by ‘herd’ immunity. There is no vaccine and one wont come along in time anyway so we will be vaccinating our population by giving them the disease. Most will recover (the death rate is estimated between 1% and 3%) and develop the required antibodies.
In order for there not to be massive death and the total inundation and collapse of the NHS, the vulnerable, particularly the elderly over 70s, will be kept in isolation mainly at home for as many months as it takes. When they are eventually let out the disease will have been eradicated as there will be no hosts or infected people to pass it on.
This is a risky strategy. The NHS may still be unable to cope and the death toll will still be massive. The disease may not be eradicated by this strategy of herd immunisation and when the elderly are let out the virus will have a field day.The virus can evolve and mutate and visit us i a different form. Maybe in the long term we will have a flu vaccine that will deal with it but this will be too late for 100s of thousands, possibly millions.
I’m not sure of an accurate figure for the percentage of the population who are 70 and over but it is at least 12%. The vast majority of these are designated economically inactive but none the less they make a significant contribution to the economy in two ways – their unpaid work in the voluntary sector and child care and their role as consumers of goods and services. Just one example: many grandparents look after their grandchildren while their children go to work. If and when schools are closed, as is happening across Europe, parents will have their ability to work seriously compromised.
Of course the alternative to the UK policy would be to follow what the rest of Europe is doing – general social exclusion and closure. The problem with this, one the government is trying to avoid, is economic meltdown. The plus side is that it has been shown to save lives. The government is weighing up what balance it wants to achieve between the extent of the death toll and the extent of economic damage. Critics say they are prioritising the economy.
It is now the second day after the announced death of David Bowie at the age of 69 from liver cancer and the media and social media frenzy continues unabated, not surprising given his iconic status. Equally unsurprising there has been little if any reference to his flirtation with fascism in the mid 70s, none in the broadcast media a far as I can tell and only a passing reference in a couple of articles in the broadsheet press. But for my generation David Bowie had significant political impact in the 70s when he expressed the view that Hitler was the first rock star and Britain needed “an extreme right front come up and sweep everything off its feet and tidy everything up” in an interview with Playboy magazine (see article on this in the The Music Unions social history web site – David Bowie’s “Nazi” salute). It was this and the more virulent racist tirade of Eric Clapton that led to the Rock Against Racism movement and led to many of us getting involved in the Anti-Nazi League. Unlike Clapton, Bowie did distance himself from his remarks as early as 1977 claiming his flirtation with fascism was a result of his being “out of my mind, totally, completely crazed” at the time. Much more recently he has been praised for his anti-racism stance, for instance when he berated MTV for discrimination against black artists http://usuncut.com/…/bowie-remembered-legendary-music-effo…/ For over 40 years I have been a fan of his music but always a little ambivalent about the man. The dark days in the 70s of the National Front can’t be ignored. Hopefully Bowie’s legacy on the political front will not just be as an instigator of the the anti-Nazi moment but as an influential anti-racist.
Today is the 1st of November and for some years now this day has launched the Movember event. It was started in 2003 with the idea of raising money for men’s health issues, particularly prostate and testicular cancer, and mental and physical health. To signify participation you sign up and grow a moustache – something that in Australia where the movement started had become rather unfashionable so a sudden outbreak of moustaches would be noticeable and promote discussion. The M of Movember signifies the item in question, This year the intention is to exploit the ‘Move’ syllable to emphasise the importance of movement and being active for general and mental health and well being. These issues are near to my heart these days as I have spent the last 3 years getting fitter and lighter after, at nearly 18 stone (114 kilogrammes) and with high blood pressure, being told I was likely to have a very short and unpleasant retirement. And I was diagnosed with prostate cancer after a routine examination while I was in hospital in April with a ruptured kidney after a mountain bike crash. All is well at the moment as I have got down to 12 stone 12 lbs (81 kilogrammes) and my blood pressure is normal. My cancer is of a relatively low grade and contained so for the moment I’m on the ‘active surveillance’ programme and life goes on as normal. No doubt I will be doing further posts here about health, fitness, exercise, diet and cancer. I have been pretty successful in losing weight and getting healthy over the last 3 years in a way which for me at least is sustainable. I’m pretty confident the changes I’ve made in diet and behaviour are now comfortably embedded in a lifestyle that I will have little trouble in continuing. Time will tell. What works for me won’t suit every one of course but it might be of interest to and useful for some.
The other thing that starts today is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The idea is that you sign up and write a novel, of any genre, in the 30 days of November aiming at 50,000 words by the 30th, about 1667 per day average. It’s been going since 1999 when there were 21 participants. Last year, 2014, there were 325,142 participants. I started it a few years ago and kept it up for a few days but didn’t get into the habit. My interest in writing fiction and poetry has revived in the last year or two (although I’ve not done much about it so far) but I might sign up for NaNoWriMo this year and see if I can do any better.
Set up this blog today in a matter of minutes using the one-click app install provided by LCN. I’ve been buying domain names from them for quite a few years but this is the first time I’ve tried their hosting and so far it looks pretty good. I’ve gone for the cheapest (£36 per year including VAT) and it will be interesting to see if any of the limitations affect me in due course. I will be deciding what this blog is for over the next few weeks and adding content.