Love in the Time of Covid #7 – Take me to your Leader

coronaviros, covid 19

Stay Alert.

What are we supposed to get from that then? We either get one instructions which doesn’t tell us anything specific, or a myriad of conflicting instructions from various governments around the world, enforced on the people who happened to have been born on their bit of land.

The virus has got it easy compared to us. 8 simple genetic instructions on how to wreak havoc on us, the unsuspecting population of hosts. Or even, to our shame, the suspecting population of hosts.

We, on the other hand, are having advice thrown at us from all over the place. Be it governments, social media, our friends and family, bloggers thinking they know it all. And while this confusion reigns, our foe Covid, is rampaging across planet earth, oblivious to territories and borders and world leaders with their different rules and regulations. We’ve even set ourselves up in handy refugee camps and cities. All of us sitting pretty together and making the job of the virus that much easier.

In a democratic country, we get to choose our leaders to make important decisions about life and death for us. Ok, that may be up for debate. The first past the post system we have in the UK means the elected leader may not have got the majority of the votes at all. The Brexit outcome shows how a vote can be won on bare faced lies, and Trump vs Clinton maybe one big rigging hoax from start to finish. But we should be able to trust our leaders to guide us through the tuff times. And then there are dictatorships, communism, monarchies, republics etc where people don’t get even get to choose who makes the rules. Some work, some systems not so well, but they’re all in place to govern or rule a group of people in a territory.

Not what we thought then…

Except Covid 19’s territory is the entire planet. As one. But planet earth is not responding to it as one. We are ultimately divided in our response, which is giving Covid 19 an advantage in certain countries. At some borders it will be stopped in its tracks, at others it won’t even need a passport. And once it gets into a country, there will be houses, which are so locked down it won’t get a look in, vs those with an open door policy where a cough or a touch becomes a golden invitation. I can’t see how, without a more united approach, we can come out of this efficiently. Planes can take off from some places, but not land in others for a start.

So great leaders would be handy in helping us to navigate. Even more so, great leaders who talk to each other, so we can get the balance right between staying healthy and not overwhelming our hospitals. But also living the life that we’re here to live. Our population growth on this planet is an outbreak as much as Covid 19. But right now, Covid 19 has the edge on living the dream.

The life of a virus is not all planned out though. We are both comprised of genes, or a set of Ikea directions telling us how to assemble ourselves. The virus has 8 steps. We have about 20 500 hereditary instructions from our parents telling us where our noses should be, how tall we may grow, if our hearts will be healthy etc.

Our instructions are arranged in a double helix DNA spiral, solidly dependable for reproductive purposes. The genes of a flu virus are arranged in a single RNA strand, which is pretty flimsy. As it hi-jacks its host’s cells to make more virus, it’s fairly hit and miss as to what it actually makes, so errors creep in which can change its list of instructions. Hence new flus are produced. This is why we need a new flu vaccine each year and the World Health Organisation have to place their bets on which strain of flu will be the major illness in the winter season to come. In the 1918 flu epidemic the first wave was relatively mild, as it was more easily adapted to birds. After a small but critical change, the second wave was far more devastating, as it was better adapted to humans.

Covid is fashion size medium (for a virus) and roughly spherical. More apple than pear in dress fit. Its genetic instructions are on the inside, surrounded by protein. Then its protective bubble (dissolved by soap for the win), and then a stalk which pokes out through the membrane. This stalk is what gets the virus into our human cell. One of its 8 instructions. The other instructions are contained inside, and could relate to how sneezy we might get (how potentially the virus can travel), how long the virus can survive outside the human body, and how long it takes for flu symptoms to actually develop. All these things will shape the type of flu we are dealing with.

In effect the virus’ strategy is messy and haphazard by nature – but what’s our excuse?

Many lessons have been learned from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, quarantined off the coast of Japan at the start of the pandemic. As soon as the passengers had left, the cabins of infected passengers and the communal areas could be swabbed for traces of the virus’ genes. They were, as you might expect, on phone receivers, tv remote controls, chair handles, pillows and most concentrated in the bathroom and toilet. They were also in the rooms of the infected passengers who had tested positive but weren’t showing any symptoms. From tracking the movements of patient zero, the main areas where infection was spread were in the closed spaces, which were crowded and where there was close contact between passengers. Recently, in South Korea, 119 cases of Covid 19 have been linked to a nightclub, which had just reopened after easing the lockdown. A crowded closed space with close contact between people.

On the cruise ship, they carried out a black light experiment in the restaurant where one acting passenger put uv paint on his hands, to represent the virus, and then a crowded restaurant of people ate a buffet. Even the passengers eating alone picked up traces of the virus from the communal serving equipment. They repeated the experiment with kitchen staff, wearing PPE, serving the buffet instead and keeping a person’s width between each diner. With these small changes there was a huge reduction in the spread of the uv paint.

So with proper advice and small changes, we can get back out there. But not with dithery whiff whaff about staying alert. A Scottish MP has suggested that staying apart would be a better sound bite.

Because the government are more pre-occupied with the economy, than useful things like testing and contact tracing, its apparently ok for a cleaner or child minder to go into a strangers house, and then onto another, and another before they go back home. Or have complete strangers round to view your house if it’s on the market. But it’s not ok for us to go round a mate’s house for a chat. We need clear concise instructions on how to deal with the virus, not the government trying to tell cleaners how to clean, or estate agents how to sell houses. We don’t need to be micro managed in our jobs. We’re the experts there and will adapt accordingly. Our local garage is doing car MOTs, and there’s a disinfectant bucket to put your keys in, the payments put through over the phone and the garage dog has to say hello with a tail wag rather than a full head nuzzle – but it’s working. Many local restaurants have been operating as take-outs just fine since lock-down without any ‘help’ from the government. Schools have been open with limited numbers of pupils and the teachers I know, have felt safe. And they haven’t done that by being alert. They’ve done it by using practical common sense, soap and understanding how the virus spreads.

Covid 19 gets off on the things we love and our everyday behaviour. Being close to each other and living in a communal world where we are breathing the same air and touching the same door nobs. It can survive on stainless steel and plastic for 3 days which is 1.5 times longer than the influenza virus. This is an instruction in its favour. Also, that patients can carry the virus, but show no symptoms. So we still need to be careful even if we don’t feel ill.

It’s important to take responsibility as individuals, but also as a collective. And not just on our own shores, but as inhabitants of planet earth.

World Flag designed by Black Powder Engine

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.