It Won’t Be Over Any Time Soon

There’s a meme doing the rounds that says something like “If we all stay home, this virus will be gone within four weeks”.  This nonsense sets fire to my already-short fuse and makes me explode with anger.  Let me explain why.

It’s probably true that if absolutely everyone stayed at home and didn’t interact with anyone else, transmission would stop and the pandemic would be over.  But what would it mean for absolutely everyone to stay at home?  That would mean that absolutely everything would be closed – not only would we have no transport and no supermarket we would have no medical facilities either.  I guess the medical staff would just have to abandon the patients and leave them to die.  Anyone else who became ill in that period would just be abandoned and left at home too.  Homeless people haven’t got homes to stay in, so I guess they would just have to be rounded up and locked in a cupboard somewhere.  There would be no ambulances, no firefighters and no police.  Aside from the obvious implications if you have a heart attack or your house catches fire, the lack of police would mean that there would be no one about to enforce the “stay at home” rule.  You’re basically relying on everyone to stay home and do exactly what they’re told, whatever the circumstances, despite knowing that there will be no punishment if they don’t.  And if one, just one, infected person breaks the rules, then the spread will resume and we will be back to square one in a couple of weeks.

And that is why we’re not being told that EVERYONE has to stay at home.  Instead, we’re letting the disease continue to spread, but at a pace the NHS can keep up with.  That means that we are actually making the epidemic last longer.  (If we actually wanted to make it over quicker, whatever the cost, we would just go on as normal, and let people die).  We’re keeping the vulnerable inside, completely isolated, so the people who do catch it are those who are less likely to get seriously ill and need to go to hospital.  If people become immune to the coronavirus after contracting it once (and it seems that way, though it isn’t proven yet) the spread will start to die down because it has no new victims to infect, and if the vulnerable do eventually catch it, there will be ventilators and beds available to give them the best possible chance.  We are not social distancing to stop people catching it.  We are social distancing to give people the best chance of surviving if they do.

The memes are infuriating for a number of reasons.  One reason is that if we all follow the rules  for a month and the virus isn’t magically gone, people will think that it “hasn’t worked” and stop following the rules.  Then the disease will spread too quickly and the NHS will be overwhelmed.  Another is that posting this kind of bollocks instils ill-will and judgemental behaviour against people who are doing absolutely nothing wrong – going out to exercise, shopping and doing their essential jobs – just as the government has told us to.  In general there just seems to be a lack of understanding of just what we are trying to achieve and some horrible people just seem to have pounced upon this as another stick to beat people with, when really we should be practising a little more kindness and empathy for those who are struggling to stay in, or indeed those who absolutely can’t stay in (like me).

I wasn’t sure if I should post this because I’m aware I’m turning into another “armchair expert” like the people I am moaning about.  I’m not an expert on contagious diseases and while I have a medical job this post isn’t at all related to my work.  I do, however, have a basic grip on maths and logic and can do my own research and articulate my own opinions, rather than blindly reposting some nonsense someone has made into a colourful gif, as if turning something into a grainy image makes it fact, and worth listening to.  It doesn’t.

(At some point I will actually write something about running again, I promise).

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