dilluns, 23 de març de 2020

Things I've learnt about COVID-19 during 10 days at home

Since it looks like the UK is a few days behind us here in Catalonia with the COVID-19 situation (on all aspects; infections, victims, measures, information, lockdowns), here’s a few messages I’ve learned, realized, or had drummed into me over the last week spent at home* which may help you...

1.Test, test, test. As many people as possible must be tested. It’s essential for epidemiologists and mathematicians to have as much data as possible to model what’s actually happening. Also the numbers find outbreaks, hotspots, trace contacts, and make the best use of limited health resources. Follow the maths. By the way, as well as actual tests, the Catalan government have produced an app where you can input your symptoms, or lack of, and they encourage everyone (well and unwell) to do it so as to help them get data. Don't know if other countries are doing this but they say it's useful. Also, it’s a time when people’s imagination and skills come to the front – examples here include this app, people designing and home-sewing masks, making ventilators with 3D printers etc.

2. Stay at home. We had (have) the ‘Oh, I’m young and strong’ and the ‘If I go jogging alone, that won’t affect anyone’ people here too. Firstly, young and strong people can also catch it of course, and bring it home and pass it on (to more vulnerable people) before they even know they have it. Plus even if someone only gets a mild version of the virus, it’s still going to take up medical resources. Secondly, you may avoid catching the virus running round the park, but you may fall and break a leg. Driving up to the moors for a solitary walk, you may have a breakdown or a car accident. And so on. The idea of staying at home is to reduce as much as possible the amount of accidents, or other illnesses being passed around, and hence reduce the amount of people needing medical attention (or any other emergency services). Why?

3. The NHS will not be able to cope. None of our health services can fully cope with what’s coming. There will be a tidal wave of ill people needing medical resources, doctors, nurses, beds, Intensive Care units etc and the service will be overrun. Difficult decisions will be have to be made. So every person who stays at home, and avoids the need to go to hospital for a different reason, may free up resources for virus victims. And save lives. It’s that simple. In fact the NHS will probably be less able to cope than Italian, Catalan, French, Spanish health services as they don’t have the same amount of resources.

4. Stay at home. Did I say that? If you eventually follow the same road we have taken here, it will come to this - no going out except for essential needs. Ok, they say you can go shopping – but don’t go every day ‘to get some fresh air’. Go once a week, or once a fortnight and fill your larder. Go on your own. They say you can walk the dog, but go just as far as it needs to do its business and straight back home. Etc.

5. Flatten the curve. I think you’ve seen the same graphs in the UK. If we can stretch out the curve of cases of infections, it’s the best way the NHS can save lives. 

6. Things happen fast. When the government says they can’t rule XX out, it means it’s happening next week. When they say they might eventually have to consider YY, it’s going to happen within 48 hours.

7. Some personal advice; before you go into the full lockdown, home confinement, shops closed etc., think of stuff you’ll need at home for the next two months once non-food shops close (here we had no warning, they virtually closed overnight) – not just toilet rolls and pasta. The treats in life – ice-cream, biscuits, wine... Things you don’t usually think of – printer ink, batteries, plasters, paper, poetry, staples... What to do at home; DIY, craft... – wool, wood, screws, buttons, paint, varnish...

8. I’ve also learned that working from home sounds great and may be OK under normal circumstances, but during a crisis like this bosses must realize you'll only be able to be 50% efficient. There's so much else going on and things to be dealt with, everything takes so much longer, families have so many worries and issues, things are changing every day, and your mental and physical health have to be cared for. Same with kids. There’s no need for teachers to send them six hours of work per day from Day One. Let’s look after them first, and fill their minds with semi-useless facts another day.

*Schools and after-school activities closed down on 12 March as did many small businesses. Others moved onto working from home. People strongly advised to stay home as much as possible, though you are still allowed to go to food shops and chemist’s or travel to work if your place of work hasn’t closed yet.

2 comentaris:

  1. "In fact the NHS will probably be less able to cope than Italian, Catalan, French, Spanish health services as they don’t have the same amount of resources." I have seen no evidence to support this assertion. As far as I know, the British NHS remains the best free public health service in the world in spite of Cameron and May's attempts to undermine it via short-sighted austerity measures. In some contrast, America's profit-oriented, discriminatory health provision is about to show its fatal cracks and why having a free national service driven by need is vital.

    Let us hope that my family and your family get through this nightmare Brian. Keep on looking after yourselves.

    1. Of course I completely agree that the USA system, or lack of, is going to show its true colours now. It will be the hardest-hit country by far. What I mean with my comment (and I do say 'probably') is from comparing free EU health systems. I haven't dug deeply but the numbers they print in the press seem to indicate that the NHS is more stretched at present than the three systems I mention. Fewer beds per population, fewer IC units/pop., fewer doctors/nurses etc. In fact, many trained Catalan nurses/doctors go to work in the UK to make up the numbers. I don't know what it's like 'down south' but on my trips to doctors and hospitals in the Barnsley area, it's a feeling I get in person too, that the facilities over here (Catalonia) are more modern and there are more of them - less waiting, quicker service etc. This does not say anything about the wonderful NHS staff of course, simply that they are (I think) more overstretched than the other pùblic health systems I've seen.
      Look after yourselves!