Day Job: I’ve taken a well-deserved break from washing my hands, while singing the Russian national anthem twice, to bring you up to speed with the latest developments from the heart of the global pandemic engine room at Hootsman Towers.
A momentous if somewhat surreal working week has passed, dear readers, where as health reporter I have found myself thrust into the frontline of looking up stuff about the coronavirus on the internet.
The original plan was for me to team-up with our man in China and anchor proceedings from the fifth floor of Orchard Brae House but it turns out he resigned under a cloud in 1864 shortly after the Taiping Rebellion – amid rumours of an expenses row and a pet monkey that still persist to this day.
However I digress and there’s a lot to cover today, so let’s crack on.
For it appears the phoney war is now over and we’re on the cusp of a global Covid-19 pandemic if not there already.
The number of cases in the UK has risen sharply with the first death recorded – a person over the age of 70 who had underlying health issues – and Scotland has 11 confirmed positive tests and 1,514 negative ones as I write this.
There’s been the usual herd-like, media frenzy to come up with new lines, including reports of people putting condoms on their fingers for protection, but on the whole the medical advice around prevention and what to do in a suspected case has for the most part been sound.
At times, the guidance from both the UK and Scottish Governments has read like one of those 30-year rule revelations where Thatcher’s contingency plans in the event of nuclear war are disclosed. The Scottish Government are advising: “Wherever possible avoid direct contact with people that have a respiratory illness and avoid using their personal items such as their mobile phone.”
Obviously this could prove problematic for the one couple in the country, Ted and Sheila, who share a mobile and they may have to buy another toothbrush.
Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood certainly made everyone sit up and take notice when she presented a “worst-case scenario” that – at the top end – would see approximately 4.3 million Scottish people getting the virus with between 200,000 to 250,000 of them requiring hospital treatment.
Scotland 9-0 Brazil
Nicola Sturgeon, in a joint press conference with Dr Calderwood, was reported to have said: “I do think it is important we give frank information around this, but it is not overly dramatised.”
‘Hello’. You couldn’t have been more dramatic – 200,000 seriously ill Scots in the hosser with only 13,400 acute beds to go around. Where are they going to put the rest of them, Inchcolm Island? I question the point in going all in for the ‘worst case scenario’ option. OK, it could happen in the same way that the Scotland football team could beat Brazil 9-0 in the World Cup Final but as indicators go it’s simply not the best.
According to one of the many experts I have spoken to and now count as close personal friends, reaching such a situation would mean Scotland had taken absolutely no preventative measures such as increased hygiene and containment and that’s not going to happen.
However, the coronavirus has to be taken seriously and while loudly stating that “more people die from the flu” might make you sound clever among the punters in the local boozer, it’s not helping anyone.
Most people have a family member or know someone who falls into the ‘vulnerable’ category and it’s poor form to dismiss anyone’s concerns at this time of heightened anxiety while staying on the right side of the more alarmist outpourings.
This isn’t Trainspotting
I for one certainly don’t fancy the ‘shortness of breath’ symptom of the illness which doesn’t sound like a whole bunch of fun.
My friend was stocking up on tomato soup the other day and said they had considered not leaving the house for a while. I told them it wasn’t like Trainspotting and that scene where Renton attempts to come off the smack.
However, I have to say so far I think the Scottish Government is doing a good job of keeping us informed and their daily updates are welcome, but there are questions to be asked of the ability of the NHS to cope with the scale of outbreak that could hit in a couple of months.
One good thing to come out of all this misery is that we’re now set to become a nation of hand washers as many ride the wave of this new fangled craze for ‘personal hygiene’.
This takes me back to the halcyon days of my youth spent in the pubs of Leith were washing one’s hands was strictly frowned upon, only for women, children and men who appeared ‘light on their loafers’. No, the done thing was to stand at the urinal, a quick shake, then back to your pint and bag of dry roasted peanuts. “Care for a nut Bobby?”
I remember there was one pub that shall remain nameless which didn’t even have a woman’s toilet until the mid-1990s.
They were terrified females would start to loiter – infecting the place with their personal hygiene while ordering Babycham. Now take care and wash your hands.