We are now heading into summer with the beautiful weather and have noticed that the death stats and infection rates are mercifully going down. Are these improved figures solely attributable to policies of ‘distancing and lockdown,’ or perhaps more likely to our exposure to summer weather? There is growing evidence that vitamin D protects us against coronavirus, as it is beneficial anyway for raising our immunity. This is corroborated by Dr Lee Smith, reader in public health, at Anglia Ruskin University, who says vitamin D protects against acute respiratory infections in older adults, statistically – the most deficient in vitamin D and also the ones most seriously affected by Covid-19. We harness vitamin D not just through sunshine but additionally through diet. At the University of Oxford, they have discussed climate conditions as playing a central role in transmission, saying cold, dry conditions appeared to boost the spread of disease.
During the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the advice was ‘to sleep with your windows open, and get out in the fresh air and sunshine as much as possible.’ Forcing people to stay in lockdown during our latest pandemic has prevented them getting out into the sun and building up essential vitamin D levels after the long winter. Of course, the abiding question remains as to why Italy and Spain had such high mortality rates, given their southern geo-climate? Scientists agree that these populations had lower than average vitamin D levels, especially amongst the elderly. Locking them up for 11 weeks was intended to keep them safe, but detrimental to their immune system. Who knew! So where can we find dietary sources of vitamin D:- salmon, trout, egg (yolk) and tuna in oil, all of these are natural sources. It is now commonly known that many of those who succumbed to Covid were overweight or had underlying conditions such as diabetes. Vitamin D is further essential for making insulin, which is often low in Type II diabetics. And for those with super-size waists, your vitamin D levels are further reduced as it becomes trapped in your body fat, rather than circulating beneficially. If you decide to take a supplement, 10 micrograms mcg, equivalent to 4,000 ius daily is sufficient.
Boris and his Band have given us lots of advice. Go to work, don’t go to work. Keep 2 metres, but not if you can’t. Keep safe, stay alert. Lots of mixed messages. One week ago, the Government indicated that being closer than 2 metres was an acceptable, virtually inconsequential risk, as the chance of infection is almost insignificant at this distance. Many vociferously disagree, degenerating almost to the level of Brexit debate. How will society ever get back to any kind of normal if our train drivers, teachers and workforce are told by unions to maintain distances of 2 metres, or worse, that they don’t have to go to work? In the absence of a union vote, but ‘every man for himself,’ it’s a lottery whether your teacher will feel safe enough to present for duty, if you’ll get medical or dental care, or if your train will run. If we continue the paralysis of our transport system, on which commuters, patients, tourists rely upon, we may as well shut down London.
Nobody complains about the staff stocking up the shelves in supermarkets, delivery drivers bringing food and produce to our doors, postmen keeping up with the mail, Amazon drivers delivering your online wish-lists, and cleaners in hospitals and care homes working to keep bugs at bay. I’m going to shout out for our amazing Edgware postie Christine O, who told me she has not taken one single day off during this pandemic. Her attitude is, ‘we’re just getting on with it!’ She gets my gold star this week. That should be the mantra of all. One does question if emergency services will still come out when asked, or if they will limit attendance under distancing strictures. We’ve read previous horror stories about emergency staff leaving people to drown in ponds etc. So, what if somebody fell into a pond now? ‘Oh no,’ said the fireman, ‘not only did I not bring a rope, I don’t have PPE and can’t measure 2 clear metres either. So, I really can’t go in and help … anyway, what if I got sick and died?’ Well I guess, that’s that then. At what point do we say – this distancing is just too much. It may take some time, but we will have to get back to the old-style normal, passing the new-style normal on the way.
Ruth Marvel, the CEO of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, warns us that many children are being denied the chance to cope with simple risks or to learn from making mistakes, because their lives have become ‘curated’. Going outdoors unaccompanied is one of these such risks, crossing a street and travelling on public transport are others, for in the same way we as adults learn, so too do children:- if not to accurately predict risk, then to do their best to minimise it. In my generation most of us were in the habit of walking both ways to school, unaccompanied, because that was an acceptable element of risk. And 99.99% of us did so safely, without phones pinned to our ears, as is the curse of the modern generation. We weren’t completely idiotic or naïve either. You knew not to engage or get in a car with a stranger, the danger was there, implicit and ever-present. I would strongly argue that with the era of social media, stranger danger risk has increased immeasurably. In the same way we also learnt to trust adults, but what we now have – post coronavirus – is exponential Fear allied with zero Trust. It is a wholly negative recipe for our children’s future. When I travelled solo across Europe, with just a train timetable, a pocket camera, a paltry sum of cash and a notebook, I stayed sharp, kept my wits about me and came back a better, more resilient individual. Read my blog for some snappy highlights.
Ms Marvel also added that the growing use of social media is linked to increasing mental ill health amongst children because everything is micromanaged. There is far less freedom now than there ever used to be, thanks to Google and Alexa, which means everybody knows everything. But what sayeth Professor Google – where are we on schools?
Do you think in having had 5 months off school come September, our children are realistically going to catch up? I imagine not for years to come, so what’s going to happen in the interim to next year’s GCSEs, A levels and university exams? Are we going to have to dumb down all the curriculums and aspirational standards or are we going to see instead a flock of disgruntled parents, a surge in private tutors, simply to get them back on an even keel, because no teacher – superhuman or otherwise – can manage to make up 6 missing months of structured education.
How will this distance dancing eventually play out? What about businesses like corner shops, tourist venues and banks, all of which are essential. They can’t sustain a livelihood serving 10 customers a day. Many small businesses are, de-facto, ruined. If we’re asked to maintain this ridiculous 2 m distance ongoing, and only allowed to permit people into a massive superstore 5 or 10 at a time, well let’s just close the high street down, for the online industry will be the only survivor. There is no point in micro-managing foot traffic if we are forced to queue round the block just to buy a toilet roll. And let me say this straight:- we queue outside, obeying 2 metre marks on the pavements, because as Brits, we are notoriously orderly and compliant. They are not widely following this across Europe; for even though we signed out of the EU, we surely didn’t sign away our capacity for common sense! Sometimes there are parallel queues on the pavements too. Has anyone asked if the virus can travel sideways? It’s obvious these secondary queues are closer than 2 metres, and Miss Pedestrian has to walk the gauntlet between the two. Obviously, no one asked about omnidirectional viruses. Instead councils propose widening the pavements. Hey, let’s all purchase extra-large hula hoops, and wiggle our way along the streets – at least we’d be getting trimmer. Alternatively, we could simply requisition the roads for socially distancing pedestrians, and just kill off the motor industry.
The scientists agree that 2 metre rules make very little sense going forwards, because let’s say your likelihood of catching infection may have been imperceptible at 2 metres, but is then 10 times greater at 1 metre, we are then talking about 10 times something which is already infinitesimal, not that every 3rd person queueing at 1 metre will die. The longer we maintain this onerous distance, the likelihood remains we will never emerge from it.
At least one positive in social distancing is that Boris is keeping well away from his beleaguered colleague, Dominic Cummings. If his political career flounders, as it surely deserves, he can create his own comedy show, titled The 260 Mile Rule Breaker. Amnesia seems to have been his current symptom.
Our train operators are speculating about 10% capacity. Does that not effectively signal the end of our transport network, for even if trains and planes stay in operation, they can’t afford to absorb such revenue losses, and we can’t afford to pay 10x the ticket prices either. I want to travel back up north soon to sort out family affairs, but even after lockdown, will I be one of just ten people travelling on an intercity train, assuming I can afford a seat?
As we tiptoe towards a tentative ending of lockdown, I’m worried about the future of the arts and music industries. How on earth can anybody attend a concert with projections where every second row is vacant, and an occupied row has only 1 seat in 4 available? They might offer only around 13% capacity, but will you be willing to pay 8 times the usual price to go to a concert? Hold on. How can we run a concert at all if the players must be 2 metres apart? Well, that spells the death knell for orchestras, concerts, choirs, musicals, theatre, football matches, Wimbledon and cricket. In fact, it’s the end of everything, all for the sake of an arbitrary 2 metre rule which probably came from a hypothetical modelling prediction. ‘Business as usual?’ I rather doubt it.
Until next week