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Corona Diaries: testing, testing 1-2-3 (thousand?), and taking back control

May 2, 2020

After my gross impertinence yesterday in commenting on spittle-flecked militias in the United States, back to the latest in my own dear Britain.

I don’t want to bash the government for falling short on its testing target. 80,000 tests performed, as opposed to the 100,000 promised, is no bad achievement considering the starting base. But claiming another 40,000 because the test kits have been sent out is a bit fly.

The numbers Matt Hancock, our Health Secretary, announced seem to be based on the assumption that a) all the people to whom the tests were sent receive them, b) they all take the test, c) they all send them back, d) that all the kits arrive at the testing centre and e) that they all turn out to have been properly carried out.

That would seem a bit of a stretch. It’s a shame, because the government doesn’t need to gild the lily. Tweaking numbers creates loss of confidence in all the numbers. We’re not in the old Soviet Union, where apparatchiks would jack up production numbers for combine harvesters to save face, or possibly their necks. We in Britain respect, and sometimes celebrate, heroic failure.

Next, to the measures the government is planning to announce next week in an effort to prevent turning the lockdown into a meltdown.

I have no idea what they’re going to come up with, because they haven’t asked me to participate in the SAGE meetings, even though just about everybody else with half an opinion seems to have been involved.

I will only make a couple of points:

South Korean scientists have announced that contrary to earlier evidence, nobody they’ve re-tested after infection has come up positive again. The confusion arose because the second test treated bits of de-activated RNA floating around the body as positive readings.

That’s not to say that you can’t get infected again. Just that it hasn’t been demonstrated to have happened yet.

Back in the days of smallpox, survivors bore the scars on their faces, so there would have been no difficulty in telling who had suffered the disease. Not so with coronavirus.

That being the case, wouldn’t it be great if everyone lucky enough to have survived the virus was awarded a nice little badge, which entitled them to mix with each other without social distancing, go back to work and live normal lives? Something like a Blue Peter badge, or a Scout patch. I was going to say Jim’ll Fix It, but we Brits know that doesn’t go down well these days.

It probably won’t happen of course, because “the science” will not decree that people who have had the virus are immune until some study, no doubt taking years, determines the average length of immunity. Taking a chance, or making an intelligent guess, is where the politicians come in. What ours might decide is anybody’s guess.

Besides, anyone sporting a shiny new Blue Peter virus badge might be shunned by the rest of us as “unclean”. And if the conspiracy theorists got working, they would be treated as vectors for new infections. Oh, and wearing badges might be a little too close for comfort to those coloured stars people were forced to wear not so long ago. Perhaps a laminated card would do the trick, as well as a special app for survivors to find others and commune without being hassled by the viruspolizei. Tinder for Zombies?

As for the rest of us, particularly the 12 million over-65s and the umpteen millions with diabetes, heart problems, lung problems and obesity, there must come a point at which we get to decide for ourselves whether we re-enter the world. In other words, being fully cognisant of the risk, take responsibility for our lives. Or, as we in Britain are fond of saying, take back control.

When the government determines that we’re adult (or Swedish) enough to make our own decisions about managing risk without much chance of the house crashing down again, I don’t think age should play any part in that determination. If I were a fit and healthy 80-year-old, I would fancy my chances over a waddling, wheezy 60-year-old any time. Yes, those who are unable to look after themselves should be shielded. But for the rest, to exclude anyone over a certain age from participating in the new normal would be misguided.

I eagerly await Boris Johnson’s pronunciamento next week.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we’ve taken advice from “the science” and bought an oximeter. It enables us to tell whether our lungs are about to pack in without obvious symptoms. Hence, we can make a more reasonable determination on whether to call 111 and raise the alarm.

It’s a shiny little pink thing (see above). You clamp it over a finger and by some miracle it tells you your pulse and whether your blood oxygen is at normal levels. When it arrived we whipped it out of the bag and took turns in sticking our fingers in it.  And whoopee! We’re both normal. Well, normal in terms of blood oxygen, if not in other ways. Even after intense exercise – me at the cross-trainer, my beloved with Joe Wicks and some unhinged woman who wants to turn her into a contortionist – we’re still normal.

But if you get one of these gizmos, beware. It can become an obsession. You don’t need to test yourself after you’ve been to the loo, watched a Donald Trump video clip or sat at a table drumming your fingers, wondering whether to vacuum. All of which I’ve done. That said, any of those circumstances could be good reason to measure your blood pressure, if you have that kit as well.

Moderation in all things. And that includes the amount of hummus you chuck at the TV.

Have a nice day!

From → Politics, Social, UK

  1. deborah a moggio permalink

    Jim’ll fix it?
    import beyond the obvious, please?

    • Jimmy Savile was a BBC DJ for years and had a show by that name. Basically if you had something “fixed” for you (by him of course) got the badge. Trouble was that he was also an aggressive paedophile who got away with it for decades. He was only exposed after his death. He was friends with Thatcher and a number of other prominent people through his charity fundraising. They included a number of cops. Was that a contributing factor towards his years of impunity? I wouldn’t know.

  2. deborah a moggio permalink

    Ah! I remember the to-do. Could never remember his name.

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