UK and COVID-19 : what can we all do?


Your latest public service announcement, following on from the UK press conference today from CMO Chris Whitty and CSA Patrick Vallance.

#COVID19 is still really really important. You can help make it less important.

If you aren’t a fan of the decision-makers and are wondering why Johnson told you to go to the pub and then Hancock told you were killing your granny, or musing as to why on earth Dido Harding would be left in charge of a traffic cone, let alone ‘your health during a pandemic’ — then yep, me too. I’m also wondering those things.

But regardless, this is still a #pandemic. Cases, hospitalisations and deaths are increasing across the UK. There’s approx. 6k new cases per day right now. Hospital cases have increased from 50 on 1 September, to 200 on Sept 15th. Everything is going in the wrong direction.

There’s no evidence that the virus is getting milder (cases recently have been in younger people who are less likely to be immediately badly affected and end up in hospital). But there is good evidence that even in fitter people, ‘long COVID’ (long-term symptoms from viral pneumonia) is very prevalent. Intense fatigue so you struggle to leave the house, or breathlessness so that even stairs are a struggle — that’s present in 10–20% of non-hospitalised (thus milder) cases. COVID-19 is not safe for anyone to get.

Herd immunity is also not a thing. Be wary of anyone continuing to claim it is. Around 8% of the UK population are likely to have some level of antibodies (and thus have had the infection). That immunity will not be fully protective anyway and will decline over time.

It’s dull to be told to carry on washing your hands. But ultimately, it’s easy and cheap and everyone can do it.

It’s annoying to have to wear a mask in the shops. But if you can wear a mask, then they are a useful contributory factor in keeping transmission lower. (And not everyone can wear a mask, mask shaming is a thing, don’t do it — you’ve no idea if that person without a mask is genuinely struggling and nervous about being in public or not).

Ultimately, space. That hands/face/space nursery rhyme we’ve now got as a message. Personally I’d put space up front. More space between you all, and fewer people in that space — that’ll really help.

There’s 240 vaccine candidates globally. Likely that at least one, maybe several, will be useful and available in the next 12 months. There is an end to the intensity of this pandemic, but not in the near future. We’ve got a few months of difficulty ahead.

So regardless of whether or not you think Boris is an idiot, and whether or not you’re baffled as to why Matt Hancock and Dominic Cummings still have a job –you can still help. Whether you help because you rate this current government, or whether you do not but your motivation are because you are worried about family and friends — be sensible, be kind to those around you, and do what you can.

The pandemic remains everyone’s problem, and will remain so across the winter.



Michael G Head

I’m am a researcher focusing on infectious diseases, I have a background in public health research and epidemiology.