Things Change: Coronavirus the Pandemic

*Takes off novelty ears and puts on pathology hat*

Things change rather quickly, it seems.

I wrote my last post eleven days ago. I’ve never seen a situation evolve as quickly as this. Almost 140,000 novel coronavirus cases and over 5,000 deaths globally. It’s a officially a pandemic. (though we pretty much knew that already, right?) Italy is in genuine lockdown, President Trump has put the blame on Europe and blocked air travel from most of the continent, and the rest of the world is bracing itself. Several world leaders have been affected so far. Even the UK health minister has tested positive.

The Royal College of Pathologists has cancelled all of their examinations in the Spring session – I was planning to sit the exam on the 24th of March, but it will likely be deferred until Autumn at this rate. It seems like a drastic measure, but I believe it is sensible in the current climate. Concentrating a large number of people in a small exam hall for a prolonged period of time is asking for transmission.

Image result for disneyland hong kong closed
Disneyland Hong Kong closed for business (Photo from weather.com)

Immediately after we returned to the UK, one of the maintenance workers in Disneyland Paris tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Then two more tested positive. It feels as though management was trying to downplay the severity of the situation, assuring the public that the workers had no contact with guests at the park. It was only a matter of time before they had to take action. Disney has now either closed, or is in the process of closing all of its theme parks. This seems an important message to the wider public, and one they were avoiding having to share – we can’t continue with life as normal.

Part of me understood the situation was worsening, but a greater part was optimistic and had faith in the institutions governing us. Surely they’ll take appropriate action when the time is right? Money talks, and I expect there was pressure to keep Disneyland open for business given how many people are employed by and depend on the normal operating of the park. It sounds like a fair argument until you consider the long term implications. Yes you could stay open a few more weeks and make a little more money but the economic impact will be much greater if your guests become sick, not to mention the damage to your brand and reputation. “Pandemic Park” sounds less appealing than “Disneyland”.

What do we do now?

That’s the real question. What we do now will have a significant impact on how this pandemic plays out in the rest of the world. The stories coming out of Italy are of a health service stretched beyond breaking point and on its knees, and a countrywide lockdown and quarantine. Lessons must be learned and fast – we may only be a few weeks behind Italy.

Should we be banning all public gatherings? Non-essential travel? Visitors to hospital wards? Honestly, I don’t know. Is the UK government responding to this crisis appropriately? Again, I don’t have the answer for that. An Italy-style lockdown may be effective for a short time but people would inevitable get bored and begin breaking quarantine and taking unnecessary risks. We haven’t had a public health crisis on this scale for decades, or maybe even a century (thinking back to the 1918 influenza pandemic). Countries who suffered in the 2003 SARS outbreak are better equipped strategically and psychologically for this, with a willingness to forfeit individual convenience and freedoms to limit the spread and damage caused by the virus.

We can’t know how deadly the virus is while we’re in the midst of the outbreak either, as the numbers of deaths and new cases are constantly changing. It does appear to be much more virulent than seasonal influenza, so we need to stop calling it a bad flu.

Is it time for pandemic panic? (Spoiler: no, just be sensible)

As much as I am concerned about how this is progressing, full blown panic helps nobody. More than ever we need to look out for each other. Help your friends, family, neighbours. Be sensible and avoid unnecessary travel and large gatherings. Becoming a nation of introverts may be the best strategy. COVID-19 is here and it’s going to be tough, but we’re not helpless. With some personal sacrifice and willingness to help each other and do what’s necessary, we can get through this.

And wash your hands! (Properly, please)

Image result for batman arkham knight
Batman says wash your hands! (He’s the public health hero we deserve…)

Games? At a time like this?!

Yes. What better antidote to the worldwide fear than a dose of fear toxin! I’ve returned to Batman: Arkham Knight which I purchased for the PS4 some time ago, and stopped playing for an undisclosed reason (read: I forgot that I even owned the game). Batman faces off against Scarecrow and the mysterious Arkham Knight, while having an internal battle against the Joker. I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot as it would spoil the events of the other games, and you should experience it yourself.

It’s a fantastic game and a worthy edition to the series that began with the awesome Arkham Asylum. A truly excellent comic book adaptation. At times the number of different villains and story threads can feel overwhelming but most of that I attribute to starting the game several years ago and trying to pick it up with little context.

Other than Batman, I’ve been playing little bits of the Witcher 3 (one of my all time favourite games) and Overcooked. Who says social distancing can’t be fun? Time to play videogames, cook, bake, read, write, garden, spend time with your family.

That was a tad rambling, but it reflects my own uncertainty. Nobody really understands the impact SARS-CoV-2 will have on us, but we should be as prepared as we can be.

Staying home and playing Pandemic the board game might be the best way of dealing with this pandemic…

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