Geneva, Friday 27 March 2020
Last night’s “clapping for carers” at 21:00 here in Geneva was longer and louder than ever. I clapped until my hands were sore. I clapped for my 100 hour weeks all those years ago in the British NHS. I clapped for all those fabulous nurses who ran the hospitals of the International Committee of the Red Cross for war-wounded in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Cambodia, Sudan and more. I clapped for the whole notion of tireless and ethical health care with tears in my eyes.
As before, our ingenious non-Scottish neighbour contributed to the cacophony with his home-made bagpipes. (Not sure what the tune was but it really was a tune…. of sorts!) This morning I got a snap of him and his creation.
Big news today. The number of cases on a global basis continues to mount exponentially. The USA has now recorded more cases of COVID-19 than China and has, after western Europe, become the third “epicentre” of the pandemic. Just wait for Africa to kick in! This is really serious, world changing stuff.
Looking at the science – or lack of – behind images of the coronavirus for yesterday’s post, got me thinking. All it took was just one little coronavirus virus to undergo a mutation in its RNA strand to allow its many offspring to spread from human to human and infect people in numbers in 194 countries within about four months. In another context, you might call this a wonder of nature. But for us humans, it has revealed our inherent susceptibility to this kind of disease that comes with cities of millions and unfettered international air travel. Only a few weeks ago, we still believed that the only tune we had to dance to was our own.
There are knowns and unknowns to ponder. We know that this emergency has united communities, given opportunity for creativeness and kindness, boosted respect for healthcare professionals and proved the immeasurable value of the internet, the web and social media. We know that this pandemic will pass; we don’t know when. We know that people will die; we don’t know how many nor how many of those deaths could have been prevented. We know that preventive measures will be necessary after the curve has peaked; we don’t know for how long after. We know that there will be a heavy impact on the world economy; we don’t know how big nor whether there will be a bounce back.
I have just seen a heartbreaking video of hundreds of Indian factory workers, unemployed as of yesterday, queueing in the street and in close proximity to each other waiting for their midday meal. What a choice: eat or risk infection! As I write, I hear that the UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and his Health Secretary Matt Hancock have both tested positive. One thing we know now and absolutely for sure is that every human on the planet is in this together.
I presume that every world leader has had to undergo a crash course in the epidemiology of infectious diseases. They will have learnt that the bedrock principle of the whole exercise – that allows us to draw these epidemic curves with which we are all becoming familiar and which have to be flattened – is: if you want to manage it, measure it. Got that one, Mr Trump?
On a different scale of thinking and not really wishing to get back onto the toilet roll issue…. Here at home, we did our own little measurement exercise that will help us to manage our supplies. When the empty roll is discarded, we mark the date (usually forgotten) on which we put the new roll on the holder ready for action.
I’ve never given much thought to how quickly we go through this commodity but I can reveal now that this roll’s predecessor delivered effective and selfless service for seven whole days of lockdown. I could, as a result, tell you how many weeks’ stock we have but I won’t having derided all those who were (also!) buying in bulk.
The putting competition stands at 7 to 4. I won again today, 2 and 1. Stress! We putt at 2.2 metres from the hole. The Swiss government recommendation for social distancing is “at least two metres.” There is absolutely no connection at all here other than that sinking putts at 2.2 metres distance with regularity means that your game is in satisfyingly good order.
Sleep well, humans. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.