'Social distancing' is about understanding risk

23/03/20 . Blog

The images from public places over the week-end suggest we don’t really get ‘social distancing’.

For many men, I think it might be more that we don’t really get risk. We think that all this fuss about hand-washing, social distancing and isolating is about reducing our personal risk of getting Covid-19. We also think that as we’re relatively young and fit and we want to be decent citizens and do our bit, that we’re prepared to take that risk. 

The problem is that your risk or my risk is not the risk we’re managing.

The UK government has not torn up everything it believes in about how to run a country just to stop you or me getting Covid-19. It has taken these measures because the risk we’re trying to manage is the general risk to all of us from the virus, which is far more contagious than flu (see vid below). This risk, with normal social contact, would have been very high - leading to hundreds of thousands deaths. That’s because every single contact, even between two apparently healthy people, multiplies the risk further down the line: needless hospitalisation, needless use of NHS resources and needless death. That’s the risk we’re trying to shut down.

Many governments around the world are enforcing social-distancing - currently, ours is only advising us. But if we continue to not to 'get it', that could change. (Note: a few hours after this piece was posted, the government made staying indoors for all but essential work and travel compulsory.)

There is a video doing the rounds that shows that even those who should know better, don’t. In the vid, a government minister (not in the UK government thankfully) suggests that all people really need to do is not hug their granny for a month and all should be well. Sadly, that is not true. 

We need to keep away from all others, not just grannies, as much as possible. The government suggest two metres distance. This includes in the super-markets.

You might well survive Covid-19, the vast majority of people who get it will, but in the meantime how many will you pass it on to? Because each person can pass it on to umpteen others, growth is not linear (another 20 cases or whatever every day), it is exponential. The number of cases seems small until suddenly it’s not and by then, it's too late.

UK deaths doubled between 19th and 23 March. If deaths continue to double every four days you can see how Covid-19 could get very seriously, very quickly.

That’s why social distancing applies to everyone: young and old, fit and less fit, male and female.

Jim Pollard,
Editor

 

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