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'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,


The Men’s Health Forum need your support

It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. So we’re asking.

In the UK, one man in five dies before the age of 65. If we had health policies and services that better reflected the needs of the whole population, it might not be like that. But it is. Policies and services and indeed men have been like this for a long time and they don’t change overnight just because we want them to.

It’s true that the UK’s men don’t have it bad compared to some other groups. We’re not asking you to ‘feel sorry’ for men or put them first. We’re talking here about something more complicated, something that falls outside the traditional charity fund-raising model of ‘doing something for those less fortunate than ourselves’. That model raises money but it seldom changes much. We’re talking about changing the way we look at the world. There is nothing inevitable about premature male death. Services accessible to all, a population better informed. These would benefit everyone - rich and poor, young and old, male and female - and that’s what we’re campaigning for.

We’re not asking you to look at images of pity, we’re just asking you to look around at the society you live in, at the men you know and at the families with sons, fathers and grandads missing.

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