Coronavirus. Where did it come from? 5G signals? An insidious bioweapon, accidentally set loose by a lax Chinese scientist or a wayward General with the Peoples Liberation Army with a grudge against the West? Was it the Bats? Were adorable pangolins the zoonotic ‘mixing vessel’, the intermediate animal that let the virus get to us? Or was it the pigs? Did it originate in the Wet Markets of Wuhan or in a CDC laboratory?
We’re now five months into this global crisis and I feel like I’m drowning in information, misinformation, conspiracy theories, opinion, post-truth and factoids and yet I’m more confused and probably more ignorant than ever to the fundamentals of the current pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.
The legacy media has been on the back foot and has changed the story so many times, I’ve lost count. The narrative in January and February 2020 was that it only affected the very elderly and those with complicated and often multiple health conditions. Tragic, but nothing to worry about for the vast majority of us. SARS and MERS didn’t spread far, neither will this.
Come March, April, May 2020, every story, article and think-piece is about how anyone can catch covid-19, anyone can die and anyone is a potential vector. We went from ‘Nah, it’ll be fine, it’s just the flu’ to a global pandemic with nearly 400,000 official dead within five months, society changed beyond all recognition and our way of life altered more fundamentally than I ever thought possible. I predict that the narrative will gradually change over time as the lockdown is lifted, to the more moderate version from earlier this year, lest we all become gibbering wrecks who wash our groceries in bleach.
The science is still patchy, at least from my layman’s point of view (My Scottish Higher ‘A’ has not proved useful during this pandemic. Viruses are bad, right?). French researchers have even stated that they first identified the virus on the 27th of December, days before it was ‘officially’ reported. So are we in the middle of the second wave, heading into the third or the first wave heading into a second? Of course, the scientists and doctors have also not been helped by the reticence and duplicitousness of the Chinese Communist Party who obviously knew about the existence of this new communicable disease well before they officially informed the WHO on December the 31st 2019.
But again for a layman, will it be severe or not? How can it be both? I’ve seen information saying that there are multiple strains of the same virus. Some doctors and public health experts have said that the lockdown is necessary to mitigate the worst effects of the virus on health care systems. Others have said that by confining it to hospitals, we are unwittingly and potentially forcing the virus to mutate into a more deadly strain. Far better to let a milder strain make its way through the population. A study from the University of Glasgow contradicts this by saying that there is no evidence of mutation. Who is correct? Both? No one?
This lack of clarity exists at the governmental level. The UK Government is saying that face coverings are now necessary if you are out in public. But yet they are only recommended, it’s not mandatory. Again, a few months ago we were told they were not useful in limiting the spread of communicable disease.
Each nation of the UK has timed their exit strategies differently. Are we going to start searching trucks for people with a temperature over 37C at Gretna or Carlisle? Such lack of clarity adds to the confusion for us all and hampers our ability to move forward with a modicum of certainty.
Globally, the USA has rightly placed the blame on China. China has even claimed that the virus was released by the US. We have world leaders such as Putin in Russia who is more concerned about stopping doctors from telling the truth about the spread of the virus and Bolsonaro inBrazil who’s response was “So what? What do you want me to do” when questioned about the increasing number of patients in this country. They don’t seem bothered. Are they correct?
The death rates between states can’t be compared, at least so we’re told. Some nations were logging deaths in care homes, some not. Some were logging deaths that were suspected of being caused by covid-19, some not. Most of the deaths in the Global South may not even be logged at all (A similar picture emerged from the Spanish flu. Estimates of deaths range from 20 to 100 million). The true number of deaths will never be known with any sense of certainty.
Any decent information that we may have is then lost in the torrent of useless noise on social media where the flotsam and jetsam of the most demented wash-up, bleached, for all of us to gawk at; the inevitable endpoint of everything mentioned above. From people wishing their chosen hated politician would get covid-19 and die horribly by drowning in fluid from their own lungs to ‘trolls’ goading their fellow citizens into committing acts of arson on mobile phone masts.
And I’m just confused, in the middle of it all. None the wiser about what to do, unsure how virulent covid-19 is, its origins, and apprehensive about the future that we’re all heading into. I’m just pottering about trying to buy flour, soap and pasta while trying to process the sights from Tiger Kingwhile treating people that I used to care about like they were part of the cleanup crew at reactor 4 in Chernobyl and will definitely kill me if they breach my invisible 2-metre perimeter.
I think I’ll just keep washing my hands.