Can we turn the page? Living with Covid-19

Sun on female hand. Silhouette of hand holding sun

Covid-19 is an extremely serious, fatal virus that mercilessly attacks the respiratory system and wreaks havoc on the body. It’s a vicious, relentless disease which strikes people down and even some of those that survive are left scarred and condemned to live lesser lives than they should.

It’s a horrible way to die, gasping for breath and with a collapsed immune system allowing only drug-induced relief until the end.

Nobody should underestimate the seriousness of this dreadful virus which has killed so many people worldwide during this most ghastly of years.

It is not however, the plague. It is not the black death. It does not strike down everyone in its path. There is no wholesale slaughter of men, women and children.

It has become a global pandemic because of the connectivity of the modern world and the inconsistent response from governments. The origin within China remains murky. And only the most fervent optimist would believe the truth will emerge from that tightly controlled totalitarian regime.

I have no truck with the conspiracy theorists who speculate the fabled vaccines (167 currently in development) will be some kind of chemical enslavement or drug-induced sterilisation project. I watched Channel Four’s Utopia a few years ago and saw the scrambled logic behind that notion. Worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

Instead, let’s listen to Professor Chris Witty. Our Chief Medical Officer is familiar to many of us in the UK from his appearances in the daily briefings from No 10. Interestingly he was born a week after me in April 66. And we have the same hairstyle.

His lecture given online to Gresham College at the height of the epidemic was a calm, measured and highly informative presentation. Free from hysteria, extreme language and irrational thought. I have added the link to watch below. It’s 1 hour and 21 minutes. Yes, a lot I know. But less than 3 episodes of Eastenders and a single episode of Love Island.

One of the key points he made was the overwhelming majority of people who were sadly affected by Covid-19 were the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions that made them vulnerable to the infection and its worst effects.

Former Supreme Court Justice Lord (Jonathan) Sumption took up the case within parliament and also in the rarefied world of Radio 4. Having mugged up on all the published data from ours and other governments he observed that 91% of UK deaths were people with pre-existing conditions and 88% of those were over 65.

The deaths of those under 50 were so minuscule that they did not even show up of the Office of National Statistics charts. Link at the end to view those too.

And yet – we have experienced a lockdown – no, a shutdown – of our national life that has devastated the economy, decimated the education of an entire generation of children and whipped up a state of national (nay global) hysteria that has virtually closed down diversity of voices.

Yes, it was understandable as the world confronted a disease and epidemic such as has not been seen for more than a century. And the ramp up of capacity within the National Health Service to manage the potential outbreak was rightly supported across the board. There would have been outrage if we’d had trolleys in hospital car parks with no room for the dying and suffering.

That was achieved and exceeded magnificently by our emergency services.

What has followed is a prolonged, uncertain period where we have willingly suspended everything that makes our lives enjoyable and worthwhile. We have donned the masks and stood apart from each other. We’ve stayed home. We’ve been scared into seeing threats everywhere. Manipulated en masse to condemn friends and family who don’t adhere to the same propaganda programmes.

Divided into doing the dubious and dirty work of the despots ourselves. The shutdown has been extended to any kind of rational discussion too. It seems the modern shouty approach of declaring black/white, right/wrong ‘us and them’ language has taken over this, the biggest story of the century so far.

So – what’s to be done?

Protect the vulnerable. Those who are older, or at any age with conditions that make them susceptible – ring-fence and make them safe in any way we can. I’ll wear a mask, and keep my distance when out and about if the evidence tells me that protects the vulnerable ones who may also be out and about. The winter is coming with the usual flu considerations to add to the ‘second wave’ mix.

This raises the fiendishly difficult separation of those within family and social circles. What do you do when children go back to school and Nan lives with them? What do you do when the vulnerable ones are left isolated, lonely and in despair?  We need a sensible, practical discussion around these genuine risks. And a truly effective test & trace system we can have faith in would help.

Our fledgling efforts in recent years to confront the mental health crisis have been largely crushed under the stampede to sanitise the world. Mental health issues are still there and increased for many. On the flip side, we’ve inadvertently given the natural world a boost as our daily pollutant habits were curtailed.

We need to take steps to open up meaningful, purposeful and worthwhile life again. The vast majority who contract this virus may have a nasty experience and recover. It’s going to be around for a long time. Smallpox existed from the 3rd century BC and the last case was diagnosed in 1977.

The statistics speak for themselves. It is not a ubiquitous danger. We are not all going to die. We need to take care of our vulnerable and protect them with care and compassion. But we need to start living again.

And – with reference to my previous blogs on this subject – let’s make the new normal a more equitable, fair and localised success story for our communities, country and humanity.

Your servant,




Professor Chris Witty:

Lord Sumption:

Office of National Statistics:


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