Lessons from coronavirus

Lessons from the Covid 19 Pandemic

(What happened, the lessons we need to learn and how to protect ourselves in future pandemics)

by Survival Expert James Mandeville ©2021

This article is primarily for:
General Readership. (5,733 words, Reading Level 3)


Part 2: COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Pandemic — What are the threats and survival lessons?
October 2021

The handling of the pandemic by the UK in the early months was, according to a cross-party group of MPs, "one of the worst-ever public health failures".

The first Coronavirus fatality in the UK is thought to have been Peter Attwood, 84, from Chatham, Kent. Mr Attwood died in hospital on 30th. January 2020, his cause of death was given as COVID-19 by the county coroner after the Coronavirus was found in his lungs. By 12th. April 2020, there had been more than 10,000 confirmed hospital deaths. In under 14 days there had been over 20,000 deaths...

The Threats Posed by Coronaviruses.
The public suddenly became acutely aware of the risk to human life posed by Coronaviruses with the outbreak of COVID-19. The panic around COVID-19 was due to the announcement that this was a new virus against which we had no natural immune response and while that was true, Coronaviruses have been around for a long time. The threat posed to humans by Coronaviruses varies significantly. Some Coronaviruses can kill more than 30% of those infected, such as MERS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), and some are relatively harmless, such as the common cold (commonly either a Rhinovirus or a Coronavirus).

Six species of Coronaviruses are known to infect humans, with one species subdivided into two different strains, making seven strains of Coronaviruses altogether that pose a threat to humans. Four Coronaviruses affecting humans produce mild symptoms, although they might have been more aggressive in the past. Three Coronaviruses produce potentially severe symptoms in humans, these are:
  • SARS: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV), β-CoV (identified in 2003);
  • MERS: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), β-CoV (identified in 2012) and
  • COVID-19: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), β-CoV (identified in 2019).
Previous Coronavirus Pandemics
Coronavirus (SARS-CoV), β-CoV). SARS 2003
SARS originated in China in 2002 spreading quickly to other Asian countries. There were also 4 cases in the UK and a significant outbreak in Toronto, Canada. 8,098 people worldwide became sick with SARS during the 2003 outbreak and 774 people died. The virus killed about 1 in 10 people who were infected. A policy of isolating people suspected of having SARS and screening all passengers travelling by air from affected countries for signs of the infection brought the SARS pandemic under control in July 2003. In 2004, there was another smaller SARS outbreak linked to a medical laboratory in China. There is still no vaccine against this virus.

Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), β-CoV. MERS 2012
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a virus transferred to humans from infected dromedary camels. It is contractible through direct or indirect contact with infected animals. Human–to–human transmission is possible but relatively rare. A total of 2,468 cases were confirmed at the end of September 2019, the majority of these being from Saudi Arabia. Globally, 851 people died and the case–fatality rate was 34.4%. There is no vaccine against this virus.

Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), β-CoV. COVID-19 2019
Possibly originating in China, COVID-19 spread throughout the world on a scale previous Coronaviruses didn’t achieve. By 27 September 2021, there were 232,595,152 Coronavirus Cases (2.98% of world population), 4,761,798 deaths (0.061% of world population) and 209,218,574 people recovered (29.89% of world population). There are vaccines against this virus with varying degrees of efficacy.

Influenza, by comparison
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that worldwide, over the past decade, annual influenza infections result in about 3-5 million cases of severe illness with between 291,000 and 646,000 people worldwide dying.

In the UK, in terms of mortality, COVID-19 was particularly bad for men, compared with flu. For example, the mortality rate for men older than 75 was around five times higher from COVID-19 than the death rate from Influenza in 2018’s bad flu year; for women it was four times higher. The projected death rate for 2021/2022 is estimated will be over 60,000.

Previous bad flue pandemics
A novel influenza virus, H1N1 (Swine flu), was first detected in April 2009 in a 10-year-old girl in California. It was declared a global pandemic in June 2009 by the WHO and ended in August 2010. The Swine flu pandemic was estimated as killing 575,400 people worldwide.

The 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish flu) was also caused by an H1N1 virus. Its genes show that it may have developed from a swine flu virus or from an avian (bird) flu virus. The pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide with a high death rate among healthy adults.

Current risks
COVID-19 poses the greatest current risk to life from a virus because we are 5 – 7 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than from Influenza.

Previous potentially deadly Coronavirus pandemics were quickly contained, this was not achieved with COVID-19, although we do now have vaccines that reduce serious illness and hence the death rate, plus new anti–viral drugs are being trialled. But COVID-19 has already been around long enough for it to successfully mutate, producing variants of the virus (i.e. the Delta variant) that transmit more rapidly and resist vaccines more effectively.

The greatest future risk is the emergence of an even more deadly variant of COVID-19, against which, our current vaccines are less effective or potentially ineffective. Some variants are being monitored as a potential new risk, for example, the Mu variant, which originated in Colombia and shows evidence it may be more transmissible and resistant to current vaccines. Also, governments are obviously not learning the lessons from the past in terms of relying too heavily on ineffective "track, trace and isolate methods", being too slow to restrict and contain new outbreaks locally, nationally and globally.

Although the Delta variant accounts for 95% of infections, governments are relying too heavily on vaccines that were designed to combat the original form of the COVID-19 virus. Although governments are aware current vaccines reduce the risk of serious illness from the Delta variant, they are also aware these vaccines do not stop transmission of the virus. Even so, many countries have ended most preventative measures (such as restricted travel, lockdowns, working from home, limited gatherings, wearing face masks and social distancing) using vaccines as an excuse to return life to normal in an attempt to open up their economies.

Opening up economies is a risky strategy, as COVID-19 transmission figures are increasing again and although the death rate worldwide has fallen from around 17,500 deaths a day to between 9,000 to 11,000 deaths a day, potentially because of the vaccines, as the winter months approach these daily death tolls are set to increase as more people are bound to catch the virus. The higher the number of new infections, the greater the risk of new and more dangerous variants emerging.

Replacing PCR (polymerase chain reaction) laboratory testing of newly infected people leaving and entering a country with lateral flow self–tests bypasses the genomic sequencing routinely undertaken during a PCR test, thus we risk not detecting a new, potentially lethal variant of COVID-19, letting it spread unchecked. (Genomic sequencing is a laboratory analysis that identifies a virus’s genetic make-up, allowing new variants or mutations in existing variants to be detected)

Specifically in the UK
The Government has removed all the restrictions imposed both by law and by government guidelines because hospitals in the UK are no longer being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Great reliance is being placed on the vaccine programme limiting the pandemic but there are still around 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day and a daily death rate of 120 – 160. Clearly, a decision was taken that around 45,000 deaths a year from the virus is an acceptable level and it is better for the country to accept this and to get the economy going.

The British Prime Minister went on record as saying that protecting oneself from the virus was now the responsibility of the individual. The result of the Government moving from tight controls to absolute freedom, coupled with their promotion of the vaccine programme, has clearly led to vast numbers of the population believing the pandemic is over and that life can return to normal.

Did the UK Government fail us?
It would appear there were serious mistakes made. Test and trace systems were not up-and-running until May 2020. Test and trace at this time was controlled centrally with minimal involvement of local council public health teams and proved to be inefficient with the capability of processing only 500 tests a day.

At the time when evidence was growing that COVID-19 was spreading with a high death rate, Italy, France and Spain imposed lockdowns and travel restrictions. The UK Government were still talking about managing the pandemic rather than restricting travel.

The Government allowed the Champions' League football match between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid and the Cheltenham Racing Festival to take place, ignoring the facts that were clearly known at that time that major sporting events were potential hotspots for transmission of the virus.

There were no travel restrictions and during February 2020 and March 2020 the virus was brought into the UK on at least 1,300 separate occasions from France and Spain alone. It was still possible to enter the UK from countries that were already reporting serious levels of transmission, such as Brazil and India. On 23rd March 2020 a lockdown was announced but by this time the number of infections was doubling each week in the UK and all over Europe.

The Government had a fatalistic approach and it proved placed too much confidence in vaccines that reduced the risk of serious illness but did nothing to stop transmission. They continued with a "herd immunity" mantra and focussed all their messaging and efforts on the rhetoric "protect the NHS and save lives". At the same time the government misplaced their efforts building hospitals that could not be staffed. They made many mistakes in procurement and were too slow in procuring necessary and effective PPE. They claimed to be guided by science but only when it suited their political aims and were entrenched in conventional knowledge and beliefs (handing flue pandemics, the virus would burn itself out, etc.).

On top of this plethora of incompetence, the British Prime Minister delayed announcing a travel ban from India, despite warnings that a new, more transmissible and potentially dangerous variant (Delta variant) was rife in the country and India was reporting at that time over 100,000+ new Coronavirus cases each day and 20,000 people entered the UK from India within a month. The Prime Minister's delay gave the Delta variant a further two week window in which to establish itself in the UK. This delay was reported as being because he had plans to make a visit to India to strike a trade deal, a trip he subsequently had to abandon anyway. Over 90% of Coronavirus infections in the UK are now the Delta variant.

Did the government fail us? We have to draw our own conclusions, but survival in such a situation always comes down to the choices we ourselves make. Political rhetoric is not necessarily the truth. Scientific analysis is often flawed. One thing is for sure, we all know now what PPE is, what social distancing is, that washing hands for 20 seconds in soap and water kills the virus on our hands, that vaccines do not stop transmission and that objects we touch can be contaminated and that bleach kills the virus! The bottom line is, when dealing with an airborne virus, it makes sense to take every step not to breathe it in or get it in our eyes, nose and mouth!

Are we safe now?
The WHO hasn't declared the pandemic ended but the British Prime Minister wants to return life back to normal anyway. The Government’s agenda may mean you are regarded as being expendable as the economy matters more now than collateral damage from the virus. We appear to be accepting a natural culling of the sick and elderly.

Some experts are showing a degree of confidence in the pandemic coming to an end by Spring 2022, based on many countries now having high levels of vaccination. However, experts also warn that for a pandemic to end it is necessary to achieve “herd immunity” and this is now impossible. To achieve herd immunity it is necessary for a population to have such a high level of antibodies (from vaccination or having recovered from infection) that the virus has no one left to infect, and thus the virus naturally dies out.

The outbreak of the highly transmissible Delta variant (and now the threat of the Delta plus variant), coupled with the fact we have not yet developed a vaccine capable of preventing transmission, means herd immunity is impossible. The Delta variant has the potential to infect the 85% of the world's population which is not yet fully vaccinated, as well as some vaccinated adults in so-called breakthrough infections. So COVID-19, as we know it today, is not going away. There will be flare-ups of infection and deaths and we do not have sufficient experience of the virus yet to be able to predict with any accuracy what the seasonal effects may be. Do we face a winter when the virus will flare up and many more will die? We just do not know for sure. What seems certain is that COVID-19 will eventually become endemic (an unexpected increase in the number of disease cases in a specific geographical area). A pandemic is defined as being international and out of control; COVID-19 is certainly international, more under control than at its outbreak but it is still a pandemic.

What does this mean in the immediate?
The virus is still very active in the UK despite a comprehensive vaccination programme and infection rates and deaths are increasing again world wide. A fully vaccinated person has no guarantee they will not get seriously ill from the disease or die from it but the chances of so doing are considerably less than the chances of an unvaccinated person who will inevitably catch the virus and have a high risk of serious illness and possible death (depending on state of health and age).

As long as COVID-19 is circulating there is a risk of new variants emerging against which our current vaccines are ineffective. Should this happen the world is back to stage one.

A dual threat now exist because we are entering the flu season and experts estimate 2021/2022 could be a very bad season with up to 60,000 deaths in the UK. It is possible to catch flu and Covid-19 at the same time, a scenario that places the victim at great risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and death. It would be irresponsible to ignore the very real dangers still facing us. More than ever, it is vital to be vaccinated against both flu and COVID-19 in order to give oneself the best chance of survival and protecting the population at large.

How can we keep ourselves safe?
The first priority has to be to make sure you have the latest vaccination against the disease. The second priority is reducing personal risk of both infection and transmission by wearing a one–time use surgical mask in shops, offices, hospitality venues, on public transport and not entering public buildings that have inadequate ventilation. The third is to limit as much as possible contact with others, which means only meeting people you have to meet and cutting back on social engagements. Other measures that are just as important are frequent washing of hands for more than 20 seconds using soap and preferably using vinyl gloves when touching surfaces in public places. Ideally, these initiatives should be supported with regular testing. Finally, make a personal plan for survival.

Drawing up a detailed personal survival plan means first of all making a threat analysis:
  1. Knowledge is key to survival:
    It is essential to get the best understanding possible about the virus: how it transmits, how it attacks, what damage it does, what are the chances of survival/recovery and what, if any, are the long–term implications of contracting the disease. Follow the daily statistics on infections, deaths and hospitalization to see if these are trending upwards. Keep a look out for news on new variants and find out as much as you can about them so you can try to assess the new risk.

  2. Personal assessment of risk:
    Key Questions:
    • Does your age make you more susceptible to infection and death?
    • Is your current state of health a factor?
    • Does your job place you more at risk of infection?
    Personal assessment of risk should also include value judgements, such as the danger you pose to family, friends and work colleagues if you become infected and moral judgements, such as, just how far you are prepared to risk your life and the lives of others if you are contagious.

  3. As a pandemic unfolds, how could it affect my life?
    • Will national supply chains be affected and if so, do I run the risk of shortages and ultimately being unable to buy food or fuel?
    • Are supplies of gas, electricity and water at risk in the short, medium or long term?
    • Will national transport systems be affected meaning I cannot shop or go to work?
    • Will the banking system ultimately be under threat meaning I cannot visit my bank or draw money out of a cashpoint machine?
    • Will schools close meaning my children are going to be a home and will this limit my ability to work?
    • Do I live in an area where the effects of the pandemic may lead to a rise in crime, threatening my security and the security of my home?
    • Will I be able to get hospital treatment for myself or my family if we fall sick?
    • In my home, can I create a quarantine area to isolate a sick person from the rest of the family? Do I have sufficient knowledge on how to care for someone who falls ill or who is recovering from the virus?
    • If I am alone and fall ill, do I know how to contact the appropriate medical services for help and at what point to contact them?
    • Should I make a mutual support agreement with a friend or family member?
    • Where can I get daily or regular updates from trustworthy sources on how the pandemic is spreading and on the current level of danger?
    • Is it possible that things may get so bad in my area that I have to consider fleeing to somewhere else that is safer? In this scenario, how may travel be restricted? When do I decide to leave? How do I take enough essentials with me to survive? Where would I go? How would I live?
    • Do I know how to protect myself from infection using the correct PPE? Where do I source it, when should I start collecting it and how much do I need, bearing in mind there will be supply shortages?
    • Do I avoid contact with others as the only certain way of avoiding the virus; how realistic is this?

    These are the basic questions needed to start drawing up a personal survival plan. Do not delay making your plan; you should have one even if there is not currently a pandemic because one day there could well be one. When it is completed, start making preparation as soon as possible and make sure everyone in the household understands it and sticks to the essential rules.

    What lessons can we feed into our survival planning
    One of the most dramatic social impacts of the announcement of Covid-19 was a sudden increased demand on the supermarkets, leading to some essential items going out of stock within 48hrs. Coupled with this was a dramatic and immediate increase in the number of people using online food shopping, which meant ordering shopping slots was difficult and at times impossible, resulting in some supermarkets refusing to allow new customers to sign up to their online shopping services.

    The race to stock up on essential supplies led to feelings running high against so called "panic buyers" and "hoarders." Supermarkets were fast to limit the amounts of some individual food items a shopper could buy in an attempt to protect their supplies. What actually went wrong here involves some understanding of the complexity of the supermarket's supply chains. Supermarkets hold little (or no) buffer stocks, relying on rapid deliveries from their suppliers. Supermarket stock controllers are expert in knowing the buying habits of their customers, the rate at which their goods usually sell and exactly when to re–order to keep shelves stocked. This is a "Just in Time" system, where orders are placed so goods arrive just when the supermarkets need them. Manufacturers also carry minimal stock and have to manufacture to meet the supermarkets' orders, so any sudden increase in demand places a stress on the supply chain.

    When there is an unprecedented demand, supermarkets shelves lie empty until the supply chain catches up. People bought in panic and bought much more than usual when the news of the pandemic broke, meaning the supermarket supply chains could not meet customer demand. There was no shortage of essential food items at this time and if the public had continued with their normal buying patterns there would have been no shortages, but the public ignored pleas by the supermarkets not to buy more than usual, the result was chaos for several weeks.

    As the pandemic progressed and government lockdowns were introduced, production of food and food imports were affected but the food industry coped well overall and things could easily have been far worse.

    It is interesting to note that buying in a stock of household food as a personal buffer against potential problems caused by a pandemic or other disaster that could affect food supplies is just being prudent, whereas reacting when disaster strikes is regarded as panic buying and laying in a personal stock of food is regarded as hoarding. If one's economy allows it, building up a month's supply of food or more as a personal buffer against future threats is being prudent and this does not place a strain on the supply chain.

    Building up a food stock
    If COVID-19 or its variants get out of control again, or a new virus strikes, limiting shopping trips (or using food deliveries) dramatically reduces the risk of getting infected. So, having a personal stock of food not only protects against potential food shortages it also means you can self–isolate. Of course, not everyone can afford to lay out money to buy a stock of food and the larger the family unit the more it costs, in this case, try to add a little extra to your regular shopping and build up a food stock over time. Building up a food stock requires a fair bit of thought, effort and planning. Concentrate efforts on stocks of essential staple foods that you normally consume. Consider also which essentials vanished off the supermarket shelves first when the pandemic panic buying spree began being driven largely by consumers buying storable products.

    The quantity of soap purchased more than doubled over this period relative to the previous year. Sales of tinned and dried packet soups increased by 75%; cold treatments, including paracetamol increased by 64%; rice and noodles increased by 54%; dried pasta by 49%. Washing up products, tea, instant coffee, canned vegetables, vitamins and supplements, canned peas and beans, canned fish and cooking sauces all increased by 40%. Bleaches, toilet cleaners, kitchen towels, baked beans, tinned fruit, tomato products and toilet paper all increased by 50%. Canned meat sales increased by 60%. Frozen food saw even higher demand as did pet food. The fact that these increases in sales happened literally within hours after the announcement of an impending lockdown led to supermarket shelves being empty.

    1. The least effective approach is to buy a stock of food which you keep only for use in emergency. This means many items will go out of date and have to be thrown away and replaced. The most effective way is to only buy storable food you will use and operate your store on a last–in–first–out approach. Start consuming the food but replace it as soon as possible so the amount of food always in your buffer stock never falls below 90% and there is stock rotation meaning no products pass their shelf–life date.
    2. Based on the statistics above that reflected a real–life demand on supermarket stocks at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, purchase storable food products and household goods that have a long shelf–life.
    3. Think about how and where you will store your supplies. If you are potentially facing a situation when food is going to be in very short supply it is best not to advertise the fact that you have a personal store.

    Reducing chances of infection
    Right now and in years ahead, the people with the best chance of surviving a virus pandemic will be those who are well-informed and who are willing to adapt and act rapidly when there are local flare-ups of the virus. Make sure you have a stock of PPE, as this will quickly be in short supply. Ignore misguided people who decry the use of PPE — it is used in hospitals for a reason. People who wear the correct surgical FFP2 or FFP3 masks in busy public places, protect their eyes, use testing methods, wash their hands frequently, decontaminate and quarantine packaging entering their homes, decontaminate surfaces regularly and observe either social distancing or self-isolation improve their chances of not catching the virus. The risk of further outbreaks is exacerbated by people who do not take these precautions and all the indications are that many won’t. This could force action by government to enforce rules again but by the time they do act, any outbreak will most likely have established a hold and started to spread rapidly again.

    Eye protection is important
    Even though we have over a year's experience of dealing with COVID-19 all attempts to minimize infection have proved to be ineffectual, which mean we are missing something. According to The Lancet this is possibly because not enough attention has been given to eye protection. Viral transmission appears to be via virus–laden droplets, with the greatest risk in crowded, inadequately ventilated environments. Current advice is to wear a mask and gloves but studies of SARS-CoV-2 infection among community health workers in India showed that 19% of health-care workers became infected, despite wearing three-layered surgical masks, gloves, and shoe covers and using alcohol rub. After the introduction of face shields, no worker was infected. Infection is possible when viral–laden particles that access the eyes and tear film are relatively quickly transmitted via lacrimal drainage to a nasopharyngeal reservoir allowing the virus to breed and spread to the upper airways. It is good advice to wear a face shield in enclosed places as this can considerably reduce infection by the virus.

    Know where to find out what is happening
    When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, one of the most difficult aspects of the pandemic was obtaining accurate and clear information. Government messages were often confusing as politicians themselves wrestled to understand the serious nature of the virus and political aims conflicted with public health concerns. Every TV and radio programme included comment by various experts who did not always agree with each other and expert advice often came over as contradictory. Social media was soon awash with personal opinion, misinformation and conspiracy theories, proving to be one of the most unreliable sources of information.

    At the time of writing, several TV chat show hosts shows discussing the pandemic are saying the pandemic is now over and although things are better than they were, the pandemic is not yet over and has not been declared over by the WHO. Chat show hosts have also taken a stance that as now many people are vaccinated the wearing of masks is not necessary, even though the current vaccines do not limit transmission of COVID-19. It is important to remember that TV presenters are not health professionals, they are expressing their own personal opinions, often in a very forceful way but and are often being deliberately contentious to spark off debate. They are, however, influential voices and all sources of information have to be evaluated in terms of relevance to the current situation — do not believe all you hear on the TV or radio.

    So where do you go for reliable information? Study government websites that publish the latest data on infection rates, deaths and hospitalization and look for trends showing the spread of the virus and rise in the number of mortalities. The most reliable sources are The World Health Organization, The National Health Service, The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), The Lancet and universities that specialize in virology and public health.

    New dangers on the horizon
    The "Lambda S" variant is predominantly spreading in South American countries that include Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Ecuador. The Lambda variant has been reported in 26 countries worldwide. This variant has a higher infectivity and immune resistance compared to other variants.

    The Delta plus variant (AY.4.2) now accounts for 8% of sequenced Coronavirus cases in the UK and is thought to be 10% more transmissible than the Delta variant. This mutation is being closely watched by scientists and currently, there is no data yet on its immune resistance.

    Cats and dogs can be infected with COVID-19 and spread it to other animals of the same species; current research is based on a small number of animals and it is unclear yet whether animals can spread COVID-19 to people. Should it prove that domestic animals can be a vector for COVID-19 this could be a serious problem in terms of disease control in the future. Some institutions are already advising those infected with COVID-19 to restrict contact with animals.

    Could there be another, more deadly, outbreak of the SARS virus? This has to be classified as unlikely but not impossible. The original SARS epidemic did not burn itself out; it was brought under control by simple public health measures. Testing people with symptoms (fever and respiratory problems), isolating and quarantining suspected cases, and restricting travel all had an effect. The danger is that if SARS started to infect people again it may go unnoticed because all public health attention is on COVID-19, in this way it could possibly gain a foothold once more, especially if it "escaped" from a laboratory.

    Mutation of deadly viruses is a constant threat to humans. Take Ebola virus as an example. There are four Ebola viruses endemic to Africa that cause disease in humans. The average case fatality rate is around 50% but can be as high as 90%. One limiting factor that reduces transmission is that infected people often die before they can pass the virus on and to contract the virus one has to be in contact with bodily fluids. Two Ebola vaccines exist but as we have seen with COVID-19, virus mutations can make them capable of avoiding immune response. However, if Ebola mutated so it could spread by aerosol droplets, such as coughs and sneezes and was immune resistant, it would become one of the most deadly pandemics we have ever seen.

    The Government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was not brilliant and although a cross-party group of MPs are to make recommendations on what lessons can be learned from the pandemic, it is unlikely lessons will be learned. My reasons for this are grounded in the government's leadership turning its attention from public health to climate change in a political manoeuvre designed to make Britain a shining light in the fight against climate change. In other words, the government appears to have changed its focus, direction and priorities from being a Conservative Party to a Green Party, even though the electorate did not vote for this. In the initial outbreak of the virus the government's approach was fatalistic but under pressure from the NHS they took late action to slow the transmission of the virus and funded vaccine research, development and roll–out in the belief this would end the pandemic. The fundamental flaw was the belief that the vaccines would end transmission and we now know this is not the case. If transmission cannot be ended, herd immunity cannot be achieved.

    The UK Government's approach now seems to be acceptance of a natural culling of the vulnerable and elderly. We have gone a full circle and returned to a fatalistic approach. So, will any lessons be learned by government? Will new procedures for effective pandemic disease control be put in place with the necessary management and funding? Doubtful! This is why I am using the UK Government as an example, adding governments themselves as one of the dangers. Survival in the future, when new threats emerge, will be, as always, down to the individual awareness and being prepared to take whatever steps are necessary for limiting personal risk.

    Everyone now has experience of living through a pandemic and we are all very aware of the risks and how to take rudimentary steps to limit personal exposure to the virus. However, it is easy to drop one's guard (do you still wash your hands for 20 seconds?) as we all tire of the discipline needed in the fight against infection. There are groups of people who always object to what they regard as infringement of personal freedoms, whether this is having to wear a mask or carry proof of vaccination. These people become pressure groups and they use ridicule and uniformed argument to try and force others to behave as they do (are you made to feel silly wearing a mask in the supermarket?) but do not fall for it, stay strong and do what is right, even if you are in the minority. The virus is still out there and it is still dangerous.


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