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(www.gov.uk)

It seems almost unthinkable that there could ever be again in history a story, a scenario, a war that will ever leave so indelibly an image etched on all of us. An image of abject fear and panic, undoubtedly man made, at least in part. An image that has made us question our own mortality and certainly that of our elders. An image where we watch daily as mind-boggling statistics keep getting thrust before us and which make us progressively wince more visibly each time.

I can think of no other time, no other occasion, ever in my time on this earth when it feels like we are awaiting doomsday. So what of it all?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause disease in certain animals. Seven, including the new virus, have made the jump to humans, but most just cause cold-like symptoms. Some have described it as much-worse with some people saying their cough is unbearable and occasionally it felt ‘like drowning’. I hope the latter is not true.

Two other ‘coronaviruses’ – Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) – are much more severe, having killed many people between them since 2002.

The new virus, officially called Covid-19, is also dangerous – so far, around 20 per cent of confirmed cases have been classed as severe or critical. So far, around 15 to 20 per cent of hospital cases have been classed as “severe” and the current death rate varies between 0.7 per cent and 3.4 per cent depending on the location and, crucially, access to good hospital care. If there is one issue of which we should be glad here in Scotland, here in the UK, it is the latter.

Photo caption:
Wuhan, China – allegedly the source of the outbreak ( source – kpbs)

It is understood that the ‘source’ of this virus is believed to be a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan, China. That is to say a market where both live and dead animals are sold simultaneously. It is further understood that the actual animal source might be bats and whilst they were not sold at the market they may have infected other animals ( chickens and other birds) that were on sale. The speed by which the virus has spread to have already been regarded as a ‘pandemic’ by the World Health Organisation is truly staggering. I am no Professor in Virology but there must surely be a morass of questions that require answering – some now and some when (hopefully) the situation calms down and is nearing a resolution. Questions that may start by asking the Chinese if the practice of ‘wet markets’ should stop immediately.

Here in Scotland, still part of the United Kingdom, it seems nothing short of incredulous that there appears to be such an array of differing (scientific) advice. Extraordinary from a scientific perspective, if nothing ese.

We are told by ‘our scientists’ that the advice is NOT to close schools and colleges. NOT to close pubs, clubs and restaurants . But we SHOULD ( at least in Scotland) NOT engage in gatherings where there are 500 people of more. Yet in England all football has been cancelled but the Cheltenham Festival went ahead. Around the globe today ( 16th March) New York and Los Angeles, arguably two of the most famed cities on the planet and with a combined population of around 30 million are effectively ‘about to close’. This is beinmg replicated in Ireland and France, the very two countries that are on the ‘left and right’ of the UK.

The old ‘British stiff upper lip’ is at it again? ‘Don’t mess with us, we’ll give you a bunch of fives’. This conflicting, baffling and often extremely upsetting advice might just cost lives. Has it already cost lives? Should we have done more a few weeks ago and ‘locked down’ then? Will anyone reflect in a few weeks, moths time and accept they got it wrong? Unlikely. Whilst we are awfully good at blaming people, we are not at accepting any responsibility.

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The PM, flanked by his ‘experts’. ( Courtesy ‘The Guardian’)

When our esteemed Prime Minister held a live news conference at the end of last week, he kicked it off by reminding us that many of us will ‘lose loved ones before their time’. Was that really necessary? Would that accomplish anything other than instil fear into the hearts of many? Does he stand up each November and remind us of the impending deaths because of the ‘flu? I read online in one ‘national tabloid’ that their opinion was that our PM was doing a ‘terrific job’ under extraordinarily trying circumstances and that the ‘keyboard warriors’ of social media should ‘shut up’. Really? I haven’t seen him for days and it feels like he’s hiding. Oh and no, I will NOT shut up. Just try and make me.

Further, it is our democratic right to hold our politicians to account for all that they do. They might be right but they might not be. All I ask for is an explanation as to why they have taken they action they have. Some of it I understand – some of it I don’t. But it appears contrary and, consequently, perplexing.

Any virus , by its’ very nature carries a threat. The ‘flu claims many many lives annually. I understand when any virus beomes pandemic and is so violently virulent (because there is no cure of a preventative jab) the challenges are more extreme – of course I do and I am not being critical for the sake of this blog. No, I believe that people, especially those in authority, should not be above questioning. But it feels like they are and there is no more frustrating a feeling than feeling one is being ignored.

Many of us in this country simply want straightforward, robust, clear answers to this awful scenario so that they can take appropriate action rather than feel forced to see if they’ve enough money to bury their parents. It is not being handled well, I fear, at all.

Why schools and colleges remain open when all universities are cancelling face-to-face classes is simply inexplicable. Of course, my blog would not be complete without the obligatory reference to the law. Fans of this will know my obsession with the law and, from withinm that, with Criminal Law, of course and Delict. What about the ‘duty of care’? What about ‘Damnum Injuria Datum’? There may not yet be many actual ‘losses’ ( although I am not sure that is necessarily the case) but there is clearly a ‘duty of care’ between : the Government and its’ citizens; between an employer and its’ employees; between a school/college and its’ pupils/students. But little/nothing is being done to these groups in order to uphold that principle.

It is indeed baffling. I fear that this, uncharacteristically, will NOT be my only blog about this saga – that bloody virus may linger for some time.

Stay well everyone.

Ciaran

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