Coronavirus

COVID UPDATE - NEWS, VIEWS & CONCERNS

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John Wilton-Davies

Every week now sees some form of relaxation of the lockdown rules.  From Monday 15th June, all shops can re-open and for many, especially those in work, life may seem to be going back to some semblance of normality.  So what can we expect in the next few weeks, and what are people getting wrong?


Transport


Traffic is almost back to pre-lockdown levels.  It’s soon likely to be busier on the roads than ever, given that we’re advised to avoid public transport.  The enormous drop in air pollution over the last two months will reverse, with air quality worse than before.


Employment


With 9 million workers furloughed, and employers having to contribute to costs from August, it’s only a matter of time before hundreds of thousands, at least, are made unemployed.  With many major industries - hospitality, transport particularly - unable to function at even a fraction of capacity, many of these jobs just won’t exist anymore.


Work


Time will tell how companies that survive the crisis will change their working practices.  Many expect to reduce their reliance on offices and continue with higher levels of home working.  Others are finding that staff, when required to return to the office are refusing, on the grounds they don’t feel safe.  So far, companies seem to be going along with this, but the time cannot be far off when economic need clashes with personal worries.


Schools


If it’s safe to go to work, and safe to go shopping, why are so many schools worried about re-opening?  Of course, getting primary age children to socially distance is probably like herding cats, but as children rarely exhibit symptoms, let alone become seriously ill, the risk is really more to the teachers.

If you're at all worried about your child's school's preparations, or think they might appreciate a helping hand, send them a copy of our free guide for schools.


Social distancing


As we predicted in our last blog, there is increasing discussion over relaxing the 2-metre rule to give businesses that need to get customers indoors - pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, etc - some chance of surviving.  Of course the science hasn’t suddenly changed, but the overall balance between the risk of becoming infected and the risks of deepening the recession further is gradually being reassessed.


Hospitals


Numbers of infections, and especially those requiring intensive care, have fallen dramatically.  Official pronouncements are made stating that hospitals are returning to normal.  Yet anecdotal evidence is quite different.  I live near a major regional hospital which, I presume, is typical.  Here, no assessment or treatment at all is being given unless there’s an immediate risk to life.  Every week we’re told that the ‘second wave’ is expected, and every week it’s expected a week later than before.  And there’s literally only a handful of covid patients in the entire hospital.  On June 8th, the hospital had its first coronavirus death in a whole month.


Dentists


Have you managed to visit a dentist in the last week?  If not, watch the TV series Chernobyl.  The workers going into the deadly radiation will be wearing less protection equipment than your dentist.  I’m told it’s quite an experience.


Face masks


Because using a face mask during an outbreak of infectious disease is hardly new, it’s a wonder how many times official advice on their use has changed over just a few weeks.  It now seems we must wear them on public transport, on planes and in any scenario where social distancing isn’t possible.  


Evidence is certainly building that use of face masks can have a preventative effect and that infection through aerosol particles may be much greater than previously considered.


Ventilation


It’s now official policy that indoor spaces, occupied by multiple people, should ensure that there is plenty of ventilation and that systems that recirculate air within a building should not be used.


This is sensible advice, but only so if it’s accepted that the infection can be transmitted through the air.  Yet no mention is made in official guidelines of the valuable part air purification can play.  Opening all the doors and windows is fine, as long as it’s warm outside, the weather is fine, and the air quality is good.  But what restaurant or office will do this in December, when they’re on a main road, or it’s pouring with rain?  Who could even afford the heating bills?


For practical and rational advice on preparing the workplace, see our guide here.


Evaluating Risks


At Plain Air we’ve seen numerous different approaches by schools, businesses, authorities and individuals to reducing infection risk.


In almost every case, there seems to be a considerable lack of rational thought.  Resources are spent and guidelines issued in areas where the real risk of infection is tiny, or where alternative, yet ignored, risks are much higher.  For example, schools are telling pupils not to bring in pencil cases, and to wash their uniforms every day.  Yet, at the same time, have given no thought to the risks of flushing toilets, or to the effect on their heating bills of opening every window throughout the winter.


Rules are often created, not because they necessarily have any value in reducing risk, but because the organisation thinks it makes them look like they know what they’re doing, or because their staff will expect certain changes.


If you’re at all worried about whether your workplace will really be safe, whether your child can go to school without real risk, or what steps you can take at home now that friends and family may be visiting, please do talk to us.  We can tell you what activities are actually quite safe, how to ventilate efficiently and how not to spend money unnecessarily on precautions.

Guide for Workplaces

Guide for Schools


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