The Wuhan Coronavirus - Critical period in the UK

I wanted to write another blog entry today to remind people of what I said in this earlier blog-post, written on Saturday, that this week and the next few weeks are a critical period in the spread of the virus in the UK. Children are coming back from half-term and many of them have been abroad, particularly to Italy. There is a very good chance that the virus is now spreading silently through several clusters in the UK. Because the virus has an incubation period of several weeks, during which the person concerned is infected but not showing symptoms, no one can see what's happening. What's worse, because there are no obvious symptoms amongst many of the carriers, no one is alarmed. People aren't wearing masks or avoiding crowded places. This means that the virus will spread very rapidly until the country switches to taking full precautions.

I would therefore recommend that people avoid crowded places from this week onwards, whenever possible. I would also recommend that people act as if the virus is spreading through the population. In other words, everyone should wash their hands after every outing and not touch their face. It is difficult at the moment, in the UK, to wear a face-mask, as it's not common practice yet, but a snood or scarf could be an alternative; it is better than nothing. Please don't wait for our government to give out this advice. They seem more concerned about avoiding panic than actually warning people of the danger. I can understand that they don't want chaos but I feel they're erring way too far the other way, towards outright misinformation.

I know that it is difficult for many people to change their habits and take precautions when everything looks normal but it is definitely better to be safe than sorry. Covid-19 is a monster; it is incredibly good at spreading through a population and causing great suffering. In order to remind everyone of how fast the virus is spreading, here is the John Hopkins coronavirus update screen I captured on the 13th February, roughly a fortnight ago:


Here is today's screenshot:


As you can see, South Korea went from 28 to 1200 in two weeks! Italy went from single figures to 374. Iran had none, to my knowledge, two weeks ago. They now have officially 139 but this is likely to be a fraction of the true number of cases.

Here in the UK, we may still be dodging the bullet but I think we must take precautions as if we were Italy, two weeks ago, when everything seemed perfectly fine but in fact, the virus was spreading asymptomatically amongst its population at an exponential rate. Three weeks ago, I created a timeline of how the virus seemed to spread. Since then, I've repeatedly wondered if it is too alarmist a progression but Italy is now on 374 infected and 13 dead, which puts it on the timeline I assigned to the UK. It seems that we've had some luck and Italy hasn't. Time will tell if Italy stays on the progression marked in my timeline, and if the UK is lucky again.

Fingers-crossed, our efforts will stop or successfully slow the spread in the UK, if it is silently spreading in the UK. If it turns out that we've somehow avoided the virus entirely, then I'm happy for you to complain to me about getting unnecessarily scared. Keep in mind that I may not hear you, as I'll be too busy breathing a massive sigh of relief.