Coronavirus – 21 March 2020

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

I really wasn’t going to write any more about the coronavirus, but a few things have happened that haven’t had much coverage in the mainstream media and which are worth sharing.

1. It occurs to me that the hoarding which is now commonplace in Britain is being made far, far worse by the media coverage. It is pretty well established that papers and television don’t show pictures of streakers because it encourages more to follow suit. So why hasn’t the Government issued a D notice telling the media not to print pictures of people with overloaded trolleys or of empty supermarket shelves? If you constantly show pictures of empty shelves then people will panic – and feel they have to stock up with everything they can find.

2. A month ago it was predicted that 400,000 people might die from the coronavirus in Britain. However, according to a story buried inside the Daily Telegraph, the experts who warned that the coronavirus could kill 260,000 Britons now appear to be predicting a death toll of 20,000. I may be wrong but I rather think that 20,000 is considerably less than 260,000 and also considerably less than the death rate which might be expected from a nasty strain of the flu. Why wasn’t this news on the front page?

3. Maybe health secretary Matt Hancock would like to calm the fear he created by predicting a possible death total of 500,000.

4. Some `experts’ appear to have reported that 3.4% of coronavirus victims will die. But the World Health Organization has pointed out that the 3.4% death rate is a result of measuring the number of deaths against the number of reported cases and does not account for the possibility that there may be lots more people infected with the virus – but undiagnosed. I seem to have been making that point for half a lifetime (and being abused for it). It now seems that the death rate is probably rather less than 1%. This is not all that far off the death rate we get every year with the flu.

5. The death rate in China (where the infection started) has already started to fall noticeably.

6. If the death rate in the UK is lower than originally forecast, the Prime Minister will doubtless claim it is because of the actions he has taken. `But he would say that, wouldn’t he?’

7. A couple of aggrieved Wikipedians have asked Wikipedia to remove my Wikipedia entry. It seems that I am unsuitable to be allowed a Wikipedia page. (Their complaints about me – which I have taken screenshots of for evidence – were absurdly libellous and I might be able to make a few bob for charity if I sue Wikipedia and its editors.) What the moaners perhaps don’t know is that I have previously asked Wikipedia to remove my page so that ignorant teenagers and malevolents with grudges can’t mess with it. (Sadly, they refused. Perhaps this time I will be lucky and my Wikipedia entry will disappear.)

8. I am told that if I sell advertising on this website I should be able to make $25,000 a month. You will note, however, that there is no advertising here. We could use an extra $25,000 a month but Antoinette agrees with me that our freedom and integrity is not for sale. I note, by the way, that the Daily Telegraph is still hiding information about the coronavirus behind its paywall. How public spirited.

9. It has been pointed out that the coronavirus might mutate again and become more deadly and/or more infectious. That is true. It might happen tomorrow, but we might have to wait years before that happens. How long do we all stay indoors and wait for a possible mutation? Weeks? Months? Years? And just how much damage to our society and economy will have been done by then?

10. When the Government asked retired doctors to help out, I wrote to the General Medical Council asking what I had to do to reinstate my licence to practise. They wrote back to say that since my email address had changed they wouldn’t do anything until I had my passport scanned and sent to them by email. Good to see that the GMC is maintaining its reputation for bureaucracy. We don’t have a working scanner (the last three all died) and anyway there is not a chance in hell of my sending a copy of my passport to anyone by email. Still, the world will probably be a safer place if I stay at home. And I have no idea where my stethoscope is.

Copyright Vernon Coleman March 21st 2020