Coronavirus 22nd March 2020

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

1. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that so far this flu season (approximately the same time period as the coronavirus) at least 36 million Americans have caught the flu, 370,000 have been hospitalized and 22,000 have died. Those are the figures for America alone. I mention this simply to try to put things in perspective. You might like to check the up to date figures for the coronavirus. (As I write the number of coronavirus cases worldwide is just in excess of 300,000 and the number of global deaths is just over 13,000.) The coronavirus is nasty and dangerous. But so is the flu and I don’t remember any governments ever shutting down a country because of the flu.

2. Why are the coronavirus figures for Italy so much worse than anywhere else in the world? Could it be that they might have accidentally mixed in some of the flu deaths with the coronavirus deaths? It would, of course, be convenient for Italy to be able to blame its economic crisis on the coronavirus rather than greed and incompetence. (The last I heard, Italy required a bail-out so huge that the EU and IMF were talking of passing the hat round the world.)

3. Now that Antoinette and I have been instructed to stay indoors I have ordered a yellow quarantine flag (ex Royal Navy) to fly on our flagpole.

4. For the record, back in the 1980s, I was vilified for suggesting that the AIDS scare had been exaggerated. Ditto the SARS scare. In the 1990s, adverts for my book Food for Thought were banned by the ASA (a private body funded by advertisers) after complaints were made by the meat industry because the book included evidence linking meat and cancer. And the Press Complaints Commission responded to a complaint from the meat industry by censoring me for daring to point out that meat causes cancer. (The book is, however, available on Amazon as a paperback and an eBook.) And so on and so on. Drawing attention to simple truths is an unpopular business.

5. There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding of the word `pandemic’ among my most frothy mouthed critics. I assume they are too busy sneering to find themselves a dictionary. A pandemic is a widespread disease. A global pandemic is a disease which is widespread over the whole world. The word doesn’t mean that the disease is particularly lethal. It is not uncommon for there to be flu pandemics. (For the record, `endemic’ means that a disease is commonly found in a particular area or among a certain group of people. And an `epidemic’ is the widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community.)

6. If the British death rate doesn’t rise to somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 as originally predicted (and I sincerely hope it doesn’t) then could it be possible that the predictions were made by people who were a little over pessimistic?

7. In the last couple of days I have received four requests to appear on the radio. Three invitations came from the USA and one from Mexico. None was from British stations. Gosh what a surprise. The only time I hear from the BBC is when they write `requesting’ that I pay their absurdly out of date licence fee so that they can hand the money over to Gary Lineker. (They do this once a month. The latest demand was sneakily designed to look like one of those little cards which Royal Mail leave when they have a parcel for you but you weren’t in.)

8. I still suspect that, as with climate change, the `cure’ to this crisis will do more lasting harm than the disease.

9. The chaos is getting worse. When the over 70s were told to stay indoors they were assured that food would be delivered and placed on their doorsteps. Unfortunately, everyone is now ordering their food online and the elderly have been told that they can do their shopping in the supermarket at a time when it will be crammed to the doors with loads of NHS staff doing their shopping. Some of those shoppers will have the coronavirus but social distancing will be impossible. Incidentally, the habit of NHS staff doing their shopping in their uniforms suggests a complete failure to understand how bugs spread. If supermarkets want to help their customers they should ban NHS staff from entering their stores while wearing clothes they wore while working with patients.

10. Scaremongers are telling us that young, healthy adults have died of the coronavirus. It is worth remembering that young, healthy adults can and do die from the flu. Incidentally, The Daily Mail (available worldwide on the internet) gets my Scaremongering Prize. Heaven knows what sort of stories they would run if the plague ever returned.

11. Scaremongers are arguing that the coronavirus is bound to mutate and that it will then be far more dangerous. It isn’t bound to mutate and no one knows if it will be more dangerous if it does. There is also an article doing the rounds which claims that the coronavirus `eats lungs’. I don’t think that sort of emotive imagery does a great deal of good. The coronavirus can certainly damage the lungs. But this coronavirus doesn’t eat lungs – that’s the munchy munchy bug which starred in a movie made by Hammer Films in the 1960s.

12. A friend of Antoinette’s who lives in Germany and has seen the news and kindly asked if we needed supplies sending over. I sent a message back that we have loo rolls but could do with another bottle of 10-year-old Laphroaig and perhaps one of 12-year-old Bunnahabhain.

If you want to escape to a quiet village in Devon in the 1970s, where life was altogether less stressful and chaotic, might I suggest reading my series of books about a Young Country Doctor practising in a village called Bilbury. The first book is called Bilbury Chronicles and there are fifteen books in the series. The books are all available on Amazon as paperbacks and eBooks. The first three books in the series are available as audio books. If you start reading now the series should last until the quarantine is over. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something feisty, my series of diaries should fill the hours quite nicely. There are seven of those and the latest is titled Tickety Tonk. The diaries are also available on Amazon as paperbacks or eBooks. But be warned: these are rather politically incorrect and not suitable for those who are easily offended.

Copyright Vernon Coleman March 22nd 2020