Coronavirus – March 24th 2020

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

1. I’ve been studying vaccines and vaccination programmes for over 50 years and I would be surprised if I don’t know more about them than my many pro-vaccine critics, who seem to believe that anything in a syringe which is recommended by the Government must be good for you. Sadly, however, ignorance doesn’t seem to stop the pro-vaccination enthusiasts from airing their opinions, though they appear more adept at offering abuse than they are at offering scientific evidence for their views. Because compulsory vaccination is now being discussed, I have put a piece onto the Health section of this website which first appeared in 2016. It is still relevant but contains some material most readers may not have seen. I’m preparing an entirely fact-based quiz about vaccination which I will publish shortly so that those who consider themselves experts can check out their knowledge.

2. The abuse I am receiving continues. (AIDS, vaccines and the coronavirus attract more fury from the ignorant and the opinionated than any other health subjects.) Wikipedia editors have turned the Vernon Coleman page into an absurdity. I have written to Wikipedia demanding that they remove the page within 24 hours or face legal action (when I can get to see a solicitor). I intend to sue the individual editors as well as Wikipedia. If I have not had a satisfactory response, and my lawyers approve, I will publish my letter to Wikipedia on this website. It will, I think, astonish and appal you. I have never seen so many libels in such a short space.

3. Prices of things online seem to have soared. Today, I bought hazelnuts for the squirrels and paid twice what I paid a couple of weeks ago. Heaven knows what the price will be in another fortnight. Even basic home medicines seem to be rising in price and that isn’t fair.

4. I was horrified almost beyond words to read that surgery for cancer patients has been delayed for two weeks because of the coronavirus. I could weep. The physical and mental stress on patients with cancer who are waiting for surgery is unimaginable. Who the hell made this decision? Cancer is not a fringe disease; it causes more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK and I don’t mind betting that in the end it will cause considerably more deaths than the coronavirus. Indeed, it is not impossible that these delays will cause more deaths than the coronavirus. I know from our experience just how stressful it can be to have to wait for tests, results and treatment. I bet patients with suspected cancer are also having to wait longer for scans and for their scans to be read. Our sympathies go out to all those patients and their relatives and friends.

5. Doctors have been given the right to discharge elderly patients early to free up beds. Since the over 70s have to stay at home and are not allowed visitors to care for them just who, pray, will look after these lonely, old people? Many will not be able to go to the shops for food, many won’t have access to the internet and so won’t be able to shop online. It is not widely realised but, according to the Independent, figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that more than five million people have never gone online. Within a month or so some of these will starve to death.

6. It is now being said that we could all be quarantined and isolated for 18 months or until herd immunity reaches 60%-70%. If everyone has to stay indoors for 18 months there will be more murders and divorces than at any previous time in history. And we will no longer have a working economy. Here’s a thought: instead of forcing those without the virus to lock themselves in, wouldn’t it make more sense to lock all those with the coronavirus, and those with whom they have been in contact and who may be symptomless but who test positive, into isolation hospitals (or hotels converted into isolation hospitals). This would cause less disruption. Who could possibly object to that? Oh, and we should close our borders completely. (This is something I recommended weeks ago – at the time when Putin closed Russia’s borders. If we had closed our borders, or isolated people coming into the country, we would probably not need a general lock down.)

7. Figures from around the world continue to bemuse me. It is said that 9,000 people in Iran are infected with the coronavirus and that 300 have died. That would give a death rate of over 3%. But it also said that there may actually be 100,000 infected. That would give a death rate of around 0.3%. I don’t think any more figures should be released until there is some certainty about them.

8. When the dust settles, France is going to go bankrupt. Macron has promised that no company, of any size, will be allowed to go bankrupt. All those directors whose companies were close to bankruptcy will be beaming.

9. Are we locked in? Locked up? Or in lock down? Whatever it is, I am so pleased that we are all allowed an exercise period. And there will be guards too, to keep an eye on us. Just like proper prison. (I am puzzled though. The police and guards are to be allowed to fine those who break the law by forming groups outside. This is doubtless sensible but how will the police hand a summons or fine to the individuals concerned without touching them or approaching them? And if they wear protective clothing they will have to change every time they fine someone.)

10. Last night, Antoinette made up a large boxful of comestibles to take to an old lady we know who lives alone. (Antoinette also popped one of our valuable loo rolls into the box – in my view an unprecedented act of generosity.) Nervously, I drove several miles through deserted streets. It was a cross between Christmas Day and a scene in one of those films in which a killer plague destroys the world. When we arrived, we put the box into the porch, rang the bell and ran away in case anyone had seen us.

11. The Germans were apparently told to stock up with food for at least two weeks. The British are told that we must not stock up but that we should go to the shops as infrequently as possible. It is impossible to do both. It would make more sense for everyone to buy infrequently but to buy as much as they can carry. Given the difficulty in obtaining delivery slots, the supermarkets will surely have to start delivering 24 hours a day. (That’s another suggestion I offer to our Leaders.) Antoinette and I did not `panic buy’ but I confess I rather wish we had more stuff in our pantry.

12. Many over 70s are terrified of falling ill and needing a doctor. I know I am. Even falling over and breaking a bone is now a constant terror – because of the problems of obtaining medical care, and the knowledge that as an elderly patient there may be difficulty in obtaining medical care. The NHS needs to reassure the over 70s that they will not be ignored if they need help.

Copyright Vernon Coleman March 24th 2020