Dr Owain Williams By: Dr Owain Williams
Lecturer in IR and Human Security
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12 Mar 2020 : Testing Times

Things hotting up at work. Lots of emails and letters to Deans and HoS. Worries for those immunocompromised having to attend lectures. University position is business as usual (BAU) like many of the universities in UK. Epi data in UK continues to look bad and I think we have 2-3 weeks before spike. Government a mess. On picket line today (Thursday) with Lisa and Meta. I decide to tell them about Australia dilemma and of course they got it straight away. Must admit just that was a big relief after days (or weeks) of worry. We all know things are getting serios – all worried about kids and family. People starting to look bleak and scared, but many just carrying on as normal. Went for tea with Lisa and Stuart after picket. She is coughing a lot and is openly HIV positive. She should not be out and I worry about her. I kind of think if there is a moment in time where the penny dropped for me it was today – March 12. I need to isolate and get out and back to Joanie. I begin searching some of the pharmacies for masks to travel, and hand gel. There are none. Last day of pickets and strike tomorrow and I am just not going in. It gets cancelled this evening. University is grinding to a halt as people vote with their feet. I begin self isolating at home and it feels weird from the outset.

This evening I watch Question Time for the first time in years as John Ashton is on and I follow him on twitter (former head of Public Health North West England). He is damning of government response:“I’m embarrassed by the situation in this country. This talk of four stages, and we’re now moving on from the containment thing – we’ve lost the plot here. We haven’t taken the action that we should have taken four or five weeks ago.”

“Boris Johnson should have convened Cobra at the outset when it became clear what was cooking up,... “Countries that took firm action at the time - if you look at what happened in Hong Kong and Singapore, which had a lot of cases initially but which took firm action and they’ve got the thing under control. We’ve lost control here.”

He is right of course. The lack of testing is a disaster and there is increasing disbelief at outlier status with regard to best practice in other countries. Jeremy Hunt the former Minister for Health and Rory Stewart are both publicly expressing concern. Quite right. The former, however, was a systematic NHS dismantler. Health service collapse is at the heart of Ashton’s message. Trump is presently even worse. If we get to projected rates of infection, even the more modest, we are in a lot of trouble. Union getting strong on university response. Lata and Emma write very good letter to HoS. We need to close and get on-line. Johns Hopkins state that 97.5% of those contracting the virus will become symptomatic and 11 days, meanwhile they are transmitting. Disaster. Today the stock market had its biggest fall since 1987. At home and so worried. Phone kids. They are fine and Edie is stopping school, thank god. WHO messaging via Ryan very good and clear. Test, trace, isolate and raise the bar of care. Bang on. Apple just closed all its stored ‘outside of China’. How things have changed, but great ethics from a retailer. I get on Skyscanner and there are still multiple flights to Australia. Photos on Twitter of empty planes. I still have no mask, no sanitizer or paracetamol. 83 more cases were discovered in the UK bringing the total to 456. UK advice now for anyone with a new continuous cough or a fever should self-isolate for seven days (no testing or contact tracing – seems game over there). Schools may/should cancel trips abroad, people over 70 or with pre-existing medical conditions advised to ‘avoid cruises’. Meanwhile we see the business as usual mantra spreading. ACT has its first case, 142 case in Australia, they had not travelled overseas.

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