COVID-19: What’s the big deal?

Your Friendly Neighbourhood COVID-19 Virus

I was talking to a friend of mine via Zoom the other day and he casually put forward the case that COVID-19 isn’t a big deal. Now my friend is a teacher and I would consider him a smart guy so I was a little shocked — although not nearly as shocked as he was that I could use Zoom. His argument was as follows: COVID-19 hasn’t killed anywhere near as many people as the Flu. After 3 weeks of lockdown I was way too drunk to argue so I let his comments slide with an internal WTF, and moved on to less inflammatory matters like the English Premier League.

An hour and a friendship later I was sitting alone in my study and had time to consider my ex-friend’s (I’m joking Tommy — I will always love you and your penchant for craft beer even if you do support Sheffield United) comments. Was he the only one who felt this way? Were there others out there who thought all the pain we were enduring was unnecessary? Were the sacrifices and heroism of the NHS pointless? What day is it and which of the 50 bags of pasta should I have for tea? Maybe I should serve it on one of the 200 toilet rolls I have?

So many questions swirled in my mind that I began to think maybe he was right, maybe this COVID-19 thing was being exaggerated. It was at that exact moment I had an epiphany, something that made everything clear in my mind — I realised my friend was talking shit.

COVID-19 is a disease we have never encountered before. It does not discriminate, it will not show mercy, and it is not the flu. We have a responsibility to make sure we don’t make things worse by following the rules and keeping everyone safe.

Social distancing

How do we stay safe? Well that’s easy. Stay the fuck away from each other. There you go. Social distancing measures have been put into place for a reason. Break them and you could end up sick.

You may have seen news footage recently of gun toting Americans (are there any other kind) demanding freedom from COVID oppression as if they’ve been enslaved by a tyrannical plantation owner. Some of these “persecuted” wear face masks whilst standing side by side with their redneck brethren. They are the smart ones, those with IQs over 75 (but under 80).

I’m not saying they will die if they catch COVID-19, none of these people look particularly old or like they have any medical preconditions. If they get ill they’ll probably brush it off after a few days and go back to their buddies at the squirrel shooting club with comments like, “Look, I told you this Curowna virus sheet aint nuthin.” And for them it was ‘nuthin’. But in their selfishness, they are missing the point.

See the scientists, people much smarter than them (and let’s be honest me too) measure how potent a virus is in many ways. One such measure is the R-0 value. This value measures how contagious a virus is. If the R-0 is 1 then every person who gets the disease will on average pass it on to one other person. Flu has an R-0 of 1.2. Early indicators show that COVID-19 has an R-0 of somewhere between 2.5 and 3. That makes it twice as contagious as flu. Now if COVID-19 killed as many people as the flu (which it doesn’t by the way — but well come back to that) then we are still looking at double the number of infections and double the number of deaths, mainly old people and those with underlying conditions. So these arseholes with their guns and their signs advocating their constitutional rights may walk away from this disease fine. The people they pass it on to may not. What they are doing is selfish. There’s no humour in that.

But anyway, back to me, it may come as a bit of a shock to you but as a 45-year-old neurotic nerd who plays Warhammer and goes to Cosplay events, social distancing is quite easy. My life revolves around work, playing World of Warcraft, and sleep. Being apart from people is something I was an expert at before it was enforced.

Do you remember that experiment in school where you’d put detergent into a bowl of dirty water and the dirt would flee to the far corners of the dish? Well, I’m the detergent… or the dirt… either way, people have a way of fleeing to the far corners when they are around me. But now I’ve been commanded to stay away from people my neurotic brain has flown into overdrive. Going to the supermarket for example, has taken on new meaning. Queueing for an hour outside 2 metres away from everyone else, before being let loose in the store to skirt around other shoppers like your playing the floor is lava, but with people as lava, is incredibly stressful. What exactly is 2 metres anyway? Somebody told me it was the length of my outstretched arms. That’s great advice but running around supermarket aisles like a demented aeroplane only ends with flashing blue lights and a straight jacket.

Suffice to say it isn’t easy to stay 2 metres from others. But it is necessary and here’s why:

How deadly is COVID 19

Like my teacher friend, you may have heard people saying that COVID-19 is no big deal? They are wrong. People are dying and our hospitals are being pushed to breaking point and that is a big deal. But don’t take my word for it, here are the facts:

People say the flu kills more than COVID 19

Right now, it is true that the “flu” kills more people each year than COVID-19 has so far. But, and this is the kicker, COVID-19 hasn’t been around a year. Recent figures suggest that COVID-19 is at least 6 times more deadly than the flu. We have never seen this virus. Our bodies have not developed an immune response to it. For the flu, we already have ammunition (antibodies) to fight back. For COVID-19 we have nothing.

Eennie, meenie, miney mo, catch a virus by its toe

It’s not just the death rate that’s the problem. COVID-19 is extremely contagious. This means more people are catching it and more people are dying. It’s a simple equation any primary school pupil could solve. With so many people getting sick our healthcare services are at breaking point.

Fuck it! We’re all doomed

Calm down. If your body is strong, you will beat this virus. The mortality rate is still relatively low for fit and healthy people. All we have to do is hunker down to protect those susceptible to COVID-19, keep our healthcare services from becoming overrun, and catch up on some of those excellent documentaries floating around on Amazon and Netflix, like The Walking Dead.

No Fear, the celebrities are here

Just as we begin to think all hope is lost our saviours have arrived. Celebrities have taken to social media like flies to days old dog poop to not only keep us entertained but make sure we don’t forget how popular they are in our time of need. Stars like Billie Eilish, Gary Barlow, and Cliff Richard are on the frontline singing cheery songs to push us one step closer to the noose we weaved from bedsheets last week. We’ve even got Sir Patrick Stewart reading Shakespeare sonnets to remind us how boring secondary school English classes were. Cheers guys.

Step forward the real heroes

Now I may not be a big celebrity (or any type of celebrity) but like everybody I feel a need to say how grateful and appreciative I am to the real heroes of our story — the doctors and nurses fighting this disease everyday. We are so lucky to live in a country where we have access to high-quality healthcare that’s free at the point of use. It’s saved countless lives and, over the coming weeks and months, it’s going to save many, many more. These amazing people are putting their own health at risk to save us from this horrible virus. So, I will finish this article with one sentence that I hope we can all get behind:

THANK YOU NHS

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