Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Get an Air Purifier for Christmas

Christmas is coming, the great get-together time of families and friends. 

This is the very last thing that epidemiologists and medics want to happen in terms of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

There will be advice from Government on how many family members are allowed to get together, for how long and how close.

The bedrock advice of Hands, Face and Space will remain valid.

Many people (let's call them the Wise Virgins) will adhere to the official advice. Some (let's call them the Foolish Virgins) will not, and will have large Christmas gatherings at work and at home where many will become more or less rat-arsed, and forget the rules.

In both groups, virus will be transmitted; more so in the case of the Foolish Virgins but the inescapable fact is that if the number of people sharing air in a room goes up, so too does the probability that virus will be transmitted from person to person.

It is impossible to eat a Christmas dinner with a mask on, and people will be laughing, shouting and even singing. Droplets will be exchanged, and there will be a spike in cases in the first week of the New Year, and, sadly, a spike in deaths in late January.

But. 

There is something we can do to reduce the probability of these spikes.

We can of course have Christmas dinner outside, but let's face it, very few if any will do this.

We can also open all the windows and keep the air moving through the house. Some will do this, but, let's face it, not everyone will.

There is something else that we can do, comfortably.

Let's take the case of a family of Wise Virgins  sitting around the table eating their Christmas dinner. The oldest boy, let's call him Colin, has just come back from Uni. He had a private test last week, and it came back negative, but unknown to him, five days ago one of his flat mates coughed over him and now he is an pre-symptomatic carrier. Not a lot, (virus shedding is maximal on the day symptoms start) but he is indeed putting out droplets containing Sars-Cov-2 virus (the virus that causes Covid-19 disease).

In the centre of the dinner table, hanging above it next to the table lamps, is a piece of technology called an Air Purifier. It is drawing in the air above the table, and passing it through a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Absorbing) filter, combined with a variety of other processes depending on quality.

A large part of the virus particles chucked out by Colin will be trapped and killed in the Air Purifier. Instead of landing on the table, or hanging about in the air, or drying out and drifting as aerosols up the stairs into the rest of the house, they are safely trapped and die in the filter of the purifier.

Not all of them. Most of them. There is still a risk of transmission, but the Air Purifier reduces the probability of others round the table and in the room getting enough of a loading dose to get sick (the size of the loading dose is proportional to the severity of the subsequent illness).

It is all about probability. Nothing is black and white. Perfection is not on the agenda. Colin may forget his distancing, and may play with the 6 year old, who may get Covid. But the probability of transmission in a house with clean air is lower than it would be if the air is laden with Colin's virus.

The same goes for a family of Foolish Virgins. In aggregate, the spike in C19 cases will be less in houses that use Air Purifier technology.

Air purifiers are available widely. They cost anything from £40 to £700, but you can get a decent one for about £130 inc p+p. I like the Blue Air Pure 411 because it is very low wattage (1.5-10W). 

I am not on commission. I am writing this because I believe this technology will save lives and will ease the burden on my colleagues in hospital. I also believe that air management technology applied in many other ways will enable us to live far more normal lives than we otherwise would. Manufacturers will not claim that their products are guaranteed to stop people getting Covid, and of course we will hear the usual nonsense about how using air purifiers will make people stop wearing masks and washing their hands, but this kind of conservatism is inevitable for any innovation.

Buy one. Use it. Stay well, stay safe.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Mogg Darkness Falls Across Our Suffering Nation

 


This Sunday the clocks go back. 

Darkness will cover the land in the late afternoon. 

No more work outside without the help of floodlights.

A decade ago, the environmental group 10:10 campaigned for the Daylight Savings Bill that would have required the Government to conduct a cross-departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing time by one hour for all, or part of, the year.

If this analysis found that a clock change would benefit the UK, the Bill required that the Government initiate a trial clock change to determine the full implications.

When it came to be debated, the wretched Jacob Rees-Mogg stood up and filibustered it - he talked it out. He would not allow Parliament to even consider the effect of daylight saving.


As a result of his childish behaviour, Rees-Mogg is personally responsible for the following:

4,470,000 (say 5 million) extra tonnes of CO2 in the air.
1,000 lives have been lost on the roads, and maybe 3,000 serious injuries.
700,000 jobs have failed to materialise.
£1,380,000,000 costs imposed on the NHS

All because one narrow minded MP decided he did not like environmental campaigning.

Our Parliamentary system is useless, inefficient, anachronistic. It is broken.

One day it will be changed.

At the moment, all we can do is to refer to the coming dark afternoons as Mogg Darkness



Friday, October 16, 2020

Blanket Blocked




Months - if feels like years - ago, our Weston Poets group were set the topic of "Blanket" as the theme of our next Weston Poets meeting.

Well, I confess I have been well and truly blocked on Blanket. 

I have two images, but they will not form themselves into poetry. 

One is our now home ground, smoothed by a gleaming layer of sweet white snow, crisp and perfect, lying there a magic gift from heavy, low dark skies of yesterday, with tiny sparkles from a white sun so weak that it can scarcely lift its head above the wood's fine tracery, 

 and deep in this vision of purity is my four year old self, skipping ecstatic from my kitchen door to find my winter world transformed into a magic shining incomprehensible land of whiteness, 

 and now my dancing child is overseen by a darker, silent self who knows this magic carpet is slipping away, flying lower year by year because another blanket it changing; 

a huge dark sphere of perfect shadow, black as the snow is white, clothed with a rim, the finest, narrowest shim of blue and gold wrapped round our home 

so thin, but strong enough to keep this space rock warm enough for us and all life to live and breathe and love, 

 a narrow band of air so fine between the soil that gives us food 

and an infinity of freezing space, 

our air is changing, slowly, but so rapidly, changed by the rattling coals that kept my kitchen warm, changed by the immensities of blackness that bleed and scrape power from the heart of rock beneath our feet, 

under the skim of soil, under the rock of ages cleft for us all to live our plastic lifestyle, to live so well, but now, 

 but now we know that we must not change the infinitesimal blue gold blanket into a weight that smothers us out of sweaty sleep, to find the night time air is all too hot, to find the shower will not run its cooling streams, to lie down and feel our heart speed up impossibly and in a living nightmare pass away to leave a damaged world for that young wondering child

Saturday, October 10, 2020

We Need to Stop Right Wing Journalists from Crashing the Economy

We are not doing well in the great Covid sweepstake. 

Our death rate is the third highest in Europe, behind Belgium and Spain, according to Worldometer

Economically, the OECD finds that only Spain and Peru have had a deeper percentage decline in GDP than the UK.



Meanwhile the BBC has a non-ending discussion on "the balance between health and the economy", the fight against the pandemic and the fight against economic collapse. 

The fact is that we are losing on both fronts.

It is clear that we need first to suppress the virus in order to get  the economy moving again. Looking at the OECD graph above, the six countries who have suffered least economically are all between 90 and 189 in the league table of deaths per million, whereas we lie, shamefully, in the 12th position from the top. 

Why are we doing so badly? 

First, here is a list of 22 errors committed by Johnson's Tories in their handling of the pandemic. 

The other reason is that the BBC and other right wing media sources have been providing a continual obbligato of criticism of the lockdown measures. They give a platform to extreme libertarians who moan about their refusal to wear "muzzles", and how wrong it is that they should not be allowed to keep on drinking in the pub as long as they want. 

This grumbling was given apparent respectability by the Great Barrington Declaration  from a group associated with neo-liberalism from the same stock (and with the same Koch funding) as man-made climate change deniers.

This carping filters down into the popular consciousness into a spirit of non-compliance with social distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene. This in turn pushes up the R-number, and this in turn prolongs the agony, and forces us all into more self-isolation and more job losses. 

We may even find ourselves in the position that the rest of the world is getting back to work (hopefully in greener economies) while we in the UK find ourselves quarantined if we visit these more sensible countries.

Nobody wants another lock-down. But we have to stop the increase in the R-number, and this means that somehow, we have to continue to exercise discipline on our interactions. The measures brought in on 22nd September have had an effect, as this graph from the excellent Symptom Tracker demonstrates:


The cases were growing exponentially until the rule of 6 and other new measures were brought in on 22nd September.

So hands, face and space does work. We just need to make sure that distancing is adhered to by everyone. 


And this means telling some influential journalists to support the public health agenda if they want to get the economy to pick up again.