WINTER IS COMING – A guest posting by Bob Robinson

“They think it’s all over” – the crowds have flocked to beaches and beauty spots. Pubs and restaurants have reopened albeit with social distancing and face masks – Life is slowly getting back to normal. Come September, children will go back to school. The Government’s strategy is to engineer an economic and a public health recovery and deliver Brexit – a massive economic restructuring exercise. Punchy three-word injunctions, a time honoured oratorial stand-by are back in vogue. I use 3WI’s myself – as you may have noticed this includes the title of my piece. 3WI’s ring a bell.

I just heard a bell ring. One of London’s best kept secrets is Gresham College – situated at Baynard’s Inn on High Holborn, close to Hatton Garden. Gresham College was founded in 1597, It has been providing free lectures within the City of London for over 400 years. They invite distinguished academics, who all share the ability to explain complex issues.. A recent speaker was Sir Chris Witty, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England, the UK Government’s Chief Medical Adviser, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of Health and Social Care and head of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Unlike his appearances next to the Prime Minister in Downing Street, Professor Witty was given an hour and a half to explain the context and challenges of COVID. He is blessed with the talent of making things you know are complicated and iterative intelligible. He does justice to the scale of the challenge. In addition to speaking about the current pandemic, he drew on the experience of previous pandemics, In particular, he spoke of pandemics that have occurred (a)in a number of waves and that (b) the number of infections in the second and third waves were often greater than that of the first. Spanish Flu killed more people in the United States in the second wave in two months in 1918 than the first wave in 1917. A harsh reality may be about to dawn on us that “it’s not over until it’s over”.

Having set the scene Chris Witty deployed his “Game of Thrones” 3WI – “Winter is Coming”. He drew attention to the facts that diagnosis and isolation will be more difficult. We already appreciate that multi- generational families and those with poor quality homes or no homes face greater difficulties in coping with COVID. The NHS and all other health systems are always under greater pressure in the winter. He also drew attention to the increased risks associated with age and the correlation between age/obesity and death.

But the key 3WI message I drew was that in addition to COVID is “Complacency Can Kill”

You can see Professor Witty’s lecture and read his supporting documents here:

www.gresham.ac.uk/about/
www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and-events/covid-19
s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/content.gresham.ac.uk/data/binary/3292/2020-04-30_Whitty_t.pdf

Can I urge you to watch, learn and inwardly digest?

One thought on “WINTER IS COMING – A guest posting by Bob Robinson

  1. Phil Holden says:

    I agree we shouldn’t be complacent. It would be good for Whitty’s lecture to be broadcast on primetime tv, though I fear few would actually watch.
    However, another lesson we have already learned is that covid isn’t flu. The PPE requirement is hugely greater, for example. Also nearly all children and young adults are at very low risk from it and children seem to pass it on much less.
    So I’m sure the government is right to get children back to schools and right to try to get as much of the economy functioning as possible while monitoring that R stays below 1. It’s tough on the theatre luvvies and some hospitality businesses but there you go. I’m fairly sure Whitty agrees with the main thrust of the current approach, while saying beware winter.
    There are grounds for optimism – despite a lot of evidence that some people pay scant regard to social distancing the number of cases is not soaring across the board. Local area controls seem to work so a further full national lockdown may be avoidable despite winter.
    Covid has thrown up many surprises already and that probably hasn’t finished so we should be realistic rather than optimistic I guess.
    And winter will bring flu and/or other classic winter epidemics putting pressure on the NHS.
    An NHS that seems puzzled that fewer patients than normal are going to hospital. Shouldn’t be that surprising when we’re all terrified of going there and it’s difficult to get a GP to see you face to face.
    Anyway, can we have autumn first please?

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