covid19 the 2nd wave
Do any experts agree on anything?
[First published in the London Jewish Tribune, July, 2020] By Charles Golding
Earlier this week, Israel’s Health Ministry reported another increase in coronavirus infections. The figure was 1,150 people in a single day – from about 42 per day back in May. That’s almost doubling every 8-10 days. In the UK, the rate has been in decline since May’s 5,000 infections. This week it reported an increase of 650 new patients over a 24-hour period, and the infection rate continues to fall.
The world is experiencing a ‘second wave’ of infections-although some epidemiologists say it’s actually a ‘spike’ in the first wave. The truth is that Covid19 is new; its behaviour uncharted. Our scientists and our politicians who depend on them, still lack basic research to be able to predict with any authority. The one thing we have learned since an epidemic in China at the end of last year transformed into a global pandemic, is that our expert advice is inconclusive and often contradictory.
Take for example the wearing of masks. There are still some governments (in America some states) who do not insist on their populations wearing any form of face covering when they are out in public. They claim their decisions are based on scientific evidence.
So I make no apology for saying the following; I’m not an expert. I’ve read dozens of articles written by experts on the coronavirus. I have even written a book “Rats: the New Plague”, which examined the part the black rat played in the transmission of the world pandemic known as the Great Plague.
But when even scientists, who base their guidance on fact-based evidence don’t agree, it’s hard for politicians choose the right advice. Governments are between a rock and a hard place. In making their decisions they have to balance the number of infections and deaths against the effects on a collapsing economy. It’s no easy task.
So, why not take some of my non-expert advice. I believe Britain is on the verge of making the same mistake as Israel did just a few weeks ago, when it started relaxing its lockdown rules.
In Israel where I now live, we closed our borders. Our lockdown was enforced by law. You couldn’t leave your home except to go to the doctor, to go food shopping or other essential other activities. There are too many rules to list here, but over the haggim, we were not allowed to leave our apartments or houses. We closed bars and restaurants, swimming pools and beaches, shuls and schools, weddings, funerals et al. And our infection rate plummeted.
The UK didn’t take these measures and kept its borders open. It resulted in a disastrously in a high infection rate. This month it is seeing what Israel saw back in May. Israel has recently started opening the country internally far too soon and we are paying for it now.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was surprisingly open when he explained that he would have to begin a lockdown again, and that’s exactly what he’s done this week. Shuls limited to 19 people; limits on buses, celebrations, funerals, public eateries and the like. And he has told us that he has to find a balance between the health of Israel’s citizens and its economy.
In the UK, pubs were opened, and people queued around the block of department stores. Make no mistake, this will lead to an increase in infections, and eventually a serious lockdown.
But there’s a positive element in all of this. We will eventually discover a vaccine and we may have to take regular jabs, like we do for the flu. This too will pass.
As for me, my non-expert advice would be: do your hishtaldut; wash your hands regularly, wear a mask, be sensible and don’t go out where there are lots of people unless you absolutely have to. Then leave the rest to Hashem.