For those in other parts of the world, my city, Melbourne, is in the middle of a Covid-19 resurgence, and we’re being locked down again.
Much has been made about the so-called ‘error of judgement’ that led to a private security company being tasked with keeping travellers in hotel quarantine. The truth, however is a lot more complicated:
- yes, the security guards assigned to the hotels were not properly ‘educated’ about the virus,
- and yes, some of those security guards caught the virus themselves,
- and yes, the infected guards did bring the virus home to their friends and family,
- but…they would not have been able to infect as many friends and family if Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Liberal National Party had not pushed so hard for Victoria to reopen.
Part of the re-opening in Victoria included the ability to visit more people outside of our immediate families. This led to big family get togethers, especially in migrant families for whom family connections are not only strong but vital.
Now think – what would a family get together be without kisses and hugs?
‘The government said it’s okay to get together so it must be safe. And if it’s safe, why should we not kiss and hug?’
One of the reasons why social distancing is so important could well be viral load.
No idea what that is?
I was struggling with the concept myself until I watched Dr John Campbell’s video this morning:
There is some technical stuff in the video, but Dr John is very good at explaining complex ideas in simple ways so please don’t skip this one.
For those who only want the bottom line, it’s this:
- a small viral load – i.e. about 10 viral particles – will likely get caught in the mucus membranes of the nose and throat, giving your immune system TIME to mount a counter attack. By the time the virus has spread enough to reach the lungs, the body is already fighting back. This could explain why some disease is less deadly.
- a large viral load – i.e. about 100 viral particles – goes straight to the lungs. Once in the lungs, it begins causing pneumonia before the immune system has had a chance to fight back. The lungs are a perfect place for the virus to reproduce and spread, so it does. This could explain why lung infections can be so deadly.
The mechanism determining whether we get a mild infection or a severe one is much more complicated that just viral load, but understanding the impact of viral load can make a difference in how we behave.
If I walk down the street, wearing a mask, and I pass you, also wearing a mask, the chance of being infected with a large viral load is almost zero.
But if you and I are in a crowded bus, and neither of us is wearing a mask, the chance of breathing in a lot of viral particles goes way up.
And finally, if we are friends and we kiss and hug when we meet, the chance of becoming infected or passing on the infection sky rockets. Why? Because the pathways for the virus include:
- breath to breath
- contact to contact, via saliva
- hand to hand and then from hand to mouth/nose/eyes
- passive droplets in the air
- passive droplets on surfaces
- passive droplets on uncooked food such as salads, or cooked foods that may have been touched by hand [after cooking], or breathed on accidentally [after cooking]
- passive droplets on plates, cutlery, towels, toys
I could go on and on, but I think you can see where this is going. The more contact, the greater the likelihood of severe infection. So yes, in hindsight, a private security company obviously wasn’t the right choice. But who would have been? The police? What makes us think the police or the ADF [Australian Defence Force] would have been better educated about pandemic protocols?
And finally, let’s not forget the bloody great elephant in the room: the reopening. If people had not been allowed to visit each other, the virus could not have spread from the security guards in the first place. Or if it had, the clusters would have been small and manageable.
It takes two to tango, and Victoria’s dance partners included:
- Scott Morrison and henchmen like Dan Tehan, the Federal Education Minister who castigated my Premier for being too cautious and not opening up the schools faster.
- And let’s not forget Michael O’Brien. Michael who? Michael O’Brien, the leader of the LNP here in Victoria. Yes, the man in the same party as Scott Morrison et al. The man so desperate to gain political advantage that he made attack ads against my Premier, telling Victorians that they were missing out, being left behind, doing it tough because we weren’t opening up fast enough.
- Smarmy Tim Wilson should probably rate a mention as well. Yet another LNP politician in Victoria looking to cash in on Covid-19.
I’m sure there are more, but I can only handle so much anger in one day so I’m not going to go online to research who else played a part in what’s happening to my city and my state. For me, the bottom line is that my Premier, Dan Andrews, has fought long and hard to keep people alive. Those other politicians I named care only about one thing – the economy.
I ask you to remember those names when Covid-19 stops being an inconvenience and starts hurting the people you love.