Covid entered our house again this week, this time taking down my husband and my daughter. For now the 15yo and I seem to have escaped this round, but it’s early days yet. Based on the incubation period and when my husband tested positive, we could still succumb.
Fortunately we’re all as vaccinated as we can be, and while they were pretty sick for a couple of days, covid doesn’t seem to have hit too hard. The trouble is, there’s always the possibility of long covid. Or any one of the myriad other “side effects” of the virus that can hit in the years to come. Increased risks of Parkinson’s disease, Diabetes, and heart disease are just some of the ones we already know about, and these risks all seem to be independent of the severity of the initial infection.
Here in Australia there is a new covid wave rising. Hospitalisations (our only even remotely reliable measure now) are rising, though as data is only reported weekly, we don’t know how sharply yet.
I’m at high risk for many reasons, the one that scares me the most is that I’ve already got long covid. I’m getting better, but I am terrified of what another infection will do. Long covid can completely destroy your quality of life.
What really worries me, though, is that we don’t know who’s at risk. Anyone can get long covid. Anyone can suffer heart disease as a result of covid. Anyone can wind up with Parkinson’s. We don’t know what the risk factors are. We still don’t really know what this virus does, or how it does it. And it’s not going away.
Which is why I find it utterly bewildering that governments around Australia have removed all of the public health measures that might shrink the wave. On Thursday the Queensland Health Department tweeted that the best things we could do to avoid covid were to sanitise and maintain social distancing of 1.5 metres indoors. I can’t remember what the third thing was, and I can’t check, because the tweet was deleted after Professor Brendan Crabb from the Burnett Institute politely and eloquently shredded them.
It’s outrageous to me that a government department of health should be spouting nonsense that was firmly debunked literally years ago. We know that covid is airborne. It can hang in the air for hours after the infected person has left. Social distancing is useless if you are in a poorly ventilated space. Sanitising is irrelevant to the spread of covid. We know that the things that work against the spread of airborne diseases are better ventilation, HEPA filtration, masking, and avoiding indoor crowds. Incidentally the flu is also airborne, so these measures would help protect us from that, too. Yet few people know this, and even fewer seem to care.
No-one is required to mask anywhere except in hospitals and other healthcare settings. Not on public transport. Not in shops. Not in cinemas or theatres. Vulnerable people are told to just stay home, yet I cannot stress enough that WE DO NOT KNOW WHO IS VULNERABLE TO THIS DISEASE.
Of course telling vulnerable people to just stay home, even if we know exactly who they are, is an appalling violation of human rights and basic decency. Just isolate indefinitely. Forget having a life. Forget being able to be a part of your community. If you want to be safe, just become a hermit. We don’t care about your wellbeing, we just don’t want to have to wear a mask, or install better ventilation, or organise our events to be properly covid safe. (Or risk losing an election by forcing everyone to do that.)
Next weekend there’s an event I’d have loved to be able to attend, but it’s at a bar, in a small, poorly ventilated space. It will be overcrowded, and we’ll have to shout to be heard, which means everyone will be breathing hard and no one will be masked. It’s ideal conditions for a superspreader event. And this is normal. Because we’re back to normal. Living our lives. Not being afraid.
Yet if you’re not afraid of covid, you really haven’t been paying attention.