Here an old friend of unionsafety and a retired Chemist by trade, provides the second part of his personal analysis and explains the science around one of the World's deadliest viruses, now known as Covid-19, how we got where we are and what the future may hold as we live with this newest world pandemic.
Having long retired but still known within the scientific community, he wishes to remain anonymous. Nevertheless, his words are no less valid for wishing to remain retired and, incognito, as it were:
Finally we understand our predicament, out of the blue up against an invisible yet determined enemy- and this one wasn’t going away in a hurry.
Over time, we have usually been prepared, despite the shortages, the lack of funds and sheer neglect in the NHS - and despite the brave attempts to rectify this crisis by the heroic efforts of frontline workers inter ali; we seem to be just getting there, and mostly against the odds.
The rest is well documented.
It has come to light that in 2016, a report was commissioned to understand how we would act in the event of a hypothetical ‘flu pandemic', and the findings after scrutiny were damning. This followed exercise Cygnus which was an event staged to replicate how the NHS would respond to a future influenza pandemic.
Now up to date in 2020 - and we are fully prepared with stockpiles of PPE, mountains of testing kits, in the fullest knowledge of what we need to do now that the virus has landed - and then we woke up! It was all a dream, apart from the virus, that we could hit the ground running!
So it was here, and it was here by some method or means, after all it is assumed that the thing did not originate here? Therefore it entered by land, sea, or air, and the analysis of each source is academic by now, except to mention two particular occurrences:
1- The influx of football supporters into Liverpool mostly by air, some 3,000 approx in early march, during the early stages of the virus here, and moreover during the newly introduced lockdown in Madrid, the home of Atletico Madrid , and the country which achieved the highest covid19 death rates for a sustained period - with unimaginable results.
On the overall transport scene, it was also apparent that restrictions should apply, in relation to what we now have as social distancing, and with no delays.
One taboo was meeting in groups of two or more outside and driving to remote locations was almost a jailable offence!
So, for now and at the time of writing it was obey the rules, Stay Home, Save Lives and Protect The NHS!
Aims and objectives- testing and tracking- we can sort this out !!
Detection is like a game of hide n’ seek, but where do we look?
Before any of that, the possibility of a control drug such as Chloroquine or Remdesivir (ref 1) and proof of their effectiveness by way of successful trials is running in trial with vaccine development as this goes to press.
The simple message from the world health organisation (WHO) Director General in the early days was ‘test, test, test! A definite instruction to the world as to how to start the overcoming of this virus, in itself a stand alone global health crisis of unknown proportions.
Linked to this was their experience from the encounters in 2015 with MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and this is when the well oiled machinery we know of today played it’s part.
Obviously, it is not for me to pass judgment or to accept or propose that this is the catch all or remedy to this problem, and along side this is the issue of privacy and technological problems. We all decide for ourselves on this one I think.
Concentrating on the types of tests and in fact what are they
In the absence of anything else we have two tests-
1 The swab test whereby nasal and throat swabs/samples are used to identify the genome or characteristic footprint of the virus.
2 Covid 19 infection test. As a rule there are two ways of doing it: A direct test looking for antibodies in blood which reveals whether a person has been infected with the virus. This test helps to distinguish Covid 19 from colds and other infections, and give different answers in revealing the actual presence of Sars Cov-2 virus itself and the other to establish if a person has been in contact with the virus.
As we saw in part one, viruses use DNA or RNA to store genetic codes i.e. the instructions in gene form once the body is infected. Then human cells can make huge numbers of the virus.
However, it must be realised that these tests are not faultless and total accuracy cannot be guaranteed. An infected person may not be shedding the virus into the nose or throat at very early or late stages of infection ( needle in a haystack you may think?).
For a slightly more descriptive text of the testing process and opinion then access www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk - Roger Highfield - Testing for Coronavirus.
1. Remdesivir and Chloroquine comparisons - a detailed report containing technical and biomedical data. Of the two well publicised drugs in development and trial, and at least one of them to be proposed as the drug of choice in treating the virus- it is a treatment drug and not a vaccine. www.cell-research.com
2. PCR or Polymerase chain reaction is a method used to rapidly reproduce copies of a specific DNA sample whereby a small sample of the DNA is then amplified using chemical processesto an amount that can be read.
So in conclusion- one thing is for certain, testing was and is all important, but ask yourself few question among the many that will be asked when this fiasco is all over-
If there are recriminations, or if blame is to be attached, then after the virus has at least been removed as an immediate threat should be the time - until then.......
See also Part One: An Overview Of The Sars Cov 2 Crisis - Or Where Are We Up To So Far?