2020-05-24 19:31

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Overview Of The Sars Cov 2 Crisis Part Two - The Follow Up

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.

Pic: Retired ChemistHaving 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.

It is not the ’flu, we know about the ‘flu, we have the vaccine, we know the drill, and we know that people will die! Or do we really know the fuller extent of it all - well, things were about to change, but this thing wasn’t going to comply with our requirements.

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.

So imagine the reaction when this juggernaut arrived. Will we cope? Is there enough of everything we need?

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.

It turns out that we would not be ready and the authorities would need to act on it - and soon.

However, this was 2016 and four years away from the current crisis-and with Brexit dawning, it just seemed that priorities were switched to just that, so apparently it was shelved, and in some quarters it’s existence was either denied or forgotten- and i mean four year later!

You can access a number of documents referred to here on wikipedia, look for Exercise Cygnus ref item 4 - The New Statesman, and The Guardian See also this with regard to the planning for PPE and ventilators - or Not!

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.

2- Prior to a delayed lockdown in the uk, it was apparent that normal activities would have to be curtailed, but prior to the big announcement by Boris Johnson, and various prevarications as to how to proceed, the Cheltenham Racing Festival was allowed to proceed with tens of thousands of race goers attending. Again the rest is academic.

However, these are just two of the mistakes that must have occurred, together with continued slip ups to this day.

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.

This was designed to apply to everything, including air travel as stated above, albeit there were so called repatriation and cargo,or medical flights happening, a subject all of it’s own.

Trains and buses were the first to be affected, but it was apparent that things would be change and it would take careful attention in order for it to work.

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!

We’ll never forget that slogan!

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?

For present and future reference we need to identify who has or in fact has had the virus.

The existence of a vaccine to immunise against the virus is a far way off-research and trials and production involving the reading of the footprint or the genomic signature which involves ‘breaking into’it’s capsid- information on this topic varies from day to day.

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.

Could the UK, as discussed previously, given it’s shortfalls and funding issues rise to the challenge to carry this out as seen in South Korea - on the face of it a small country with the most expansive and well organised testing programme in the world?

They had previous experience of virus infections, and were prepared for the worst, and they tested everything on two legs that lived! We saw the cases of Covid 19 melt away as a result.

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.

However, along with this, a belt and braces programme ran in tandem. First of all isolation and personal monitoring together with an innovation that has only been adopted in a certain form in recent days in the UK - namely the South Korean Government obtaining authority to collect data and associated information from positively identified Covid19 cases including use of mobile phones and/or credit cards - tracking technology in other words.

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.

Pic: Science Museum Group - click to go to website articleAs 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.

The genetic material for Sars Cov-2 is in RNA form, but for the test it has to be converted to DNA by means of a PCR or Polymerase Chain reaction (ref2). It shows that the virus is present in a similar way to reading figures off a chart - and of course further research is underway regarding testing as we go to press.

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.

Text references:

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-

Did we delay on all fronts for too long- with the lockdown and the vital testing ?
Why was the testing schedule discontinued in favour of the ‘herd immunity’ idea?

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?

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