Patience is a virtue but sometimes speed is of the essence.

Here we go again. The latest “thing” fueled by a frenzy on social media, television news and newspapers. Face masks, we want them now.

Of course there is a desperate need to supply the carers who come into direct contact with the COVID-19 virus on a daily basis with the proper PPE, but does this demand really hold weight for Joe Public or is it, once again, because they have seen others in other cultures wearing face masks and thought “I need to be doing that”. Why?

Is there any actual evidence that wearing a face mask in public will actually reduce the chances of an individual contracting the virus. Not according to the WHO who recommend against this. So why the clamour? Has wearing face masks an a daily basis led to people in China, Korea, Singapore, Japan from contracting the virus – of course the answer is “no”.

The face mask in these cultures has been worn for many years as a way of trying to prevent the particles from pollution (and in the major cities in these regions) air pollutiion from traffic is big time. Note that most of these masks are akin to the type worn in a dentist’s surgery of hospital operating theatre setting.

However, to counter the airborne threat of a nanometer sized particle of virus protein, then this type face mask is next to useless – it MAY prevent droplets released by the wearer from being transmitted but won’t necessarily prevent virus particles from being emitted (or entering) through any gaps.

A mask that actually seals the region around mouth and nose is what is needed, but then you need a way to filter the air that needs to be breathed, otherwise the person would suffocate. So it beggars belief when pictures are posted showing so called celebrities (and others) wearing a fashion-inspired handkerchief around their nose and face – what a waste of time and what a shocking role-model as these images influence so many people.

To coin an old phrase, you might as well use a chocolate fireguard in front of an open fire. For goodness sake, please stop this nonsense. Any masks should be prioritised towards the frontline people dealing with the virus on a daily basis. Joe Public has managed without so far and doesn’t need them anyway.

patience

We also see the clamour for a vaccine or somehting that will counter the threat of the virus. Again popular media will have sown the seeds in the minds of the public that this is a simple matter. Find something!! Let people have it!! Do these people realise how much effort this requires and how long this takes?

Firstly something has to be identified that will recognise the virus protein and get the body to build an immune response that is is going to be strong and persistent. This information can’t be gained without getting into humans and testing the idea.

But you just can’t give something to a human before you at least have some feel as to whether it is like to be overtly toxic or not and how much of it is likely to be needed before becoming toxic – so that has to be determined before anything else – this will take time. Then once any human trials begin, it will require cautious steps to begin with, to try and avoid any potential adverse effects, or at least be in a position to ameliorate any – more time required.

However, the longest steps in the clinic will be determining immunity and longevity and “safety” – by definition, a lengthy process, particularly safety. Whilst all this is going on, scaling up the potential for large scale manufacture of the vaccine be be in progress – more time required as regulations for site of manufacture and plant have to be adhered to. All this can take normally 5 years or more, but all the stops are being pulled to try and deliver something rapidly, but please, stop reading the rubbish in the press and social media and BE PATIENT – this will take some considerable time.

speed is of the essence

To close, whilst all the clamour is going on with COVID-19, we might have forgotten about the ever-present and here and now threat of bacterial resistance. If COVID-19 has come a real shock, then we need to be worrying about bacterial resistance, because, already many of the more virulent strains of bacteria are now resistant to the current therapies. Once resistant bacteria take a hold, what are we going to do – to be in a COVID-19 situation all over again, waiting whilst someone comes up with a new antibiotic that can treat the resistance – not a good place to be.

They have probably got other things on their collective minds at present in Government and elsewhere, but action needs to start now. If everyone can be alarmed at “Global Warming” then they should start to consider a world with no counter-therapy for bacterial infection – it’s coming sooner or later.

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let’s explore the motives and rationale behind the clapping fad. What are its origins and why has it captured the hearts of the masses?

This item might upset some people but what I’m trying to do is analyse the current wave of “clapping for carers”. So why do people do it – is it because someone from the Netherlands suggested on social media that it would be a good way of showing how much the NHS was appreciated in the current national emergency or was it because people had seen (again on social media and television) clapping for the health workers in Italy?

Whatever, it didn’t seem to be a spontaneous gesture but one that was peer pressured by the thought and images being placed in the media. Would people in the UK have clapped if there was no television or social media – so is this about appreciation or a “herd mentality” and why do people clap anyway?

Why do we clap anyway?

Let’s look at the latter point. Clapping in most societies is a show of approval. A person wins a prize; someone wins a race; someone scores a goal etc, all good things. It’s a way of saying “well done”. However, there are many instances in history where clapping by the masses has shown “approval” of bad things. Just look at some of the old news footage of some of the tyrannical regimes that have come and gone – wildly clapped by the people – why? Well maybe we come to the question of “herd mentality” – he’s doing it, she’s doing it so I’d better conform and join in – peer pressure forcing an action that otherwise wouldn’t occur.

Go with the flow

Take the example of a football match. A player makes a really bad tackle on an opponent. The members of the crowd that follow the team of the tackler applaud this but how many of them actually thought “that was really bad – dirty tackle – could have broken his leg” But because a group of maybe 10 to 20 clapped it “forced” others to do so. Not for one minute am I comparing the work of the NHS to a football match, just looking at the psychology of peer pressure.

So what is the Clap for Carers meme really about? Is it so that the people doing this can appear on social media a “appear” to be supportive? I bet that there are a fair few of these people who are hypocrites – not practising social distancing; making unnecessary car journeys; seeing family and friends despite them living elsewhere – so tell me how are these types of people that then clap on their doorstep “appreciating” what the carers are trying to do? Do they think that it is like a confession – that they will be absolved and forgiven for their sins of not social distancing etc etc?

Listen to me clap

Ah, but it looks good for the neighbours, doing their bit to show that they really appreciate the hard work and sacrifice of the people on the “front line” whilst in the same breath they will still see their mates, still use the car to go just about anywhere and still ignore the rules that we have been asked to obey. Indeed, I wonder how many of the people who posted on social media themselves and others clapping for carers were, before all this happenend, berating the NHS for having to wait in A&E for hour upopn hour, or whinging at the fact that the ambulance took longer to come that they expected, or went private because they “didn’t trust the NHS”? I bet that there are those folk out there and how do they live with themselves?

My own view on the Clap for Carers is well do it if you truly believe that it will demonstrate appreciation. However, you should also be clapping the refuse collectors, fire crew and so on. These people also save lives in their line of work but go largely unappreciated. But let me put this to you. Jo and Dave work together, and they both produce an outstanding piece of work. Jo presents the results of this work and is roundly applauded by his peers but gets no financial reward. Dave doesn’t get any appaluse because he didn’t stand up and present the work, however, he gets a pay rise for his contribution – who’s happiest and who feels like they have been appeciated? So maybe, clap along with your buddies, but think about lobbying MPs to look at raising the cash to actually so that the caring profession is truly appreciated by rewarding them properly.

James Räkningen

James holds an MSc and a PhD in pharmacology and vascular hyperreactivity in obesity and diabetes. He has also lead teams of translational scientists developing cancer therapies. James is a new contributor to zenscape.

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