Thoughts on a Pandemic pt.1

I've been trying to write about what we're currently going through for a while now but until now felt like my brain was overflowing.

Sitting down at a computer to do anything productive during a pandemic is more challenging than before this all started that's for sure. For me, it's a combo of the known, the unknown and instant unavoidable change.

The known because we live in a world of unlimited data, instant global news and (if you are reading this outside of China) the ability to see into the future as to what is coming.

The unknown due to the thoughts of, 'when will we be able to see family members again?', 'when will things go back to normal?', 'have I contracted COVID-19 or was it the flu?' and 'how are people going to be able to go back to work?'.

Finally the instant change, without warning, what most considered as a normal, is out of the window.

In this post, I will dive into the situation we're in, levels of preparedness, good information vs dangerous information and coming our of the other side. Hopefully, with some positives added in also.

Before we do, here are some of said positives to take away from the current situation.

- Decades worth of innovation in vaccines and pandemic preparedness will happen in just a few short months
- Global halt to the majority of greenhouse gas emissions
- Increased awareness of contagious diseases across generations
- Global co-operation levels at an all time high
- The sharing of information has increased greatly
- New procedures, vaccines, treatments and ways of working will enable us to be more prepared for the future

Note - we will get through this but we need to stay home and support each other anyway we can.

First a shout out to Nat and all of the kids for doing an amazing job at being stuck in the house for the majority of the time! I love you all.

Also, I am aware that this time has affected us all in different ways so be kind to others, take it easy on yourself,  be patient with those close to you and keep in mind that everyone is just trying to keep their heads above water.

On a personal level, we made the move to self-isolate early to try and stay ahead of the spread and at the time of writing this we are on Day 28. This was down to a couple of things, firstly, the data was available from countries who were only a couple of weeks ahead of us and it was clear that there was this tidal wave of infections slowly moving towards us. Secondly, one of our children has an underlying condition so we wanted to keep her as safe as possible.

Another thing to be thankful for is that we are encountering this in a time where we have access to close to real-time data. Dashboards such as the one built and supported by Andrzej Leszkiewicz enables us see what's happening with a couple of clicks. You can view the dashboard here.

In previous times such as the Spanish flu of 1918, the full scale of the impact it has was not realised until many years later.  

While being armed with information is akin to having a superpower, it can work in both ways. As this is a global issue, information is coming at us through a firehose, our jobs is to decipher which information to consume and which to ignore. One analogy I like is, we are very aware of what food or drink we consume into our bodies as a diet but often neglect our information diet.

Sources I have relied on so far are The Gates Foundation, Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, Peter Attia, Peter Hotez, Michael Osterholm, Research from Imperial College London, The Lancet and Nature have all provided consistency high quality information.

I mentioned briefly at the top of this post about the pace of innovation we are experiencing at the moment so I wanted to jump into that a bit more.

Innovation happens in a number of ways and although the way in which it has started is less than ideal, it has led to multiple Manhattan Projects running concurrently in many countries across the world. This is the first time, certainly in my lifetime, that global efforts have been directed to fight a common foe. Although the movement of people may be restricted, information is now flowing largely unimpeded.

We've seen red tape removed enabling software to be created in record time, 3D printing files built and open sourced enabling anyone with a printer to create PPE for our incredible front line staff, and businesses reworking entire manufacturing facilities to produce ventilators, hand sanitiser and other much needed equipment in a way not witnessed since World War II.

It's clear that as a species we were underprepared to combat COVID19, but, the resilience we see demonstrated on an almost daily basis is incredible to see. Many of us may feel helpless right now but remember that staying at home breaks the spread of infection and prevents 1000's of infections. Others in a better position than me to comment on why this is so effective but keep in mind Exponential Curves. Small changes add up slowly at first but make huge differences as time progresses.

I love this video on Exponential Growth and Epidemics by Grant Sanderson aka 3Blue1Brown on Youtube.

Wearing masks, social distancing, strict hygiene rules and sharing high-quality science all help save thousands of lives eventually.

For certain, the next 18 months will be extremely difficult. While certain changes will be permanent, once effective treatments are developed, vaccines are rolled and new protocols put in place to handle future spikes in infections, we will come out of the other side.

Stay safe, be kind and help if you can.