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Covid-19: A Dangerous Moment

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At the Downing Street Press Conference last Saturday, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, warned that today's small relaxations in the coronavirus lockdown rules put us "at a dangerous moment" in our national effort to defeat Covid-19.

In his forthright and imaginative way, he likened the virus to a coiled spring contained in a box. If we lift the lid slightly the spring will remain in the box and we can keep the lid on. If we lift the lid too abruptly, the spring will jump out and we will have lost control.

The natural state of Covid-19 when unconstrained is that every person who has the disease passes it on to three people on average, known as R=3. In no time 100 infected people lead to 300 new infections, leading in turn to 900, then 2700, then 8100 and so on.

However if R is less than 1, for example R=0.7, the result is that 100 infected people lead to 70 new infections, so in turn to 49, 35 etc. until it gets to almost zero.

Professor Van-Tam explained that the nation had got the R-number below 1 by obeying "social distancing", namely staying at home where possible and when away from home keeping at least 2 metres apart from other persons.

He stressed that today's relaxations still mean that we should STAY 2 METRES APART even though we can now meet in groups up up to six persons in the open air. He urged us to be sensible about this relaxation, not go mad and "tear the pants out of it" by meeting other people morning, noon and night. In fact, be moderate and sensible.

The Culture Secretary announced that elite sport will be played behind closed doors and televised, a good proportion on free-to-air. Here again Professor Van-Tam offered stern advice. Fans should not gather together in numbers, for example outside major soccer grounds, and should watch the sports in their own homes, NOT in groups in friends' houses. Ignoring this advice would be particularly dangerous as it would create a perfect environment for transmitting the disease, which is particularly virulent indoors.

The Professor showed himself to be a grass-roots fan (one of "us", not one of "them") by revealing that he was a season ticket holder at Boston United. He also aligned himself with the great British public when asked to comment on recent controversial lockdown incidents — he pulled no punches, saying "In my opinion the rules are clear and they have always been clear. In my opinion they are for the benefit of all and they apply to all."

His plain-speaking is an appeal to us all. Follow the rules, keep your distance. Stay Alert- Control the Virus- Save Lives

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