Currently browsing covid-19 ⤵

Aerosol Transmission of COVID-19 in Indoor Settings

El Pais has an interesting visualisation of how aerosol transmission works in indoor settings. It’s one of those things that you read and then wish you hadn’t because it makes the world just a little more terrifying.

Aerosol transmission is different from droplet transmission. The latter happens when someone coughs or sneezes at you. The droplets generally don’t travel far but infect if they come into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth. Aerosol transmission is by way of tiny particles, which are light enough to travel in air currents. They can stay in the air for hours, floating around and increasing in concentration until they are dispersed (or inhaled).

Silent / Talking / Shouting

It’s always seemed to me that aerosol transmission is understated in the UK response to COVID-19. Bars and restaurants have been allowed to remain open, and many people are now working in offices again – albeit with reduced numbers and preventive methods such as barrier screens and temperature checks. But if you’ve got an infected person in a room with 20 other people, with poor ventilation, none of the standard prevention makes any difference. The air will be full of aerosol droplets.

There’s still a couple of unknowns. We know that aerosol transmission happens, but we don’t know how much it is contributing to the wider spread. We know that ventilation helps, but we don’t know whether HVAC systems help or not.

The mitigation is straightforward:

  • Don’t stay anywhere indoors longer than you need to, ideally no longer than an hour
  • Make sure your destination is well ventilated, preferably through open windows/doors but at the very least through mechanical ventilation
  • Wear a mask when you can
  • Try to do things outdoors instead

London Protests

People are protesting in London today. It was sold as a peaceful protest against lockdown measures, but it all seems a bit mental to me.

Here are some quotes from the website of the organisers:

ID2020 is an implantable digital chip being developed by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, proposed for all 7 billion humans to have, in collaboration with Gavi, the Gates Foundation Vaccine Alliance.

We are living in a state of authoritarian control.

5G is necessary for the infrastructure of 24/7 Surveillance Tracking & Implantable Microchips.

I’m reasonably confident that none of this is true. Interestingly, most of the ’sources’ used are videos on YouTube – which is clearly doing a phenomenal job in preventing the spread of disinformation.

Yesterday, mixed in with the crowds, was a smaller group calling themselves ‘Freedom for the Children UK’. They carried signs emblazoned with ‘SAVE THE CHILDREN’ and ‘WHERE ARE ALL THE CHILDREN?’ – which sounds innocent enough until one of them opens their mouth:

Friends of mine have been on about the new world order for years, but I was asleep. It’s lockdown that woke me up. There are thousands of children being held in tunnels. A lot of them are underneath London. We have Trump to thank for everything that is coming out.

Mentalist, UK

This is the message of QAnon – the most batshit-crazy conspiracy of them all – that Donald Trump is leading a secret war against a network of satan worshipping child trafficking rings. Donald Trump, of all people. Give me strength.

Anti-vax and 5G conspiracy theories are not new to the UK. Andrew Wakefield became the father of the anti-vaccine movement when he wrote a paper suggesting links, which were later shown to be fraudulent, between the MMR vaccine and autism. The rise of QAnon in the UK is new, and it’s very worrying. It comes from the same line of anti-logic used in the middle-ages to justify tying up innocent women, throwing them into ponds and then burning them if they floated.

Years ago this crazy talk would have been limited to the local pub, or the crazy uncle at your annual Christmas gathering. Now it plays out to millions online, and pulls people in. Not just the gullible, but also people who are scared – people who want to believe that there are simple solutions to complex problems.

Logic, reasoning & science once gave us herd immunity against stupid ideas, but our immunity is being eroded by social media, and now the stupidity is spreading faster than coronavirus.

R = 1.2

Kings College London and ZOE are performing large-scale research on COVID-19 symptoms among the general population. I’ve been taking part for a couple of months. It’s not that hard, you just answer a few questions each day, the boffins do clever stuff with the data, and in return they send you updates on what’s going on.

They estimate that R is now at 1.2, which is.. bad news.


It means that the virus is beginning to spread exponentially again. What that actually translates to is something I don’t clearly understand. We already know that an increase in infections doesn’t necessarily mean more hospitalisations & deaths. That’s probably because we know how to treat it better, and social distancing measures mean that people aren’t getting huge doses of the virus – but with kids returning to school and young people heading off to university, we might well be in a bad place in a couple of weeks time.

You can participate in the Kings College study by downloading their app:

Misinformation is dangerous

A study in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene states that 800 people have died, 5,876 have been hospitalised, and 60 have gone completely blind – due to the myth, spread by social media, that concentrated alcohol will kill the Coronavirus.

What a world we live in.

Link: COVID-19–Related Infodemic and Its Impact on Public Health: A Global Social Media Analysis

Wired interviews Bill Gates

Stephen Levey’s interview with Bill Gates in Wired is something. Any interview with Gates is worth reading. He’s smart and knows what he’s talking about. He is usually careful with his words, which makes it all the more surprising that he is so blunt about the failure of politicians to get to grips with the most significant economic and public health crisis of our lifetimes.

On vaccine sceptics:

Yeah, you’re right… They do it in this kind of way: “I’ve heard lots of people say X, Y, Z.” That’s kind of Trumpish plausible deniability. Anyway, there was a meeting where Francis Collins, Tony Fauci, and I had to [attend], and they had no data about anything. When we would say, “But wait a minute, that’s not real data,” they’d say, “Look, Trump told you you have to sit and listen, so just shut up and listen anyway.”

On the quality of US testing:

The majority of all US tests are completely garbage, wasted… When we tell them to change it they say, “As far as we can tell, we’re just doing a great job, it’s amazing!” Here we are, this is August. We are the only country in the world where we waste the most money on tests.

On the CDC:

We called the CDC, but they told us we had to talk to the White House a bunch of times. Now they say, “Look, we’re doing a great job on testing, we don’t want to talk to you.” Even the simplest things, which would greatly improve this system, they feel would be admitting there is some imperfection and so they are not interested.

The full thing is worth a read: Bill Gates on Covid: Most US Tests Are ‘Completely Garbage’

No Mercy / No Malice

Saturday morning is when I catch up on my newsletters. This weeks edition of No Mercy / No Malice by Scott Galloway is a cracker.

Donald Trump was right, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were mistakes. Mistakes that cost us almost 7,000 American souls, 208,102 Iraqi and 111,000 Afghan civilian lives, and $1.9 trillion (inflation adjusted). But Covid-19 will register an even greater toll of American blood and treasure. The response to the novel coronavirus would have been swifter and more disciplined if the pathogen had brown skin and worshiped a different god. Americans can’t seem to wrap their head around an enemy 10,000 times smaller than the width of human hair.

Link: The Great Distancing

Two days left

Just two days left until it becomes compulsory for us to wear a face-covering or mask in stores, and I’m not seeing any evidence that people are proactively changing their behaviour. Earlier today, in Asda, I didn’t see a single person wearing a face covering of any kind.

I struggle to understand it. It’s such a small thing to do. Whether you agree with the science or not – at the very least it shows some respect for the people who have to work in the stores with thousands of people milling past them.

It did feel weird at first, but I’m used wearing one now. I feel safer with the mask on than with it off, even if the purpose of it isn’t to keep me safe. I’ll feel much safer when everyone else is wearing one.

Don’t be a twat. Wear a mask.

Time to show restraint

Michael Gove says that we will have to ‘show restraint’ in our shopping habits when stores reopen in mid-June. We won’t be allowed to try on clothes & shoes, or test make-up. Essentially, don’t bloody touch it unless you’re going to buy it – like my mother used to say. It’ll be like internet shopping, but you have to pay for parking and then run the risk of catching a deadly disease. Such fun – buy one shoe, get one fatal lung malfunction free.

People will also be allowed to meet others in private gardens, so long as they stick to the physical distance guidelines. Good news, particularly for grandparents, but it seems to me that most people started doing this weeks ago and that the public as a whole is a few steps ahead of the official guidance – which nobody has really tried to enforce.

The problem is with the quality of the messengers. None of the cabinet inspire any confidence that they have the remotest clue. Take Matt Hancock, our beleaguered Health Secretary, for example. You can tell that he’s as surprised as we are that he’s in this position because he looks completely bewildered when the press asks him a question – like a supply teacher faced with a precocious class that knows more about the subject than they do.

But that’s what you get when you relegate anyone with a spine to the backbenches, and all you have left to choose from to form your government is a small group of supine but spineless cretins.