Badge of the Leper

Shortly before government lockdown, I wrote a post here titled “unclean“, after the social exclusion of lepers in the distant past.  Now that covering our faces has become the headline law, perhaps it’s time to revisit that subject.

I can’t comment on treatment of people with a regular cough or sniffles, because I haven’t seen any.  Either we’ve rid ourselves of the common cold and had a particularly mild hay fever season, or sufferers have avoided going out.  Though it could also be down to my own loss of social life and narrowed horizons (my life feels like something from Iain Banks).  Only data point I have was when I myself went down with a mild lurgy just after that blog piece, and removed myself voluntarily from social life for … well, until government lockdown.

But we have come closer to a literal leper’s badge than even that post envisaged.  Badges for people with medical exemptions (whose definition seems unclear) from hiding their faces.  Seems my use of the analogy was indeed prophetic!

In that post, I wrote:

Latest advice is to self-isolate if you show even mild symptoms of a lurgy, and government moves to help avoid penalising people for doing the right thing.  Splendid: it seems they can at least do something right!

Seems I jumped the gun re: government help, and the Right Thing is more-or-less exactly what they didn’t do.  Specifically that was about sick pay for workers in the gig economy taking time to self-isolate when possibly unwell.  Yet despite the staggering levels of handouts to some in a cruel lottery, that hasn’t happened, and people of very limited means – some of them in the care sector – still can’t afford to take time off work for possible covid.

Regarding facemasks, I’m going to stick my neck out with another contrarian prediction.  As from late July they’re the law in shops.  By the end of August, this will have lead to a rise in the coronavirus spread rate.  The overall numbers may (or may not) still be declining, but the rate of decline will at least be reduced.

Why?  Well, here are a few reasons:

  • Make it harder to breathe, and people will breathe harder.  Including those with germs.  Not to mention breathing hard is the last thing I want to do if someone in the seat behind me has a lurgy and I can’t move!
  • The school tie problem.  As you reach your teens and rebel against some of the sillier rules imposed on you – like school uniforms – you also realise that a tie worn sufficiently badly is worse than no tie at all.  It becomes a protest!
  • I’ve already seen face masks discarded to ensure maximum spread of infection, like in a supermarket trolley in the row outside the shop.

Posted on July 25, 2020, in coronavirus, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hmmm. News reports say covid incidence rose rapidly in August. And that from population sampling, so 100% more meaningful than government testing with ever-changing criteria.

    Correlation is of course not causation, but it certainly supports the hypothesis that wearing and distributing (aka disposing of) germ-incubators might lead to a rise as predicted in this post. I wonder if anyone has figures for other similar lurgies?

    Imperial College offers a reputable reference for the story.

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