Out, damned spot
20 April 2020 | I've never washed my hands so much in my life
We are currently banged up in Portugal twiddling our collective thumbs and waiting for that nasty little corona virus to do the decent thing and bugger off. It doesn't seem keen on this and continues to defy even the titanic combined intellects of Messrs Trump & Johnson. As a result, we are cowering in the apartment scaring ourselves shitless listening to the news and searching the internet for the expected course and consequences of covid -19 infection.
It doesn't look good so far.
Especially for me.
If you do the maths it becomes glaringly obvious that, should I become infected and hospitalised, then the smart money would be on my coming out in a box.
The problem lies in the sheer number of cases and the shortages of beds, staff and equipment. Especially ventilators. These are needed to treat the more seriously compromised patients where the virus goes deep into the lungs and causes viral pneumonia. If it fails to kill you off from hypoxia it has one more trick up its sleeve. It makes the body's immune response go into overdrive with what's called a cytokine storm which leads to multiple organ failure. That's usually game, set and match to the virus.
I don't know about you, but this scares the bejaysus out of me.
We are unlikely to score very highly on the priority list for ventilators, or anything else that's in short supply for that matter. We would miss the cut on grounds of both age and pre-existing conditions. We are placed in the category called vulnerable. Sounds quite sympathetic and caring doesn't it. Don't be fooled. What it actually translates into is 'doddering and decrepit - Waste of resources - he's likely to pop his clogs whatever we do.' If it comes down to the wire and there's a stand-off over the last available ventilator then the vulnerable will lose out to the younger, fitter, healthier candidate who's more likely to survive and recover. The exception to this protocol is, of course, if you happen to be prime minister. If you meet this criterion you are fast tracked up to ITU before you can say 'just in case'.
Actually.I'm rather pleased that Boris is out of hospital. Now I can carry on slagging him off without any twinges of conscience.
Our plan of campaign, therefore, is to avoid catching the bug in the first place. Our strategy is to hide away and skulk in the apartment with our fingers in our ears and shouting la la la until it goes away.
Sounds good in theory.
Our cunning plan does have an Achilles heel, however. We still need to eat. (and drink, of course), and this necessitates a visit to the local supermarket and resulting potential exposure to asymptomatic carriers.
The Portuguese government regulations state that individuals should keep a minimum of two metres away from others. Of course, this is impossible in a crowded supermarket. The supermarkets do their best, bless 'em. Lines of red and green adhesive tape are bestrewn over the floor, the green marking the routes shoppers must follow and the red marks the stopping points which are inserted to maintain a (supposedly) safe distance between customers and between customers and staff. The same precautions are found in pharmacies.
On top of this they regulate the number in the shop. Entrances are supervised by blokes wearing surgical masks. Customers meekly line up outside, keeping the officially imposed social distancing gap of 2 metres. Punters are beckoned in on the 'One out - One in' principle.
Despite these precautions, we still get nervous. Viruses in general, and this one in particular, are tenacious little bastards and sneaky with it. Covid 19 can last up to 72 hours outside a host and you need a scanning electron microscope to even see the little sods. Just to top things off, it appears to be transmissible for two or so days before symptoms manifest themselves, which is an evolutionary master stroke for the virus and a pain in the arse for epidemiologists. As a result, our trips to the supermarket are carried out in a state of swivel-eyed paranoia that is normally associated with members of the green-ink brigade who insist on sitting next to me on the bus and proceed to explain, in full tedious detail, how they line their hats with aluminium foil to prevent their being mind-controlled by the CIA.
On our part, this paranoia is not without justification. I agree with Jean-Paul Sartre, Hell is other people. Here are we, a couple of average Joes, doing our best not to die a drawn out and agonising death when along come other bloody people. Yup, other bloody people, with their blank eyed, slack-jawed bovine expressions and their arrogant egocentrism. Where do these bastards come from? Are they on day-release from St Winifred's home for the terminally hard of thinking? How difficult can it be to keep two metres away from other people? Now, I accept that this could pose a bit of a problem within the confines of a crowded underground or bus, but we're talking about a whole supermarket here. What's more, a whole supermarket with no more than about ten people allowed in at any one time.
In theory, it should be a piece of cake doing shopping while maintaining the recommended two metre separation. All you have to do is watch out for others. If someone is where you want to be, hold back or go to a different aisle and come back to it later.
In practice, other bloody people do the opposite. Either that or I've suddenly developed some strange form of animal magnetism that inexplicably attracts the gormless and the Godforsaken like moths round a candle. They cluster round, breathing their foetid air all over me and cranking up the paranoia to level 10. It is impossible to tell which of them are carrying hidden assassins and which are just inflicting their appalling halitosis on me.
In my panic I completely depersonalise them. They are no longer sentient beings to me. They are a bunch of unguided missiles, intent only on randomly delivering their lethal payload of infective droplets over as large an area as possible with me in the centre. This depersonalisation justifies retaliation. It enables me to entertain dark fantasies in which I savour the look on their faces at the checkout as they try to explain the eight packs of Trojan Ultra Ribbed Ecstasy condoms along with five tubes of KY jelly, a large family pack of Anusol and an economy pack of adult incontinence pads all of which I had secreted in their trolley when they left it blocking the aisle while they went back for something they'd forgotten.
Well, I can dream.
It's not all doom and gloom on the vulnerability front, though. If we're not actively dying or cluttering up an ITU bed, then being classified as vulnerable has its benefits. You get priority seats on the bus. You have priority in pharmacies and are expected to jump the queue.
So that makes up for coming second on the ventilator stakes.