Day 27 in the corona house: The phantom of the opera.

Day 27 in the Corona house

The twenty seventh day with our own company chez Gumnut and we found it hard to easily bring to mind the last people we spoke to and when.

I’m not including the socially distanced ‘thanks very much’ as the delivery driver backs down the stairs to our front door rather like the Lord Chacellor used to having delivered the Queens speech successfully to the Monarch. Next time I shall give my best regal RP ‘Thank You’ before retiring back through the portcullis and into the safety of the house.

After some thought we pinned it down to an Indian Sunday lunch with our friends Charlotte and Cyril on 1st March. Since then, we haven’t engaged with anyone other than those four word exchanges with a neighbour or dog walker. For both of us, this has been the longest period (so far) without any form of social interaction.

The Phantom who spent years hidden away

Of course, this time frame is nothing compared to the periods people routinely go without such contact, but for us it’s certainly uncommon ground.

Many elderly and isolated people across the country have little more human contact that this – hopefully this period might give us all a sense of what that might feel like and as a country we might consider how to tackle the isolation and loneliness that so many face in normal situations.

Literature is replete with characters either heroic or otherwise who have been isolated, outcast or in one form or another of solitary existance. These range from the man in the iron mast, Robinson Crusoe and the elusive Phantom of the Opera who avoided contact (if you believe the fiction) for over forty years.

Speaking of believing the fiction, I was amazed to hear what would usually be considered sensible individuals suggesting utter rubbish. The latest that Coronavirus-19 was a fiction to cover the ‘truth’ that the 5G network was making us all ill made me wonder when we lost all capacity for critical analysis? In recent weeks we heard the UK’s chief scientific officer mention herd immunity (perhaps unwisely). However, this type of contagious belief spread is more like herd stupidity.

In a letter to the UK from Italy (click here), the author touches on such reactions explaining them as a need to explain and blame something, anything and in so doing regain some limited control over the situation. It may be worth considering this as a potential driver by those engaging in such conspiracy theorising.

The second thread of thinking from the corona house also relates to the Phantom which explains the title and chosen music track. As Shakespeare would never have put it, to mask or not to mask, that is the question?

Other than a sense of doing something, do masks reduce the risk of Covid-19?

In recent days, I’ve noticed the sudden increase in masks being worn routinely. That’s a small sample as it’s based on those I see when walking Taz (under ten) and those I can see from the window. However, the trend is most certainly upwards.

In a sense, it’s the herd behaviour in action. The world health organisation has recently changed it’s advice to those living in areas of highly symptomatic coronavirus that it may be beneficial to wear a face mask. – Stand by for the latest items to be panic bought. I do note the advice assumes areas of highly symptomatic people and the conclusion is conditional – it may assist. Then again, it may not.

I find myself (uncomfortably) landing in the same position as Donald Trump. That is, though I could envisage situations in which I might wear a mask situationally, I don’t see the point in day to day activities such as walking the dog. Where we may differ, is that I believe my position is based on the science not on how it may look to others.

The rationale is simple – but multithreaded. Firstly, the classical cloth surgical mask offers little protection to the wearer from contact with the virus. Certainly, the additional protection it gives above social distancing and hand washing/cleaning is marginal.

A sense of scale

Many studies show that when dry the material forms a minimal barrier protection, however, it doesn’t stay dry long. Ironically, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that when moist they ease the transmission of particles such as the virus – so in those circumstances there can be a positive disadvantage in wearing one.

Most importantly, most masks of that type don’t form a good seal around the mouth and/or face. In that situation, the mask may increase the amount of unnecessary face touching with various attempts to adjust the fit.

To give you a sense of how important that seal is and why without it wearing one is a bit like trying to stop a mosquito with a tennis raquet, consider this. We can all picture a 1cm space (for those who work in old money just under half an inch). The virus we’re seeking to stop with these gappy masks is small, – if you’ll excuse the expression bigly small. If I were to take the virus and lay them side by side I could fit 100,000 of them in a centimetre length. So you can see how small gaps in poorly fitting masks provide more than enough space to get through .

Lastly, they may provide a false sense of security. I don’t feel particularly unsafe when walking outside briefly each day. Why not? Because I avoid contacts, touching surfaces or my face and practice hand hygiene when I get back inside before doing anything else. If we make ourselves too comfortable with preventative measures that aren’t really that preventative we may let those other actions slip and that would be significantly worse.

It appears that a mask does provide some protection if the wearer is symptomatic. It may prevent the worse of the droplet splash they present. However, they are being more helpful to others that to the wearer in that situation. Also, if you were highly symptomatic, most people’s experience is that you won’t be out of bed so the point is largely moot.

I’ve accepted a couple made by friends partly because it would be rude not to and there may be instances where it would be reasoanble to have one with me if nothing else. As to them being worn by others, I have no objections and if it helps people feel more at ease then perhaps they are serving a mental health purpose. However, I won’t be adding to the panic buying of this particular product.


The title of this post was taken from Phantom of the Opera and may be heard on the control below.


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