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One in a million (and a half)

April 20th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life · No Comments · Life

A couple of weeks ago I received that letter from the NHS that was, apparently, being sent out to 1.5 million people who are deemed to be vulnerable. While I don’t feel particularly vulnerable, I was not surprised to receive the letter, it was still a bit of a shock in a way because it made everything suddenly more personal. But it reminds me of something that has been bugging me: this whole “underlying health conditions” business.When the new reports on the number of cases of Covid-19 and related deaths there is always this little caveat attached that says how most of the deaths were people who were over 70 or had underlying health conditions. The implication is partly that they were probably going to die soon anyway and therefore don’t really count or don’t really matter. I don’t doubt that there were some people at death’s door who, if they had not contracted this virus would have gone some other way, but that is not to say that it applies to all of them, or even the majority, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t matter.

The thing is, nobody has really stated just what ‘underlying health conditions’ covers. The way it is just tacked onto the statistics there is a sort of implication that these are a minority who are on the verge of dying anyway, so nothing for most people to worry about. But there are plenty of ways somebody can be more susceptible to the virus or more at risk if they catch it, while still being otherwise ‘normal’ and looking forward to many more years of life.

For example, being overweight is something that is going to make you more likely to have complications if you get infected, and a sizeable proportion of the population comes into that category. People with diabetes or asthma are also likely to be classsed as having ‘underlying health conditions’ although they would not be expecting that to finish them off any time soon. The more I think about it, the more it seems like being completely free of any underlying health conditions puts you in the minority.

In my own case I had a bit of cancer but had an operation almost exactly a year ago that appears to have been completely successful. If I had not had that operation I would probably be dead by now but instead I can expect another 10 or maybe 20 years. I resent that if I did catch this thing and die it I would be almost written off as somebody who was going to die anyway. If anything I am probably fitter than I have been for twenty years because I lost a lot of weight, have a better diet and having stopped smoking 4 or 5 years ago my lungs are getting quite recovered. The only thing I am suffering from right now are the lingering after-effects of that operation and the consequent long stay in ICU, and that just keeps getting better.

Basically, I just wish the media would stop de-humanising thousands of people who are dying even if it is only by implication, but there is a practical consideration too: there are plenty of people with unhealthy lifestyles out there or with some condition that is being managed perfectly well who seem to think that they do not have an underlying health condition and therefore are perfectly safe, so they continue to go out, take risks, look for loopholes in the vague, constantly-changing and inconsistently-enforced goverment advice and legislation, which not only puts them at risk but the rest of us too.

It is significant that the reports do not state “serious underlying health conditions” and people would do well to take note of that before they gather in crowds on Westminster bridge to clap for the NHS, try to organise pub lock-ins or hold house parties.

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