ALL FOR ONE, ONE FOR ALL.
Could there have been a more appropriate appeal for the Westminster government to have used during the worst of the Corvid 19 crisis?
Silly me, it must smack too much of Socialism for the taste of Johnson, let alone Trump.
I, for one am immensely
proud of my parents’ generation. It was they, who post- 1939 defeated the forces of fascism and established the Welfare State.
Individual lives, health, wealth and welfare, were willingly
sacrificed for the greater good in the tradition of “ Eyam.”
Just a village in Derbyshire, England. What happened there in 1665-66, is an
heroic story that can be briefly told...
“A small town of a few hundred inhabitants made perhaps the most heroic undertaking in history: instead of
fleeing the Great Plague, they all decided to stay in the village in order to prevent the infection from spreading further.
On September 7, 1665, the villagers were hit by an epidemic
of bubonic plague.
The epidemic was caused by a batch of flea-infested clothes from London being brought to the town by a local tailor. George Viccars, the tailor's assistant became
the first victim of the plague.
In order to avoid spreading the plague to the neighbouring towns, the inhabitants of Eyam followed the advice of their local priest, William Mompesson
and his predecessor, Thomas Stanley.
They voluntarily placed themselves under quarantine.
quarantine, the inhabitants paid for food left on the edge of the village by placing the money in bowls disinfected with ettervinegar.Corvid 1
The emergency ceased in November 1666
and, of Eyam’s 850 inhabitants, between 250-260 died (among them, was al the priest’s wife, Catherine Mompesson). Meanwhile, the neighbouring towns and much of northern England were spared from the plague.
a time of many remedies but no cures and when the cuase of bubonic plague was unknown, Eyam's story reamins a powerful example not only of how diseases are transmitted-then as now via trade routes and cetres- but also how successful social isolation can contain
Ironically, perhaps, it was a quarantine in China – once again for plague, in Harbin in 1910 – that would inform most modern
approaches, not least in China itself.
The 1910 Harbin outbreak, in a centre of the fur trade, saw 95% of infected patients die. A quarantine was then managed by
a celebrated doctor named Wu Lien-teh, dispatched to Harbin from what is now Malaysia.
In Harbin he implemented not just a strict lockdown, including the suspension of transport links with Russia and Japan, but introduced
measures still used today, including dedicated quarantine centres and hygienic burials, with his approach recorded meticulously in his notes.(2)
So, to provide respite if not a cure, why not just impose a nationwide
lockdown? As ever, a complex issue with a solution that is simple, neat and WRONG!
The Italian historian who believes
we have much to learn from quarantines of the past, makes the following points…
- Successful quarantines Like that of Eyam require “social acceptance”
- Conditions vary in time and place
and are only rarely uncontroversial.
- Quarantines raise many ethical questions on the treatment of certain social categories and minorities.
then draws attention to the elephant in the room- “Can the kind of rigid quarantines applied in China work in western democratic countries?
She answers the final question herself with a big “IF…”
- countries are not caught unprepared,
- they recognise the enormous importance of planning
- well-trained and experienced public health officials are quick to recognise the crisis and launch emergency
public health responses to contain outbreaks.
- there is a well-organised educational campaign to inform and calm a panicking and frightened public, to combatmisinformation and fake news, this is extremely important.(3)
Although Eugenia Tognotti’s words are in effect little more than those of the Reverend Mompesson to his Eyam flock 370 years ago, they do provide a yardstick
by which to measure Government’s handling of the Corvid19 crisis. So, returning to Kipling…
“I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me
all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.”
well or badly has Government coped at both national and local levels? Remember the story of the man who fell off the top of The Shard. As he passed each window on the way down he was heard to say, “OK so far…OK so
OUR PERSONAL RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC.
In possession of the above facts, as soon as Covid-19 appeared, Elizabeth and I started viewing
affected nations as “canaries in a coalmine” for what lay in store for us, if or when the British Isles fell victims as well.
When it indeed happened, we accepted that the enforcing of total lockdown
was impossible across the nation, leaving it up to individual consciences instead. We thus decided to “do our bit” by standing in spirit with the inhabitants of Eyam. We have adopted voluntary isolation and in the absence of “test and
trace” avoided all unnecessary risks. We still never leave the house without a face mask; we have cancelled a holiday and chosen not to stay in our caravan here in Norfolk.
Our little response is a drop in the
ocean, but we are trying to make a point.
We live in one of the least Corvid 19 -affected parts of the country, in an area of low population density well away from large transport nodes and in retirement.
Yet we are still taking these precautions, so if you are not as fortunate as us but able, WHY AREN’T YOU DOING THE SAME?
IN THE CASE OF EVERY PANDEMIC I HAVE STUDIED HISTORICALLY
FROM BUBONIC PLAGUE TO EBOLA…IT HAS NEVER BEEN OVER UNTIL IT WAS OVER!
(2) Lessons from Eyam re spread
(3) Lessons from Eyam to Harbin