Prof Grant Schofield talks about coming out of lockdown and what the next steps are. Should we still be trying to eliminate an endemic virus? And why are we not talking about metabolic health?
If we go back six weeks, we learnt that Covid-19 had spread outside of China and into the rest of the world. We then started seeing widespread deaths in Italy. And then the now famous, or infamous, modelling from Imperial College London – the big curves of death. We would flatten that curve down, which seemed fair enough at the time. Still does.
And so, here in New Zealand and Australia, probably because of geographic isolation more than anything else – geographic good luck – we didn’t have so many cases and we had longer to react. It wasn’t until the end of February that it really started to happen here. We went into lockdown, and it was not much different from a third of the world, really. We were doing it safely, and there was a general compliance and a general goodwill.
There was little scientific discussion, and that started to concern me a bit. I got together with a group and we started to look more closely at the data, and that progressed into questioning some of the decisions from the government. We put our heads up and got them mostly shot off. But I guess that opened the door to some more scientific debate, and I think that was sorely needed.
So there are a lot of interesting observations and questions. Should we still be trying to eliminate an endemic virus? Is it going to be here to stay in the world, or we’re somehow going to put it back in its box and it’ll disappear? That’s a question to still be answered. We don’t know the answer today. I was pretty confident we had no chance, and I’m still confident that there’s very little chance of that because of the number of asymptomatic cases and because we can’t keep our borders closed forever. We’re still pinning our hopes on a vaccine, which seems a distant thing to be putting your country on hold for.
Where do we go from here? Well, surprisingly, many new Zealanders decided where they went from here was on a Macca’s or KFC run.
I’ve become completely dismayed at social media. I quite enjoy social media, I like getting on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a good way to keep up with all sorts of things and a range of views. But the extreme range of views and the abuse in the comments sections have been astonishing even to me, who’s seen a fair bit of that over the years. I’m almost frightened to go back on it. I’m too frightened to go on Twitter, frankly. But I still do Facebook a bit.
Mainstream media in this country has become sadly devoid of asking the hard questions, which, in my mind, is the job of the media, especially of the government. Come on, for God’s sake – ask them about that data or this data, this study or that study. Or just ask them about why haven’t we done any serology testing? We still need to do that, and I keep banging on about it.
Metabolic health […] is still the leading cause of ill-health in this country, and our first day out, of being safe, we go and add to the burden of that.
Where do we go from here? Well, surprisingly, many new Zealanders decided where they went from here was on a Macca’s or KFC run. That’s still on the table, isn’t it? Metabolic health. It’s still the leading cause of ill-health in this country and our first day out, of being safe, we go and add to the burden of that. Will metabolic health become more important because it’s protective against infection and viral health?
Will we recover? Of course we’ll recover. Will we be in the same place? Almost certainly not. Will we be in a better place? I hope so. I really, really hope so.
And I hope that we’re prepared for these sorts of things in the future.
The thing I’ve been thinking about the most today is – we somehow think of ourselves as being the victorious piece of biology on this planet, and you just have to have a look around you – it’s a beautiful place, a beautiful planet – we’re not the only organisms out here. And they’ll try their hardest to evolve, and survive – granted that a virus isn’t technically alive, it’s a piece of RNA that inserts itself into you. But they have been necessary for evolution and evolutionary history, so it’s all part of it.