Is 2 metre distancing really necessary ?

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  • esselle

    Surely it needs to feature “lock”?


    The comments above remind me of something I was told early on – that young people would spread it, and old people would die of it. Interesting that – again going back to the original point – there is very little social distancing in HK. Yes, crowded venues have been effectively shut down (karaoke bars, nightclubs etc) and others are operating at reduced capacity (restaurants, bars etc), but in other venues there is very little. My local M&S has spaces marked out in the check-out lanes, but nowhere else, and people just shop as normal then queue in a more spread-out fashion. Bizarre. M&S do, however, in common with restaurants and some other venues (which are required to do so) check your temperature on entry, and hand sanitiser is made available in more commercial premises for visitors and staff to use.

    One small tip – after using hand sanitiser, wait for it to dry completely before putting a mask on. The effect of not doing so, as I accidentally discovered, is a bit of a shock to the system!

    Sad that the Oxford vaccine doesn’t seem to prevent the virus, but at least it does seem to prevent pneumonia, so perhaps it will still prove useful in reducing the severity of the disease. The open question is whether people can “re-catch” it – two scenarios there: (1) you cannot, in which case the Oxford vaccine would be helpful in reducing the severity of the disease but would then allow herd immunity to kick in, or (2) you can, in which case (in the absence of a preventative vaccine) it would still seem useful in reducing death rates.

    Perhaps the Modena vaccine will be more effective in preventing the disease.


    Just after writing my previous post, I found this article: Coronavirus researchers warn 2-metre distance rule may not be far enough

    It might only work in Chrome


    It is really interesting to hear from contributors in Hong Kong about the success in managing the pandemic locally. This is really impressive and there are obvious lessons for the UK and elsewhere which may or may not be learnt.

    At the same time, it is disturbing to read about changes to the law relating to “treason, secession and sedition” that will be applied by Beijing in Hong Kong, severely curtailing personal and political freedom ( It is no coincidence that the countries which have been most successful in combating the virus have also had strong authoritarian bents – China, Vietnam, Singapore, maybe now Hong Kong.

    How important is personal freedom in times of pandemic? Is this going too far or is it acceptable in the common good – -?

    Ultimately, how do you balance public health on a scale with personal freedoms? That is a question we face here in the UK with the proposed contact and tracing app, which is also very much alive in the US and now Germany but appears to be little-aired in Asia.


    Ultimately, how do you balance public health on a scale with personal freedoms

    All of life is a set of compromises, a balancing act. We could end road traffic deaths overnight by banning private cars, but the cure would be worse than the disease. We could end the coronavirus (almost) overnight, if everyone was tested every single day, and as soon as someone showed any symptoms at all they were removed from society (either isolated in real quarantine, or forcibly ejected from the country, or more dramatic solutions like euthanasia). But again the cure would be worse, socially, than the disease.

    Capitalism and western freedom are both one form of compromise, one that has as its leitmotif “if in doubt, let the people do what they want”. More authoritarian societies are simply agreeing to impose a different set of compromises, in which individual choice is more curtailed, more subject to “the greater good of the greater number”. To debate which is “better” is meaningless; only a very simple or very ideological person would try to argue that and the more realistic assessment is that some systems are better in certain circumstances, others in others.

    I lived in Hong Kong for 4 years in the 1990s, working for the government there, and we were endlessly comparing our very laissez-faire approach with Singapore’s more dirigiste one. Their approach was simply brilliant at many of the every-day things in life – they had turned a malaria-ridden swamp into one of the cleanest cities in the world, their public transport was super-efficient, their public health envious. But their schooling system turned out people with less flair, imagination and initiative and their civil service (we told ourselves) was much more top-down, more designed to implement solutions than find them.

    I think – lest anyone respond to this in anger – that was a simplification even then, but I do remember a joint brain-storming session with our opposite number department in the Singapore government in which we were trying to solve a regional co-operation issue: the HK side produced more bad ideas which didn’t work than the Singapore side produced ideas at all, much to their frustration as they methodically explained to us yet again why this scheme was crazy, that one would not work. And they were right. But of the four proposed solutions we finally put forward for ministers to decide between, three came from the HK team.

    As it says in Game of Thrones “If we die, we die. But first we live”. If the western approach produces more deaths, so be it. But I prefer the freedom to live first.

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    unlockdown (is there such a word?)

    As a first stab, one might assume the opposite of Lockdown should be Lockup, but somehow I don’t think that works!

    My second attempt to provide an opposite was Freeup, but again, not quite (and too close to Fry-up, of Great British Breakfast fame).

    Perhaps instead we should use the good English word Freedom.

    I’ll remind everybody , that however the authorities euphemize it up what we’ve experienced, and some of us are still being subjected to is “House Arrest” albeit with recreation time .

    I agree with Cedric regarding balancing the greater needs of society with the individual rights to express our hard won liberties .
    I’d add , now more than ever we need to ensure that we keep our leaders soles close to the fire as our civil liberties are slowly released back to us.
    IMO. our journalists have not been up to the job, and have themselves fallen into establishment thinking

    We have become accustomed to the language that our politicians and their experts have invoked on us, as we complied with the changes in legislation.
    Getting used to the subtleties of the messages bombarding us is arguably one of the dangers we meed to stay alert about.
    The continued use of future tensing linked to actions that are reducing our civil liberties is particularly prevalent when Scottish ministers /Medical mouthpieces prepare us for our future and should at the very least concern us, and probably set alarm bells of at what our governments (Holyroods) vision is for us !

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    IMO. our journalists have not been up to the job, and have themselves fallen into establishment thinking

    In my view, this pandemic has shown what a poor collective of journalists, both the written and broadcast media we have in the UK.

    The questioning in the daily updates to politicians at times drives me to despair.

    Anodyne point scoring at best.

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    In addition to health sector there are many industries that handle various types of hazardous materials.

    And the key principle for these workplaces is providing enough barriers between the hazards and people. In the industry I work, we place 2, 3, 4 or even more barriers depending on the hazard properties and risk involved. And all of us stay safe because of those barriers.
    Even airplane design and operation follow the same principle.

    Now this Covid-19 is so contagious and no known solution yet, hence doctors and health officials are suggesting as many barriers as possible.

    Until a vaccine invented or most people develop herd immunity or the virus die down itself, there is no alternative to more barriers.

    Wearing mask is one barrier and social distancing is another in addition to hand wash, sanitizers and more cleanliness. I think these new normal will continue for a while.

    So next time I fly, I will obviously prefer an airline that offer more barriers including isolated business class or middle seat free in economy class.


    JohnnyG wrote”

    ” ……………………. The questioning in the daily updates to politicians at times drives me to despair. Anodyne point scoring at best.”

    I totally agree. What bugs me as well is that the evening news bulletins, reflecting on the answers given by the minister or scientists during the afternoon, focus only on their own journalist’s questions, not their competitors’ ones.


    This whole sorry fiasco of numbers and distance and data has now got out of hand. The response by our ploiticians in the UK was driven by first by panic – having seen pictures from China and then Italy. Then by ignorance, followed now by fear.
    Much of the advice given by SAGE since March is not evidence based. It is a known fact that if 6 academics are given a problem they will come up with 6 different answers. Therefore the only advice they can offer is a ‘worst case scenario.
    Like the advice that this might kill 500,000 in the UK. That we would need 10,000 ventillators (and anaethetists?). That our NHS would be swamped. All a worst case scenario and guesswork delivered in panic with no controlled risk assessment at the time.
    The Two Metre rule is one of these. Airborn transmission depends on proximity/time/local conditions. Everybody, wearing a face mask correctly and not ‘hanging around’ will vary this.
    Hard surface transmission due to contamination can be controlled readily by meticulous personal cleanliness to the point where it is not an issue.
    There is the infection rate and this R number which without mass testing has to be guesswork.The only accurate figures are the numbers of deaths – when propperly recorded!
    The evidence is that this virus affects predominately the elderly but this is not evidence and no reason for banging everybody up. In fact it may counter Productive. Without a ‘Control Group’ not subject to the lock down it’s contribution is very questionable. What it does do is to prevent the 18-45’s largely unaffected by this virus from getting ‘Herd Immunity’ which will reduce the infection rate. The evidence from the Scandinavian countries and now recently London would support this.
    I was reminded recently of my old Phsyics Master who used to tell the story of a ‘Mad Scientist’ who taught a flea to jump on command. He decided to cut the legs off the flea, when the flea failed to jump on command the scientist concluded that removing it’s legs had made it deaf!
    Th cost of all this is immense and will put the country in debt for years. We must ensure that what evidence we have is challenged and propperly verified.
    Pending an effective vacine we must learn to manage and live with this virus without being driven
    into permanent isolation due to fear and ignorance.

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