The world has seen many epidemics and right now we are in the middle of another. This one, Covid-19, is created by a previously unknown coronavirus, and is testing people and governments throughout the world. It is unlikely anyone will escape.
The outbreak started in or about December 2019 when a cluster of pneumonia cases was identified in the city of Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei Province. With a population of more than 11 million, it is the ninth most populous city in China and is regarded as the commercial, cultural and educational hub of Central China.
There have been coronavirus outbreaks before, notably SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003 and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2012. This most recent, Covid-19 outbreak was reported in the Chinese Medical Journal on 11 February 2020, based on five patients hospitalised from 18 to 29 December 2019, who had presented with fever, cough, dyspnoea (shortness of breath), accompanied by complications of what is called ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome). One patient died. The virus was thought to have originated from bats.
The name can appear confusing, as another name that appears widely is SARS-CoV-2. In brief, the virus is SARS-Cov-2, while the disease is Covid-19, an abbreviation of Corona Virus Disease 2019.
Coronaviruses are seen often in humans and are, for example, responsible for 30% of common colds. You may already have had one. Covid-19 is more than a common cold.
When the disease first appeared in China, I thought it would remain contained. I imagine many outside China thought the same. However, Covid-19 had spread to Thailand by 13 January 2020 and to Japan by 16 January 2020. The not-so-benevolent genie was out of the bottle and it was clear what would happen next.
The result to date has been an explosion of infection globally. The WHO has tried to assume control and Governments around the world are taking it seriously. Some are being slower than others.
If I look back at previous epidemics, pandemics, call them what you will, we know that one day they will settle. They leave tragedy behind and lessons that for a while, we try to remember. So often, the lessons learned are soon forgotten.
I am a medic, a surgeon in fact, so virology is way outside my experience. Yet I am learning fast and know that I gained plenty from the memoirs and diaries kept by my forefathers. I have thus decided to do the same. When it became apparent that the United Kingdom was going to be involved, I started to write a diary, and this is what you will find here.
I am an old codger, 66 years old as I write, and I am now mostly active as a war surgeon in the Middle East. I am also a productive author. Right now, I am in London and watching what is taking shape around. I have a family, like many who will read these words, and I have similar problems, worries and responsibilities.
This diary is clearly based on my country, the United Kingdom, and my family in particular. Yet I hope that those who read my words, possibly many years from now, will find them interesting. When their turn comes, as it surely will, I trust my experiences will be of value to others.
So here you are. This is my diary, as Covid-19 makes its way across the globe. Let me share the forthcoming weeks and months with you from my chosen start date of 29 February 2020. I simply plucked that out of the blue. Everything I write is my view and should not be seen as a recommendation.
The outcome, my outcome, are both unknown.