Covid: The next four months may be one of the hardest periods of your life – Professor Devi Sridhar

I have to level with you. The next four months are going to be rough and might be one of the hardest periods in your life.

By maintaining social distancing and following other Covid rules and guidelines, you are helping to keep yourself and others safe (Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
By maintaining social distancing and following other Covid rules and guidelines, you are helping to keep yourself and others safe (Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

As the UK and Europe head into winter, the combination of colder weather, short and dark days, climbing Covid-19 infections, and restrictions on social gatherings will be challenging.

Humans are social beings and we thrive off of interaction at all ages, whether it is in nurseries and schools, in bingo halls and churches or in workplaces and bars.

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Mental health issues and loneliness are on the rise, and it is perfectly normal to despair at this endless crisis and wonder when we will ever regain some sort of semblance of normality in our lives.

The struggle is very real for most people as to how best to cope with uncertainty about the next week, the next month and the next year. Even more so for those on low incomes, in businesses which are being heavily affected by the virus, and for those living alone or in unstable situations.

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While it is up to governments to continue to suppress Covid-19 through proportionate public health measures and to provide economic support to those businesses struggling financially, each of us also has power within this pandemic to shape its future.

This virus transmits when it can jump during the infectious period from one host to another. If someone is infectious and does not pass it on to anyone else, that chain of infection dies out.

A volunteer receives a Covid-19 test vaccine developed at the University of Oxford at a hospital in Soweto, South Africa. (Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/AP)

We have learned that transmission is more likely to occur in indoor, poorly ventilated and crowded settings and through droplets spread through breathing, sneezing, coughing, singing or talking.

We know that riskier settings are indoor house parties and clubs, discos and bars (especially at night) and less riskier settings are parks, beaches, gardens, and outdoor hospitality.

We know that test/trace/isolate can help suppress the virus, but only if test results are returned quickly, contacts quickly traced, and people actually self-isolate when told to do so, so that they don’t pass on the virus to others.

While feelings of anger and frustration might feel all-consuming, right now we all need to keep looking forward and being positive, being constructive and kind, and finding joy in daily life.

What helps me? Getting outside for a walk every day. Exercise. Cooking and baking. Seeing friends and family outside. Knowing that this is a once in a century type of event. Also that my actions mean that I’m looking out for my community, neighbours, family and friends. And that this won’t last forever.

By next spring, there will be much more scientific data on immunity, Covid-19 morbidity and mortality, better treatments and testing, and even possibly a licensed vaccine.

But we first need to get through this winter. Getting a warm coat, gloves, hat and boots might be a good first step.

Professor Devi Sridhar is chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh and is also an adviser to the Scottish Government on the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak

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