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Lead By: Staff-Editor-02

'Social Distancing' - Does It Work? Is It Here To Stay?

Near the end of World War One, a nasty flu started spreading around the world.

The virus responsible for the disease, which became known as Spanish flu, infected over a quarter of the world’s population.

With an estimated death toll of between 50 million and 100 million, it was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.

In the midst of this pandemic, during September 1918, cities around the US were planning parades to promote liberty bonds, being sold to help pay for the war effort in Europe.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where 600 soldiers were already infected with the flu virus, city chiefs decided to go ahead with their parade.

Meanwhile, the city of Saint Louis, Missouri, opted to cancel their parade and introduce other measures to limit public gatherings. One month later, more than 10,000 people in Philadelphia had died of Spanish flu, while the number of fatalities in Saint Louis stayed below 700.

The parade was not the only reason for the difference in death rates, but the figures show the importance of measures now known as “social distancing” can have during pandemics.

“Social distancing refers to a way of creating a barrier of physical distance between two or more people so that transmission of virus can be prevented or halted,” says Arindam Basu, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University of Canterbury, in New Zealand.

One analysis of the interventions made in several cities around the US during 1918 showed that those that banned public gatherings, closed theatres, schools and churches early had far lower peak death rates.

Just over 100 years later, the world is facing another pandemic, this time from a different virus – the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Today the global population stands six billion higher than it did in 1918.

While Covid-19 is different in many ways from the Spanish flu – particularly in terms of who it affects and its mortality rate so far –  there is a very important lesson about the difference social distancing can make. It might still be one of the best ways of fighting this pandemic.

At this time, we do not know of a safe and effective vaccine, nor do we know if a safe and effective drug will work to eliminate the Covid-19 infection once it has occurred,” says Basu.

“In the absence of these, our best bet is based on prevention.”

Many countries around the world are now experiencing different measures in an attempt to enforce social distancing to slow the spread of Covid-19. They range from ending mass gatherings, closing public spaces like leisure centres, pubs and clubs to closing schools and in some places a total lockdown with people forced to stay indoors.

While self-isolation is a form of social distancing, there is an important distinction to be made. Self-isolation and quarantine are aimed at preventing people who are infected or are known to have had contact with people who are infected from passing on the virus.

Social distancing is a wider measure aimed at stopping the kind of mixing of people that allows infections to spread through a population.

And we may need to keep our distance from others for some time to come.

New computer modelling research from Harvard University, which has yet to be published in an academic journal, warns that it may be necessary for intermittent social distancing measures to be maintained into 2022 in the US unless other interventions such as vaccines, drug therapies and aggressive quarantine measures can be put into place.

This is because while a one-off period of social distancing might delay the peak of the outbreak until later this year, there is likely to be a resurgence in cases towards the end of the year if the virus shows some seasonal variation.

But there is a good reason why social distancing has become such an important strategy in controlling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Each person infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus is thought to pass it on to an average of 2-3 other people in the early stages of an outbreak.

This contagiousness is measured by epidemiologists using something known as a “reproduction number”.

By comparison, influenza has a reproduction number of 1.06-3.4 depending on the strain.

Spanish flu was found to have a reproduction number of about 1.8 by one study.

Rhinovirus, which is one of those that causes the common cold, has a reproduction number of 1.2-1.83. Most estimates for Covid-19 have put its reproduction number at between 1.4-3.9.

The incubation period – the time between infection and symptoms appearing – has been found to be around five days for Covid-19, although it can take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear, according to research in China.

If you are infected, and continue to socialise as normal, it is likely you will pass the virus on to between two and three friends or family members, who could each then go on to infect a further 2-3 people.

Within one month one case can lead to 244 other cases in this way and in two months, this soars to 59,604.

2019, What A Year.

2019, What A Year.

Updated : 24-12-2019 12:03:07

There is no doubt that this year has been an eventful one for us all, filled with a mixture of good and not so good times for our community and region.

But I can’t tell you enough how proud I am of our whole community, and the way in which we have come together to support one another during the challenging times, particularly with the recent bushfire activity and drought conditions that have been impacting our region.

It’s indeed inspiring to see that during the challenging times, our community never fails to rally together and provide a helping hand to those in need, and this is when our real heroes truly do shine brightly.

To our local firies, emergency service crews, and the many wonderful volunteers who are working tirelessly to protect our homes and loved-ones, we owe you a huge thankyou.

However in light of this heartache, we will recover, and your Council will continue to support all those in our community who have in some way been impacted.

Whilst these recent events may be at the forefront in the minds of many of us, it’s important to remember all the great and exciting times we had this year. From community events like Countdown to Christmas, Artwalk and Ironman, through to the many projects which have been delivered like the Flynns Beach Seawall, Wauchope CBD upgrade and the continuation of the Camden Haven Beach to Beach Riverwalk… and let’s not forget all of the wonderful playgrounds delivered throughout our towns and villages.

And it doesn’t stop there, with many exciting projects and events to look forward to in 2020, right across our growing region.

I want to thank everyone in our community who has engaged with and assisted Council during the year, and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.

And I really hope that our wonderful firies, emergency services personnel and volunteers get a chance to rest and enjoy the Christmas season with their family and friends - there is no doubt that they deserve it.

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Editorial |  :

Could we face a mass extinction of human beings in our lifetime? As global temperatures rise & bushfires devastate the landscape, it's a worst-case scenario that is beginning to be seriously discussd.

The rapid spread of the coronavirus in recent weeks has also escalated the anxiety that people feel about their mortality.

However, there seems to be a difference in the way the public has reacted to these two threats.

Global warming and potential mass extinction are seen as a vague threat somewhere out there in the distant future, whereas coronavirus is viewed as a clear and imminent danger.

The growing fear of a coronavirus pandemic appears to have quickly motivated Australian health authorities and governments into immediate and appropriate action.

By comparison, the anxiety around global warming and potential mass extinction seems muted.

Human beings have a naive optimism

A report written by Paul Gilding, a fellow at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, and commissioned by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, put forward the view that there is a "high likelihood of human civilisation coming to an end in 2050" if action is not taken to curb climate change.

Climate change deniers will typically denounce any discussion of mass extinction as histrionic doomsday talk, while some climate change believers argue that discussing mass extinction now is precipitous and dampens the optimism that we can turn global warming around with a positive "can-do" spirit.

Who would have thought that both camps have a psychological mindset in common?

A naive optimism that human beings are just so clever that it will all turn out OK.

Older species fade away

Psychoanalysts use the term manic defence to describe how human beings can pathologically cling to optimism and hope as a way of denying their depression and anxiety.

To contemplate mass extinction is indeed a dark place to go to and a difficult conversation to have — even more difficult than global warming itself — because it is to think the unthinkable.

But spiritual traditions across the world believe it brings depth and richness to our lives to contemplate our own death. It does not necessarily have to be a morbid preoccupation.

It is sobering to consider what scientists tell us of the paleo-ontological history of the Earth, which may throw some light on the fate of human beings when we look at the broad sweep of time.

"More than 99 per cent of all organisms that have ever lived on Earth are extinct. As new species evolve to fit ever-changing ecological niches, older species fade away," National Geographic science writer Michael Greshko wrote.

"At least a handful of times in the last 500 million years, 75 to more than 90 per cent of all species on Earth have disappeared in a geological blink of an eye in catastrophes we call mass extinctions."

We're not special

As human beings, we need to remind ourselves that we are oxygen-breathing biped mammals.

In other words, we are animals. Evolutionary science demonstrates that we are continuous, not discontinuous, with other animal species.

If one's view of the world is based on science, we are not special, we were not placed here by a God to be the custodians of the Earth (and if we were, we have let the Almighty down big time!) and like all other species, we will have our place in the sun.

We will die out, and other, more adaptable, life forms will take our place.

The myth that we are somehow special and will continue to live forever as a dominant species is based on a deluded human-centric form of existential narcissism.

We may wring our hands and our hearts may ache at the rapid destruction of wildlife that is happening right now before our eyes, but we never seem to seriously consider that we may go the same way.

But as the poet John Donne wrote: "Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee".

Death can be transformative

We may liken the state of the Earth to a man who has just been told by his doctors that he has lung cancer. There is treatment available that might save him, but it cannot be guaranteed that it will work.

The human species may, metaphorically, keep puffing away on fossil fuels and an inevitable death may well be the outcome in a blip of geological time.

But even if we "undergo the treatment" — changing over to sustainable forms of renewable energy, for example — there is no guarantee of survival.

Based on story by | Geoff Dawson (Psychologist and Zen Buddhist teacher)

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