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Sunday, 5 April 2020

When experts are idiots

Reading an article in the SMH about the impacts of police having to issue warnings and in some cases fines for people continuing to ignore the social distancing and 'stay at home' instructions, I was struck by one reported quotation of an expert (who should know better):

"Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at Canberra Hospital and a professor at the Australian National University, has made the same point, accusing authorities of overcooking the response for no genuine public health benefit. "You are safer outside than inside. I do not see how anyone's going to get this virus if they keep two metres away from someone and I don't see how anyone's going to get it if they sit on a park bench," Collignon told The Canberra Times."

I'm not an infectious diseases physician, but even I can imagine a highly probable scenario where Covid-19 could easily be passed via people sitting on a park bench. According to WHO:

"How long does COVID-19 last on surfaces?
According to the World Health Organization, it is not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).
If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with a common household disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose."
So, here's a scenario for Professor Collignon to get his mind around:
1. Person A (who is not in home isolation as they feel fine and don't know that they have Covid-19 and are infectious) goes our to buy a Kebab and sits on a park bench eating his lunch and enjoying the sun.
2. He has to cough and coughs into his hand - he'd normally cough into his elbow buy he has his hand full with a kebab so uses his free hand to mask his cough.
3. He finishes off his kebab and uses his free hand (that he coughed into) to push off the park bench, walks to the bin and throws his kebab waste away, then goes home.
4. Person B, a perfectly healthy 55 year old is out for a stroll with his partner decides to sit on the bench, carefully sitting 1.5m apart. When sitting there person B happens to put his hand on the bench where person A touched and left Covid-19 on the surface. He happens to touch his face while walking home with his partner.
5. A week later person B falls sick and soon after his partner also falls ill.
Still can't see how anyone can get the disease by going out and sitting on a park bench Prof. Collingnon?

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