After one last, delightful heat blast, the British summer is almost over and we are heading into autumn.
I normally love this time of the year, but right now I am seriously concerned that the next few months will cause a major rise in coronavirus cases – if we are not already on the way to a second wave, with rises of cases in parts of the UK.
Part of the problem with colder weather is that we spend more time indoors, which allows viruses to thrive. But we’re also all still learning how to behave Covid, and it’s a steep learning curve.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is depicted on a visit to the Jenner Institute in Oxford. Like the flu, this coronavirus spreads when someone who is infected (but may not know it) coughs, sneezes, laughs, sings or shouts, injecting tiny droplets full of viruses into the air
A few weeks ago my wife Clare and I went out for dinner at a cafe restaurant with some friends – the four of us sat close together, cheek by cheek with lots of other people shouting and having a good time.
There was no attempt to stand back, none of the waiters were wearing masks and no one was asked to provide their contact details. I confess it scared me – and I haven’t been back since.
I’m not a germaphobe – our house has always been the average family-with-dog type clean, we don’t use antibacterial soap and we normally just do a quick wipe of the surfaces – but with the R (the virus reproduction) rate through the UK above 1, the figure where cases could increase exponentially, more people will be exposed to the virus, and that’s a concern.
And I don’t think we can trust that a vaccine will be widely available at the earliest by the end of this year.
As a man now in his seventh decade (I’m 63), I tick two of the boxes for risk factors for severe Covid – my gender and older age – was allowed to catch it.
I normally love this time of the year, but right now I am seriously concerned that the next few months will cause a major rise in coronavirus cases – if we are not already on the way to a second wave, with rises of cases in parts of the UK [File photo]
So what can we do to protect ourselves and our loved ones – other than the obvious things like wearing a mask and practicing social distance?
Like the flu, this coronavirus spreads when someone who is infected (but may not know it) coughs, sneezes, laughs, sings or shouts, and spews tiny droplets full of viruses into the air.
If you are unlucky enough to be around, you can get infected by getting the virus on your hands (and rubbing your eyes later) or by inhaling some of the viruses.
The longer you spend with an infected person, especially if you are close by indoors, the greater the risk.
So one of the things to do is avoid or reduce Covid risky activities (Google ‘Covid risk’ for charts that easily break routine activities into different risk categories).
The least risky thing is getting a takeaway or opening the mail – which you’ll be happy to know if you’re someone who lets letters and parcels ‘isolate themselves’ for a few days before handling them.
“Low to moderate” risk includes things like grocery shopping, eating outside in a restaurant, staying in a hotel for two nights and playing golf.
‘Moderate to high’ risk includes going to a hair salon, eating at a restaurant, traveling by plane, and hugging or shaking hands.
The ‘high risk’ category seems pretty obvious: eating at a buffet, attending a religious service (especially if it’s full), and going to a bar or gym.
I’ve done many of the ‘low to medium’ risk activities (including handling the mail!); but in the ‘moderately high risk’ category there are things that Clare is, who is a general practitioner, and I deliberately stopped doing it – for example, I haven’t shook hands since early March and we only ate inside a restaurant, a few times.
The only ‘high risk’ we’ve done is going to our local movie theater, which sat around ten people.
I hate gyms and don’t plan on going to a bar until this crisis is over. This is not because I personally fear that I will become seriously ill if I become infected.
It’s reassuring that my personal risk is quite low – I know this thanks to the Covid risk quiz below, designed by the British Medical Association.
My score was 3 (two for my age, and one for masculinity), which put me at an ‘average’ risk, while Clare, who is 59, only scored 1, so her risk is low.
Even if you’re low-risk, no one wants to catch or spread Covid-19, so here are my evidence-based steps to prevent that:
While you can’t do anything about your age, gender, or ethnicity (which matters for a serious Covid risk), you can do something about your weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels – all risk factors for serious Covid.
Losing weight can lead to big improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar, as last week’s Shape Up Britain series showed so well in the Mail.
What surprises me is that so many overweight people don’t know – a recent study found that only 10 percent of obese people (with a BMI over 30) realize it.
Enter the sun
A good night’s sleep is especially important for keeping your immune system in good shape, as your body starts to make important components of your immunity, such as antibodies.
A major US study in 2019 found that people who got more than seven hours of sleep a night were four times less likely to catch a cold than people who got six hours or less.
Bright light in the morning helps set your body clock, leading to better sleep and stronger immunity. If you can’t go outside, sit by a window.
A good night’s sleep is especially important for keeping your immune system in good shape [File photo]
Take vitamin D.
While I’m not a fan of supplements, I recently bought vitamin D. It is essential for a healthy immune system and plays a key role in activating your T cells, which appear to be especially important for destroying coronaviruses.
While the evidence as to whether it makes much of a difference with Covid-19 is mixed, the NHS advice is that most of us should consider taking in 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day.
The hello elbow
Instead of shaking hands, I’ve become an elbow pusher – I also use my forearm or elbow to push doors open. If I have to touch an elevator button, I do it with a pen – even better, I take the stairs.
Don’t pass it on
I wash my hands when I’m out and always before dinner. And these days I do it for at least 20 seconds, singing Staying Alive.
Brain Tricks I Used To Drink Less …
I was shocked to read earlier this week that the number of people who now drink at a level that threatens their health has doubled to 8.5 million since February.
Inside, concerned about Covid-19 and concerned about their jobs, it’s not surprising that so many have turned to booze.
While I’ve never been a heavy drinker – not least because alcohol just makes me sleepy – a few years ago my wife, Clare, and I decided to try a 5: 2 approach to alcohol: we drink now only on Fridays and Saturdays and try to stay alcohol-free for the other five days of the week.
Another trick I use to slow down the amount of alcohol I drink is to leave the bottle of wine on the other side of the room so I have to get up for a refill and try a glass for each glass drink water from beverage.
These are ways to cut down on your intake without straining your willpower – it’s about tricking your brain into forming new habits that moderate your behavior without you realizing it!
Of course, if you are serious about drinking, you need professional support – an honest conversation with your doctor is a good place to start.
Stuck inside, worried about Covid-19 and worried about their jobs, unsurprisingly so many have turned to booze [File photo]