Tiers for fears
Published on: Sunday, November 29, 2020
By: Sylvia Howe
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WELL it’s been a long time. I have rather lost my mojo with all the changes to flights and rules, and wish I had braved Boris’s Not So Brave New World and gone back home to UK a month ago. 

UK’s lockdown is over on 2nd December, but followed by separation into three tiers.  Starting, inexplicably, at Medium instead of Low – why? I think people can work out what it really means, no?  Only three areas (two of them islands) are in Tier One (Medium in case you hadn’t got it) and the rest of England is in Two or Three.  

Nowhere’s perfect. I live in Kent, in the South, the place where Nigel Farage is setting up his Garage after Brexit – where all the lorries will line up for days in unmoving jams. Much of the county is rural, and last time it was in Tier One. Tier One has been universally acknowledged not to have been much cop, but we are now in Tier Three! 

It is not a small county, and parts – Swale and Thanet principally – have very high Covid infection for all sorts of reasons that may be being addressed, but I am not sure how. Poverty mostly, I reckon, but what do I know?  

Other areas in the country have had no deaths and very few cases, but we are all lumped together.  Depressing, especially as where we live is pretty low. Our MPs are lobbying for areas to be split up by Council or region, and I hope they succeed. 

Anyhow, unless our planes are messed about again, we leave on Sunday week – 6th December. We take a taxi home from the airport and then stay in till we are released, unless we need to shop, or go for a run, or meet a friend outside in the frost. Picturesque possibly, but not appealing thermostatically. I will learn more when I get there.

Before we go, we will have a Covid test, and with that and the permission to leave and return from Sabah Immigration, I very much hope we have covered all angles. If we haven’t it won’t be for want of trying. My fingers are painfully crossed that two weeks of quarantine in a hotel will not be necessary on our return but again, that is not in our hands. 

When we get home, we need to be sensible. Masks and distancing and handwashing should be (are?) non-negotiable, but with luck the rules of separation may be relaxed if the virus allows. If a mask works, hooray. Wear one. If it might, wear one. What’s the problem? It’s not going to do you any harm.

We are going to be allowed to celebrate Christmas from 23 – 28 December with three families – inside. I am glad but at the moment it looks as if I will be able to see one son, not two. The one in Spain can’t spare the extra quarantine time from his work, so that’s a pity. If things look up, perhaps we can meet in January, but who knows? We won’t cuddle, will try not to stuff ourselves more than the turkey, won’t argue about who won Pictionary, and devoutly hope that everyone keeps well. 

What do we know?

It’s the uncertainty isn’t it? That’s the discomfort. Nobody knows so nobody can plan. There are unavoidable disappointments, alas, but hopefully the vaccines will be certified and life will creep closer to normality. I doubt if everything will be as before – and indeed, if it means that we are more careful with the world about us, that is a good thing. Once the vaccines are cleared for us, and then rolled out (especially to old fogies like my husband and myself – one benefit of our advancing years) there might be a glimmering light at the end of this long dull tunnel. 

Conspiracy theories and Covid myths

There are the conspiracy theories, of course. They proliferate in times of nervous uncertainty. And people, some people anyway, lap up what they tell us: about Gates Foundation’s wicked plot to inject microchips into us for purposes of logging what we do – frankly, my dears, if you do that to me, you will be exceedingly disappointed. Nothing to see here.

Some people think our DNA is being harvested, and others that the outbreak was started in Wuhan and engineered as a bioweapon. No evidence. 

Others say that Dr Anthony Fauci (for me a sane voice in a confusing American world) is somehow profiting from sounding alarms about the virus. No evidence.

The benefits of hydroxychloroquine, peddled by Ex-President Trump, have also been debunked. An article citing eight persistent Covid myths in Scientific American says: Several studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine does noHYPERLINK "https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2016638"tHYPERLINK "https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2016638" protect against COVID-19 in those who are exposed. The Food and Drug Administration initially issued an emergency use authorization for the drug, but the agency later warned against its use because of the risk of heart problems and ultimately revoked its authorization. And in June the National Institutes of Health halted its clinical trial of the medication, stating that although it was not harmful to patients, it did not provide any benefit.

And so on.

Reputable scientific journals and studies such as these should not have axes to grind, and their readership is educated to challenge inaccuracies. Some are financed by large companies, I suppose, but still, they have their reputations to think of, don’t they? I’m asking. 

I am prepared quite happily to admit that although I try to read and inform myself, I am not a scientist, a doctor, a researcher, so I am not able to be absolutely certain what is going into my body, and nor am I educated enough to check.  

All I can do is go to people who do know, or should do. As I have said before, we haven’t done so badly with the vaccines for smallpox, cholera, polio, thank goodness. 

Reading the results

One of the issues appears to be that people are not digitally literate or trained enough in deciphering statistics and results. I include myself.

A study by Cambridge University has found: 

“Certain misinformation claims are consistently seen as reliable by substantial sections of the public. We find a clear link between believing coronavirus conspiracies and hesitancy around any future vaccine,” said Dr Sander van der Linden, co-author and Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab.

“As well as flagging false claims, governments and technology companies should explore ways to increase digital media literacy in the population. Otherwise, developing a working vaccine might not be enough.”

This is wishful thinking, I would suggest. Digital media literacy – a scary phrase in itself –isn't possible for everyone. Which is fine, as long as people acknowledge their limitations and don't pontificate without proof, or the nearest thing to it. I have lost count of people in the last few weeks who have told me definitely and seriously something that when I ask why they think that, titter a little and can’t back it up. A friend told them, or they read it somewhere…

I would not set myself up as someone who knows enough to spread a theory, or contradict the more plausible ones, without a bit of reading, and a lot of common sense. But it seems logical to be pleased that there is something that will be able to counteract the deadening effect of this pandemic that will soon be available. 

Until something leads me to believe that I should NOT be vaccinated, I am holding out my arm for the needle.  Both arms – there’s more than one vaccine, so why limit myself? Whichever gets there first.

Printed and available 

One last and very important thing.

The book we have been working on very hard over the last few months has been printed in KL. It is a beautiful hardback, full of original stories and photographs, and we know you will enjoy it. 100 copies will be couriered to KK for early bird buyers who have put their faith in us without seeing a copy.  For which thank you. More will follow soon. 

From now on, if you would like a copy please visit www.wordpowersabah.my and leave your name, address and how many you want, and we will get back to you. It is now RM130, to cover Covid-related extra expenses such as the courier to Sabah, and the increased weight and cost of the most durable binding. All profits to charity. 

That’s it from me for 2020. What a year! 

I will be back early in 2021, but it is too early to tell when. 

All that is left for me to wish my kind and tolerant readers 


and nothing but the best for a healthy and profitable 


Thank you for patiently reading my outpourings over these very irregular times!

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