Page 23 - November 2021
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 However, it is likely that we will become familiar with more letters of the Greek alphabet in the near future.
Despite these uncertainties there are many encouraging features as we emerge from over a year of restrictions. In addition to the vaccines there have been developments in the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 which have contributed to the relatively low death rate despite high infection rate, and there are generally shorter periods in hospital for those developing serious infections. There is also intense research into the development of new antiviral drugs and, because there have been changes to the way we collect and handle drug testing data, it is likely that novel therapies could enter clinical use relatively quickly. We also have novel strategies to track infection hot spots, especially amongst the significant proportion of patients who remain asymptomatic but capable of spreading the virus. Some members may have seen the excellent online presentation by the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators last year. They were early to flag-up the use of wastewater (OK sewage) to detect virus particles, so that health
authorities could be alerted to areas with increasing infection. This is a technique I used a decade ago to monitor the use of illicit drugs. The approach has made rapid strides and a laboratory was opened in Exeter earlier this year, under the aegis of the UK Health Security Agency, to assess wastewater samples from over 500 locations around England. Our knowledge of the changing pattern of symptoms associated with the new variants has also been aided by the Zoe app, developed by King’s College, London. The real-time data it produces has often outpaced advice from government and international health organisations.
We do not know how the pandemic will develop over the coming year, but it is gratifying to see that many people are still making some sensibledecisionsaboutwhothey mix with and the precautions they take in public places. After all, it is not obligatory to go to night clubs or music festivals and the prudent realise that this is not over yet. At some point we will all have to make personal decisions about whether it is safe to return to social life or the workplace. Although people may not be flocking back to offices in the City at the moment there are clear signs that social events are
returning. Personally, I am happy to return to appropriately organised City events and have already attended a lot of Livery functions, including a dinner for 150 and our own very successful Installation Lunch after Common Hall.
Life is a series of risk assessments. We would all do well to have the words of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus of Hill Street Blues ringing in our ears – “Let’s be careful out there.”
David is co-director of a medical laboratory based at St George’s – University of London, in Tooting. The laboratory specialises in the analysis of biological samples for forensic toxicology and drug development.
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David Holt Under Warden

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