Will the Covid 19 outbreak lead to a cleaner, healthier nation?

Washing hands

Washing hands - Credit: Archant

Is anyone old enough to remember the icebergs in the 1980? The line 'Don't die of ignorance' warned us of the dangers of HIV?

HIV and AIDs were new and little was known.

Elderly patients asked me whether they should cancel their hip replacements worried they might contract AIDS from the operation.

I received an angry phone call from the local community health specialist for suggesting in my newspaper column that HIV was not spread heterosexually.

He later admitted that he had not read the column. If he had he would have known that I had been misquoted.

The disease was devastating for the gay community and anyone receiving contaminated blood products such as haemophiliacs but not dangerous for most people on the street.

Sharing a cup or shaking hands would not transmit AIDS.

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The government failed to get this reassuring message across.

It took Eastenders to run a story about an HIV positive character to educate the public.

The disease led to a change in behaviour by encouraging safer sex.

Other sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhoea became less common.

But it also led to a change in behaviour in the surgery and in the hospitals.

We had become rather laidback over taking blood samples and dealing with blood products.

Never mind the odd splash of blood; it will wash off. This was always bad practice.

There were plenty of other dangers from blood such as hepatitis but we had become too complacent.

The HIV problem tightened up procedures.

Not only did my generation improve our techniques but the next generation of health professionals were trained to follow procedures carefully.

They have far more respect for biological materials than my generation.

Luckily the treatment for HIV improved dramatically and, although serious, it is not the death sentence that was feared in the 1980s.

But it has left people with an awareness of the importance of safe sex and it has left the medical profession with far better practices when dealing with blood and other biological products.

The coronavirus situation is serious but will it also have a positive effect?

We all learnt from the HIV crisis. After this crisis the whole world needs to look at how it responded in an atmosphere of cooperation not blame. What went well; what could have been done better?

Will there be less global warming as more people continue to use video conferences rather than flying around the world?

Will we start to manufacture more products closer to home?

Will people choose to holiday in the UK rather than flying overseas?

This, in turn will help our tourist industry which is struggling under the lockdown.

Torbay looked amazing in the sunshine.

Without the lockdown our hotels, restaurants and guest houses would have had a bumper Easter.

I have enjoyed my short walks in the country. I've found public footpaths I did not know were there even though I've lived in the area for nearly 40 years. When I do meet fellow walkers everyone is friendly from at least two metres.

And will it improve our daily behaviour?

Frequent hand washing for at least 20 seconds, using tissues and throwing them away and generally improved hygiene are now vital. When this crisis has passed will we continue to wash our hands properly?

A study of 100,000 people in 2015 found that 62 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women did not bother to wash their hands after going to the toilet. And only five per cent washed their hands properly.

A splash and a promise are not good enough. There used to be a queue for the toilet; after the lockdown will there be a queue for the hand basins? Shops ran out of hand sanitizers. Could this be seen as positive? People realised the importance of hand and face washing.

Whatever happens will the Covid 19 outbreak lead to a cleaner, healthier nation and a better world?