An interview about the COVID with someone who works in a hospital (Level B1)

Interview with someone who works in a hospital about COVID

So, you’re in a hospital that treats COVID patients. Have you seen a lot of deaths from COVID? 

I haven’t seen it myself, but my job is to support the doctors and nurses who’ve seen it.

Support staff like me, I’m nonclinical, I’m in IT support, we don’t see it.

I don’t have any patient contact, but I go on to the wards where there are patients, and you see that this area is quarantined; you mustn’t go in there. The IT equipment has to be functioning; if any of its broken, it has to come out. If we go into those areas where there are COVID patients, we have to mask up, put on gowns and protective equipment. Several wards have had to be closed so that they can retrain the nurses. They had to retrain them to be intensive care nurses and move them into a ward that has been converted into an intensive care unit.

And then when conspiracy theorists come into the hospital and photograph these empty walls and say, look, there’s no overcrowding, there’s empty wards. It’s very annoying, and you can’t have security guards everywhere in the hospital stopping that happen. A hospital is a public building. People can get in if they’re determined. You know, a letter claiming you’ve got an appointment will get you in through the door. And it’s very disheartening to see.

These people who don’t know what they’re talking about, presenting what they think is evidence and other people who don’t know what they’re talking about, believing it, and eventually, it spreading into the mainstream, so ordinary people see this and get bombarded with it. They start to believe it, which is something that makes me very angry.

So, would you try to engage with conspiracy theorists, and do you have people who are close to you, like friends who are conspiracy theorists? 

There was someone who I know; I mean, this is a very highly qualified chef and a very talented musician, he’s not an ignoramus. If he wants to believe. He’s an intelligent man; I can understand this sort of thing occurs when you’ve not had the benefit of an education, but not him.

If you’ve been taught not to think, a lot of state education is being taught not to think. Don’t challenge anything. Just do what you’re told. But this man is clearly in his 50s, and he’s talented. A talented chef and musician he’s knowledgeable and can discuss lots of subjects. And then when he comes out with “It’s a hoax, it doesn’t exist”.

Well, I can, I can see the death it’s causing, and the security guards in the hospital say, stop, stop, go back COVID patient coming through. They’ve got to get a patient from the operating theatre to X-ray, which means walking down a corridor where members of the public will go. And that’s three security guards, one in front, one behind them, all going with the bed to make sure nobody gets within at least two meters or more of this COVID patient. You see that the increased work on the mortuary. And then an intelligent man doesn’t want to look at the evidence. No, I’m not going to waste my time engaging with someone who doesn’t want to see the evidence.

So, you’d never try to persuade anyone who has ideas about COVID which don’t conform to mainstream science? 

I will debate with people if I think there’s a point if I think I might achieve something meaningful.

Suppose you think that they are. They’re are not necessarily conspiracy theories, but they have their doubts about COVID or are vaccine heistant that sort of thing.

Yeah, people who have asked, you know, do you think this vaccine is a good idea? Do you believe it exists? But people who tell me it doesn’t, I am not going to bother.

It’s like people who tell me the moon is made of cream cheese, I’m not going to engage with someone who tells me that.

I debate both with the conspiracy theorists and the people who are just unsure. I think conspiracy theorists can change; my sister sent me this thing on the BBC, it was about this woman, who used to be an anti-vaxer, but she stopped being an anti-vaxer prior to the pandemic. 

And she has an idea like, you know, she’s saying, she can understand to some extent where they’re coming from, and she now tries to stop people, or she tries to debate with these people. People like this make me think its worth debating with conspiracy theorists. 

Many people I’ve talked to believe COVID exists, but they don’t think it’s that dangerous. It might not kill you, but you could give it to someone else, and it might kill them. I believe this complacency around COVID is dangerous, and going in and out of lockdown also causes a lot of disruption. 

Yeah, and I think that the impact on children when the government insisted on opening the schools earlier than all the expert advice said that they should be, and the children scared of having to go to school knowing that they could pick up the virus from another child. Some of them know that they can contract it from people with no symptoms and they might be scared that they would take it home and kill their parents. 

And children are very traumatised by having to go back to school when COVID hasn’t been beaten.

And the evidence, the advice from the World Health Organisation was quite clear that if you don’t take these steps, you will finish up with thousands of deaths. And that’s what happened. The government had the audacity at the start of this to say, you know, we’ll get herd immunity, there might be, you know, there will be a lot of old people will die, but… – as if that’s acceptable,

Did you see Boris Johnson lying about bodies piling up?

Yeah. I’ve seen the reports. And now journalists coming out and saying, yeah, I heard him say that, and I heard him say that, well, why didn’t you report it at the time? Why weren’t they focusing on reporting that? All over Europe, there’s been reports that yesterday several MPs of all parties have asked the speaker of the House to lead a debate to force Boris Johnson to stop lying to the House.

And this has been reported all over European media, but not on the BBC. So why are these people not holding the government to account?

It is interesting because it looks like the run-up to the election. They seemed to smear the Labour Party, and they didn’t do much to Boris.

Well, there’s many highly paid people at the BBC, and Jeremy Corbyn was going to make them pay a lot more tax. He was going to tax the rich people to pay for the things that the country needs; these wealthy people have been telling us that the country’s poor. They say that the country’s broke as they’re hoarding all their millions in offshore tax-havens.

So we have to take money away from poor people and make them more homeless because of the greed of the top 1%.

I think we’ve moved away from COVID.

I think it’s all related. It’s the reason why we’ve had so many thousands of deaths.

Because of corruption and cronyism

There’s an ideological position on the right-wing of politics. For the government not to do anything, everything has to be done by private finance, and in contrast, the New Zealand government took control and bought the personal protective equipment and the masks that were needed; our government said we’ve got to get a private company to do it, and the private company made a mess of it.

And many of the private companies have been set up on the fly by friends of the government or even members of the Conservative Party have set up companies and said, oh, yeah, I’ll source it. I’ll make a fortune sourcing masks from China and importing them. Instead of going to established companies, who’ve already got the connections, and billions have been wasted. By giving contracts to these people who have got no idea, who’ve got no experience doing this, and the consequence has been thousands of people have died.

Because they wouldn’t say, let the government tax Amazon, we will tax  Vodaphone, and we will spend the money on the masks to protect the people who voted for us. And that’s against their ideology. And I thought that Corbyn’s ideology, that’s what you would do. He would make Amazon pay tax on the billions of pounds earned in this country. And he would spend that money fixing the country.

Thoughts on COVID, the vaccine and a possible survey (Level B2/C1)

Earlier this year, my friend invited me to a Facebook group. The Facebook group was about questioning the official line on COVID. I am pretty sure she didn’t believe in the conspiracy theories put forward by the group. I think she joined in part as it’s a novel situation it’s something unnerving as it’s unknown. This kind of situation hasn’t been encountered in our lifetime (hopefully, it won’t be something we encounter again for a while); this will depend on global warming and how we treat livestock).

Anyway, being added to the group is why I started to ask questions about what people thought they knew about COVID. I began to look at things shared in the group and investigate where these were coming from; for example, someone posted a picture that they said was related to increased surveillance and COVID. After a quick google image search, I saw it was nothing of the kind; it was an image associated with a protest in China against an increase in surveillance and happened before autumn 2019, so before COVID was even discovered. I began to point out discrepancies in the group’s information and anything misappropriated, like the image from China. Some people in the group were also challenging the narrative put forward, but people that the whole COVID thing was a conspiracy. While in the group, I argued about, among other things, social distancing and why it was necessary. At one point people from the group targeted Bill Gates, and when I asked them why they said, look, this guy had posted a meme exposing Bill Gates. The obvious response to the meme was, where is the source. Even though there were people open to arguements and willing to consider other views, a number took a lot of things at face value and never actually followed through and looked up the source of information they consumed online.   I began to wonder if maybe it might be a good thing to educate myself and others re COVID measures, hence the interview with the virologist, to increase understanding.

A few months after joining the group, the admins had an overhaul. They booted out anyone who didn’t follow the narrative that COVID was a conspiracy theory, so I was expelled. However, it did have me wondering 1) how can we tackle vaccine hesitancy and 2) why some people were so fixated on certain theories and not open to any challenges wrt their mindset, and 3) who were the people behind the alternative narratives of COVID.

For the first one, the answer is we can have people talk about their experience with the vaccine and make it seem less scary; something I’ve started on my channel with the vaccine vox pops playlist (my first interview below):

For the second one, I did a survey (although there is information out there, I wondered if I could get some different perspective. I also thought it might be a good exercise for me to design something). I started with a kind of pilot survey (designed with the help of my sister, & Susan W), which I posted on my Facebook page. One of the first things in terms of the survey results was that I could have designed the questions slightly better, so it’s back to the drawing board to create survey number 2. The other problem is that most of the respondents are from my Facebook page (I think maybe some kind of incentive like a prize draw might be good next time). As one respondent pointed out, selection bias is the problem as my Facebook friends are likely to have certain characteristics in common.

Apart from survey design, the other thing about having people complete a survey was to make me think about certain aspects of the COVID crisis:

while I am aware that the more people are vaccinated, the better it is in terms of stopping the pandemic, an area I had thought less about was how the vaccine would be distributed in poorer countries which is something one of the respondents bought up.

I asked my sister the font of all knowledge, and apparently, the answer is that an organization called COVAX is coordinating the effort to vaccinate poorer countries.

I plan to do more interviews with people who’ve been vaccinated and want to change the questionnaire and distribute it on a large scale. When I have updates and survey data, I will summarise it here.

A resident from Brazil discusses COVID (level B2)

How do you feel the country you are residing in handled COVID?
I feel that COVID came up in a terrible moment for the country because, even before the pandemic, we were coping with political and economic problems. Ideological views surpassed rational decisions, allowing fake news to spread out of control.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, the federal government and some entrepreneurs have said that people should choose between health or economy. They said it would kill 5,000 people in the worst scenario, but now that the death toll reaches 190,000 people and the unemployment is historically high, it’s clear that it was a false dichotomy. It’s impossible to sustain the economy when people are afraid of dying. Other countries are starting to vaccinate the population while we don’t know when it will begin here. We don’t have a clear strategy and, to make it worse, the president says that vaccines are risky; this is disappointing because Brazil used to have a very successful vaccination program, which has been built in the last few decades, that could have been used now.

What reason does the president give for suggesting that the vaccine won’t be effective?
He doesn’t give any reason. He only says that it can be dangerous, especially the vaccine produced in China. He is a disciple of Donald Trump, and like him, Bolsonaro doesn’t care if what he says is true or not.
He is against the vaccine, social distancing, masks, etc. The only way people like him thrive (hiding incapacity and corruption) is in chaos and disorder. That’s why they create imaginary enemies and conspiracy theories.

What did you think they did well/what do you think they did badly?
In some states, governors decreed early lockdowns. It was good to gain some time to prepare hospitals and buy medical equipment. In Brazil, free health care is a citizen’s right, and for this reason, free medical services are available in every city. With an enormous territory, this was vital to deal with the disease. Another good thing was the financial support for low-income families. Without it, many people wouldn’t have been able to buy food for surviving. Though, there were many problems in coordinating it as the federal government didn’t recognize the size of the problem. The government touted conspiracy theories concerning the COVID pandemic. For instance, the president insisted on recommending the use of chloroquine, even without scientific evidence of its benefits. Further, he refuses to wear masks and to make social distancing.

You say that people are expected to wear masks in public, is that just public spaces which are indoors or outdoor spaces as well? If it is outdoors, are there ‘zones’ in which people wear masks? Also, what is the minimum age for compulsory mask-wearing?
Every city has its own laws. In general, people have to wear masks at all public spaces, public transportation, all commercial, industrial or service-related places, and in common areas of residential or commercial condominiums. There aren’t zones. The rules must be applied in all areas.
There is no minimum age for wearing a mask. Some people are not required to wear masks in special cases, such as disabilities or other health problems.

What were the rules and regulations?
The rules and regulations were different in every state and city, but in general, they were: wear masks in public, reduce the capacity of commerce, and close public spaces like parks. Usually, the rules can change to be more severe depending on the speed of transmission and the number of available intensive care units.

How well do you think that the citizens/authorities complied with the regulations?
Most citizens respected the regulations at the start, but after months of restrictions, the number of people who aren’t following them is increasing every day. Many people can not follow the rules because they live in terrible sanitary conditions or because they have to work in packed places. Also, public transportation was a big problem with buses and trains overcrowded. The main authority, the president, never respected the regulations and, on the contrary, encouraged the population to disobey the rules. He said that it was a “little flu,” and when he was asked about thousands of deaths, he said: “what can I do? I’m not a gravedigger”.

What financial compensation was there for people impacted by COVID?
Unemployed people living in low-income families, initially received a monthly amount of R$ 600 (this value was doubled for single mothers) until August and R$ 300 after that. More than 60 million people received this financial assistance, which is planned to end in December.
Furthermore, the companies were offered credit by the government so they could keep the employees on instead of firing them (here salaries are monthly-based and can’t be reduced).

Any stories about your experience/or those close to you about living through COVID?
Living through COVID has been extremely challenging for families with kids because schools were closed and classes are given online. Many families and schools didn’t have good computers or internet connections. Teachers and parents weren’t prepared to teach kids using tools like zoom, google meetings, etc. I have two children, and their classes were at the same time that I was working remotely too. We all had to adapt to do our new activities, sharing the same space. It was hard for them to learn in this new environment and be distant from their classmates and teachers.