The COVID-19 Problem
Sun, 16 Aug 2020
I was woken early one morning by someone shouting at me through my open window. I quickly dressed and looked out of the window, to find Alun, with a megaphone.
"It's COVID-19, Jed," Alun shouted. "The pandemic, raging uncontrolled through the mainland."
"I thought it was supposed to be no worse than a cold, that we could just 'take it on the chin'."
"You shouldn't listen to the mainland Council Leader, Jed, not if you want to stay alive. It's the most deadly pandemic for a century. We need to take sensible precautions to avoid its spread."
"Is that why you're standing outside shouting at me through a megaphone?"
"Yes Jed. I've left a megaphone for you by the back door, so that you can shout back at me."
"Can't we just talk normally?"
"Not unless we're at least 25 metres away from each other. Hence the megaphones."
"The mainland council suggest that 2 metres is a safe distance."
"Yes, and have the mainland council cabinet have caught the disease themselves, so why the hell would you bother listening to them?"
"Do you want to come in for breakfast?" I said. Breakfast is the reason Alun comes to see me every morning, he's not generally a sociable person.
"Let's eat outside, Jed. It's safer."
"Why are you so worried. There are only two of us on the island and we haven't seen anyone from outside for years. The Boatman visits but he never lands, not since what happened to him last time" (See The Quicksand Problem).
"We're an at risk group Jed. We're both men. Both of a certain age. Both men of a certain age and body size. If it does reach here it could easily spread to the entire Happy Island population. You AND me. We're a closely knit community. Besides which we're the only island population with zero cases of covid-19, which means we can tell every other island we're managed it better than they have."
We ate our breakfast by the sea, 150 metres apart.
"Living safely doesn't have to be a hardship," Alun shouted at me through is megaphone. "We can live perfectly normally. Here, you'd better drink this, it's been shown to cure coronavirus."
He passed me a drink, using a grabbing-stick with a long pole. I drank it as ordered, though it tasted disgusting.
"What on earth is it?" I said. "It tastes like ducks' urine."
"It is ducks' urine, Jed."
"You made me drink ducks' urine!"
"A French medic pronounces it 100% successful at stopping the virus."
"100% successful? You mean nobody that drank the urine died?"
"No, there were a lot of deaths, but they didn't complete the course of treatment so they were removed from the final statistics. Of those that live, 100% survived."
"I think you should stop reading French medical journals," I said.
In spite of my concerns we both continued to observe Alun's covid-avoidance strategies. Nobody from the mainland came to visit and if the Boatman did leave any post or shopping we would leave it three days to quarantine.
As the virus spread through the mainland Alun would laugh at the daily infection figures. "Look Jed," he'd say, "Our little island is the only place in the entire queendom that hasn't had any covid cases." (A pedant to the core, Alun refused to use the word 'kingdom' when we'd 'had a bloody queen for sixty years').
However, in spite of our careful routine we both became ill, suddenly running high temperatures. Reluctantly Alun was forced to call out a doctor from the mainland, who arrived, clad in several layers of purple protective clothing.
"Tell me the worst doctor", Alun said. "Is it covid-19?"
"No. It's clearly not covid-19. It's an infection caused by drinking ducks urine."
"So if we stop drinking the ducks urine it will go away?" I said hopefully.
"No Mr Wood, the very opposite. The only known cure is the hair of the dog, you need to drink a litre of ducks urine every day for a month."
"You and your crazy ideas," I said to Alun. "We've both got a nasty infection AND we have to drink ducks urine every day."
"At least we're still the only island zero percent infection rate for coronavirus, Jed. You have to admit, that's quite an achievement."
"Yes, but we're also the only island with a 100% infection rate for ducks urine syndrome."