tom solomon

This year‘s Barnes Children’s Literature Festival presents particular challenges because of the pandemic. Luckily, Professor Tom Solomon an emerging infections expert at the centre of the UK response is on his way to Barnes with his new event, Covid for Kids at 1pm on Sunday 27th June, where you’ll have the chance to ask him your questions! First up though, he answers a couple of ours!

What has been going on for the past eighteen months?

For the last eighteen months we have been living through a pandemic – an outbreak of a new infection which spreads right across the world. Every year we have small outbreaks of infection caused by viruses like flu which spread through the winter. We are all used to this. However, eighteen months ago a new virus, a coronavirus found in bats, started infecting humans in China and quickly spread from there. The disease it causes, called Covid-19, is just a mild cough in many people. But it can be severe, needing hospital admission, and sadly even kill people.

How have we responded?

To try and stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed with too many sick people, we have slowed the spread of the virus with social distancing measures, lockdowns and school closures. If people are not mixing the virus cannot spread. We have also been developing new drugs to treat severe disease, and new vaccines to prevent infection.

When will it end?

The vaccines against the coronavirus are our strongest weapons to end the pandemic. Vaccines prepare the body’s defence system so that if you then meet the virus, you can fight it off without getting sick. Three quarters of adults in the UK have had the jab, and vaccination for children will probably start soon. As more people are vaccinated the lockdown measures will be needed less, so things should become more normal by the end of the summer.

What can I do to help?

We can all do our bit to bring the pandemic under control. We should wear a mask when needed, wash our hands, and follow current social distancing measures. It is also important to get the vaccine as soon as it is offered to you. This will not just protect you, it will also protect your loved ones, and will mean we can all get back to normal life sooner.

How will things be different afterwards? 

Even when things have improved in the UK, the virus will continue to cause problems around the world, especially in countries where there has not been much vaccination. This will impact on travel for some time. Also, even in the UK, the virus is not going to disappear completely, and viruses change over time, so we will need repeat vaccines for some people in the winter. But in the end, this will probably be just like flu: old people get vaccinated for flu every year, and nobody bats an eyelid!

Is it safe to come to Barnes?

I am sure it will be safe to come to Barnes. The organisers are following every government guideline to keep people safe, and I am really looking forward to seeing you all there!

Professor Tom Solomon is Director of the UK’s Emerging Infections Research Unit at the University of Liverpool, and host of the Scouse Science Podcast. He tweets @RunningMadProf. His show Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Medicine on Saturday 26 June is already sold out, but he will be hosting his new event Covid for Kids at 1.00pm on Sunday 27 June 2021. Send him your questions now:

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