Should we close footpaths because of Coronavirus?


I think there are a couple of sides to this. There are those footpaths which run up along the side of the house. Now might be a good time to get them diverted. But that is from a general privacy point of view. It has very little to do with the virus, although the authorities might be more sympathetic if you get your appeal in now.  But for most footpaths I think the answer is strictly no.
First let’s look at the reality of the situation. At the moment my lady wife and I are locked down because we’re recovering from what was probably coronavirus. The embarrassing thing about this virus is that that majority of us will end up being a bit vague as to whether we’ve had it or not.

Even if you get it, how serious is it. There’s an interesting article in the Lancet


“A unique situation has arisen for quite an accurate estimate of the CFR of COVID-19. Among individuals on-board the Diamond Princess Cruise ship, data on the denominator are fairly robust. The outbreak of COVID-19 led passengers to be quarantined between Jan 20, and Feb 29, 2020. This scenario provided a population living in a defined territory without most other confounders, such as imported cases, defaulters of screening, or lack of testing capability. 3711 passengers and crew were on-board, of whom 705 became sick and tested positive for COVID-19 and seven died, giving a CFR of 0·99%. If the passengers on-board were generally of an older age, the CFR in a healthy, younger population could be lower.”


Indeed if you assume that cruise passengers tend to be in the 60+ or even the 70+ age groups, looking at this chart you’d expect the morality to be a lot higher. So perhaps it isn’t quite as lethal as the initial fears?





The problem is we’re living in a 24 hour news cycle. In our village an older lady had to be taken into hospital. After two days being treated from pneumonia as a complication of the virus infection, she was brought home to recover there. But ‘elderly lady not very ill’ isn’t the sort of story the media is seeking.

The problem is that the ‘There’ll be a million dead and Boris has their blood on his hands,’ school of social media warrior is actually causing even more grief. A lady I know works for a medical centre. She wrote in her blog, “It appears that most of the middle aged or elderly patients are not turning up for their clinic appointments, thereby not undergoing Lucentis, Eylea or Avastin injections to save their eyesight from the ravages of wet age-related macular degeneration.“

Let’s not beat about the bush, they have a very slight chance of dying if they go for treatment and a very very high chance of going blind if they don’t. Terrifying people for a bad news story or political capital isn’t going to end well for a lot of people.


Not only that, but others are kicking against the full lockdown. The Swedes for example. This article is interesting.


One part of the article really did interest me.
“Tegnell doesn’t like to describe his strategy as ‘herd immunity’ but he talks openly about the inevitability of the disease passing through a large chunk of the population, and even says that containing the disease like South Korea is doing would not even be desirable, since it will surely only come back. His stated goal is to slow the spread of the infection to a manageable pace, and he doesn’t believe a mandated lockdown is necessary to achieve that.


So far, so technical. But look more closely and the difference between the UK and Swedish approaches is as much about politics as science.


I spent much of the weekend on the telephone to friends, family and journalists from both Left and Right in Sweden and it felt like I’d fallen through the looking glass into an upside-down world. It almost could be the UK, just with a few political factors flipped over.


First, the fact that they are standing apart is a point of pride as much as concern. There is a note of Swedish exceptionalism, particularly when contrasted with longstanding competitors Denmark and Norway (both of whom have opted for a very thorough lockdown). I heard multiple theories as to why their Scandinavian neighbours were different, ranging from Denmark and Norway’s occupation during the Second World War having given them have a residual mistrust of authority, to the Danish government’s political desire to look strong. It couldn’t be further from the UK instinct, which is to take any differences with other countries as proof of our own sluggishness and inadequacy.


Second, the Government is a centre-Left coalition, which changes everything. Alongside a deep-seated Swedish respect for technical experts, this means that support for the more moderate strategy is considered the enlightened left-liberal position; unlike the UK or the US, the knowledge class are fully on-side. Anders Tegnell himself has a left-of-centre feel about him, making regular reference to the importance of equality in the government’s chosen course. This means, although he continues to meet with criticism, there are no online hordes of political activists demanding a lockdown.”


Even with the lockdown, we have to accept that in the next couple of years pretty much everybody in the UK is going to get the virus anyway.

If you want to see the modelling that the current lock down is based on it’s written in simple terms so that politicians and political activists can understand it.


Again, in simple terms, the lockdown is to reduce the strain on our intensive care system. A proportion of those who do get the virus need treatment in intensive care (pretty much like flu really). If the intensive care system isn’t overloaded, then the recovery rate is pretty good. If the intensive care system is overloaded and a lot of people cannot get the treatment, then a lot more people die.

So the plan put forward for getting out of this situation is to lift restrictions when the number of people in icu with the virus drops to 50 a week and clamp down again when the number of people in icu with it rises to 100 a week. We seesaw into the next year as more and more people get the virus and become immune. Also at that point there might even be a vaccine.


But there’s another reason for not shutting the footpaths (other than it’s not necessary.)
At the moment I’m locked down. I’m self-isolating on a hundred acres and anyway I’m busy. Can you imagine the poor sod who’s stuck in a small three bedroom terraced house with spouse and two children! Or somebody in a flat? Even if you’ve got a semi, it’s hardly spacious.

And a lot of people are being tightly banged up. I know one chap who does have an autoimmune condition. He’d planned to self-isolate at home, then drive down here with his air rifle and self-isolate miles from anybody just shooting rats for us. His employer sent him home and he was informed that if he was even seen outside the house that would be reason for immediate dismissal.

But on the positive side, where are all those vegan activists? When the supermarket shelves emptied, about the only thing left was the vegan options. At the moment we’re the ‘good guys.’ Indeed it may well be that the major chemical companies are going to have better things to do, what with branching into medicines and vaccine manufacture, than trying to make ‘vegan meat substitutes.’
So when normality resumes and the assorted single issue pressure groups raise their head again (They will, they’ve got to justify their salaries and pay their mortgages like everybody else) they’ll be all over the media.
Do you what our customers to listen to the various fringe groups and mutter, “Yeah, the farmers, they’re the bastards that shut down the countryside.”


There again what do I know? Wisdom available from the expert in paperback and ebook format

As a reviewer commented, “Another excellent compendium of observations from the back of Mr. Webster’s quad bike in which we learn a lot more about sheep, border collies and people. On the whole, I think the collies come out of it best. If you fancy being educated on the ways of the world, with a gentle humour and a nice line in well observed philosophy, you could do a lot worse than this.”

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30 thoughts on “Should we close footpaths because of Coronavirus?

  1. Stevie Turner April 1, 2020 at 9:52 am Reply

    All our footpaths are in use by dog walkers with dogs off leads, and so I tend to stick to the roads which seem devoid of people and traffic quite a lot of the time at the moment. A police car passed me yesterday. I thought they’d stop and ask me why I was out, but thankfully they carried on. I hope this lockdown doesn’t last much longer, but am thankful I have such lovely country roads to walk along and no small children to occupy all day!

    • jwebster2 April 1, 2020 at 10:24 am Reply

      I confess that I think it will go on for quite a while in one way or another. But hopefully people will be allowed out more with ‘social distancing’

  2. xantilor April 1, 2020 at 11:28 am Reply

    Agree with what you say, Jim. Decisions are being made under media pressure which may well be counterproductive in the long run. I’m a good deal more afraid of living through a severe depression in the UK than of contracting Covid-19.

    In terms of life years lost (rather than number of deaths) this disease is not a major problem.

    • jwebster2 April 1, 2020 at 11:43 am Reply

      Yes, I saw somebody medical saying that we have to think in terms of ‘extra deaths’ because a lot of people are effectively dying with the virus not from the virus.

  3. M T McGuire April 1, 2020 at 1:16 pm Reply

    Right with you. I think there’s a lot of pressure and I think our left wing is getting rather American and beginning to just doubt everything the Govermnent does because it’s the Government (that goes both ways but I am noticing it left to right more at the moment). Case in point the furore about medics posting on social media. NHS workers have been told they can’t post about supplies of protective clothing and the like being low on pain of disciplinary action.

    Before Facebook, if you were in a war, you’d write a letter home and they’d blue pencil out the bits they didn’t want you to know. But these days, there isn’t a post office department full of people with blue pencils between your correspondents and you. It goes straight out there. So if the ridiculous behaviour of the lemmings panic buying is anything to go by the Government is clearly worried that this will spread fear among an already jittery population. Possibly with good reason.

    Putting aside the fact that the equipment in question is, doubtless, hampered with the same supply chain issues as ventilators, what interests me is whether my fellow socialists would think that a soldier revealing the classified details of his mission beforehand in a war would be considered a worry. Because it’s clear that the Government has a kind of war cabinet mentality, which lies behind its thinking in telling NHS workers to be discreet. So to me, rather than government bullying, that looks like a request for discretion and shit people management from the NHS itself.

    I think there’s an ability to think around things in Sweden, to ask questions and try to examine the actions of others dispassionately rather than to just knee jerk that X or Y politician said this so it must be wrong. A lot of emotional reaction seems to be going on right now, when what we need is to be a bit more dispassionate and look at the facts.

    And the economy is grim, but I think it may simply change rather than cave. We shall see.



    • jwebster2 April 1, 2020 at 2:12 pm Reply

      Governments have always done this, telling their employees not to speak to the public. Back when the Blair government was in power I knew that they weren’t going to cull badgers because they sent a memo round telling those vets employed by the state veterinary service that they were not allowed to comment on the topic, effectively on pain of dismissal without pension. A week later government came out with a statement saying there would be no culling, and they knew that without gagging, the vets would have kicked off because it was epidemiologically necessary

      But my big worry is that we are seeing the left circle the wagons, but in doing so, excluding the electorate. It may well be that we’re seeing a major realignment in the left and the reasonable people will quit labour and join the libdems. Or perhaps the left will turn its back on democracy because it has lost faith in the working class. Certainly the contempt you read in the social media posts doesn’t sit well with an aim to win people over so they vote for you at the next election

      • M T McGuire April 1, 2020 at 2:48 pm

        So true. Because I’m an old fashioned socialist I feel it most keenly when it comes from the right but there is certainly a tendency to discuss people as stupid. Not helpful.

      • jwebster2 April 1, 2020 at 3:01 pm

        It isn’t when you still live in a democracy and need to convince the electorate to vote for you so you can get into office.
        We now have a labour party with the smallest number of MPs since 1935 and people are still telling the electorate that the electorate is stupid.
        I can see them losing even more northern seats next time if this continues

  4. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt April 1, 2020 at 3:10 pm Reply

    I’d just like to stay alive, thank you very much.

    The problem is the lag between infections and people getting very ill and intensive care beds not being given to those someone out there decides ahead of time aren’t worth saving. Who would have lived another 20 or 30 years happily enjoying their families and vice versa, at a slower rate every year, but fine – and who won’t be given the chance at all because there are too many younger people, ‘worthier’, who got the virus on spring break by dancing at beach parties.

    Under the present conditions, I can’t afford to get the virus.

    Makes it very difficult to have a lot of sympathy.

    • jwebster2 April 1, 2020 at 4:25 pm Reply

      It has to be judged depending on where you live. In the UK as far as I know only one London hospital has turned somebody away and that was to another icu unit in another London hospital

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt April 2, 2020 at 6:03 am

        Yet. Tell me when this is over. ALL unprepared health systems (ours is probably worst) will end up having to make these ‘ethical and moral’ decisions because our leaders have been underfunding research and health as long as they’ve been able to.

      • jwebster2 April 2, 2020 at 6:34 am

        All health systems are unprepared for this sort of thing. No country in the world has had enough icu beds. If you read the modelling, to cope with this without the sort of shutdown we’re experiencing we’d need to run with about 275 critical care beds per 100,000 population. Europe averages about 11. The US has 34. Apparently Turkey has the highest in the world with 47
        I suspect there may be an issue about how they define an ICU bed.
        And remember that you are advised to have 7 critical care nurses per ICU bed. So the Europe (in it’s geographical not political sense,) has about 600,000 appropriately trained nurses.
        To match the number of critical care beds we’d need to go through this illness without lockdown, we’d need something over 14 million intensive care nurses, properly trained.
        As for triage, it’s always been with us. At a major incident somebody is always there doing triage, deciding who gets taken away in the first ambulance or helicopter, and who the padre sits with as they die because there is nothing else that can be done.

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt April 3, 2020 at 5:48 am

        I mourn the lack of preparation that happened when they ignored the warning of SARS, MERS, and Ebola – possibly things could have been less drastic.

        People who have no clue how things work still think Y2K was a big fuss for nothing. They ignore the fact that the big fuss made software engineers examine many programs and fix them – so there WAS no disaster.

        That’s what is supposed to happen.

        Ah, well. Philadelphia had parades that spread the 1918 flu wide and deep.

      • jwebster2 April 3, 2020 at 6:31 am

        I remember seeing a comment made about ydk (funny but that came to my mind as well) that the poor countries that made no provision also didn’t suffer.
        Certainly you can see the benefit of SARS experience in South Korea, but it didn’t help China in that they just tried an initial cover-up
        There are people in the UK in areas where we have a lot of foreign tourists who probably had the illness before Christmas
        When they start doing the blood test to see who has had it, that is going to be fascinating

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt April 3, 2020 at 7:33 am

        Most people will survive the virus. Many will have a hard time of the illness itself, and may be left with post-viral illnesses and limited lung capacity. More than necessary will die because of limited availability of care.

        Those with the mild cases always ask what the big deal is. Human empathy is not a reliable thing. Those who pass it on to someone who dies won’t necessarily realize that.

        I’d just like to know how long the immunity conferred by illness or vaccine will last. When they know. Because I will probably be in lockdown in this facility until then, and I expect it might even be longer than a year – for those who don’t dare get the disease.

      • jwebster2 April 3, 2020 at 8:33 am

        If it’s anything like flu people will be immune but less immune to the next manifestation. I suspect that every year people who are vulnerable will be offered a vaccine. As with flu, there will be an element of guesswork in the vaccine because when they’re making it, they’re trying to make it for a flu strain that hasn’t appeared yet.

        But I saw this comment on

        There were an estimated 23,200 excess winter deaths which occurred in England and Wales in the 2018 to 2019 winter, the lowest since the winter of 2013 to 2014.

        The excess winter mortality index in England in 2018 to 2019 was statistically significantly lower than the 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018 winters.

        The excess winter mortality index in Wales in 2018 to 2019 was statistically significantly lower than all years since the 2013 to 2014 winter.

        Excess winter mortality continued to be higher in females compared with males and highest in females aged 90 years and over compared with females at younger ages.

        Respiratory diseases continued to be the leading cause of excess winter deaths which occurred in 2018 to 2019.
        My guess is that this virus will ‘just be fitted into the system’

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt April 3, 2020 at 7:37 pm

        If it had already been fitted into the system, we wouldn’t be in the middle of a pandemic.

        The lack of preparation, the lack of power in public health authorities, the lack of belief in scientists who actually know what they’re doing and have degrees and papers to prove it – the corrupt system rolls on, making the rich richer.

        And hurting the working poor and those who can’t actually work.

        Ordinary people may improve by surviving this virus; the systems will be just as subject as usual to greed, corruption, and nepotism.

      • jwebster2 April 3, 2020 at 7:47 pm

        What you have to remember is that there doesn’t seem to be any real difference in what is happening on either side of the Atlantic

  5. Mary Smith April 2, 2020 at 1:24 pm Reply

    An excellent post. I’d hate to see footpaths closed. If people are cooped up for weeks on end it will result on all kinds of issues increasing from domestic violence to mental health issues. I’m lucky I live in a small town and there are lots of walks, which I do regularly. Unfortunately, now, so do dozens of others and the paths are busy and narrow so social distancing becomes impossible. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to drive five or six miles to the woods where I also walked before the lock down and which I know will be quieter with less chance of coming into close contact with other walkers.

    • jwebster2 April 2, 2020 at 1:41 pm Reply

      I suspect it’s one of those situations where we run into trouble with one rule for everybody.
      So, for example, if the people in our village all went out at the same time, with beaches and footpaths they could all walk and not have problems with getting too close to each other.
      When you get the small towns then it’s also not too bad. But if everybody is allowed to drive to somewhere nice for a walk, there’ll be traffic jams in the major cities and we’ll see the sort of thing we saw in the Lake District and Snowdonia where they were full of people standing shoulder to shoulder queuing for icecreams.
      It’s not a good place to be 😦

  6. Eddy Winko April 3, 2020 at 6:55 am Reply

    I wonder what this weekend will bring with the promise of good weather, the skies will be full of drones, but will they be the police or those of virtual tourists 🙂

    • jwebster2 April 3, 2020 at 7:01 am Reply

      Does weekend actually mean anything any more, the number of people trapped at home throughout the week?
      Certainly we’ve had reasonable weather this week and I’ve had days when I’ve not seen anybody walking through. Indeed from memory the only people I’ve seen walking in the lanes are people who live in the lanes.
      It’ll be interesting to see if a fine Sunday (as promised by the weather forecasters) does bring people out

  7. Cathy Cade April 5, 2020 at 8:46 am Reply

    I recall when I was small (practically prehistory) Mum’s friends had ‘measles parties’ to make sure all the kids had it while they were kids. My son did something similar when his boy had chicken pox.
    Of course, if we’d done that now Boris and co would have been castigated for neglecting the vulnerable – not without cause.
    thanks for the links – interesting.

    • jwebster2 April 5, 2020 at 8:52 am Reply

      And a young mum of my acquaintance help a measles party only last year 🙂

      I think the problem is that there are too many vulnerable people. A lot of them will get it before the vaccines come out, but if only a few of them get it at a time, our intensive care service can cope and we’ll fetch them through it.

  8. patriciaruthsusan April 6, 2020 at 7:38 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    Jim’s ideas about shutting down the footpaths. Also, another book with wisdom about living on a farm. Plus a comment from a pleased reader.

    • jwebster2 April 6, 2020 at 8:54 am Reply

      I think we’ve got to keep things in proportion

  9. patriciaruthsusan April 6, 2020 at 7:40 am Reply

    I’m sorry to hear you and your wife have been ill. All the best for your thorough recovery. —- Suzanne

  10. patriciaruthsusan April 6, 2020 at 10:54 am Reply


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