Tag Archives: Covid-19

Get masked up – they’re the next big fashion accessory

Will there be any longer-term effects of the sudden vogue for face masks? They seem to be untying their associations with deadly disease and becoming the next big thing, the little black dress of the 2020s – the latest mainstream fashion statement. They’re being seen on catwalks everywhere, like here at the Madrid Fashion Week

… and here in South Korea …

Designer Marine Serre may have started the current craze inadvertently. Her Fall Winter 2019 show included a range of au courant masks, way before the current pandemic overtook us.

And of course these new, colourful, designer face coverings – often sporting messages or logos – are to be seen in every city centre, every suburb and even every rural setting (lockdowns and curfews permitting). It seems to me that a new, and potentially major, sector of the fashion industry may well be in the making. With so many companies having turned over their productive capacity to the making of, first, PPE, and then later the wider consumer market for masks, it’s surely unlikely that the accoutriment will simply vanish. And if it stays, isn’t it likely to lead on to other things?

They become an item of personal branding. Masks have been used throughout history as a means of changing identity, creating mystery and hiding both one’s appearance and one’s true feelings. They’re still used in various festivals and select social events, such as the Venice Carnival.

So where could all this be leading? Might we be about to witness the birth of more modest – and yet more showy – cultural standards, a less in-yer-face – and yet more ostentatious – ethos, a ramping-up of both courtesy … and flamboyance? Will we enter a Post-Pandemic Age in which a fashionable mask becomes as commonplace an accessory as a scarf, a bangle, a hat or a set of false eyelashes?

Would it not be wonderful to see masked balls in discos, clubs and pubs up and down the land, with closing time a signal for the streets to be filled with gallant young men escorting demure, mask-wearing young ladies to their motorised electric carriages, rather than, at throwing-out time, shots-saturated tarts and booze-fuelled yobs throwing punches at each other, throwing insults at the police and throwing-up on the pavement?

Oh I do hope so.

 

 

Image credit: Venice Carnival – Masked Lovers: Frank Kovalchek from Anchorage, Alaska, USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Is over-emphasis on high temperature creating a headache for Covid testing labs?

As we all know, a high temperature is one of the most important indicators that someone is infected with Coronavirus. Except that it isn’t.

We all think it is, because it’s been widely publicised through government press conferences, ministerial interviews and advertising. It’s also the first symptom mentioned on the page of symptoms listed on the NHS website about Covid-19 symptoms.

We often see news reports featuring temperature measuring devices being used at work places, public events, educational establishments and airports. So it’s hardly surprising that many people who develop a high temperature will immediately think “Must get tested”. But, as the NHS also points out on its website, “A fever is your body’s natural response to many common illnesses”. The corollary to this is that it’s unsurprising that the test analysis system has been overwhelmed recently. I suggest that this is caused not by inconsiderate people in a panic but by over-simplistic, ill-targeted messaging …

A massive piece of ongoing research by health science company ZOE, endorsed by the Welsh Government, NHS Wales, the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland, suggests that fever or high temperature – on its own – is actually a quite unreliable early indicator that someone has the virus. Fever is a symptom that can be an important indicator in combination with others; but even then there are other symptom combinations which are much more reliable.

The COVID-19 Symptom Study is an app-based survey which, according to the company, is “the largest public science project of its kind anywhere in the world”. The app has been downloaded by over 4.2 million participants, who use it to report regularly on their health, with data being analysed in collaboration with researchers from King’s College London. The app is available from the App Store and Google Play.

Fever, when it occurs, is certainly one of the more important factors to look out for amongst under 18s and over 65s. But for the huge 18 to 65 year old demographic, representing about 40% of the population, it’s quite a long way down the list of priorities.

As we know, this disease is complex and its victims experience a wide range of effects, from no symptoms at all to death; it can clear up after ten days or leave people with a varied list of long-term after-effects (‘Long Covid’); and now it’s clear that it affects different age groups in different ways. Even then, it’s inconsistent: its effects on individuals may not be typical for their age group.

The simple messages being issued by the government are well-meaning. As someone who planned major advertising campaigns for over forty years until I retired recently, I’m only too aware of the importance of that well-used marketing mnemonic K.I.S.S. – “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. (I worked on a number of sometimes complex and multi-targeted international ad. campaigns aimed at recruiting volunteers for clinical trials – see this article I wrote on LinkedIn about this).

But I do believe that more people should be told about this kind of research. There are many who don’t have the inclination to dig deeper into what we do know about the virus. For them, the simplistic mottoes put out by the government have worked. But it’s essential that these messages are expanded to build more knowledge about the latest findings. It’s true that hospitals have not been overwhelmed – good communications achieved that objective. It’s now time to come to the aid of the testing labs.

People understand the rules of football; they can navigate the web and make online purchases; they can plan holidays abroad. It’s now time for them to learn more about the finer points of Covid-19. A more detailed and carefully thought-through communication programme is urgently required, targeted at the different demographics. Greater awareness and understanding is key to changing attitudes and actions. Generalising and over-simplification can be counter-productive.

So in my view, we should be moving swiftly into a much more targeted Phase II of messaging, in the same way that we are refining our targeting of restrictions in terms of movement, household meetings and lockdown.

 

Notes:

I have cut and pasted unaltered extracts from the COVID-19 Symptom Study to fit into my blog format. The website for the report can be found here, and as mentioned the app can be downloaded from the App Store and Google Play.

Picture credit: BodyPlus Infrarot-Thermometer – TrotecHealthCare / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

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