We’ll meet again

Just a few short months ago the thought that nearly all of our daily activities would be subject to government control was unimaginable.

The new reality is that the world is facing its biggest health crisis for generations. A virus from the Corona family became able to be transferred from animals to humans.

By this jump across species it started infecting huge numbers of people. The human body had not seen this virus before and had no defence to it. All that can be done to slow down its march across the globe is to limit our exposure to it.

It is these measures that has led to the postponement or cancellation of bowls or just about any other sport you can think of. It has also thrown into confusion the very future of clubs and associations.

It is estimated that over 60% of players fall into at risk categories and have been told to self-isolate. With so many players not available it is simply viable to run any league and that is without taking into account the over-riding fact that we must slow down the spread of this virus.

A previous epidemic in 2002, the SARS epidemic, was first reported in November, again in China, and it wasn’t declared contained until July the following year but a small number of cases still occurred for another year.

This time of the season has already seen the start of the qualifiers for Champion of Champions events. Many competitions due to start have been cancelled and the BCGBA came to simple decision to suspend all bowls related activity whilst the threat continues.

This was before the UK Government banned any gatherings or any sporting venues to open. A number of clubs had opened their greens so social bowling could take place but this is now also not allowed. It was a week later that the use of sport pitches were closed in updated guidance to further promote social distancing and any gathering of more than two people was not allowed.

With no bowls, or indeed any sport, taking place clubs are faced with the reality of no income but will still have bills and wages to pay. This is pertinent from the BCGBA down to any club or association.

Whether it be the BCGBA or Clubs, they all have outgoings and their income stream is at risk. Should the BCGBA receive payment off clubs to pay for the salaries of their officers? What will happen to the projects designed to attract new players to the sport?

This year Bradley Bowling Club is Wrexham were increasing their project aimed at bowlers with special needs and disabilities. This has, along with everything else, been postponed.

A Bowls for Health project between Liverpool City Council and the Merseyside County Association has also been postponed.

The introduction of crown green bowls into the school calendar in Bolton. With a school’s league looking at being launched this year, or was.

A community Emergency Fund issued by Sport England has been launched to help clubs, voluntary organisations, charitable trusts and regional and county level organisations or leagues who have already have spending commitments this year, with the funding shortage caused by the closing down of the sport. This is to complement other emergency funding aimed at small businesses.

This fund will cover rent and utility costs, Insurance, facility or equipment hire, Core staffing costs, and any losses going back to the 1st March. Simply, if you have spent anything on the green or to register with a league or association you can apply to get it back. Also what you are planning to spend in maintenance of the green can also be listed.

Sport England recognises that, across all sports, there will be a struggle for all clubs and associations to get through this crisis.

Know thy enemy

A few times each year a virus from the Corona family spread across the globe and produces no more than the common cold for the majority of people. They spread easily by those infected coughing or sneezing and thus making the virus airborne. Occasionally it is more severe and late last year in Eastern China a new strain was identified.

Corona viruses are identified for their distinct shape, crown shaped spikes on their surface, and they attack the respiratory tract. Like so many other viruses and bacteria it will first establish a base in the back of the throat. Then it will move down the respiratory tract to the lungs. Here it will attack some of the cells we require as part of a healthy functioning lung.

Part of the normal respiratory function of everyone’s body is the production of cells that produce mucus, to keep our lungs moist and healthy, and cells that develop to remove particles of dust, pollen or bacteria, we breathe in.

Patients with COVID 19, as the new Corona Virus was named, have these cells infected and killed by the virus. This means the normal process the body uses to keep the lungs clear cannot work so a blockage occurs which can cause inflammation, or as we know it Pneumonia. As the infection becomes more established it can start to affect other organs in the body. 

Although it is very early to establish how this virus effects the population a clinical study of over 700 infected patients in China discovered over 5% also developed renal problems. It is fair to say this virus will studied and analysed for years to come to establish how and why it affected so many.

For people who are over 70 or who live with long-term medical problems such as respiratory conditions, diabetes, heart or kidney problems, neurological conditions or immunosuppressed  they may already have reduced function in their organs so any infection they have can be far more serious.

The immune system can go into overdrive and start to attack healthy cells and as it does they are at risk of developing further infections, this time from a bacterial cause. It is then that anti-biotics will be of use.

The self isolation and social distancing are important so that the infection rate and therefore the rate of admission to hospital is kept to manageable level.

This chain of events is similar to previous Corona Virus infections and was first identified in 1918 in the trenches of the First World War.

It is therefore important to slow the spread of this virus so that the medical services can cope with demand. Stay at home and only leave to go to work, shop for essentials and to get some fresh air as you exercise once a day. Don’t visit anyone else’s house or socialise. If you have to go out then the safest thing to do is to keep at least two metre’s away from anyone else and keep washing your hands.

For those I’ve mentioned earlier, those at risk, they shouldn’t go out at all for three months.

An image of the Corona Virus

COVID 19, like the other Corona viruses, has a weakness that can be used to against it. It has an outside layer made of a lipid, a fatty substance, which keeps it all together. Like all fatty substances it can be destroyed with soap or alcohol. By washing hands, or anything that hands touch, you will destroy the virus.

It doesn’t have to be fancy soap as no matter what other substance is added to make it smell nicer it doesn’t affect its molecular shape. It is this that destroys the lipid casing of the virus. Just get a nice lather, which is easier to get using warm water, make sure you are thorough with the hand washing and cover the palms, back of the hand and all the areas of the fingers and thumbs, including the nail beds.

Alcohol hand sanitisers affect the virus in a similar way, the lipid outside layer is destroyed and so is the virus. Although you will need to use more of Alcohol sanitisers, a nice big dollop to then cover the area you want to clean, than you will of soap.

What separates this virus from previous Pandemics is how easily it can spread amongst the population. This is why it is so important to distance yourself from other people.

We’ll meet again, don’t know where, and don’t know when

If there are any certainties about life at the moment is that we have experienced pandemic infections before and will again.

Black Death swept across the known world in the 14th century, SARS and H1N1 (or Mexican Pig Flu) in this century. We will have more Corona Viruses this year, and every year, for as long as anyone can foresee.

This COVID-19 infection has not been caused by anything other than a virus mutating and therefore it is able to cross between species. It has not been caused by the 5G telecommunications network. Nor was it created in a Laboratory, it cannot be killed by Vodka, or by drinking water every 15 minutes or drinking hot drinks.

Disney+ launched during the isolation period so was it their fault to drive up business…. No it wasn’t and don’t be silly. You can be a disbelieving as you want but the fact is that this virus is natural. As natural as anything else that nature can do.

The use of the community emergency fund can help clubs survive this crisis. An easy to complete form to apply for funding to maintain the green and to cover the lack of income in for your club.

We are not likely to see any bowling before July if at all this season. Greens can be maintained as they are essential to the sport but self distancing and good hygiene must be maintained.

We have survived numerous pandemics, the Black Death (incidentally the last pandemic before it was proved the world wasn’t flat), Spanish Flu when the sport was one of the top paying professional sports in the country. We can do it again…. till we meet again

Steve Davies

Throughout his bowling career Steve has always supported the admin side of the game as well as a keen player of the game. As a club secretary, association secretary, county delegate on the BCGBA (National Governing Body) Management Committee, Media Officer for the BCGBA, Merseyside champion in 2002 and Merseyside County President (2014-15) Steve has always been keen to promote the game especially through the broadcast of the game on TV or Internet. Steve set up the LIVE BOWLS YouTube channel which became the Bowls Observer channel and, through the LDBA, runs national competitions. Seeing an avenue to report on and promote the game Steve set up the Bowls Observer on-line magazine.