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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Coughing Banned on the Tube

Coughing Thank goodness for inverted commas

I love the way the London Paper's headline about coughing being "banned" on the Tube is next to the picture of that paragon of health, Fag Ash Lil aka Kate Moss. Much tabloid space given over to her smoking a fag in a bar in Ireland, but she's not been banned from coughing on the Tube.

In fact the judicious use of inverted commas means that no one's acutally been banned from coughing on the Tube. We learn that a Government body want us to see that coughing and sneezing without covering your mouth on the Tube is anti social behaviour, because it could spread a killer "public transport" flu (Yes, I love inverted commas too).

Professor Lindsey Davies, national director of the Government's Pandemic Influenza Preparedness, said: "We will be ­encouraging people not to cough or sneeze without something over their face. If we make it socially unacceptable to cough and sneeze in ways that spread disease, we have a chance of preventing the pandemic."

The Londonpaper say that Government officials "are urging millions of Londoners to arm themselves with a hanky and make it 'socially unacceptable' to cough or sneeze.....Estimates suggest that one in four people in Britain will be affected in a pandemic. The last major one struck in 1918 and claimed more lives than the Great War."

Does this mean that we are going to get a spate of ads on the Tube telling people to not travel without a hanky? What happens if you're about to sneeze but one hand is strap hanging and the other is holding a bag or briefcase - will you be jumped upon by the PIP police? Perhaps things will get so bad that we'll see more people travelling around with those little white cotton masks that commuters wear in Japan.

But before we get into panic mode, I remember blogging about viruses being spread on the Tube quite some time ago now and there was a suggestion that the risks were over-hyped. "The Health Protection Agency says there is no indication that passengers in London and the South East - where public transport is more crowded - suffer more respiratory illnesses than other parts of the UK." said the BBC

Even so it doesn't feel great to be in a crowded Tube with people coughing and spluttering around you, specially when you learn that sneezes travel from speeds ranging from 100mph - 200mph depending on which fascinating fact table you are looking at. In The Guardian, which also covered the story, Professor Davies said "When a person with the flu sneezes, large droplets containing the virus can travel up to a metre through the air".

Just let me know when we hear the first announcements from Tube drivers reminding us not only to "Mind the Gap", but warning us that "Coughs & sneezes spread diseases". Maybe Sheriff Ken will cough up some funds so we see some TV adverts with a range of Londoners extolling the virtues of wet wipes and Handy Andies along with their Oystercards.


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