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Shut your coronaviral face

Yeah, so apparently there’s this virus going round. You might have heard about it. And it’s having an extraordinary effect, with the siege mentality leaving supermarket shelves empty.

Only this morning I read in The Times that shops have ’run out of staples’. Amazing. What are they being used for? Stapling bits of Kleenex together to make face masks? Stapling down the hatches?

Stapling those in quarantine to the floor? Disappointingly, turning the page, the sentence continued: ‘…like bread or pasta’. But still.

It’s certainly having an impact on Planet Primary Care, despite the public health message of: ‘Keep your sodding viruses to yourself and carry on’. Because the real epidemic we’re seeing is of punters terrified that they might have coronavirus, with their only risk factors being something along the lines of a Chinese takeaway they ordered a couple of months ago.

Patients’ exhalation of relief sends a jet stream of infected droplets my way, which might just be Covid-19

So heightened has this level of anxiety become that, when I say to my patients: ‘You’ve got a virus’, as I do, hundreds of times a day, they visibly tense. Just for sport, I’m making the pause that follows longer and longer. But when I do eventually say: ‘But not that one,’ they exhale with dramatic and audible relief.

And that forcible exhalation is funny, really, because it sends a jet stream of infected droplets my way which might just be, because of current epidemiological uncertainty, the very Covid-19 I’ve just reassured them they don’t have.

Basically, then, to possibly stop us dying of irony, and certainly to reduce our workload, we need to find a way to get patients to shut their mouths. Got any staples?

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at or follow him on Twitter @doccopperfield