Editor’s Note: as well as being a former fighter and qualified osteopath, Rosi is also an elected local councillor in Solihull, UK. Part of her role is acting as the local Green Group spokesperson on Health and Adult Social Care, which involves liaison with several healthcare organisations such as the Birmingham and Solihull Care Commissioning Group, and Public Health England through Solihull Council’s Public Health department.

COVID-19 (or to give it its full name, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 aka SARS-CoV-2) was first identified in Wuhan in China, in December 2019. “Coronavirus” was just a word used by scientists to refer to a group of viruses, including the virus that causes the common cold. Why has this new variant caused such alarm and resulted in travel bans and lockdowns in countries around the world?

Although many people who get COVID-19 have a relatively mild flu-like illness with cough, fever and sometimes shortness of breath, some get a much more severe illness that requires hospitalisation. It’s hard to know exactly how many people will experience severe symptoms, because the numbers we have are based only on the number of confirmed cases. It’s estimated that in China, 80% of cases were relatively mild, while 15% required hospitalisation and around 5% were critical. Estimates of the fatality rate range from 1% to over 5%, or even higher depending on where and how it’s measured. Partly the differences depend on what kind of medical care is available – once hospitals and medical systems become overloaded, the number of deaths can increase dramatically. Most of the people who have more serious symptoms tend to be older or have other health conditions that put them more at risk, but this isn’t always the case. Young healthy people have also died from this disease.

You should also consider that even if you have mild symptoms yourself, there’s the danger that you could spread the virus to more vulnerable friends and family. Most people develop symptoms around 5 days after being exposed to the virus, but it’s likely that you can pass it on to other people for several days before you notice you’ve got it. So, what can combat sports participants do to help?

Firstly, make sure that you’re aware of the local guidance in your area. If you’re in the UK, you can find Government guidance here. To reduce the number of people dying from COVID-19, it’s essential for governments to slow down the spread of the virus so that hospitals are better able to cope. This means that we all need to reduce the number of people we encounter – especially if we have any symptoms, but even if we don’t. This is what people mean when they talk about “flattening the curve”; it’s all about reducing the rate of infections to make sure essential health care services don’t become overwhelmed. Even if we can’t reduce our exposure to zero, reducing it by 50%, or even 75% by cutting out non-essential contacts will greatly reduce the spread of infection.

This is why many boxing, MMA and BJJ gyms have now taken the decision to close down for a period – our friends over at Solihull BJJ are in the middle of a two-week shutdown right now. In some places, this decision will have been taken by governments, in others it’s been a voluntary decision to protect their members, their families and wider society at this difficult time. It’s not clear how long these restrictions will need to stay in place for, but it’s likely to be a period of several months at least.

This is obviously very difficult for many for whom combat sports and martial arts training is a way of life. Making sure that we find ways of staying in shape and getting regular exercise even when the gyms are closed is going to be really important for our mental and physical health. Personally, I’ve been rediscovering some kettlebell workouts that I can do in my living room; others have been doing some extra roadwork or cycling, or bodyweight circuits. Doing individual 1-1 training with a single trusted training partner (providing none of you have contact with anyone who has symptoms) carries a higher risk than solo work but is much safer than group classes; or perhaps, now might be the time to really get on top of some old injuries or niggles by having a go at one of our rehab programmes, or the Neck Strength Masterclass…?

However you do decide to keep your training up as and when it’s time for you to go into “lockdown” (as it’s so dramatically called) please remember that whilst it’s no doubt frustrating to be messing up your schedule, COVID-19 has the real potential to cause tens of thousands of deaths in the UK alone. Respect the guidance that’s been issued, and don’t hesitate to self-isolate if you or your fellow householders develop the key symptoms.

Keep safe,