June 2020 – Britain still with covid-19 – and Cummins

Make the rich pay for covid-19

Make the rich pay for covid-19

More on covid pandemic 2020

June 2020 – Britain still with covid-19 – and Cummins

Britain stuck with the pandemic – the Buffoon and Cummins – and still with covid-19. But at least the sun’s shining.

The Dominic Cummins affair

The most important lesson learnt from the ‘Dominic Cummins affair’ is not the fact that he broke the rules that the rest of us were expected to follow (he might not have done so if there’s an interpretation of the letter of the law but it certainly was against its spirit) it’s the contempt that the Tories have for the people of Britain.

When the Buffoon came out of hospital in the middle of April I said then that his ‘humbleness’, if it actually was heartfelt and not just an example of his hypocrisy, wouldn’t last for long. We now know that it’s sell by date was definitely no more than six weeks.

The Buffoon’s defence of Cummins in the last week was not based on any sense of friendship or loyalty to someone who might have been accused falsely. No, it was based upon self-interest, slavish support of someone who he needs due to his own weakness or, perhaps just fear that whatever Cummins has on him can’t be allowed to come out.

In the process he, and all the other Buffoon clones in government, demonstrated exactly what they think of the people of Britain – even those within his own party (both in and out of Parliament) who thought that Cummins had crossed a line which was not acceptable.

In the last week the Buffoon has clutched at any straw in an attempt to ‘draw a line under the matter’. Matters about how to go on from the lock down are (and had to sooner or later) changing and the argument given that we should leave this affair behind us to deal with the uncertainties of the future is what he is hoping (and it might even work out in his favour) will lead to people forgetting that even when we are all supposed to be in this together, there’s always a rule for the rich, powerful and privileged and a rule for the rest of us.

Since the pandemic hit Britain the Government of this country has shown that it is at best incompetent at worse criminal in its handling of the ‘unprecedented’ event. Their lies and interpretation of events and numbers were added to their hypocrisy over the defence of the the NHS.

Last week a number of commentators wondered why the Buffoon was putting his reputation and ‘popularity’ on the line when so many were incensed at the sheer brazenness of Cummins at his press conference (arriving late, treating it all as a game, lack of apology that he might have done anything at all untoward, etc.). Perhaps the answer to that was given by the look on the face of the Buffoon at the daily briefing where he refused to allow the ‘independent’ scientists to make any comment on the affair.

The Buffoon knew the questions he would have to face and knew his reply – long before he stood in front of Britain’s ‘free press’. But is was his smirk that said it all – not his words. The idiots of this country put his Government in power at the end of 2019, he has a huge majority, no Tory MP – however ‘incensed’ and/or deluged with complaints from constituents – is going to risk not being on the gravy train for the best part of five years over a ‘principle’.

So far anger from the populace has been limited to a few stunts. Will it have a shelf life after the virus is under control (if it ever is – the State would love to maintain this control of the population for ever, even if a vaccine were to be developed).

‘I am Dominic Cummings!’

Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on Radio 4, Today programme, 27th May, on the ‘Cummings affair’;

‘If there are no other options, if you don’t have ready access to child care then you can do as Dominic Cummings chose to do. The guidelines say that you must do your best, but they appreciate that family life poses particular challenges and in order to protect children you are able to exercise a degree of personal judgement.

‘I think that’s a reasonable way forward because everyone’s slightly different and it’s not for me to judge individual circumstances and decisions that they take’

The problem is that is what the Government has ben doing in the last ten weeks (although with an incredible level of incompetence) and that is tell people what they should do, and made laws to enforce the rules they laid out in the Coronavirus Act. People have been fined for doing exactly what Cummins is being excused for doing – exercising ‘a degree of personal judgement’.

As to Cummins’s ‘excuse’ for driving sixty miles ‘to test his eyesight’ – long term detriment to eyesight has never been suggested as a consequence of being infected with covid-19. Perhaps he was just suffering from over indulgence from the night before.

David Jamieson, Police and Crime Commissioner, West Midlands, Radio 4, World at One, 27th May;

Q. Is the row about Dominic Cummins making things difficult for police on the ground?

‘I’ve received intelligence reports from senior officers who are now saying that officers on the ground are reporting things like ‘If it’s all right for Cummins, it’s OK for us,’ and ‘It looks like there’s a rule for us and another rule for the people in No 10 Downing Street [The Prime Minister’s office].

If the rules are flexible and the people who who seem to have been interpreting them, whio are at the heart of Government, then it’s almost impossible for police officers to be able to carry out their job effectively. …

What he [Cummins] has done is squander the trust of Government and the Prime Minister, we’re squandering the trust in the police services and all the people in this country who have made sacrifices … are now being told that somebody in government can make the rules up for themselves.’

Q. How do you police the lifting of the lock down?

‘This is difficult. When you get Matt Hancock saying they may reviews the fines, that’s difficult. What we are doing is being sensible and proportionate. I’m concerned that unless the rules are really clear and everybody, everybody, is seen to be sticking by those rules – and that includes people in No 10 – then we won’t be able to police them. …

Policing in this country is largely by consent, if people feel the rules and laws apply to everybody – and everybody is being treated equally – then people will comply. But if certain people are seen to be able to wheedle their way out of the rules and the laws then that undermines the whole of the people’s confidence in those laws.’

When people are questioned by the police for their actions and asked for their details they should give the name ‘Dominic Cummins’ and get a free pass. Although it didn’t work for the slaves in rebellion against the Romans.

Testing capacity

It will come as no surprise that on 31st May testing capacity exceeded the 200,000 promised by the Buffoon at the beginning of the month – in exactly the same way they reached 100,00 by the end of April, that is, by the skin of their teeth. But then it took days (if not weeks) to reach the magic number again – and to be consistent.

However it wasn’t long before questions were raised about the veracity of the numbers. Just as reaching the goal at the end of April was achieved by introducing tests that weren’t part of the general understanding of the target, so antigen tests were used to boost the latest figure.

Earlier there was a report that the Government (because ultimately ‘the buck stops there’) can’t even get the equipment right. The swabs were too long for the containers.

Yet again the Government is just playing with numbers – and the public. The Cummins affair has shown they can spout any rubbish and get away with it. And they will continue to do so until they are held to account.

Nationalists

You say six (England), we raise you eight (Scotland). But in Wales – ‘there will be no limit on numbers’.

Test, track and trace

In England this was set to start on 30th May.

Devi Sridhar, Director of Public Health, Edinburgh University, Radio 4, World at One, 27th May;

‘We don’t need a ‘world beating system’ [as boasted about by the Buffoon earlier in the week]. We need a system that works and many countries have proven that you can do it. Is it possible in the time frame of June 1st? It’s a gamble – there’s a lot to happen in that time. You don’t want to have it coming on, tracers needing training, getting it up to speed, the testing happening and then all of a sudden a whole new set of cases occur because schools are opening. So it will be a challenge. …

It’s traditional epidemiology that you do this, to test at the start, track and trace clusters. Other countries trace right through their outbreaks; South Korea, Hong Kong, Denmark, Norway, Germany. Here we’re a little bit alone in trying to resume contact tracing and testing at a different part of out outbreak as the numbers are falling down. …. You can’t do contact tracing when you have hundreds of thousands of cases. …

Time is a currency and urgency is needed because this is a virus where you can have an exponential growth if you are not doing anything. I do think the countries that acted very quickly; Vietnam, Thailand, Senegal, Rwanda are in a better position that the UK.’

Professor Tobias Welte, Head of Medicine, Hanover University. Member of Germany’s Covid taskforce, Radio 4, World at One, 27th May;

‘Germany has a different system compared to the UK. Cases are reported to the local health care authorities and the local administration is responsible for the tracking. This bottom up approach works much better. The German Government promised to have an app in place in May but it did not happen. There’s a lot of controversial debate about data safety rules so we do it on a personal basis. Contact apps are the future and will be in place in the next month but nothing is available at the moment.’

Bing Jones, retired doctor in Sheffield, part of a team that set up contact tracing in April, Radio 4, World at One, 27th May;

‘We were dumbfounded that no one was doing contact tracing which is an essential part of public health medicine. There seemed to be an intellectual paralysis. Nobody was standing up and saying anything about it. …

The Government shouldn’t have much difficulty [in getting the process up and running] but they are proposing a very centralised system with people working in call centres. Unless we can be local and nimble and jump on every new cluster of infection then we are not going to get out of the unique and excruciating situation we are in. ….

The fact is health and social care staff are unwitting vectors of the disease. There’s just no system for contact tracing within the NHS or social care and there’s no consistent culture either of social isolation at work. They don’t have the money and they don’t have enough staff. This is a major challenge for the Government.’

Greg Fell, Director of Public Health Sheffield, Radio 4, World at One, 27th May;

‘My sense is that not all the elements will be 100% in place by 1st June. The Government is going to have to consider a go, no go, scenario because what we are doing in Sheffield has to fit into the bigger picture. What we can’t do is do this alone. It’s too big and too complex and actually too high a risk.

We will have our bit of the system ready to go by the end of the month [May] but that will have to fit into the national system as well. …

The implementation of track and trace is fundamental to keeping transmission low and particualrly in closed settings, as and when they occur. Far less of us have been infected than was initially feared – which is obviously a good thing – but that means there is a potential for a second and/or subsequent waves. So we do need to have contact tracing working really well before we start getting into re-opening society in a big way. …

We hope the app will be ready soon and hope it does what it was built to do. I’m not building my hopes and aspirations about this app being there to save us, I’m building my hopes and aspirations by having skilled humans. The local staff is about enhancing the heavy lifting work of contact tracing which will be done by Public Health England (PHE). …

What PHE won’t know is how to make some of the action stick if the scansion at hand is an outbreak in a care home locally. We will go and visit that care home and actually help them, to manage that outbreak which the PHE [call] centre just won’t be able to do, they won’t have the capacity to do it.’

Cliff Neal, Clinical Director Public Health England, Radio 4, World at One, 27th May;

‘People are being very critical of it [Test, track and trace] before it’s even started. I don’t think it matters how much is done but how much is actually achieved because the more cases we contact and trace the better. We’re never going to actually get to all the cases because some people are asymptomatic, some won’t be contactable but the more chains of transmission we can intercept and interrupt the better.’

Chris Hopson, Chief Executive NHS Providers, Radio 4, World at One, 27th May;

Q. What would you like to hear from the Buffoon this afternoon?

‘We’d like four dots to be joined up.

The first is that we are about to enter a dangerous phase as we come out of lock down and we’ll potentially need to go through easing and tightening in local areas and it’s vital that that process works effectively.

The second is that we are not going to have comprehensive test, track, trace and isolate facilities available from 1st June.

The third dot is effectively what has happened ove the last four days [the Cummins affair] when we now have opinion polls saying that 65% of people believe that what’s happened will make it less likely for people to follow lock down rules and 25% of people saying they would be less likely to self isolate.

The fourth dot is that we are probably going to see many spikes of coronavirus breaking out. …

We are about to enter a dangerous phase but if we haven’t got the test, track and isolate infrastructure in place and if we’re got confidence and trust in the guidelines starting to reduce that’s quite a dangerous position. ….

We need to build local track and trace capacity and that’s not going to be in place. If you go back to a Government press release of 22nd May it says that £300 million will be provided to local authorities to develop their own tailored outbreak control plans and work on those plans will start immediately. That was five days ago. People are working very, very fast on this because we think this is absolutely the right thing to do but the reality is these plans aren’t going to be in place by 1st June.

It’s really, really important that the Government should be very clear about what will be in place from 1st June and therefore how they are going to ease the lock down rules to effectively match the capacity that being built in.

It’s really not helpful to argue that there will be ‘world class’ test, track and trace facilities by 1st June when local authorities only got started working on their plans five days ago. ….

It would be really helpful if the Prime Minister was to acknowledge the fact that there is a risk that public trust and confidence has been dented and if he was to set out really clearly what the Government is going to do to restore that lost trust and confidence. …

What [NHS] trusts are really nervous about is that over the last four days those guidelines, the credibility of those guidelines, the trust and the confidence in them seems to have been significantly dented which is now confirmed by this opinion poll today.’

Jeremy Hunt, Chair Parliamentary Health and Social Care Committee, Radio 4, World at One, 28th May;

Q. Why is the getting of results from tests quickly so important to tracing?

‘It is taking too long, too often. In this system it’s particularly important because you are going to be asking anyone who has been close to someone who has tested positive to covid to self isolate. If you get that test result back in 48 hours, or longer, then those people will have longer to infect other people before they are traced and asked to self-isolate.

So squeezing the testing turn around to 24 hours is really, really important. The big picture is that we are now implementing the system that is the best in the world – it’s been proven to be not just to reduce death rates but also help economies to function more normally. Within that the tightening of these tests is actually critical. ….

The ‘system’ [a system that has a mind of its own and independent of those who programme the computer, it appears] thinks the goal is 48 hours – most of the time that is happening – but too often even that doesn’t happen. …

What the Buffoon said yesterday is that he’s asked them [or the ‘system’] to do it in 24 hours. Which is excellent news but we’ve got to make it happen.’

Q. This whole structure relies on voluntary compliance. Has this been undermined by the Cummins Affair?

‘Well, of course, it’s not going to help. But we’ve got to see the big picture [seems the present buzz phrase] here. The big picture is that today [28th May] the Government has launched a ‘system’ which is international best practice. This is what has been proven to work all over the world.

So however angry people might feel about the Dominic Cummins issue we do now have to move on, we have to make this system work, we have to comply with the advice we are given.’

Security of information from test, track and trace

The debate about what happens to the information collected during the tracing of new ly infected people continues.

In living there’s a risk of dying

Yes, there’s a pandemic and the covid-19 is a nasty one as no one knows how exactly to deal with it and it is particularly virulent – especially for certain sections of the population. However, life was, is and (even after covid-19 is a bad memory) will be risky.

It’s worthwhile reminding people of that. If you concentrate all your fear on covid-19 you risk ignoring all the other aspects of life which can bring it to an abrupt end.

And this becomes important as society attempts to get back to a situation that is similar to what we had before the lock down was declared in Britain towards the end of March. As capitalist governments can’t rely on argument in such circumstances they resorted to fear. Even to the extent that those less likely to be either serious effected or die of the disease (that is, young children under the age of 15) have become the subject of the long drawn out and ludicrous debate about the reopening of schools.

But various articles and discussions have started to lessen these fears. Because of the virus some people seem to think they can live in a society that is totally risk free – not realising that, certainly when it comes to accidents, peoples’ homes are the most dangerous and they will have been a huge ‘spike’ in the number of such accidents in the last 10 weeks or so.

As we return to ‘everyday life’ people will have to re-adapt to the risks they were used to encountering – without fear – long before covid-19 was the one on everyone’s lips.

There’s also issues about how frightened people should be of the actual virus itself. As time has gone on (we must remember that covid-19 has been known about for almost six months now) the numbers have started to reveal how dangerous it is and to whom. The more susceptible groups are becoming more clearly defined – as are the less (who tend to be in the majority). If governments had an ounze of sense they would be adapting their strategies to protect those most at risk whilst allowing the rest of society to carry on in the (an adapted) old way. But that would need thought and planning – both of which have been singularly lacking in most countries since December 2019.

Migrant labour and agricultural work

Agriculture in Britain, especially at harvest time when it comes to fruit and vegetables, has become dependent upon low paid labour for a couple of decades now. This really took off when the European Union (EU) expanded to the east and included those erstwhile socialist countries whose economies had collapsed in the 1990s.

This provided a vast and potentially cheap labour force and capitalism, especially in the more wealthy countries of the EU, jumped at the chance to lower wages in general and, in the process, increase their profits.

The growing ‘labour market’ brought with it many issues – most of which are not really being dealt with in the way they should. Some of those who came to do these jobs were ‘legal’ (being citizens of EU countries which allows for the ‘free movement of labour’) but many weren’t. The chaos that imperialism has caused through its wars of aggression in the 21st century has created a huge refugee problem and many (conned by the propaganda that Britain has been spewing out for centuries) have attempted – and still do – to get to Britain as they see the country as some sort of paradise on earth (the reality, if they get here, is often very different).

This situation has led to the growth of ‘gang masters’ and the general idea of ‘modern day slavery’. Those lefty-ish liberals who laud the EU and look down on those of us who have always opposed the UK’s membership of the capitalist cartel seem to forget some of the changes to working practices that membership of the organisation brought with it. And this had the effect of generally driving down wages even further in a sector that was already notorious for low pay.

The issue of ‘modern day slavery’ and ‘people traffickers is to big to be discussed here so all I’ll do is look at the ‘legal’ workers’ and the reasons they are prepared to work long hours, in fairly miserable conditions and for not particularly high wages.

The cost of living in eastern Europe is much lower than that in the west – and certainly much less than it is in Britain. For a relatively young person from eastern Europe to come to Britain and work in the fields for the 6 months of so (from April/May to September/October) makes sense when they can earn in those months enough to survive on not working – or at least not needing to work – in their home countries for the rest of the year.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused problems but these problems had been developing for a couple of years. A couple of months after the 2016 EU Referendum in Britain the value of the pound sterling fell in value (by about 20%) in relation to the Euro. This wasn’t because of the result of the referendum, it was as a consequence of the over valuing of the pound in relation to the Euro for years. (During the so-called ‘Euro crisis’ which followed the financial crash of 2008, in theory, the pound sterling should have risen in value vis a vis the Euro but this didn’t happen as it was already over-valued and any readjustment at that time would have only compounded the general European disaster.)

One of the consequences of this was a shortage of foreign agricultural workers in the autumn of 2016 – working hard in the heat of the poly-tunnels or the mud of a British autumn lost 20% of its attraction. So 2020 began with a problem for growers anyway, covid-19 only compounded that problem.

And the solution to this? Pick for Britain. A dismal failure. British workers might accept such conditions on minimum wages for a short time but not the months the growers need and most importantly even if they did work for the ‘season’ the money earnt would have lasted weeks and not months as it does for the eastern European workers. If growers want British workers to work in their fields in the future then they are going to have to pay better wages and improve the working conditions. They have had it easy for too long. If they go out of business then that the way it goes. They live by the capitalist ethic then they can die with it as well.

Consequences of a late lock down in Britain

I have argued a number of times that the sort of closing down of societies that has been the general approach to deal with the pandemic is not what we should be doing in the technological age in which we live. To carry on as normal as possible, however, needed a carefully thought out strategy (which had been considered and planned for in advance) as well as providing the right resources in the right places.

But we had none of that in Britain in March 2020 and the government of the Buffoon went from panic measure to panic measure – all the time trying to place ultimate responsibility on others (that is, the scientists) if any thing should go wrong.

As the figures have started to show patterns there has now been a look at few mass sporting events that occurred in the week before the official lock down on 23rd March. There was also a more detailed look on Radio 4, 26th May, Game Changer.

We could be heroes

There was always a problem associated with lionising those who work in various health services throughout the world and having to cope with the covid-19 outbreak – often (if not always) without adequate preparation, enough protective equipment, without enough capacity in terms of intensive care beds, without enough staff to cope with normal demands let alone a pandemic.

It allowed the politicians to praise all the work and effort of the health professionals (as did the Buffoon when he came out of hospital on 12th April) and thereby divert attention away from their (that is, the politicians’) incompetence and inability to cope in a crisis). So the people who, in many countries towards the end of 2019 felt forced to take industrial action to defend their respective health services where, all of a sudden, turned into super-humans.

The answer to the question; how long will that last? has already been answered in Italy, one of the first countries in western Europe to attempt a return to normality.

Turning ordinary people into something they are not also tends to undermine the professionalism which has been the result of years of study and practice. This was put by Dr Michael FitzPatrick, a gastroenterologist in Oxford and Co-chair of the Royal College of Physicians Trainees Committee, at the very end of the Radio 4, Inside Health broadcast on 26th May.

What have health workers learnt from covid-19?

What those in ‘the front line’ have learnt dealing with the pandemic – with a virus that acts so differently from what they are used to. This knowledge will be invaluable in preparation for the next pandemic.

Are we learning from this pandemic?

The last pandemic on the scale of covid-19 was just over a hundred years ago, the so-called ‘Spanish’ Flu pandemic of 1918-19. At that time medical and technical knowledge was much less than now, there was nothing like international co-operation and a sharing of knowledge (which might not be perfect in 2020 but, at least, exists at some level) and it came at the end of the most destructive war (to date) to have afflicted so many countries – especially in Europe. So there were fewer opportunities to actually learn a great deal from that pandemic.

Covid-19 could (and should) have been different. But that, unfortunately, has not been the case.

Renters suffering more than those with a mortgage

Lindsay Judge, Principal Research and Policy Analyst, Resolution Foundation, 30th May, when speaking about her report ‘Coping with housing costs during the coronavirus crisis’;

‘It [the Government] should be thinking about guidance to landlords and tenants about how to negotiate these rent arrears. We don’t want to see evictions and I’m sure landlords, on the whole, don’t want to see evictions but there’s got to be some sort of mechanism to help people roll over arrears, for example, or perhaps begin rent holidays during this crisis time.’

This followed an extension of mortgage relief (but with a sting in its tail).

Should those ‘most vulnerable’ be permitted to leave home?

At the end of March two million people who are considered to be those, within the community, most at risk of having serious complications if they were to be infected by covid-19 were sent messages telling them to stay indoors and not meet up with anyone at all. This wasn’t an instruction but a recommendation but most seem to have stuck with it. They were originally told to stay at home for twelve weeks but, at the beginning of the eleventh they were told it was OK to go out – as long as they were careful. However, fear makes some of them anxious even to leave their front doors.

Professor Sian Griffiths, Staffordshire University, 30th May;

‘There’s a huge amount of stress and strain with you not being able to see friends or family. Being able to see them, although at a distance, may actually help peoples’ mental health and may help them live with lock down a bit better. It might help them comply better.’

The poor taking the brunt of the consequences – yet again!

Recent data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that lower paid workers are disproportionately effected by redundancies at this time, with 64% of job losses hitting those earning between £15,000 and £24,299.

Kylie Jenner (who she?) dropped from Forbes billionaire list

Demonstrating how totally f****d up present day capitalist society is there was a report that some insignificant ‘influencer’ had been dropped from a rich list. And notice not ‘millionaire’ but ‘billionaire’. Capitalism has no values – even less those in the population who consider these ‘celebrities’ as anything less than a parasite on society.

Is a lock down an effective approach to a pandemic?

This will go on for a long time and I have made my views known about how the pandemic could have been managed in a different way. Perhaps one for the conspiracy theorists.

3.4 million key workers are 50 or over

This is an interesting one – and another from Office of National Statistics (ONS) data. If this is the case then when (and not if) the next pandemic hits there won’t be anyone working to applaud on the Thursday night.

Lack of proper research

The covid-19 pandemic is the first in the modern age which has caused so much disruption – if death rates from other causes of capitalism don’t knock covid deaths into a cocked hat. Therefore it was an ideal opportunity to learn as much as possible about this disease as it developed. But that hasn’t been the case.

The statisticians seem to be on top of matters (but then there are lies, damn lies and statistics) but few clinicians. Many deaths that have occurred during the pandemic have not been even ascribed to covid let alone proven to be so. And what should have happened was that postmortems should have been ‘ramped-up’ (to use one of the terms that you hear all the time now but which I had never heard before in common usage) – but only a handful have been carried out. A huge opportunity squandered.

The Swedish ‘experiment’

This is another of those aspects of the pandemic which will be a subject for debate for a long time. Figures for a week aren’t really reliable but might be of interest.

A further argument for ‘fever hospitals’?

As it is becoming generally accepted that pandemics could well be the norm and not the exception a general plan about how to deal with it, and keep as much of society as possible functioning ‘normally’, especially in the health sector, would require a separation of the treatment for pandemic sufferers and the rest of the population.

Coronavirus does not spread easily on surfaces?

I don’t know how widely this theory is accepted – it originally came from the US of Trump so might, therefore, be suspect. It would also mean that a great deal of what we have been told about the spread of the virus was inaccurate – and would have saved millions of tons of heavy duty chemicals being released into the environment.

Quarantine for anyone arriving in the UK

I don’t really understand why this has been introduced at the time it has. Starting next Monday, 8th June, ‘everyone’ landing on British soil, in whatever form of transport, will have to self-isolate for 14 days – there will be spot checks and fines for transgression.

However, as this is a policy of the Buffoon’s Government it is being questioned (even by the people proposing it) before it is even enacted.

There will be exceptions – and there are calls that the list be extended. But isn’t this a bit like the Cummins affair – one rule for some but not for all? And, I am sure will be treated by many people in the same way that they have responded to Cummins’ two fingers to the population.

Such a policy is also showing up the petty mindedness of different countries. France will introduce a tit-for-tat quarantine to UK visitors. Greece will open up soon – but not for visitors from the UK, France and Spain.

However, Iceland, in a wish to get visitors (and their money) back on the island are offering free tests on arrival (from 15th June) and no quarantine if they come back negative. Hong Kong is also doing this. It might mean an eight hour wait in the airport but, as it has been said by others, that’s better than 14 days.

‘Spanish’ flue pandemic of 1918

As the most serious and widespread pandemic in recent history the so-called Spanish Flu (which might actually have started in the United States) outbreak of 1918 is being constantly referenced. I think there are many differences and am wary of there being any lessons to be learnt from what happened just over a hundred years ago.

However, there has been an interesting, three part radio series (which began on 15th May and for the next two Fridays) on this outbreak – not known about by many people until relatively recently (it was never taught as part of the history of the First World War when I was at school) and for most the first they heard about it was when the 2020 covid pandemic was taking hold.

And to end?

Although not really news, there are a number of coronaviruses we have been ‘living with’ for centuries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, yet again, that covid-19 may never go away – even more need to find of how to live with it.

More on covid pandemic 2020

Eight weeks after the first covid-19 death in Britain

More on covid pandemic 2020

Eight weeks after the first covid-19 death in Britain

My intention in publishing these post on the events taking place in Britain surrounding the covid-19 outbreak of 2020 is two fold; 1) to remind me of what was taking place and 2) to make the ‘case for the prosecution’ when (and if) there’s a return to ‘normality’. Peoples’ memories tend to be short and after the months of disruption the last thing many people will want to hear, see and read about is a post mortem of what had, or hadn’t, been taking place over those months.

The original intention was to make the posts as current as possible – and I think I’ve succeeded at times to do that. However, some things seem to slip through the net and this post (and probably the next couple) will aim to bring some matters up to date as well as commenting upon the events happening at the time.

Testing

It’s very unlikely that this heading will be omitted from any of the posts on covid-19.

I don’t know. Am I missing something here? On 28th April the Government open up testing to ‘millions more people in England‘. That’s all very well and good but what is the aim of this testing?

Is it just to get people back to work in the ‘key services’ if they suspect they might have contracted the virus or is it part of a longer term strategy? It would seem the former as I have not heard of any follow-up ‘tracking and tracing’ which would make this testing fit into the plan to suppress the outbreak at the earliest opportunity.

And why do people have to travel so far to ‘drive-in’ testing centres? When the subject of testing has been discussed in the recent past there has been a growing emphasis upon the local/community aspect of the testing but now we have people getting into their cars to be able to get to out of the way places. And then other commentators complain that there are more cars on the road and thus indicating a breach of lock down regulations.

And what facilities are there for people who don’t have their own transport or may be too unwell, although not in a critical stage, to travel any distance from home? The home testing kits are ‘sold out’ quicker even than the slots to visit a testing centre.

Is this just an attempt by the Tories to be able to say they reached their 100,000 tests per day target by the end of the month, i.e., by tomorrow, (although only 43,000 tests were carried out on the 27th April) but which will have no effect on the controlling of the virus.

And why are staff that do the testing in these drive in centres so badly equipped when it comes to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? In pictures I’ve seen they are no better equipped than someone who assists at a minor injury clinic or an assistant in a dentist. Yet they are encountering hundreds of people all the time, with them putting their heads through car windows.

And, finally, why they should be opening the tests up to more people when the system has not been able to cope with the demand from NHS and Care Workers seems to be strange, especially as it’s a ‘first come, first served’ system and not always do the people society really wants to be tested can get a slot or- even more unlikely – a test sent to their homes.

I’m bemused.

Counting the dead

It’s only on the 29th April (just a day short of eight weeks since the first death due to covid-19 was recorded in the UK) that deaths in care homes are being officially reported. Eight weeks!

From the very early days it was known that this particular virus had a high fatality rate for older people (especially 70+) and/or those with ‘underlying medical conditions’. And where do you find a concentration of such people in most industrialised countries? In care homes. Which institutions were the last to see the necessary quantities of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (a situation which still doesn’t seem to have been resolved to date)? Care homes. And which deaths are not being included in the daily announcement of fatalities? Those that take place in care homes.

And it’s been weeks since people started to argue that the deaths in care homes and the general community should be counted – to not do so is to distort the extent of the problem and will give a false impression of the progress of the pandemic in the country.

But it’s only today that those deaths will be made public in a formal manner – although it’s almost certain a great number will still end up being classified officially as ‘other causes’.

Yes, it’s more than likely there’s a similar situation in other countries in Europe, who have been equally malicious in massaging the figures. But that doesn’t excuse the failings in Britain.

The Police

Not surprisingly the police were given great powers in the Coronavirus Act 2020, passed in the British Parliament at the end of March. Also not surprisingly it’s not that easy to understand exactly what those powers are as the act merely makes reference to other acts which are already on the statute books – especially various anti-terrorism acts which allow the police to virtually do what they like.

For reasons I don’t fully understand this includes an extension to the time limits for the retention of fingerprints and DNA profiles. This section (24, pp17-18) makes repeated reference Terrorism Acts so, if I understand it correctly, you could be classified as a terrorist for sunbathing in the local park.

Matters have gone a bit quiet on this front in recent weeks after there were all kinds of stories of PC Plod even going outside of the very wide boundaries of the Act. On 10th April there was more clarity on the powers the police have. However, it should always be remembered that once such emergency legislation is introduced you have to be a miner to get to the depths of what is in reserve.

At the beginning of April there were stories of coppers going to the extent of looking into shoppers’ trolleys to make sure they were only buying ‘essential items’. This was some time after it had been ‘clarified’ by the Government that a shop could continue to sell what it did before the lock down if they were allowed to stay open for the sale of those goods classified as ‘essential’. Therefore, for example, you could buy a birthday card (not essential) if the little corner shop also sold milk (essential). However, it seems that there is never a situation in the police force where someone thinks to get clarification on the restrictions and to then pass it down the line – is that really such a difficult task?

Often I think those at the top of the hierarchy allow such ignorance to persist at street level so that they can test the water to see if tightening those restrictions will meet with opposition.

Whatever powers the police have they are always seeking for more and on the 14th April it was reported they were after authority to break up parties in private houses. I must admit I haven’t heard anything more about this since. But it indicates they way they are thinking, using what might be general public support for such powers but many people not thinking the matter through – and certainly not asking for how long such powers will remain in force.

Nightingale Hospitals

Long before the first patent was diagnosed with covid-19 in Britain there were images from China of workers building emergency hospitals and of them being completed in the first few days of February. As soon as it was recognised that the virus was likely to spread outside of China, and that it was particularly pathogenic, that was the time to start the planning for extra facilities in order that the permanent NHS infrastructure wasn’t overwhelmed. Yet the first of the so-called ‘Nightingale Hospital’ wasn’t opened until 3rd April – two months later.

Plans for the hospital were announced on the 24th March when work began and took ten days from start to finish. The question is; why was nothing done in the previous eight weeks?

And what really is the role of the, now, seven Nightingale Hospitals throughout the UK?

Just 19 patients treated over Easter weekend (10th – 13th April) in the Excel in London, prepared to take 500 but with an overall capacity of 4,000. On 26th April it was reported that the Birmingham Nightingale hospital ‘has no patients’.

So they were late in being planned, constructed and opened – that’s not a surprise taking into account the useless pricks we choose to allow to rule over us. But once they are in existence why aren’t they being used?

Surely when ready to take patients they should have taken ALL patients with, or suspected to have, the virus from day one from the planned catchment area. That would have meant that, eventually, all covid patients in those major urban centres would have been treated at the same location, in the process freeing up beds in the hospitals that were still dealing with patients with other medical conditions and those who might come in during emergencies. This would have reduced the danger of cross-contamination, reduced the fears that some people have of entering a hospital where there are covid patients and would have reduced the fear and pressure on hospital staff who are not involved directly with the care for pandemic victims.

Yes, it would have been creating what were called in London in 1665 ‘pest hospitals’ but we’re not talking about stigma here but of a more efficient manner in which to treat those who are sick in a modern and technologically adept society.

I’ve not heard the question asked – perhaps I’ve missed it. But doesn’t a concentration of resources make sense?

And another question that’s not being asked is; how long will these temporary hospitals exist? There’s talk of a potential second spike. There’s talk that it might come around to bite us next winter – this time slightly genetically modified. There’s talk that we will have to live with this virus for a number of years – until an effective vaccine is produced – if, indeed, such a vaccine will be up to the task.

The London Nightingale site is owned by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC). They, as is their public spirited wont, tried to charge costs to the NHS – until the request was made public and they backed down. But they will be more aggressive when the lock down restrictions are relaxed and they will be seeking to use the centre as the highly lucrative exhibition space it is. If the virus comes back with a bang will we have to be building yet other temporary hospitals so that the NHS won’t be overwhelmed?

So many questions, so few answers.

As always the poor carry the brunt of the outbreak

Whatever tragedies are inflicted upon a society it will always be the poor who will take the brunt of the suffering. That’s even in those societies where ‘we are all in this together’.

An article published on 15th April by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation explains why.

If it’s bad here, in one of the ten most prosperous countries in the world, then what’s it like in the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America who have had their riches stolen from them over the centuries by the European Imperialist and are no better since so-called independence left many of them worse off due to the manner of the de-colonisation.

When it comes to the matter of housing the policies of past governments, the emphasis on home ownership and the attack upon social housing and the desire to place billions of pounds into the bank accounts (or off-shore accounts) of private landlords has made the situation even worse for private renters.

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The covid-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom – 2nd April

Face mask

More on covid pandemic 2020

The covid-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom – 2nd April

Wasn’t planning on another post (after doing so yesterday) in relation to the covid-19 pandemic and how it develops in the UK so soon but things are changing all the time and it seemed to make sense to put some of the crazy situations out there in a e-newsletter form. How regular depends on developments but with the buffoons we have in charge of things in Britain there will always be, I’m sure, something to bemuse and/or amuse.

Testing

When this present ‘crisis’ (made worse by the government the people of the UK decided to put into power in 2019) is eventually over the question that will have to be answered is; Why did the authorities get the testing all wrong.

And also why did the government keep on lying about the numbers?

On the afternoon of the 1st April it emerged that only 2,000 NHS staff had been tested out of a total of 1.2 million. As a result of recommendations about symptoms thousands are self-isolating – but they might well not have the virus. As the number of deaths increases there is need of more not less staff to help in the emergency.

As of the morning of 2nd April there can be few people in Britain now who aren’t asking the question ‘what’s happening about testing’? Long before matters started to get out of hand in the UK information from other parts of the world, principally South Korea and Singapore, indicated that some sort of control of the outbreak could be achieved with comprehensive testing with a follow-up to trace the line of infection. That required organisation as well as a will to stamp on the virus before the numbers got too high.

But what did the government do in the UK? It made promises it couldn’t (and didn’t keep) and then started to blame outside agencies and causes for their own failures. There was a problem of lack of chemicals. There was a problem of lack of testing facilities. But both those matters are relatively easy to solve.

And it should have been a doddle if they had done in the past what they have been assuring us they have – and that is prepare for such an eventuality as a pandemic. Such preparation, if it had been carried out thoroughly, would have identified what would have been needed in the event of an outbreak, made sure that a certain amount of initial stocks were available immediately and a process for producing more established in a set time frame. All testing facilities would also have been identified and a decision made on how they would fit in to the over strategic plan.

More importantly there wouldn’t have been any problem in getting supplies or access to laboratories for testing. In such a situation as a pandemic speed is of the essence and companies producing key materials should be told what to produce and when – there would be no such discussions on price or other recompense. As for laboratory space and facilities they would be requisitioned if there was any reluctance or tardiness.

All commentators are using military terminology so the whole matter should be approached as if the country was on a war footing – without giving power to the military.

On the evening of 1st April the Buffoon said that testing ‘ … is how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle. This is how we will defeat it in the end.‘ He speaks the truth but doesn’t do the necessary. He expects to solve the jigsaw puzzle when half the pieces are missing and somebody has thrown the box lid on the fire.

Testing not only enables some workers to carry on in their jobs it also offers reassurance when many people need it. But perhaps more importantly if testing is done with a follow-up trace it can provide valuable information of how the virus is spreading and where the hotspots might be. Only in this way can resources be concentrated where they will do the most good.

The Buffoon has always placed more emphasis on the anti-body tests which can identify those who might have picked up the virus without any adverse effects and have developed some immunity. These tests are also important but aren’t ready yet. It shouldn’t be a matter of one or the other. To manage the pandemic both are necessary. But the Tories are more concerned with getting back to some level of normality (which is important to everyone) but not at the expense of leaving many others in a potentially dangerous position.

Capital wants to have a ‘fair’ share of the billions on offer

The government stated that the pit of money was bottomless and companies, especially the ones with the most wealth, are attempting to get their hands on it. The first in line were a few Premier League Football Clubs;

‘Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Norwich City have all taken advantage of the country’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in which as much as 80pc of their non-playing staff’s wages could be paid by the Government.’

The Telegraph, Front Page PM, 1st April

There’s an argument that the players should foot the bill for non-playing staff as they are still getting their massive salaries. It’s obscene what they get paid when playing, to still receive that when they are not is beyond the absurd. I’m surprised the football clubs concerned (and it’s almost certain others in the Premier thought about it if tardy in making applications) didn’t lay-off their players and then claim 80% of their wages from the disaster fund.

On 2nd April Gary Lineker asked that the players should be given some slack – being football players they take a long time to tell which is left from right so the major decision of what they should do with the money they get would take weeks – and they would come to the ‘right decision’ eventually. But this doesn’t get near to addressing the greater issue of the unbelievable disparities that exist in the professional sport arena where some prime donne earn millions yet others are on minimum wage – and this isn’t just in football.

Other wealthy companies are also fighting to get their snouts in the trough. On 2nd April British Airways stated it was going to suspend 36,000 of their staff and claim 80% of their wages from the emergency fund. They have also, already, stated that they would need a bail-out as a company if they were to be able to survive the pandemic.

So the State pays the majority of the staff’s wages, the State will then be expected to ‘donate’ billions to keep the company going later in the year yet the State and the company argue for the private and free enterprise system.

British Airways was one of the thousands of companies, many small some huge, that was privatised (i.e., stolen from the people – although often with some of their collaboration) in the 1980s and 90s. If they can’t survive in the free market then they should collapse – that’s the rule of the market. But as is always the case with capitalism it wants its cake and eat it.

Such a bail out of the banks occurred after their self-made disaster of 2008. It will be interesting to see if the people of the UK – or other capitalist countries where they will be asked to shovel untold millions into the hands of these private companies – are prepared to do this again.

Key workers

The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to the ‘utter, selfless devotion to duty’ of NHS staff, volunteers and the new ’emergency service’ of supermarket workers,

The Telegraph, Front Page PM, 1st April

Does this mean that their selflessness will be rewarded when things get back to normal – or will they then have to carry on surviving on minimum wages, zero hours contracts and any other invention to undermine working conditions?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – for everyone

A recent study suggests it might be beneficial for everyone to be wearing masks at all times when outside their home.

However, there are a number of problems with this ‘study’;

a) it hasn’t been totally proven – so what’s the point of speculation, at a time when many people are fearful and clutching at any straw that’s thrown to them,

b) even if it were to be the case where are millions of ‘the public’ to get hold of these masks when even the inept Tory Government can’t do so’

c) mask wearing is only really for those who are already infected with the virus (but perhaps without them knowing) as they drastically reduce the distance that potentially harmful spores can travel. Flimsy masks won’t protect healthy people.

d) ‘masks need to be worn properly, with a seal over the nose. If they become moist then particles can pass through. People must remove them carefully to avoid their hands becoming contaminated. … masks need to be worn consistently. It’s not on to wear a mask and then decide to take it off to smoke a cigarette or eat a meal – it must be worn full time.’

e) conflict between ‘experts’ – Public Health England don’t consider masks effective and also encourage people to be lax when following other recognised working strategies, such as distancing and hand washing,

f) and this is all under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO) – give me the Doctor any day.

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) – for NHS staff and care workers

Along with the questions surrounding testing the provision of adequate safety equipment for NHS and care home staff has been going on since we first heard the name covid-19. The saga continues.

On 1st April, Claudia Paoloni, President of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, said (BBC, Radio 4), ‘We know of cases where they (hospital staff) are not using equipment or it is being rationed and you can’t use it in certain circumstances. Everybody should be getting PPE, at all times, with all cases with patient contact within the hospital setting.’

Some doctors have complained about the quality of the items they have received.

Snippets

Little pieces of news, related to the pandemic, which say a lot.

A rainbow to a nightingale

A nurse requested that pictures be sent to the ‘Nightingale’ Hospitals (the temporary hospitals being set up in exhibition spaces) and here request went viral. Tens, or hundreds of thousands of bored children and their parents then started to send these to the various locations. The NHS has now asked that this stop. It’s not difficult to see why an emergency hospital, set up to deal with a viral infection, would be cautious about receiving thousands of pieces of paper from unknown locations. It might also be be the benefit if the patients. What would you think if the first thing you see on waking up from your covid-19 fever was the wall covered in ‘imaginatively’ drawn rainbows?

Do it yourself repairs

In an advert (broadcast on the commercial radio station Classic FM) by British Gas apologised for delays in getting through to report repairs. To reduce the pressure the company has now placed information on its website so that people might be able to fix minor repairs themselves. Presumably these are the same repairs they would have charged their minimum call-out fee in the past. Will this information remain available after the pandemic has passed over?

Haulage drivers ‘being refused access to toilets’

Don’t think there’s much to say about that.

The Lord will provide

The minister at the Kingdom Church, Camberwell in south London, Bishop Climate Wiseman, has been selling ‘Plague protection kits’ for just over £90 a go. The ‘kit’ contains ‘a small bottle of oil and a piece of red yarn’. The £90 is to cover costs.

Exit Strategy

Still nothing here.

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