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.

More on covid pandemic 2020

Covid-19 over the Easter 2020 weekend in Britain 

More on covid pandemic 2020

Covid-19 over the Easter 2020 weekend in Britain 

 Testing 

The BBC Radio 4 programme, Inside Science, on 9th April reported on a test that a team from Oxford University were starting to carry out (just in the Oxford area at the moment) to try to discover what proportion of a given population have, or have had, covid-19 using a new diagnostic tool called ‘nano 4 sequencing’.  

Using home testing kits they hope to build up a picture of how the virus has spread and it is hoped it will be able to inform a realistic exit strategy as well as testing a diagnostic tool which could be used at the early stage of the any future pandemic when (and not if) it arises in the future. More information at the Covid-19 in the UK Community

At the time of writing only 18,000 tests are taking place daily. The Government still argues it is ‘on track’ for the 100,000 tests per day in just over two weeks’ time. 

The lady doth protest too much, methinks 

The Buffoon has survived his stay in Intensive Care – some prayers have been answered, others not.  

However, I find his gushing conversion to the merits of the NHS and the staff who work there just a little too much to believe. In a previous post I attempted to highlight Johnson’s attitude to the NHS in the past and I’m sure he will be returning to such a stance when the euphoria of his survival subsides.  

He didn’t seem to accept the irony that the two nurses he named on his departure from hospital, thanking them for their care, were not from the UK – one from New Zealand and the other from Portugal. But then his anti-Europe stance wasn’t based upon conviction, merely political opportunism. 

In a video on Twitter he said; ‘We will win as the NHS is the beating heart of this country. It is the best of the country, it is unconquerable, it is powered by love.’ 

Well, it hasn’t survived over recent years with cash support from any of the governments the Buffoon has either supported or of which he has been a member – so being powered by love is all there is. 

Time will tell if he is just a total hypocrite or whether his time in hospital had brought with it a Damascene conversion

Insincerity seems to be catching as Carrie Symons wrote on Twitter that ‘she would never, ever, be able to repay the magnificent NHS’ in returning the Buffoon to her. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

For a few days this went out of the news as concerning the NHS – although has been a constant issue with care homes. However, it became a major issue (related to the NHS) on the evening of 10th April when Matt Hancock, the Health Minster, suggested that there wasn’t really a shortage of PPE. Millions of pieces had been delivered (742 million) but if there was a shortage it was due to NHS staff using too much of it and there wouldn’t be a shortage of PPE ‘if used correctly’.  

This story developed over the next couple of days with virtually all organisations of health workers coming out calling such a statement an insult to NHS staff – but with Hancock never retracting his earlier assertion.  

Why such a privileged rich boy, who would never knowingly be seen within a mile of someone who had contracted the virus, thinks he can make a judgement on whether PPE is considered necessary by a health professional is a mystery to me. In such circumstances people might be over-cautious but that’s better than being blasé, especially when the people of the UK are constantly being told we must be careful in all our personal interactions. 

On the Andrew Marr Show, on BBC 1 on 12th April, Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, made an intervention on the matter of PPE but, I believe, condemned his own Government in the words he used. After saying he was ‘incredibly sorry’ that NHS staff were upset about being branded ‘wasteful’ when it came to PPE he added; 

‘.. that’s why we’ve set up a 24/7 hotline so people within the NHS and social care sector can phone and get that equipment. We’ve also said that we’ll be setting up a portal, in the next few weeks, [my emphasis] to make sure that people can directly key in their demands for PPE and we can then monitor that and get that out to them.’ 

The most relevant words above are those highlighted in bold. More than five weeks after the first covid-19 related death was reported in the UK (on 5th March) the Government is still saying that any monitoring of PPE requirements will not be in place until some unspecified time in the future. 

I’m not a supporter of small businesses but they seem to have be shafted by the Government – which constantly says it is the prime supporter of the entrepreneur. It seems that four weeks ago a call went out for all those companies who produce equipment that falls into the PPE category to make themselves known. However, since then most of these 100 or so companies had heard nothing and, according to Kate Hills, the founder of the Make it British Group, this is one of the reasons equipment is in such short supply. 

This just seems to indicate that there is nothing in the Government structure that is flexible enough to deal with exceptional circumstances. Presumably the bureaucracy that accompanies the buying of such equipment is such that it cannot adapt to smaller volumes even though, in the present circumstances, that would seem to be the quickest way out of the present impasse. 

As it is, we now have volunteer groups throughout the country making PPE for the NHS. Although this might show a positive spirit in the face of adversity it also goes to further demonstrate that the present government structure is ‘not fit for purpose’ – to use an awful cliché.  

The Tories show their true colours when it comes to the NHS 

The very fact that Hancock has made no attempt to respond to the condemnation of his statements that NHS staff were being wasteful in their use of PPE only goes to show the true colours of the Tories. For all their fancy words they have no respect for the principles of the NHS and if workers (who have been called almost super-heroes in the last few weeks) become responsible for the break down in the service if they dare to challenge the diktats of those in power. 

As a Government they merely react to events, had no strategy to deal with a pandemic and certainly have no exit strategy, but if there is criticism of their actions they throw the responsibility back on to the people – or any other scapegoat.  

Nightingale Hospitals 

On 10th April it was announced that two more of these temporary hospitals would be opened, one in Sunderland and the other in Exeter, in the next couple of weeks. Presumably neither of these will be as big as the one opened last week in London so why does it take so long? The one in London was completed in 9 days. But the main issue here is – if it is necessary to have these hospitals why weren’t they planned and construction started at the same time as those in London, Edinburgh and Manchester? There’s no shortage of money – the government is handing out cash in sackfuls.  

In a piece about the opening of the ExCel Nightingale it was mentioned that there are kilometres of copper piping throughout the complex – which is needed to provide oxygen to all beds. There won’t be a shortage of firms fighting to get the contract to de-construct these temporary hospitals – assuming that does happen sometime later in the year. Weighing in all that copper is a demolition company’s wet dream.  

Covid-19 throughout the world 

David Milliband, President of the International Rescue Committee, stated on 9th April the pandemic would cause ‘real carnage in the poorest countries of the world’ both in the health and economic sphere. The poor always suffer the most in these circumstances.   

Consequences of the pandemic 

On 9th April Kristalina Georgieva, Chair and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that one of the results of the pandemic would be the worst global recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. 

Shortage of ventilators 

Why there was no order placed for more ventilators when the pandemic first started to spread west from China will be answered in the post-pandemic post-mortem and enquiry – not. In the meantime the UK Government has been going cap in hand to all countries in the world and as a result Britain is to get 60 portable ventilators from the German Army. I would have thought there were other more deserving countries in the world for such rare items of equipment but not in the Euro-centric world in which we live. 

Does the virus have a preference for non-white victims? 

This was a new development – although the trend must have been noticed before – that became public in Britain at the end of last week, the third of the lock down. But it seems it only became an issue in the UK after it was initially identified in New York. At that time the US Surgeon General, Dr Jerome Adams, reported that the virus was disproportionately effecting Black, Latino and other minority communities as, he suggested, ‘because they have a greater burden of cronic health conditions’. 

I initially thought that the figures in New York merely reflected the level of deprivation that exists in a city where some of the richest in the US share the pavements with some of the poorest. But matters may not be that simple – although poverty will almost certainly have a lot to say in the mortality rates. 

There was a call in Britain on 11th April that a study should be made of the disproportionality of deaths amongst Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people during this pandemic. Being 14% of the population they were 34% of the cases in critical care units. These are early days and it will take some time for any realistic conclusions to be made about this, not least as there was no information if there was one particular group who might have been effected over any other of the ethnic groups. 

The reason I say this is that a look at the health workers who have died of the virus in Britain (up to 11th April) the majority came from backgrounds in the Indian sub-continent – which is different from the results from the US, more particularly New York, where those with an Asian background would have be well outnumbered by those from an African or Latino background.  

British NHS statistics would seem to suggest that infection and death rates in India, for example, should be racing away – but they don’t seem to be doing so. Poverty in the country is almost certainly killing many more people every day than the covid-19 pandemic. 

This is yet another of the issues that must be looked at carefully to see if any patterns can be established. The results of any such studies will probably have little impact upon the present pandemic but as the world seems to have accepted that a pandemic can happen at any time such studies might be able to inform the next pandemic – which could arrive at any time, the next decade or next year. 

Those wanting a Government bail out 

On 9th April John Witherow, Editor of The Times, asked for the government to step in to stop newspapers going out of business. As newspapers have seen circulation drop dramatically over recent years this might just be throwing good money after bad as they might have failed even if the pandemic hadn’t influenced people’s newspaper buying habits. 

As we are now in the middle of the Easter holiday – the usual formal beginning of the holiday season – seaside towns have seen any income drop to nil. They are also asking for support due to the lock down. 

Nationalist children continue to behave badly 

I’m no fan of any politician in the Westminster Government (in fact no respect for politicians full stop) but as this pandemic continues I have an even more rapidly developing contempt for so-called ‘Nationalists’. With the Buffoon out of the game the ‘leaders’ in Scotland and Wales talk for the sake of talking to fill the gap in the TV slots.  

One example of this was uttered by the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, who, on 10th April said we (the Welsh) ‘won’t be bound by decisions made in Westminster and would only relax self-distancing measures when it’s safe to do so.’   

Unless the Scottish and Welsh governments are prepared to put in border controls between the periphery of the UK and England then the whole island must follow the same procedures at the same time. Petty-mindedness (the principle aspect of capitalist nationalism) is the last thing that we need currently if we are to leave the chaos of the pandemic behind.  

Who needs a vaccine? – a town in Germany has the answer 

In 1623, as the Bubonic Plague was cutting down people in Europe like a scythe harvesting corn, the people of the town of Oberammergau (population now 5,474) promised ‘God’ that they would put on a passion play every ten years if the plague was to pass over without the Grim Reaper adding to his tally. It ‘worked’ and no one in the town died. The Oberammergau Passion Play has taken place every ten years since (with only a couple of interruptions). 

There have been no cases of covid-19 in the town in 2020 – so far. 

There are a few points to be made here. 

  1. the promise of the Passion Play seems to be a somewhat complicated promise to make in any deal with ‘God’ – he could have got more I’m sure 
  2. there were probably many thousands of small towns and villages that were plague death free in 1623 – they just didn’t have an up and running PR team to broadcast it to the rest of the world, they just thought themselves lucky 
  3. there are still probably many hundreds of thousands of towns throughout the world in 2020 which have lost no victims to covid-19 
  4. but if those victimless towns now who want to remain so they know what to do – nothing to do with social-distancing, testing and tracing. They just have to promise whichever ‘God’ they recognise something really weird and outlandish 
  5. will Oberammergau announce to the world if someone were to die in the town due to covid-19? 

One law for the rich – and one for the rest of us 

Although the Scottish Chief Medical Officer was forced to resign after it emerged she had travelled to a second home on two occasions the same rules weren’t enforced when it came to Robert Jenrick, the Housing Minister, for doing virtually the same – that is two journeys which were not really considered ‘essential’. But because Jenrick was more deeply embedded in the establishment excuses were found to mean that he got away with it. There was an argument posited in his defence that he had only travelled no more than 40 miles – which is allowed in the Coronavirus Act, 2020. If it’s there I haven’t been able to find it yet.  

On the 10th April it was reported that a private jet, with 10 passengers from the UK, was forced to return to Britain by the authorities in Marseilles. It also seems that three helicopters were waiting to take the group to a luxury villa for a holiday. 

Now, as far as I know, a plane cannot take off from any airport in UK without providing full information to the relevant authorities. So why was the plane even allowed to leave the ground when all the population is supposed to be ‘in this together’?  

The police are starting to issue fines to people for sitting in public parks in the sunshine and there was a widely publicised account of a family being fined for travelling 200 miles to Devon ‘to go fishing’, on 12th April. Will there be any consequences for this group who, by their actions, have shown their contempt for the rest of the population? The answer to that question is obviously no – or if so with a fine that will merely be offset against tax. 

Is it sometimes best to say nothing? 

On 12th April Sir Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Welcome Trust, and a member of SAGE (an unfortunate acronym) which advises the present government. For some reason he felt it necessary to make the following statement on national television (the Andrew Marr Show on BBC 1); 

‘The number [of deaths] in the UK have continued to go up. I do hope that we’re coming close to the number of infections reducing and in a week or two the numbers of people needing hospital reducing and, tragically, in a couple of weeks’ time the number of deaths plateauing and then starting to come down. But yes, the UK is likely to certainly be one of the worst, if not the worst effected country in Europe.’ 

Why that last sentence? What good is it? It is merely speculation – without any associated evidence. Some ‘experts’ (as well as some politicians) seem to think they must say something to shock and get themselves extensively quoted. These ideas were repeated throughout the day. Why say something which only has the effect of making those who are worrying to be even more fearful?  

The first Tory to scapegoat during the UK pandemic 

When Jeremy Farrar made his ‘apocalypse UK’ statement on 12th April the response of Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, wasn’t to reassure people that this wouldn’t happen as the government was fully on top of the pandemic, no, he chose to say ‘we have followed scientific and medical advice’. Meaning, it’s not our (the Government’s, the Tory’s) fault but that of the experts. 

As stated at the beginning of this series of posts the experts were only brought in for the regular press briefings so that, when anything hit the fan there were ready scapegoats upon which to rest all the blame. Sharma was the first to do so – perhaps earlier than I expected.  

Quote of the last few days 

The first time anyone, although not a Government voice, has publicly mentioned a possible exit strategy in the UK; 

On 10th April Neil Ferguson, one of the government’s ‘experts’ said; 

‘.. restrictions would have to remain in place for several more weeks but could then be lifted in stages taking into consideration age and geography but there would have to be introduce much larger levels of testing at a community level, really isolate cases and more effectively identify how transmission is happening.’  

But he added that this was only in his view and he was at pains to stress it was not the official view of the government.  

It’s good to hear the words being uttered. It is only hoped (probably in vain) that if this is the thinking that there should be a group, with a high level or responsibility, which is working on the manner of how such a strategy will be implemented. It needs planning and investigation so that such moves can be implemented at the first opportunity. However, I fear that we will be hearing the oft used phrase ‘in coming weeks’ when (or if) this is first uttered as Government policy.  

Exit strategy 

(this is an empty space – as always!) 

More on covid pandemic 2020

Covid-19 in Britain just before the Easter ‘holiday’ 2020

Antibody kit - or not

Antibody kit – or not

More on covid pandemic 2020

Covid-19 in Britain just before the Easter ‘holiday’ 2020

Items of news that have come to light in the last few days.

Testing

As always, the first in the queue.

On 7th April Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, admitted that the failure to carry out testing early may have cost lives. He admitted that Germany had “got ahead” on testing and “there’s a lot to learn from that”.

But there seems to be little evidence that they have, certainly not going forward on this outbreak. Will they learn the lessons for the next outbreak?

Spain saw its daily number of virus deaths fall for a fourth consecutive day on Monday (6th April). Officials intend to begin testing even those without virus symptoms, saying: “We are preparing ourselves for de-escalation for which it is important to know who is contaminated to be able to gradually lift Spanish citizens’ lock down.”

This is a bizarre one this. The Government’s testing chief has admitted that none of 3.5m antibody kits work sufficiently. Now, I’m no expert, but if you are going to acquire something so important wouldn’t you make sure it was fit for the job BEFORE ordering 3.5 million? Politicians make these statements with a straight face and the rest of the population just let them get away with it. And how much have they spent on these kits they don’t want to use?

These kits were bought from China and as they have a regime in place now which allows people to carry on a more normal life based upon these tests we have to assume the Chinese believe the tests work. If they were so useless that a more general and widespread outbreak were to hit the country again then the present Chinese government wouldn’t survive the backlash. They don’t want to lose power so they are, surely, not going to take such a high risk with bum tests?

Yet for the British, who have no alternative they can use in their place, believe the kits don’t ‘work sufficiently’!

Because this country is so far behind in the testing stakes this will increase the period of the lock down and a general disaffection among the population. And who knows what that might lead to.

But we shouldn’t be concerned. On 8th April, Edward Argar, a Minister of State for Health (everyone wants to get their face on the tele at these press conferences, no?) stated that the government was ‘firmly on target to met its commitment of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month’.

This was on the same day that it was announced that the count the day before was a mere 14,000 but the biggest surprise, at least to me, was that this involved less than 10,000 patients. Why the number of patients is less that the number of tests I don’t know but if it’s the case that to get a definite yes or no more than one test has to be taken from each – or at least some – individual even if the target of 100,000 per day tests is reached we are still a long way from getting around to testing the whole population.

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

This has fallen out of the news when it comes to supplying the NHS – but the problem hasn’t gone away.

On 9th April the Alzheimer’s Society complained that care homes might not be able to operate due the lack of testing and the shortage (or lack) of PPE. On the same day the National Care Association said that care homes were being left behind. They stated that ‘staff felt at risk’ and ‘it shouldn’t be right they (staff) are wearing plastic bags’ for protection.’

A ‘united front’ against the pandemic?

Unfortunately not. Not only is there no clear thinking in the UK the situation is repeated in Europe. On 7th April Mauro Ferrari, who had been President of the European Research Council, resigned after his suggestion that ‘a large scale scientific programme to defeat covid-19 be established providing the best resources to the best scientists’ was rejected by the EU.

Nationalist children behaving badly

It’s not just in Europe that politicians have their own agenda. The ‘devolved’ countries in the UK are also playing the nationalist political game. Prior to a meeting on the 9th April to produce a common approach to the lock down (probably the first sensible thing the Tory government has done – is it just a coincidence that the Buffoon is out of the game?) – both the Scots and the Welsh leaders wanted to get their voices broadcast on the media by pre-empting the meeting.

The four constituent parts of the UK will do the same thing together – this was just political posturing and gamesmanship.

Company greed and the bandwagon

It’s truly impossible to understand why companies make such bad decisions – although often (but nor always) when caught out they back down.

Waitrose was one of them. For weeks amongst the new brand of heroes have appeared those who work in the supermarkets – huge companies dominating the food retail market in the UK much more than in any other European country. Some one thought that – in the present situation – they could get away with following company policy when it came to time off. Wrong decision! Waitrose did a U-turn.

Liverpool Football Club – one of the richest clubs in the country in one of the poorest cities – thought it, too, should have the right to feed at the disaster funding trough. They, when shamed about it, also backed down.

Tesco’s – the biggest supermarket chain in the country saw it’s sales jump by 30% towards the end of March – due to the panic buying prompted by Government ineptitude. They have also benefited from business rate relief – introduced as a government ‘aid’ to struggling businesses in March 2020 – to the tune of £585 million. And, of course, with such a bonanza the most deserving of people will get the rewards. This year Tesco will pay out in the region of £635 million to its shareholders.

Begging letters must be filling the letter box at 11 Downing Street. P and O ferries are seeking a government bail out of £250 (Telegraph AM 7th April). Even little start-ups want to get their snouts in the trough, especially those involved with ‘new technology’.

Children getting free school meals

Although the figure has nothing to do directly with the pandemic I became aware, on 7th April, that as the schools are now closed due the pandemic those families will instead receive vouchers they can use in a number of supermarkets. What is the disgrace in this whole affair (forgetting that there are some problems in the distribution of these vouchers) is the number of children who are eligible – 1.3 million. This is the situation in one of the richest countries in the world – and the United Nations talks about abolishing poverty world wide by 2030. What chance is there of that when poverty stalks those capitalist countries which have been raping countries and stealing the resources of the planet for centuries

Johnson and NHS

This weekend was probably the first time the Buffoon has entered a NHS hospital without the aim of making some PR stunt. I can’t imagine him ever queueing in A+E after having fallen over at one of the Bullingdon Club dinners.

At the present time he couldn’t have done anything other than go to an NHS hospital – but they chose not to send him to the spanking new temporary Nightingale Hospital in London’s dockland.

Whilst he is there I wonder if he will be reflecting on what he has said about the NHS in the past – that’s rhetorical, of course he won’t. However, it might be useful to remember some of the things he has suggested the rest of us should have to put up with in the context of our health care.

In an article he wrote in 1995 he said:

‘ .. patients should have to pay to use the NHS so they will ‘value’ it more.’

Once the Buffoon had taken the opportunist decision to back the Leave side in the EU Referendum (don’t you remember the country was on tenter hooks for days as it awaited his decision – so much for his conviction on the matter) he went around the country saying that the ‘NHS would be funded by the savings made from leaving the EU’. Those figures were challenged then and have been ever since but once uttered he is unable to stop repeating them.

During the campaign for the leadership of the Tory Party in 2019 what he said he would do and what he had done in the past were contradictory, and fundamentally posed ‘an existential threat to our NHS’

This was just one of a number of lies he has told in the past which were also pointed out during this leadership campaign.

Before he got the top job he was part of the gang which was more than willing to see the NHS basically privatised through the back door, with NHS contracts worth £15bn being given to private companies, since 2015, despite government’s ‘no privatisation’ pledge.

A great deal was made in the speech which outlined the future budget for the NHS after the Tory victory in the General Election of December 2019 – many, however, questioned the figures.

And we mustn’t forget his compassion, demonstrated when shown a picture of a 4-year-old child being treated for pneumonia on the floor of a hospital A+E room.

As in most circumstances you can always rely on Trump to trump anyone else’s crazy ideas. He suggested that US ‘medical experts’ based in London go to treat Johnson – as if those staff in the NHS (who are praised every time a politician opens his or her mouth) aren’t capable enough. It also begs the question; if these doctors are so brilliant why aren’t they back home in the US helping out there – the country that has now been designated the epi-centre of the outbreak? (Telegraph AM, 7th April)

Trump later added that people everywhere were praying for the Buffoon – however, he didn’t say for what outcome.

How effective are Government measures?

Since the first post on this blog the argument has been that all the British government has done since the covid-19 infection took a hold in the country has merely been a reaction to circumstances and there has never been even an attempt to take control. They say what people can’t do because they have no idea of what they (the Government) should be doing. This attitude also gets them off the hook as their ‘strategy’ relies on people staying at home (whatever effect this will have on millions of peoples’ lives and the economy in general not withstanding).

One result of this approach is that there are innumerable ‘unintended consequences’. (One of these which I only realised myself yesterday, when a contractor came around to do a service check, was that with so many cafes and fast food places now closed ‘essential workers’, who used to rely on these places for their meals, now have nowhere to go.)

Another is that a decision might be made because it looks like the government is actually taking a stance when they have not really thought things through and perhaps have over emphasised the importance of the action. One such action, which was questioned on 7th April, was the closing of schools to the overwhelming majority of students.

Some scientists, having looked at the figures, are now saying that the closure of schools will have a minimal effect on the spread of the virus. Although the closures have little effect on the virus other costs are high; the children’s education suffers, it puts strain on family finances and it also has potential mental health consequences.

The financial winners …

Hedge funds short sell UK companies

Short selling is the practice where hedge funds and other financial speculators borrow shares in listed companies from pension funds and sell them in the expectation that they will fall in price. There’s an argument that short-selling in a crash exacerbates stock market slumps.

…. and losers

Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned low-paid workers, young people and women are likely to be hardest hit by the financial impact of the virus lock down. According to the IFS, low earners are seven times as likely as high earners to work in a business sector that has suspended trade, such as hospitality or retail. Workers aged under 25 are about two and a half times as likely to work in a sector forced to shut down, while women were around one-third more likely than men to work in an affected sector. “For the longer term there must be serious worries about the effect of this crisis on the young especially and on inequality more generally,” senior IFS economist Xiaowei Xu said.

House buyers or renters

Not surprisingly, given their obsession with home ownership, any financial support that has already been announced is weighted overwhelmingly towards those who are buying their homes, with certain ‘mortgage holidays’ and a relaxing of rules in general. However, that’s not the case for those who rent. They are being told they have to continue to pay rent even though they might have no income coming in whatsoever. If they don’t pay their rents they will be guilty of putting the whole rental market at risk – another area where failings in government are placed on the backs of the people.

The Government gives support to house buyers as that helps to ensure the profits of the property speculators and building companies that are their supporters and/or themselves. On the other hand renters are most often likely to be the poorest part of the population, those with low wages, zero hours or short contracts, single parent families, etc. Cuts in social housing provision (whether it be by Councils or Housing Associations) and the selling off of those properties that do exist have meant that the private rental sector has been cleaning up in recent years.

The Housing Benefit system has meant that billions of pounds has been given to private landlords whereas a proper and sustainable social housing programme would have reduced costs to the country and would have provided better housing in general to a greater proportion of those who will never be able to buy – or just don’t want to buy.

The number of workers being ‘furloughed’

There are great number of words being used during this pandemic which we have never used before or certainly not in the way they have been in the past. I don’t think I had heard the word ‘furlough’ being used for ordinary workers before. ‘Laid off’ was the term in most common use – but that had negative connotations. Now ‘laid off’ workers are now being ‘furloughed’ receiving 80% of their pay – but not necessarily with a guarantee of their jobs when this pandemic is brought under some sort of control.

It will be interesting to see how many of these companies, who have been taking the billions offered by the government, will then close down later in the year, being ‘unable to survive the consequences of the pandemic’.

But what is astounding is that, to date, there are 9 million workers on furlough. Apart from all the other effects the shut down is having on the long term future of working people this number itself should be enough to make our so-called leaders think of an effective way of getting the country moving as soon as possible.

Our capitalist system is showing itself unable to cope with such a crisis and instead just throws public money into the hands of private companies – both big and small.

A+E attendance

In the UK attendances at A+E departments around the country dropped by 25% in March 2020 in comparison with the same month in 2019. Why the surprise? Obviously the hypochondriacs are staying at home.

Quote of the last few days

This one of 8th April from Andrew Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, when commenting on the disproportionate ratio of deaths, due to the covid-19 pandemic, in minority and poor communities:

‘Why is it the poorest people always pay the highest price? Let’s figure it out. Let’s do the work. Let’s learn this lesson and do it now.’

Is Cuomo just naïve or plain stupid? The poor, everywhere and every time, always pay the highest price. It’s a law of capitalism.

Exit Strategy

Obviously there’s nothing to talk about here.

However, it might be useful to remind those who are supposed to be in control of the actual meaning of strategy. My large Collins English Dictionary gives the following definition of strategy;

1. the art or science of the planning and conduct of a war; generalship; 2. a particular long-term plan for success, especially in business and politics; 3. plan or stratagem.

Perhaps the two words to pick out here are ‘plan’ and ‘success’. That is what the government of the Buffoon should be working on. That is what will help them convince people to abide by the present restrictions and will not necessitate them constantly coming up with threats of even more draconian restrictions in the future.

They did not have a strategy at the beginning of the outbreak and due to that they have been constantly reacting to events and situations. They have been following and not leading.

There has been, in this country and most throughout the world, a ‘social contract’ between governments and the population. Most populations have accepted the restrictions on their movements for weeks and going into months. That ‘social contract’ is two sided. Governments have told us what we cannot do but they rarely talk (and more importantly are able to convince their populations) about what they are going to do.

That is called having a strategy.

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