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.
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.
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.
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.
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.