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

Antibody kit - or not

Antibody kit – or not

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.

Britain – start of week 3 of the pandemic lock down

nightingale

Britain – start of week 3 of the pandemic lock down

A few things that have happened in the UK in the last few days – and some important things that haven’t.

Testing

There may not be much testing for the covid-19 virus going on in Britain at the moment but it is certainly testing having to listen to, or read about, the pathetic attempts of various Tory Government ministers trying to give the impression they know what they are doing.

From a miserable less than 10,000 a day that will rise to 100,000 a day by the end of April – that was the promise made on the afternoon of the 2nd and reiterated throughout the day of the 3rd. But – things changed.

First the promise was for both types of test – the one to test for presence of the virus and the other for acquired immunity. Then we were told the second type isn’t reliable enough, even though reference had earlier been made about the test that is already being used in Germany which appears to be quite accurate. Then doubts started to creep in if it was doable at all. The idea of shortage of chemicals was again raised – why no news of solution to the problem? – then there appeared to be a shortage of swabs. And behind everything there was the idea that there weren’t enough people or laboratories in the UK that could deal with such a demand.

To every problem there’s a solution and this one is easy. There is a war on, a war against a virus. It’s unseen and we need to see it – where it is now and where it has been. Means are available to do that. The UK is one of the top ten economies of the world. It has a long history of science and technology and despite the efforts of successive governments to de-industrialise the country in recent years there is still a huge capacity in terms of locations and personnel to carry out these tests on a nationwide scale. All that needs to be done is for the government to TELL the companies with facilities and personnel to carry out the tests. I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of the people who work in these businesses would be more than happy to do so but if there was opposition then I see no reason why the government shouldn’t use an element of coercion to achieve the desired aim.

So what’s the problem? The myopic and self-centred individuals we have allowed to call themselves our leaders are sticking to their neo-liberal, free market private enterprise philosophy when it has patently shown to be totally incapable of dealing with the issue at hand. We get confirmation of that approach when the companies that will be involved in the testing procedure are reffered to as ‘partners’ and Hancock, the Health Minister, says that ‘money is no object’. So – as is always the case – major players in the chemical industry will make a killing out of doing something that is necessary for the country to come out of this capitalist created crisis as soon as possible.

And still any questions about mass testing are conveniently avoided or ignored.

As days go by this matter gets worse, rather than better. On 5th April Professor Neil Ferguson, a government ‘advisor’, said that he hoped ‘rapid access to testing and contact tracing [could be in place] by the end of May’. That’s right, May. Eight weeks away!

‘Immunity Passport’

During the announcement about the increase of testing to 100,000 a day by the end of April there was one statement which brings up some potentially serious issues. Hancock stated that if the test to check on immunity was able to identify those who might have developed a natural resistance to the virus those people could be issued with an ‘immunity passport’ and could therefore return to ‘normal’ life.

These are early stages yet but this whole issue has to be monitored very carefully. This would be introducing something akin to a national identity card system through the back door and is what tends to happen in societies in such situations – the State introduces something which people might consider reasonable at first but which can have serious consequences later on. This was broached in my post on 1st April.

Such a situation would also divide British society into two halves. Those with the passport and therefore able to live a ‘normal’ life and those without who would be in perpetual lock down and restricted in their movements until a valid vaccine had firstly, been invented and proven to be effective and, secondly, provided to everyone in the country.

And it’ll also provide a field day for forgers. And the potential dangers of the virus sprouting up in unknown and untraceable circumstances.

This is an example of how China has reacted in this situation:

‘For a country where having a smartphone is an indispensable part of daily life, it wasn’t difficult to introduce creative systems, and technology has been deployed in full force. I have a digital health passport on my phone, a green QR code that gives me access to my favourite restaurants and bars – should it turn yellow or red, I would be required to self-isolate again. Some establishments ask people to scan a QR code that displays their GPS locations for the past two weeks to make sure they haven’t left quarantine early. Contactless temperature checking is everywhere: entering the metro, a noodle shop, my gym or even a late-night speakeasy, I’m temperature-checked several times a day and should it ever go above 37.3 degrees, I’d be in trouble.’

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

Like testing this is an issue which doesn’t seem to get any closer to a resolution. And again shows how the Tory government makes declarations without having the infrastructure in place to carry such matters through. This was the regulation that all health workers (in hospitals, care homes or in General Practices) should wear PPE – but, as the majority of GP’s are saying, they just don’t have access to such equipment and have no idea when it might be readily available. What do they do, stop seeing patients who need assistance on matters which has nothing to do the covid-19?

And throughout the NHS there are a growing number of complaints that the equipment that is supplied is of an inferior quality. It’s well known that in war situations shoddy equipment gets sent to the ‘front line’ as unscrupulous companies seek to milk the situation for as much as it can get. It seems that those working on the present ‘front line’ speculators are doing the same.

As with the government – will such producers be held to account when ‘normality returns?

At the end of the second week of the lock down there was a mention of re-opening ‘moth-balled factories’ in order to produce the necessary equipment. That suggestion soon hits a number of buffers; I wasn’t aware the country had any ‘moth-balled factories’, presumably meaning places that have been shut down but have all the previous equipment in place and in working order; machines can’t just be made to produce whatever a politician would like – a machine that was making a car can’t be readily adapted to make a plastic face mask; and where would you get the people to work in these reopened factories with the necessary skills – the de-industrialisation of the country over the last 30 to 40 years hasn’t created a situation where there’s an infinitely flexible work-force able to turn their hand at anything.

In lieu of the Government getting a grip on this situation there are groups, and sometimes individuals, throughout the country who are making masks in an artisan manner. Although this is admirable and displays a fine community spirit what it ultimately does is get the government off the hook.

But it’s more than likely these community efforts won’t be enough as all groups of workers that should have PPE are not getting what they require. On 5th April 400 companies that provide care for people in their own homes stated that if they are not supplied with adequate equipment they will not be able to provide the daily care that thousands of people need to survive. This is a service which has been cut to the bone every year of so-called ‘austerity’ and the care provision is already at its lowest level possible. It wouldn’t take much to push those people dependent upon such daily visits into total despair.

Who’s watching you?

Google have produced location data to show the effectiveness of the lock down in various countries throughout the world based on data from mobile phones. They say that there is no personal data being collected here – and that might be true, at the moment. But surely if the computer knows where you are (anonymously) it can’t take more than a few keys strokes to put names and faces to that location. Or am I being paranoid?

But perhaps it’s not necessary for Google to tweak a few lines of a programme. As reported earlier the Government (through the NHS) has released an app that will inform mobile users if they are in close contact with someone who eventually develops signs of the virus. This will be ‘sold’ as a health and safety aid and almost certainly with the promise the information will not be used for any other nefarious purpose. Well that’s OK then, we know we can trust the Buffoon and his government. As of 3rd April 1.9 million people had put their information into this app. The argument goes that this will help to reduce restrictions on people’s mobility and speed the end of the lock down but people should be aware that once you’ve given permission for such tracing it’s much more difficult to get back control.

We now have more faith in experts – or do we?

It was Michael Gove, who said (to support his arguments following the vote of whether to stay in or leave the EU Referendum in 2016) ‘people in this country have had enough of experts‘. But now experts are in fashion again – even for Gove who, in recent days, has been standing beside ‘experts’ when giving Government briefings.

But for how long? Up to now there has been a general consensus amongst scientists but that is starting to change and the catalyst is the wearing of face masks. On the 2nd April a report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) was released which suggested that there was an argument for everyone to wear masks and another ‘expert’, Dr Elaine Shuo Feng of the Oxford Vaccine Group used similar arguments on the 3rd. However, all masks are not equal and I cannot see how, in the society in which we are living where a knee jerk reaction is the more common response, that any real effective use of appropriate masks will be happening before this pandemic runs its course.

In an age of constant news the media is always looking for someone to say something other than repeat the official statements. Unfortunately, sometimes that can cause more confusion rather than make people more aware of the issues.

On 3rd April, the same day the Tories said they were ‘working in partnership’ with the likes of Amazon (why Amazon?) and Boots to increase the number of tests for the virus another ‘expert’ was throwing a cat among the pigeons. Paul Hunter, Professor of Medicine at the University of East Anglia said; ‘these are tests that can’t generally be just done by anybody. They do need people with expertise in the NHS. These tests are done by bio-medical scientists who have several years training.’ Reading the results might need expertise, but not surely the actual tests themselves?

What’s happening indifferent parts of the world

US buys 60 tons of medical supplies from Russia to fight coronavirus

No comment.

A cold storage facility in Paris to be converted into a temporary morgue

And plans are in place for something similar in East London – though that seems to have been kept relatively quiet.

Peru to enforce a gender based curfew

I don’t really follow the logic of this decision. Perhaps like politicians throughout the world doing something (anything, no matter how ludicrous) is seen as better than doing nothing. Panama has also come up with this novel solution to the pandemic

US Captain fired for raising alarm about virus on ship

No comment.

Getting a deeper understanding of the virus

People are now dying in large numbers, in the UK and in other countries as well, who didn’t have ‘any known underlying health problems’ – and young people are also being effected. The most important word here is ‘known’. Presumably there are no post-mortems on these people so a deeper understanding of why they died – ‘out of the norm’ – will not be added to the sum total of the world’s knowledge of the virus.

On the 4th April it was reported that 13 residents of a care home (Burlington Court Care Home), to the west of Glasgow City Centre, had died during the course of seven days. As they died in the home and not in hospital they were not tested but it is assumed they had contracted the virus. In the same way as ‘unexpected’ deaths are not really investigated and hence information is lost (or more exactly not collected) this is yet another reason to bring in a much more extensive testing regime as soon as possible.

The new ‘Nightingale’ hospitals

A big thing was made towards the end of last week of the Excel London Exhibition Centre being converted into an up and running hospital in 9 days. The question that should be asked is; why wasn’t that location ‘up and running’ at the end of February? The answer is obviously finance, no one wanted to spend money when a temporary hospital might not have been needed. This is the result of the wishful thinking of capitalist governments – they hope disasters won’t happen even when history is periodically telling them otherwise and they don’t want to be accused of ‘wasting’ money.

I thought it was a nice British tradition in the official opening of the building as a hospital by Charles Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. I didn’t see it but did he cut a virtual ribbon?

Care home residents allowed to die

Letters emerged, sent to a number of care homes in the south of England, which stated that residents, over 75, of care homes who show symptoms of the virus would be refused entry to hospital. Care homes were also asked to update their ‘do not resuscitate’ records.

This was later dismissed as being a mistake but fitted in with what most people believe – there will, if the situation gets out of hand and the demands on intensive care becomes so great that the system is close to breaking – that some people will be allowed to die (and not based on medical evidence but merely on age).

Conspiracy Theories

Perhaps the first example of a conspiracy theory leading to direct action is the destruction of two mobile masts, one in Sparkbrooke, Birmingham and the other in Melling on Merseyside. The ‘theory’ is that radiation from the 5G transmitters has caused the virus – Wuhan being a centre in China where 5G roll out has been most prominent.

How is the lock down faring?

On 3rd April the Leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party in Westminster, Iain Blackford, said; ‘It is important that people have some idea when the restrictions will be lifted’. Loath as I am to agree with any Nationalist this is, indeed, an important aspect of determining how people in the UK react to the loss of mobility as a consequence of the lock down. Not that people necessarily want a definite time and date. What they want is to be told the truth and not to be constantly being, potentially, blamed for any extension of the lock down.

The government has been reactive since the very beginning, they have never given the idea that they knew what they were doing and turned it all into a political game when they did do something.

The only ‘strategy’ is to close the country down – no advance on what was done during the ‘Black Death’ of the 14th century. The ‘hope’, and it’s only a hope, of the government is that the present day plague will advance slowly enough that the dead don’t pile up in hospital corridors. The lack of testing, the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the sometimes confusing (and contradictory) messages coming from the official press conferences don’t inspire a great deal of trust.

Football players

On 3rd April it was announced that the football Premier League top players ‘may defer wages’ – for how long wasn’t stated. This followed the news that some of the richest clubs in the country (indeed in the world) were putting ‘on furlough’ their minimum wage staff and claiming the 80% of their wages from the government’s ‘give oodles of cash to private business’ fund. As some of these top players receive more in a week than many people earn in a year it was considered that they should make a gesture.

Then the flood gates of concern opened up to protect this previously unrecognised ‘vulnerable’ group in society.

Gary Lineker – himself a multi-millionaire – declared that we should give these players time to ‘do the right thing’. He added the question ‘Why not call on all the wealthy to try and help if they possibly can rather than just pick on footballers?’ Wayne Rooney (himself another multi-millionaire, even richer than Lineker) asked ‘Why are footballers suddenly the scapegoats?’

They both ask why bankers, CEOs of major companies and other extremely rich people are not being targetted – and they have a point on that. Those who have become even more wealthy in the last 12 years or so should be put in the spotlight. As it was stated after the crash of 2008 ‘we are all supposed to be in this together’ but some are effected more than others.

The disparities of wealth need to be challenged, not just in the context of covid-19, and it would have to include the all those who get a disproportionate amount of a society’s resources – which would include the likes of football players. People are making lists of those who are ‘key workers’ at the moment, upon which the majority of society now rely. I’ve never heard sportsmen and women, so-called celebrities nor any banker, CEO or any billionaire mentioned in that context. The population of this country and throughout the world should not forget that lesson once the present catastrophe has passed.

But not only would the players suffer so would the NHS – this from the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) – the players union. The reasoning was that if the wage bill was reduced by £500 million (the estimated figure of their collective wage cut – a figure itself being obscene as it concerns such few people and for such a short period) then the Exchequer would lose out to the tune of £200 million in tax. That seems wrong on so many levels. Not least they would be paying a fortune to accountants to come up with the most imaginative ways of tax avoidance and if that £500 million existed and wasn’t being paid to the players why isn’t it sent directly to the NHS?

Things that go by the wayside

Important issues get ‘forgotten’ in times of crisis. One is a recent report which highlighted the increase in modern slavery. This is something that’s been developing in the UK for some time with little effort being made to stamp it, and the perpetrators, out. With attention being concentrated elsewhere the present situation will be ideal for such scumbags to exploit vulnerable people, both citizens of Britain and any other country.

A nonagenarian speaks to the nation

If there are problems about how the ‘crisis’ is being managed we in Britain can relax. Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg-Gotha spoke to the nation at 20.00 on 5th April. People didn’t really need to watch/listen as all details were being broadcast up to 24 hours before the Sunday night transmission.

Was there a medicine that would have helped?

Mention was made on the Radio 4 ‘The World Tonight’ on 2nd April, of a ‘ potential life-saving medicine which should have been weeks ago but wasn’t allowed by the government’. I never heard mention of it again.

How is capitalism reacting to the crisis?

Aintree offers 10,000 free tickets at next Grand National Meet 2021

But not on Grand National Saturday – on the much quieter Thursday of the meet, when they struggle to get people there. That Thursday will be renamed ‘NHS Day’. Anyone visiting Aintree will probably spend much more by being there than they would if they stayed at home, betting and food/drink etc.

Wimbledon souvenirs as if it took place

A company attempted to sell off the souvenirs people would have bought when visiting SW19 for the tennis.

Double punishment

The government announced that a number of prisoners, close to their release date, would get out of gaol early in an effort to restrict the spread of the infection behind bars. When this was announced by the Tories (which sticks in their craw as it goes against their creed of flog ’em and lock them up and throw away the key mentality) they made reference to the ‘brave’ prison officers and the need to ‘protect the NHS’. However, they made no reference to the well being of the prisoners themselves. For the Tories it’s OK for every prison sentence to be also a potential death sentence.

Yes there are some pretty unpleasant people in prisons but most are just ordinary people caught up in a downward spiral. The most dangerous and those most deserving of a prison sentence are very often those in positions of power or protected by those very persons. The vast majority of the prison population are made up of people from working class backgrounds.

Unintended consequences

I don’t live too far from a major river in the UK but I have never seen, before the afternoon of 5th April, a sizeable flock of seagulls searching for food. One of my neighbours (for some bizarre reason) puts out stale bread for the pigeons. But that Sunday afternoon they had little chance as the battleships which are the seagulls pounced on the crumbs. Due to ‘social distancing’ there will be few people on the river front and therefore won’t be leaving scraps of fast food upon which the seagulls have gotten used to for survival. So they have to come further inland.

Will we see an increase in seagull attacks in places which are normally safe?

Capitalism always seeks to make money out of a crisis

Over the weekend it was revealed that the company which owns the ExCel building in London which has been turned into the temporary ‘Nightingale’ Hospital were originally asking for fixed costs to be borne by the NHS. Once the news got out they backed down fairly quickly but they did try it on in the hope of getting away with it. However dire the situation becomes there will always be those who seek to benefit financially from other peoples’ suffering. The richer the company the bigger the amount they expect to get.

Such is situation is encouraged by this Tory government as they see everything as a financial opportunity, it’s in their DNA. The Coronavirus Act agreed by all Political Parties just over a week ago has many stipulations on what the people can (and more importantly can’t) do in the present situation. However, there’s no threat to private capitalist interests at all in the document, they will not be expected to pay their share of the costs of the pandemic. Considering it was supposed to be a blueprint of how to fight the war against covid-19 the word ‘requisition’ doesn’t appear once in all its 300 pages.

Quote of the Week

Matt Hancock, Secretary of Health and Social Care, 5th April, 2020;

‘… the date of a return to normality is entirely [my emphasis, his meaning] dependent on how people follow the rules on social-distancing.’

So nothing at all to do with the failure of the government to get to grips with testing and provision of PPE!

He added that this was ‘mission critical’. I think I know what it means but why do they continue to introduce these bizarre terms and phrases.

Exit Strategy

Still nothing to add here.

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

Face mask

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.