Britain – start of week 3 of the pandemic lock down

nightingale

More on covid pandemic 2020

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.

More on covid pandemic 2020

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

Face mask

More on covid pandemic 2020

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

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

Testing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Telegraph, Front Page PM, 1st April

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key workers

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

The Telegraph, Front Page PM, 1st April

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

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – for everyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snippets

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

A rainbow to a nightingale

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

Do it yourself repairs

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

Haulage drivers ‘being refused access to toilets’

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

The Lord will provide

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

Exit Strategy

Still nothing here.

More on covid pandemic 2020

Inept politicians deepen the covid-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom

The world in the grip of a virus

The world in the grip of a virus

More on covid pandemic 2020

Inept politicians deepen the covid-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom

If I had a pound for every time someone has used the term’ unprecedented’ since the beginning of 2020 I would be as wealthy as the owners of transnational companies who are going to get untold quantities of cash (of various currencies) shovelled into their bank accounts. And it has to be admitted that times are somewhat different from what we have been used to, especially since the end of WWII in 1945. However, in such ‘unprecedented’ times; matters tend to move on very quickly; decisions are changed; ‘expert advice’ also changes; things are said which are (possibly) later regretted; accusations of inefficiency and ineptness are bandied around; and we’re still ‘ruled’ by a bunch of Tory buffoons.

With all that comes the danger that history is forgotten, the words that seem pertinent in the past are superseded by others, and the same with actions. Therefore during the course of this ‘unprecedented’ situation I will attempt to regularly record what I consider to be some of the standout moments. People, or more exactly the capitalist system, will have to be held to account for how this ‘unprecedented’ affair has been handled and it will help to have evidence easily to hand when they face the court of public outrage. (And I’ve already, in two paragraphs, earned myself £4.)

This will be concerned primarily with the situation in the ‘United Kingdom’, although with occasional references to other countries if the experience there sheds greater light on what has happened on the ‘sceptred isle’.

In an age of so-called ‘fake’ news there’s always a potential that information absorbed in good faith might not be accurate. In an effort to back up the points I list below I will, where possible, give a reference to where the piece of news was either heard (normally on BBC radio) or read – from various websites. That may be slightly patchy in this post as when I started collecting the information I didn’t have a clear plan of what to do with it. Hopefully further posts will be more clearly and accurately referenced.

On Monday 30th March Damian Collins, a Tory MP, suggested that it should be a criminal offence for false statements to be made about the situation surrounding covid-19. He stated that without a hint of irony. If such a law about false statements was applied then there would be 650 individuals from Westminster waiting outside the court rooms to be processed.

These comments follow on from those I made in a previous post, published on 23rd March

Publishing this on 1st April might make some to think that this is all a joke – but no, this is the world in which us Brits live under the control of this cretinous Tory government.

The reaction of our ‘governors’

  • UK ranks low when it comes to how proactive the government is compared to other countries in Europe – only worse is US
  • continued lack of clarity
  • continued speculation all day before an announcement, or not, at night
  • always quoting experts when they make their decsions so that if it goes wrong then they have their scapegoats
  • breaking promise about protection for renters
  • government defends watered down policy
  • won’t make a definitive decision on how to deal with the requests from tourist about refunds on holidays already paid for but now cancelled – no decision until July (30th March)
  • why was Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) still being sold on on-line auction sites whern there should have been a clamp down on such speculation and such materials should have been requisitioned for national distribution?
  • an on-line appeal to raise money for PPE, (30th March) – no one but the government should be able to buy this equipment at the end of March
  • Daily Telegraph also running a Charity Appeal – why when there’s so much money magically available from the State?

Keeping the population informed

‘Seven years ago, the UK Cabinet Office conducted a successful trial of an emergency alert system, but in the following years, there have been no further signs of development. As crowds of people began gathering at parks and beaches over the weekend (21-22 March), the government was unable to send a formal warning. Similar systems are used by countries such as South Korea and the Netherlands, the latter of which sent out messages to warn people from congregating in the park on Sunday. Although the government announced a large support package for businesses and individuals to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19, it has struggled to get clear messages out to the public, often competing with misinformation on social media sites.

It has now given a clear order to stay home, via mobile operators, but it could have been a lot easier it had followed up on its own research.’

https://www.itpro.co.uk/mobile/mobile-networks/355096/gov-failed-to-act-on-own-alert-messaging-advice

Shopping and the supply chain

  • the culture of food production in the past has made the society less able to react when a crisis appears
  • reliance on concentrated shopping like supermarkets
  • just in time distribution
  • problems of importing food from other countries when there are closed border
  • dependence on road transport to deliver huge quantities of food
  • problem of lorry driver being generally older

BBC Radio 4, The Food Programme’, Monday 23rd March.

  • no control of wholesale markets so private customers preventing companies from getting supplies
  • no consideration of monitoring of the price of basic foodstuffs to avoid price rises and speculation
  • the ‘just in time’ delivery model cannot ever cope in times of crisis, saves companies money but makes them vulnerable when there is an interruption in the supply chain – even bad weather can do that let alone a shut-down of weeks, perhaps months

Lidl to reduce restrictions on the quantities of food people can buy – apart from toilet paper (31st March)

The same day so did Aldi, Morrisons, Waitrose and Asda

  • more money spent in supermarkets in March 2020 than at any time in the past as people ‘rushed to stock-pile vital supplies’, 31st March – but on the same day reports were coming in about all the food that was being thrown away due to panic buying earlier in March.

School closures

  • definition of ‘key workers’ muddled and therefore ‘broke’ those schools that opened on the first day – i.e. Monday 23rd March
  • muddled thinking about exams
  • no consultation about exams with education professionals
  • no consideration of the effect this would have on students
  • still uncertainties about the situation in Universities

The not so ‘united’ kingdom

  • conflicting information in relation to the construction industry – whether sites should open or not – in UK and Scotland, which went on for days, (23rd March)
  • how long will the lock-down be, Sunday 29th March first it was 13 weeks (Catherine Calderwood, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland) and then ‘it won’t be save until after six months’ (Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harris) – causing uncertainty, fear and panic. The six months had an ominous rider ‘or longer’. They all seem to be acting as if it were a game and they are into ‘one-upmanship’
  • the four parts of the United Kingdom are making decisions by themselves when the system calls for an all island approach – just the Nationalists playing a political game
  • UK government introduces (under pressure) a ban on renter evictions for three months, in Scotland the ban is for six months
  • ‘NHS Wales has been testing NHS staff there for a couple of weeks’, Frank Atherton, Chief Health Officer for Wales, (30th March)

Testing – and why it’s not really taking place in the UK

  • testing still not moving forward and the TUC asking that ‘front line’ workers should be tested more thoroughly 23rd March
  • confusion over tests, not 25,000 but 5,000 a day (24th March)

Mass virus testing shop kits a ‘gamechanger’

The Prime Minister has described testing kits that reveal whether people have already had coronavirus as a possible “gamechanger”. More than three million of the tests – which tell people if they have developed immunity – could be available via Amazon and Boots within weeks. [T]he prospect of widespread testing could mean that key public services and parts of the economy reopen within weeks. Meanwhile, the first app monitoring symptoms of people in Britain with suspected coronavirus suggests that 6.5m people in the UK – one in 10 – has had the infection.

The Telegraph web site 25th March

  • British Medical Association, 29th March, after statement by government that testing (of medical staff) will take place from Monday 30th March, ‘long overdue’. Somewhat of an understatement.
  • then the Tory Buffoon boasts that such tests had meant that 20,000 health personnel would be returning to work as they do not have the virus, only symptoms that could be nothing. So why wasn’t testing of these people, as well as a more general testing throughout the population, instituted long ago.
  • Health Minister Heather Whately says they are ‘ramping up its capacity of testing for NHS staff’ and ‘boasts’ that there were 9,100 tests in a 24 hour period over the weekend, 31st March
  • Gove, as the Buffoon’s stand-in, states that the reason for the small number of testing taking place was due to ‘a chemical shortage’. How can this happen? More than two weeks ago they were talking about aiming to achieve a minuscule number of 25,000 tests per day (a pathetic number by any account) but this is the first we have been told of a problem in the testing procedure. Why do other countries seem to do so – even the USA? And why has this issue only come to light now? 31st March
  • the government’s ‘target’ of 25,000 tests per day ‘not likely for a month’, 31st March
  • Spokesperson for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine ‘mass testing is needed now. The whole point of testing is to detect it before you’ve infected somebody. Those affected self quarantine and everyone else carries on a normal life.’ 31st March
  • increasing calls for a more general testing regime, not just in hospitals and care homes. It should be rolling out in the community – the only way to get back to some sort of normality

NHS ‘snubbed offers from top labs to help with testing’

Officials in charge of coronavirus testing have largely ignored offers of help from leading scientific institutions, we have been told. Public Health England is accused of leaving specialists from Oxford University and the Francis Crick Institute “sitting on their hands” while questions mount over Britain’s testing capacity compared with other nations. An argument is growing between the health ministry and the NHS over a failure to use spare capacity to test hospital staff so they can get back to work. Britain is able to conduct 12,700 tests a day but only did 8,240 yesterday – fewer than Monday.

The Telegraph, Front Page AM, 1st April

Financial ‘solutions’

  • 500,000 claiming Universal Credit – not enough staff and the computer system can’t deal with an already flawed and derided system, applicants have to wait weeks before any payment is made, 25th March
  • if such huge amounts of money are going to private companies that means they can’t exist in the ‘private, free enterprise’ system and so they should be allowed to die or be nationalised (without compensation) – especially the transnational, global companies such as airlines and other transport providers
  • major companies think they have a right to feed at the trough of the public purse
  • any future ‘nationalisations’ – which are introduced to maintain the present existence of a company must be permanent and not allowing them to return to private hands when the State (and its people) have bailed them out of their own mess.
  • payments to companies
  • where’s all this money coming from? For more than ten years we were told ther was no ‘magic money tree’ but when it’s necessary for the existence of capitalism (as it was in 2008 and again now with the covid-19 debacle) the amount of money is only limited by the imagination of the Treasury.
  • plant nurseries which provide garden plants asking for £250m to counteract the destruction of their stocks that would normally be going off the shelves now, 31st March – why isn’t there flexibility to mitigate such waste, people go to supermarkets why not to plant nurseries?

Ventilators

  • only 8,000 in the country on a regular basis
  • government to order 10,000 ventilators from Dyson, 26th March, why (yet again) a delay, the need was identified long ago
  • UK won’t work with the EU on acquiring ventilators, 26th March
  • engineering companies warn that they won’t be able to fulfil the demand of 30,000 when the virus is expected to reach its peak in the UK in 2 to 3 weeks time

The figures – of cases and deaths – and what they really mean

Prof Ferguson – infectious diseases expert – told the [Parliamentary] committee that the latest research suggested as many as half to two-thirds of deaths from coronavirus might have happened this year anyway, because most fatalities were among people at the end of their lives or with other health conditions.

BBC Radio 4 26th March

Capitalist arseholes

Tim Martin of Weatherspoons – refusing to pay staff – not a particularly good employer – after years of arguing that working for them was a good career move, 24th March

The underlying hypocrisy of the British ‘ruling class’

  • Thursday night, 26th March, clap for the NHS – promoted by those who have spent years trying to destroy the NHS and causing nursing staff to go on strike in 2019
  • (let’s hope that when this matter comes to some sort of conclusion the people of this country will get off their fat arses and fight for the NHS and not continue to vote in a government that has been trying to destroy its very foundations for decades)
  • so-called ‘austerity’ was forced upon the people, not only of the UK but throughout the world, so that they would have to pay for the crimes of capitalism. During that period, in the UK, we saw; the increase in homelessness; the introduction of short term contracts; zero hour contracts; attacks on social services; reduced funding for the elderly in care homes; and reduced funding for schools and a ‘privatisation’ of education with the introduction of Academies.
  • this produced a society less resilient, in organisational, skills and general health to be able to confront such a pandemic.

Who are the ‘key workers’?

All of a sudden ‘key workers’ are; NHS staff – at all levels; care workers; supermarket staff; refuse collectors; council workers, i.e., some of the lowest paid in the country.

A prepared world?

The Global Heath Security Index released a report in October 2019 where it stated:

‘National health security is fundamentally weak around the world. No country is fully prepared for epidemics or pandemics, and every country has important gaps to address.’

This report is 324 pages long and I don’t expect most lay people to read it – but it should have been read by a responsible expert in all countries and recommendations made to governments. Did they in the UK/ If so, what happened? If not, why not. We are being asked to respect experts but if they are there just to give the politicians credibility then they are worse than nothing.

The report also found that the USA, out of all countries, was best prepared to deal with a pandemic. I wonder how many New Yorkers will agree with that?

A reference to this report appeared in an article in the Metro newspaper – way back on 5th March before the restrictions were introduced – one of the most read newspaper in the country.

But we have been told for years that past governments had been prerparing for such an eventuality – and one of the government ‘experts’ stated, when the first cases started to appear in the UK, that we shouldn’t panic as they were fully prepared. Economical with the truth or a lie?

What’s happening in other countries

  • Germany reporting that it carried out 500,000 tests in a week
  • what’s happening in Sweden
  • Trump claims there have been more than a million tests for the virus in the USA, 29th March
  • China sending supplies of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), by air, to New York (29th March)
  • Trump claims some hospitals are ‘hoarding’ ventilators – in an attempt to shift blame for lack of preparedness, 31st March
  • Austria making it compulsory for people to wear face masks in supermarkets, 30th March – how will this be possible when there is no availability of masks?
  • American Airlines has said it plans to request a $12bn US government bailout to cover its payroll costs over the next six months. 1st April

How is the NHS dealing with the pandemic?

  • shortage of Personal Protection Equipment – constantly being talked about, not only in the hospitals but in care homes as well
  • a big thing made of the ‘Nightingale’ Hospital opening in an exhibition centre in London, again, why was this not considered when the pandemic was likely weeks ago and only gets opened during the second week of a lock-down, 30th March
  • why wasn’t it considered a good tactic to have all potential covid-19 positive patients in the same facility, and one could be created for this is major population centres before the outbreak started to take hold?
  • ‘an echo-cardiographer doing a cleaning job in a hospital’, 31st March – what are the 700,000 plus ‘volunteers’ supposed to be doing if a skilled medical practitioner is doing such work?

British citizens abroad

  • UK government criticised for being last to attempt to bring British citizens back to the UK when the countries they had been travelling in started to lock down
  • complaints about poor information and lack of preparedness in various countries – probably an extension of the hands off approach the British government has had with citizens ion other countries which has developed over the year
  • ‘solve’ the problem by throwing money at the issue
  • ‘we are being kept in the dark’, ‘if they are doing something why don’t they tell us?’ – common complaints of British citizens stranded in other countries which are going through their own lock-down
  • £75m to be spent on rescue flights to bring British citizens back to the UK, 31st March, are these commercial rates being paid to private companies

Coronavirus Act 2020 – and the potential dangers of a locked-down society

‘Guidance’ to the act – official government website

Or the whole act in HTML format

  • ‘there’s a danger of the UK sliding into an authoritarian state’, Lord Sumption, Former Justice of the Supreme Court, 30th March
  • Derbyshire Police and the Peak District – ‘We are finding our way’. Read seeing what they can get away with. (31st March)
  • giving up liberties which are hard to recover – refer to Patriot Act in USA and 11th September 2001
  • what happens on streets when there’s no one there – reports of more break ins and burglaries in quiet town centres as there are few people around (31st March)
  • danger of legislation being snuck in and important reports getting lost in the coronavirus noise
  • 2020 UK Housing Review by Chartered Institute of Housing, reports, among other things, a huge increase in the numbers in temporary accommodation. This puts more than £1.1 billion into the hands of private landlords
  • Child poverty numbers rise by 100,000 in 12 months

‘It is a strategy that could pave the way to end the lock-down. The NHS is preparing to release an app that alerts users if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.’

The Telegraph, Front Page AM, 1st April

Quote of the week

‘But, overall, I tell you, the private, free enterprise system has been worked like nobody has seen in a long time’

Donald Trump, President of the USA, in a clip on the BBC Radio 2, 00.00 news on 29th March.

This had competition from the country will be ‘back open by Easter’ by the same person on 24th March.

Exit Strategy

A short one this, there still isn’t one!

More on covid pandemic 2020