July 4th – ‘Independence Day’ or Armageddon

More on covid pandemic 2020

July 4th – ‘Independence Day’ or Armageddon

With less than 24 hours to go before ‘The Great Relaxation’ how prepared is England to face the ‘new normal’?

‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’.

How will people act in the relaxation of the lock down?

Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology Health Behaviour Research Centre Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, Radio 4, World at One, 23rd June;

Q. What is your understanding of how the public will react to the easing of the lock down on 4th July?

‘We’ll see a mixed response. There are people who, definitely, are nervous and rightly so, and not just because they are nervous people but also because they’re in a vulnerable group … and there will be others who will take the opportunity [to live a more normal life].

One thing that is really important to understand is that if the Government does decide … to reduce the social distancing level from two to one metres essentially what they are announcing is the end of social distancing. It’s not just the question of whether people have a choice, to decide whether they are going to go to the cinema, what this means is that employers will be able to, in effect, require people to come to work even if they don’t necessarily feel safe. There will be compulsion here and that’s something that needs to be taken into account.’

Q. Rightly nervous because they won’t be able to stay at home?

‘The reality is we still have something in the region of 3,500 new infections a day, which down the track is going to lead to 25 deaths a day at the current level, which is low, or we are considering it low, but without a test/track/isolate support system … there will be outbreaks and we’ll probably be quite slow to detect those outbreaks and act on them.’

People are essentially being put in a situation where they are having to manage risk without adequate information. For some people that will be fine, for others it won’t be.’

Q. You think the Government’s moving too quickly on this?

‘I think they are. I know it’s really hard news for people who want to open up businesses and so on but the reality is that without an adequate test/track/isolate system in place we are putting people at risk. Not to put too fine a point on it across the country lives will be lost. That’s a political decision and I understand why the Government makes that but they have to be clear about, transparent about, their reasoning. We haven’t seen the SAGE [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] advice, what they’re saying about this so that people can weigh it up and make their own decisions.’

Q. Isn’t it always going to be a balance of risk?

‘There will always be a balance of risk but we’re used to that in society. We still have more than 1,000 road traffic deaths a year, we have several thousand people a year dying of smoking. This is something that we’re used to but what we really need in a situation like this is good information on what the level of risk is and what is being done to absolutely minimise that risk and that’s what’s lacking at the moment.’

Q. Would you like to see the SAGE advice published as soon as possible?

‘Yes, I, and independent SAGE, and many other people, have been calling for this, for much greater transparency, not least because it’s not just for our edification but also because we need to be able to trust the decisions that the Government is making and if they say they are making this decision on a balance of risk versus benefits let’s see the evidence on what the risk and benefit is.

…. One of the problems is that some of us have felt that the kind of behavioural advice that we’ve been giving, it may be getting as far as SAGE but the Government hasn’t always been acting upon it. This is an example of that.’

Q. Professor Peter Piot has said that he would prefer to be a metre from someone wearing a mask that two metres from someone without. Is that part of the piece missing here?

‘That’s one relatively small part of it, to be honest. What he’s absolutely right in saying is that you have to look at the whole risk situation. For example, outside, when you’re passing people on the street or in a park, the risk is really minimal because you’ve got a lot of ventilation, the concentration of virus you will be exposed to is very low even if you’re right next to someone for a short period of time.

But if you’re in an enclosed space, with a lot of people with not necessarily good ventilation, then you’re risk is greater. So it’s a combination of time spent in a risky environment, how many people there are, how close they are and, potentially, face masks, if they are worn properly – which mostly they are not [my emphasis].’

Leicester locked down before it was unlocked

We are constantly being told that the Government ‘is following the science’. But when it comes to dealing with the covid pandemic there’s more than one ‘science’ – it’s just a matter of following those views which agree with the policies the Government wants to follow.

Much of what has developed in the last 100days/14 weeks/4 months has been very much a knee jerk reaction to events. The Government has tried to gauge what will get it the most support from the general population – their eye always being on the popularity polls.

But it has to be said that the Buffoon and his cronies have been spectacularly inept in dealing with the first major crisis since the General Election of last December. Witness the increasing number of U-turns in policy and the cries of despair and disbelief which inevitably follow in the wake of any of their decisions, witness the imposition of the 14 day quarantine for anyone entering the country and whatever ideas they might have of getting schooling back in some form or other, to mentuion just two.

That reaction also followed the re-imposition of restrictions and the postponing of the greater relaxation on the lock down in Leicester on 30th June.

Dr Nathalie MacDermott, Clinical Lecturer in Paediatrics (Infectious Diseases), Kings College London, Radio 4, World at One, 30th June;

‘It’s crucially important to follow the data, in part to try and find a reason why we might be seeing an increase in cases in a certain area. For instance, it might be that there is a virus outbreak in a school or following a specific event, in that circumstance all of those individuals could be traced and asked to self-isolate at home. It then avoids the need to do a lock down of an entire region.

But if you have a situation where the case number is increasing and you can’t pinpoint an exact reason behind that, or there may be many reasons, or you can’t trace everyone who might be involved then you have to start considering implementing more stringent lock down measures.

That doesn’t necessarily mean introducing a full lock down but it might be, for instance, closing schools again if the increase is all seen in children of all ages or it might be not opening restaurants and bars because you’re concerned about the direction the trend is going in.’

Q. Where else should we be looking at the numbers to see how to get on top of this?

‘Everywhere should be looking at the numbers the entire time and monitoring the situation. But looking at the data that was in The Telegraph this morning [isn’t it strange that scientific commentators have to use a newspaper to get up to date information and not finding it from an official, Government source?] I would suggest that Doncaster would be the most concerning at the moment simply because the numbers have tripled from last week to this. The case number is relatively low anyway so a tripling isn’t that big a jump but obviously what we’re looking at is a trend.

What we want to understand is; is there a reason that we know of why the cases might have increased there or is there a general trend that we’re seeing and would further lock down measures be required in that area.’

Q. We’re still talking about low numbers, aren’t we?

‘Yes, but what we need to remember is that these are the individuals that presented themselves for testing. For all those that test positive there’s probably quite a big group behind that haven’t been tested who may well be also positive to the virus.’

Professor Carl Heneghan, Director Evidence-based Medicine, Oxford University, Radio 4, World at One, 2nd July;

Q. What does the evidence from across the world, that we now have, tell us about what we should do in Leicester, for example?

‘That’s a complex question. But firstly let’s say the first thing about deaths is that in March and April they went up very sharply in a number of countries – Italy, Spain, France and the UK, and in America but more so in New York. The death rate as we currently stand has diminished.

This is a radically different disease now than what it was a few months ago. About 6% of all people in hospital were dying then, now it’s down to about 1%. The key about lock downs is that it’s a very blunt tool and it should be used for one reason, and for one reason only – because the health system is becoming overwhelmed.

What we see in Leicester is an increase in the number of people coming forward for testing and an increase, but a small increase because we are at low rates, of the number of people with covid. I would say that right now [a lock down] is a very blunt tool and a mistake for us to be locking down Leicester. It’s a perfect opportunity to let the test and trace system start working. In fact we’ve seen a 30% reduction in the cases in the last week already – so it is having an effect.’

Q. You’re saying it has nothing to do with lock down or not?

‘What you are trying to achieve with lock downs is to preserve the health system because you’re being overwhelmed. This is a very complex disease and, in fact, when you do lock down people for a week or two you will increase the rate of transmission because we know the ‘attack rate’ in households is very high and in particularly multi-occupancy households it is high.

Let’s be clear. The system that we should be putting in place is a test and trace and working through the summer preparing for the autumn when we’ll see rates of respiratory infection go up. The current rate does not require a lock down.’

Q. If test and trace was working you would still have a situation of people isolating and have a higher incidence of the disease?

‘Let’s be clear. When we talk about respiratory infections through the summer some infection will have to circulate and it’s generally – in the summer – about 40/50 people per 100,000. In Leicester right now we’re talking about double that rate.

Now, in winter, we get up to rates about tenfold higher and we don’t close down areas. So what’s happening in Leicester is what we’ll see in most other areas, a slight spike, but the key is how you can control this by saying we’ll close whole cities.

This will be so difficult to do in London or Manchester, the real ‘super-cities’, that we need a different approach and we need to be very clear – what is it that defines the number of cases that the Government thinks we should shut down on.

At the moment it seems to be made up in a sort of ad hoc way.’

Allyson Pollock, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, formally Director of Public Health and Society, Newcastle University, Radio 4, World at One, 2nd July;

Q. Do you accept what Professor Heneghan is saying there that what we see in Leicester should have been dealt with by test and trace?

‘You’re absolutely right. The whole purpose of the lock down is to try and stop the transmission of the virus, that was the really important thing and it is a very heavy tool and that’s partly because the epidemic was rising. But by now, four months into it, we should now have a really effective test and trace system in place and that’s a very real anxiety that it’s taken four months and we still haven’t got evidence of an effective test and trace system.

That’s for two reasons. One is because the local Directors of Public Health and the Councils have not been receiving the data they need of the positive tests and the cases. And that’s essential to do effective contact tracing. What we know so far is that only just over half of all the cases this month that have been transferred to the test and trace system have given their contact details.

And another problem is we don’t know how many of the cases and contacts are actually going into self-isolation and quarantine and how easy or difficult it is for them to do that. That’s another part of the system that isn’t being monitored and about which we have no information. And that’s particularly important for Leicester.’

Q. It seems there was a large data dump but it didn’t include post codes. It seems the Councils have to sign up to data protection laws to be able to do that.

‘The data privacy is just a red herring. The fact is that the data was flowing centrally, they were being processed in an aggregate and what people need on the ground is the post codes, occupations, age and gender so they can actually map the places, and the clusters, in order to identify the community where the outbreaks are happening. That’s particularly important when you’ve got multi-generational households as you have in Leicester. This data was not being made available until 24th June and they are still not being made available in some local authorities.’

Q. If this was working properly would it mean local lock downs could be avoided?

‘Yes, if it was operating successfully, in combination with all the other public health measures, then you would be able to do this as has happened in Germany, in Switzerland. In Zurich recently they had an outbreak in a night club of 300 people who were asked to quarantine and actually they were monitored and supported because an important aspect of this is that it is very difficult to self-isolate if your financial situation, your housing situation, is precarious.

So the Government, again, needs to put in the support part of effective contact tracing and we have no knowledge of that and how it’s working.’

Julian Le Grand, Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and formerly Health Policy advisor to Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister, Radio 4, World at One, 2nd July;

Q. You have written that the policy followed in the UK was a major over-reaction.

‘Yes, that was the experience that we had … during the avian flu epidemic. We got some dire warnings about dreadful consequences if we didn’t close down ports, if we didn’t shut down airports, if we didn’t engage in all the lock down measures we have followed this time. … We were told there would be seven million dead and, of course, it was very alarming and it turned out, of course, to be wildly exaggerated and luckily we did not respond.’

Q. Who were the warnings from?

‘Ultimately the WHO [World Health Organisation].’

Q. Essentially the same people who put out warnings about this disease [covid-19]. But this disease is more dangerous than avian flu.

‘It’s clearly worse but the lesson we learnt from that experience was that you have to be careful about applying the ‘precautionary principle’. Epidemiologists tend to operate very much on the ‘precautionary principle’ which basically says ‘if you’ve got no data, no information, you’ve got a dreadful risk of some calamity, it’s better to be safe than sorry’. Which makes a great deal of sense at the first stages but what it doesn’t take into account of are the costs involved and what you do when you’ve got a little more data.

We are now in the situation where actually we do have more data. … We do now know that infection rates in Leicester are incredibly low, it’s something like 140 out of 100,000 – which is 0.14%. This is a tiny risk … which I don’t think [as do a number of other people] are worth the costs involved in locking down the city.’

Q. Except we do know what the worse case scenario is, as we saw in Northern Italy.

‘That’s when there was a cost, or a certain advantage, to an early lock down which was trying to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed and that was successfully achieved. We’re not in that situation now and it has got to a point when the blunt tool of a lock down is, essentially, too blunt, it carries the ‘precautionary principle’ too far and we ought to move to a much more targetted system of trying to curb the transmission of the disease.’

Q. You think it’s a mistake for the lock down in Leicester to be extended?

‘Yes, I certainly do. What we should be doing, and what we should have done from the beginning actually, is to concentrate on old people in care homes and hospitals. Those are the principal routes of transmission and infection and are also the ones who are the most vulnerable.

… The fatality rate for under 45s is virtually zero so we should have been concentrating on the elderly and we should have been concentrating on the care homes. And that’s basically where the focus should be now.’

Q. And those people who refer to the experience of Sweden?

‘In Sweden they are making the point I’ve just made. What the experts in Sweden say is that the problem is in old people’s homes, its care homes and to some extent hospitals and that’s where the restrictions should be more generally applied and not in a blunt fashion, city wide.’

Care Homes

Once it was clear that infection and deaths rates were particularly high in care homes (not really a surprise when it was known long before the virus hit the UK that the elderly were much more at risk, especially those with other underlying health conditions) there had been a call for more support to that sector, especially in the region of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and regular testing of both staff and residents.

When it came to testing I thought that had been resolved some time ago, but no. This will only take place from the start of next week. Why does everything always take so long?

On 3rd July results of a survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), about fatalities in care homes, showed that there were 29,000 ‘excess deaths’ overt he five year average since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic in the UK – full, downloadable report

Nadra Ahmed, Chief Executive of the National Care Home Association, Radio 4, World at One, 3rd July;

Q. What do you make of the ONS survey?

‘It’s an interesting survey … and what it tells us is that the people we knew had to be shielded from the very start, the services that needed to be shielded, were the ones that have had this enormous impact of the virus entering those services.

What it shows is, perhaps, at the very beginning, when we were being told that care homes were not going to be impacted [the report] blows a hole in that and that the impact was going to be substantial.’

Q. What is the lesson for the future and a possible ‘Second Wave’?

‘What we’ve learnt is that at the very start of this PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], which was not something we knew much about, was something we needed as a matter or urgency. [Care home] providers are now prepared, we need to ensure they have a good supply of PPE – it was all being requisitioned by the NHS at the point all this started.

The other thing is we have pushed and pushed and pushed to make sure that testing became available and we know, of course, today it’s been announced that testing will now be available in care homes but it should have been from the very beginning. It would have been one of the things that would have mitigated the challenge.’

Q. What about the point of agency staff and sick pay?

‘One of the things we have to remember is that coming into this pandemic there were already 122,000 vacancies in our services. So the recruitment of care staff has been a challenge for the past decade at least, if not longer. The image of social care has been such that we don’t have a professionalised pathway and then, of course, there’s the matter around the low pay bit, which is the National Living Wage when I know many providers pay above that just in order to recruit. That led us to the fact that we were already using agency staff, which is why we’ve seen a growth of recruitment agencies for care staff.

As the pandemic hit and we started to see 20 – 30% of staff self-isolating, going off sick, the numbers were quite enormous. What we found was that people were transmitting from one home to another. A lot of homes tried to stop that by shutting the doors to agency staff.’

Q. What about sick pay? I have heard that people were going into work sick because they needed the money.

‘That’s something we would need to dig a bit deeper into. Because the majority of providers that we have spoken to have said that they were very keen, as soon as there were any symptoms, that staff went off sick.

The problem is the asymptomatic bit where people were continuing to work. Because we didn’t have the testing we didn’t know they had the symptoms.’

Q. The correlation is sick pay, isn’t it?

‘People [care home providers] were paying sick pay because they wanted people to come back and that’s why we will need to look a bit further into this. We’re required to pay Statutory Sick Pay so you can’t not pay sick pay if somebody goes off sick. ….

Q. Do agency staff get sick pay in the same way?

‘That depends on the agency staff. They should do. If you have a contract with an employer then you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay.’

The Buffoon and his ‘Roosaveltian’ speech in Dudley, 30th June

About the inefficiency and inability of his Government to properly deal with the pandemic;

‘There are plenty of things people will say we got wrong and we owe that discussion and that honesty to the tens of thousands who have died before their time, to the families who have lost loved ones and, of course, there must be time to learn the lessons – and we will.’

A mea culpa but nothing about a promise of an investigation or a holding to account.

About how the Buffoon thinks the country will get out of the deepening economic crisis following their inefficiency and inability to deal with the pandemic in an effective and constructive manner;

‘I just serve notice that we’ll not be responding to the crisis with what people will call ‘austerity’ [then what would he call what has been forced on the British people in the last eleven years or so?]. We’re not going to cheese pare our way out of trouble because the world has moved on since 2008. We not only face a new but, in some ways, a far bigger challenge.

… Next week the Chancellor will be setting out our immediate plan to support the economy through the first phase of the recovery. But this moment also gives us a much greater chance to be radical and to do things differently.

To build back better and to build back bolder and so we will be doubling down on our strategy – we will double down on levelling up [rhetoric with no substance, what does it actually mean? – just playing to his ‘core’ audience].’

… This Government is not just committed to defeating coronavirus. This Government is determined to use the crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades [three decades which are a result of the fundamentalist, monetarist policies introduced by Thatcher in the 1980s].

To build homes, to fix the NHS, to solve social care, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK, to unite and level up [all allowed to get worse under the previous Tory (and Labour) Government’s. If these services and social policies had been strengthened the country would have been much more able to confront the problems caused by the pandemic].

And to that end we will build, build, build. [Although often misquoted, Danton has a lot to answer for. Every pretentious politician in Britain seems to think they have to repeat one word three times at least once in their miserable political lives – and often more than once.]

Build back better, build back greener, build back faster!’ [This one’s down to Aristotle.]

Britain, covid-19 and poverty

Just as Trump has done the most for the Black population of America since Lincoln, the Buffoon claims that the Tories have done the most in the last ten years to reduce poverty in the UK. How true is that?

A report from the Resolution Foundation, published on 9th June, shows how the pandemic (and the lock down) has had an impact on families throughout the UK – the brunt of the negatives being taken by the poorest in society.

Things also don’t look so good for those in the 50s and 60s – the next generation of retirees.

And the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that things are getting worse for poorer families with children. The Foundation also published ‘diaries’ of four different so-called ‘key workers’ and the problems they are having just getting by during the covid pandemic.

The Resolution Foundation also produced a report on the prospects for youth unemployment.

Another report, this time by the Social Metric Commission, shows that the UK has seen a 39% rise of those living in ‘deep poverty’ – meaning their income is at least 50% below the official breadline.

Test, track, trace and isolate – perhaps

Testing was the key to getting on top of the covid-19 outbreak. That was universally agreed from the very beginning – even before the first cases were reported in the United Kingdom. However, the problem the British people have is the government they ‘democratically’ elected to manage such situations – at almost the same time as the first reports were coming out about a new and not understood virus – has quickly proven itself to be one of the most inept in history.

What the Buffoon and his gang has never understood is that if you wish to win any war – and the statements made about this pandemic have been replete with military analogies and language – then first and foremost you need a strategy. There has not been, there is not now and, in all probability, there will never be one in place.

When the decision was taken, way back on the 12th March, to end testing and to go for the lock down approach that shouldn’t have meant that testing was just forgotten. A ‘task force’ [even I’m getting into the military terminology] should have been set up so that when testing was restarted the infrastructure needed to make it truly ‘world beating’ was actually in place. No such force was set up, the testing has been a shambles (to say the least) and all decisions have been made based upon what was seen as the best way to deal with a particular crisis. In management/politician speak ‘there was no joined up thinking’.

And as the independence day/end of the world as we know it approaches, whose success will very much depend upon the testing regime in place, there have been a deluge of articles, reports and commentaries on the perilous state of the testing system which is being provided in one of the richest countries in the world.

The story that has been unfolding in the last seven or so days can speak for itself.

11th June

This one from the beginning of the restarted test, trace, track system – mainly to remind people of how the system is supposed to work and also why sometimes it doesn’t – or hasn’t.

19th June

This one goes back a couple of weeks but hasn’t been reported here before so worth adding. Issues over supply of necessary material, from Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ventilators, have bugged the battle against the pandemic from the beginning. To that list can now be added testing kits.

26th June

You would have thought that the Government was aware that not everybody in this country has access to a private vehicle and the placing of drive in testing sites on the outskirts of major towns made it virtually impossible for a huge proportion of the population to take advantage of the facilities. ‘Walk-in’ testing centres, a whole 6 of them, were announced more than three months AFTER the lock down was declared.

One of the impacts of a ‘not fit for purpose’ testing regime is that it doesn’t inspire confidence and in the climate of fear that has been created in the last three months those anxiety levels are likely to increase.

You would also have thought that with all the publicity about potential covid-19 carriers being released into the community without first being tested (and probably/possibly one of the main causes of the spread of the disease in care homes) that by the beginning of July this wouldn’t be happening. Not in Hertfordshire it seems. And where else?

29th June

And, not surprisingly, it’s more than likely that the poor testing system has cost lives.

And will the testing regime be robust enough to deal with any potential ‘second wave’?

30th June

What has been like working in one of the testing laboratories? Again a sign of lack of planning.

That’s the way to do it. Instead of just talking about being ‘world beating’ the UK Government should have been learning from elsewhere. Germany can do it well, why can’t Britain?

The app that never was – or ever will be?

There might be a working app in Britain – whether it talks to the ones used in any other country is another matter – before the arrival of the next pandemic (or even the one after that) but whenever it arrives there will still be issues over privacy and who does what with what information and for how long. Perhaps worthwhile bearing this in mind. As stated before states are quite adept at using ’emergencies’ to introduce policies and practices ‘under the radar’ or under the pretence that it will only be temporary. Once such practices are entrenched they are very difficult to get rid of – the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

‘Immunity passports’ rise their heads – again

This idea has been around since the beginning of the pandemic and not just in Britain. It ties in with both the testing regime and the use of a Smartphone app and starts to become complicated as it starts to divide societies into people who can do certain things and those who can’t. And when it crosses borders it determines who can travel and to where.

The desire of States to know as much as possible about their own citizens – as well as those of other countries – it’s almost certain that some sort of system will be introduced in the coming months/years. But it comes with its own problems – not least it’s unlikely to do what it promises, that is proving that the carrier is no longer a threat from transmitting the disease.

And as if we didn’t need any other divisions in society these ‘immunity passport’ could potentially create an ‘antibody elite’ – as well as providing opportunities for fraudsters and gangsters.

Devolution means the need to do things differently

The nationalist continue to follow their ‘independent’ course. The most recent decision of the Scottish variety is making the mandatory use of face covering in shops north of the border.

The problem of ‘symptomless transmission’

Away from the best measures to deal with the pandemic the covid-19 showed itself to be tricky and the virus was able to spread more widely as the concept of symptomless transmission was difficult to accept in many countries.

Does ‘symptomless’ possibly indicate increased ‘herd immunity’?

The lack of a vaccine definitely makes the idea of herd immunity very attractive to speed the return to normality (even though a ‘new’ one). In a way that makes those locations (be it cities or countries) with high infection rates possibly those locations with a greater herd immunity, so suggests a study from Sweden.

Not protecting the NHS for ever

With so many billions of pounds being thrown around it’s difficult to keep track – and that’s what the Government wants, to confound people with numbers. Now that the pressure has been taken, somewhat, off the NHS the Tories start to show their true colours and what they give with one hand they take with another.

A quote from the Buffoon when he was released from hospital at the beginning of May;

‘We are making progress in the national battle because the British public formed a human shield around the country’s greatest national asset – our National health Service.’

Schools returning in September

This is another to watch. The so-called ‘guidance’ published at the beginning if July, will without a shadow of a doubt, go through so many revisions before September that it won’t be recognisable in two months time. Just an example that even when the Buffoon and his gang make a decision it is so badly thought through that has to be changed beyond so much it’s really a new one – something that could have been avoided if all the plans of how the Uk comes out of the lock down were part of an overall strategy.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union, Radio 4, World at One, 2nd July;

Q. One of the concerns of the unions has been safety. Are you re-assured by what you’ve read in the guidance?

‘We need further re-assurance, both from Public Health England (PHE) and SAGE [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies]. That re-assurance is in two areas.

… It’s important that SAGE tell us explicitly that they have modelled what the guidance is in practical reality, what the effect of that would be on transmission networks. We are talking about big groups of children where there is no social distancing. Within a class of 30 there won’t be any social distancing, in reality our classrooms aren’t big enough for us to allow it.

In Secondary Schools that will often be that group of 30 within a year group of 280/330, so they are very big groups. It would be important for public confidence for SAGE to say that they have modelled that.

The other form of re-assurance that SAGE needs to tell us about is the question of vulnerable parents and vulnerable staff. If you are a member of staff, a teacher or a support assistant, who is on the clinically vulnerable list … certainly in a primary school you cannot do your job and stay socially distant from the children. Teaching assistants there work alongside the children so if they are clinically vulnerable what do Public Health England and SAGE say about the level of risk for that person? Obviously it depends upon the level of the virus within society

The same thing in Secondary Schools for clinically vulnerable people. The Government is saying ‘try to stay two metres away’ but you’re in a class of 30, it’s quite an enclosed environment, often with not very good ventilation. Thirty children who aren’t socially distancing, who are meeting lots of people during the day, those things we need re-assurance on.

We want children to go back, we want the virus level to be lower in September so that makes it possible but the Government does need to work on re-assurances.

That needs to be about practical reality because this idea of big ‘bubbles’ which can be distant from one another at break time, at lunch time, that feels like it’s quite an organisational challenge in a big school.’

Q. Do you think the ‘bubbles’ are too big?

‘Yes, we do. We prefer a situation where there are lower numbers of children in the ‘bubbles’. That’s why we’ve been arguing, from earlier on, that they might need to have to look for extra classrooms, ‘Nightingale’ classrooms. We’ll have to bring teachers back who have left the profession, mobilise supply teachers.’

Q. There are many challenges. Is there anything that can fully satisfy you on the matters you are raising?

‘We absolutely recognise that there’s a balance of risk in this. There are risks with children being at home. We want children back at school. As the virus level drops then obviously the balance of risk shifts in favour of children being at school.

But there are people with particular risk factors. … If you’re a 55 year old man from a Black background, then you’re at more risk than other people. So the idea that some teachers should be doing work that is supporting children who will still be at home and other teachers being brought in to teach the classes. That doesn’t seem to me to be an unreasonable thing to ask about. That does give you, then, a graded way of looking at the level of risk. It’s not the same for every teacher, it does depend upon the vulnerability that you have as an individual.’

The fact that children have been out of school for a few months is bad enough – the fact that when they return they could be receiveing a much worse education is another. Due to lack of imagination and will instead of confronting the problems of a return to proper full time education it seems that too many are looking to reduce the provision to make a basic return easier to manage. The curriculum could be altered for most children and the guidance is far from clear on how matters will progress in September.

And in a demonstration that Government ministers don’t understand that the idea of local schools is a thing of the past and far too many children have to travel long distances every day the plan that they should find alternatives to public transport is laughable – if it wasn’t so serious.

Quote of the week

Buffoon at Prime Minster’s Questions, Houses of Parliament, Wednesday 24th June;

‘ … [Starmer] has been stunned by the success of the tracking operation … [that it was] a formidable achievement … [in response to the UK app failure] no country has, so far, developed a successful tracing app … [and it] got up much faster than the doubters expected.’

More on covid pandemic 2020

On the eve of the announcement of the most substantial relaxation of lock down so far

More on covid pandemic 2020

On the eve of the announcement of the most substantial relaxation of lock down so far

Later on today, Tuesday 23rd June, the Buffoon will be making an announcement (as usual most of it being leaked to the media so it will be preceded by a day of useless and meaningless speculation) of more places being able to open in England during the first week end of July – Scotland, wales and Northern Ireland will continue to do their own thing.’

As is normal in these circumstances wild ideas will be floated only to be debunked at the time of the official announcement. One such is that people will be expected to ‘sign in’ if they go to a pub or a restaurant. If that were to be introduced expect the Buffoon’s name and address appearing in countless locations throughout the country.

One of the other topics which will be discussed to death in the coming days, as more and more businesses start to re-open, as more school children start to go back to classes and as more people are generally on the streets, is the efficacy – or otherwise – of wearing some sort of face covering.

This is being promoted as an easy way to control the virus but even those who are most keep on getting us all masked up accept that to be effective then it has to be done correctly. That is, it’s not just a case of putting a scarf around your face and pretending to be a bank robber in the wild west.

Doing it properly means; not touching your face, taking them off carefully and considering how they should either be stored (if reusable) or disposed of (if the one off sort), how, and at what temperature, they should be cleaned (if reusable), the process of hand cleaning when removing the covering, and many other ‘recommendations’ that will no doubt be presented in the coming days.

But what those scientists and politicians who want to enforce this upon the general population have failed to do is look at how people, so far, have acted when wearing masks. And there are many occasions where they could have learnt a lot – those demonstrations that have taken place internationally in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement.

In those demonstrations people haven’t followed any of the recommendations above. They come on and off as the discomfort level increases, they are constantly touched as people move them to be more comfortable or to speak to others, they are hanging around people’s necks. All guaranteed to spread the virus and not reduce contamination.

And in the photo/video of the teachers and schoolchildren in Wokingham, following the stabbings in Reading over the weekend, who were holding a two minutes silence at the school entrance on Monday 22nd June very few were wearing masks – and don’t talk about ‘social distancing’.

Two metres or one – or something in between

Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health, Edinburgh University, Radio 4, World at One, 11th June;

Q. When will it be safe to reduce interactions to one metre?

‘From a public health perspective to provide as much protection as we can we should stay at 2 metres. However, that is not the only consideration.

There’s a lot of discussion about this as if it were scientifically exact … but that’ not the case. It’s also due to the things like, what’s the indoor environment like, how long are you in contact within that distance, etc.

The other consideration which is equally important is how do you get sectors of the economy up and running again because job losses and economic impacts also have health consequences … therefore it would be open to reduction in certain circumstances.’

Q. Is there a level of infection which you think it would be right for the government to reduce the distance?

‘Everybody is looking for precise numbers but the Government’s right, infection rates are still high in England. We still have 39,000 cases per week so that’s a higher level than other countries where they relaxed the lock down. It’s better to remain cautious but as we look forward in the coming weeks certain premises, if they have got all the other public health measures in place, for example staff wearing masks, good ventilation, good hygiene standards, there may be room to reduce that slightly, particularly down to one and a half metres. There’s a number of studies that show distance provides a good level of protection.’

Q. Only one and a half?

‘That’s what I’ve seen from the studies. There’s more support for one and a half than one definitely. But let’s bear in mind countries here take a different approach on this so it has to be a package of measures.

If we are going to reduce it to one metre let’s make sure we have clear guidance for businesses on the other public health measures that are going to be in place. For certain environments we need to be giving much clearer emphasis on mask or face covering wearing. Obviously more and more evidence from different countries is going to make a real difference as we go forward.’

Q. Can you say what the difference is between one and two metres?

‘Essentially, if you have 100 people in a room, if you have less than a metre the rate of infection would be 13 people under certain conditions. If you have more than a metre, especially one and half metres, this reduces significantly down to three people. If you have two metres or more it reduces down to one person. So there’s a 50% reduction in risk potentially between one and two metres.’

Q. After the two metre message has been stressed for so long is it now difficult to change it to one metre?

‘We’re in a very confusing period for the public. It will be difficult to change and people will also lack trust in the advice of it suddenly shifts. People who are very cautious will be deeply uncomfortable being in indoor environments where that distance is reduced. But the consequences of a very deep recession are just as important. At the end of the day it’s going to be a political decision.’

Q. Are you happy in the way the decisions have been taken by the Government so far?

‘No. [Laughs. Yet another scientist laughs at Government activity.] The communication has been poor and the guidance has been confusing.

Many thing went wrong from testing to PPE [Personal Protective Equipment], to lack of capacity for contact tracing. We are beginning to move in the right direction which is good news.’

Robert Wallace, Professor of Sociology, Nottingham Trent University, Radio 4, Today programme, 11th June;

‘I think it’s a question of relative risk …. You’re moving from a tiny risk at two metres to a very small risk at one metre. And you have to set that against all the other harms that are being done by the economic devastation that is reeked by the two metre rule, and the deaths that will be attributable to the lock down and to the social and economic disruption which this is causing.’

Children going back to school – or not

As always, matters are less complicated for the more wealthy. Most, if not all, private schools have already said they intend to open in September.

James Wilding, Academic Principal, Claires Court Independent School, Maidenhead, Radio 4, World at One, 16th June;

Q. Will you open fully in September?

‘There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do. … We’ve been able to demonstrate throughout … that we are able to continue successfully … [with children] suitably being taught and separated appropriately from the adults teaching them.’

Q. Do you have the luxury of having a lot of space?

‘We’re on three sites, we have got room but we don’t have acres of land. The particular point is .. a class size of fifteen. My school has its entire enterprise based around class sizes of that number. So we have, essentially, always ran our school of class size of the recommended level the Government is saying.

I sympathise hugely with my State sector colleagues that they have class sizes with 30 children. But we don’t. So we are able to manage the suitable separation in the rooms we would normally use.’

Q. What should head teachers do for September?

‘September is sufficiently far away that we can make our plans in a continuous way for timetables, for appropriate arrival back at school. Also we can have our boys and girls at school where they need to be.

It’s not just children of ‘hard to reach’ families that need to be at school, all children need to be at school. It’s their childhood that they have at school, not just their learning.’

Devi Shridhar, Chair Global Public Health, Edinburgh University and advisor to the Scottish Government, Radio 4, World at One, 16th June;

‘The risks to children on a population level are quite small. Most children have no or very mild symptoms and so the concern has to be around parents, who they [the children] go home to [such as] grandparents as well as teachers.

In Scotland cases have come down considerably to the point that the past week it’s been most days 20 to 30 confirmed daily new cases which is a good position to be in going into another month before schools open.’

Q. If numbers are low enough what should happen on 11th August [when Scottish schools are due to re-open for the 2020-2021 academic year]?

‘Ideally, and this is the hope that we can eliminate the virus, so we have no new cases or one or two, and if this was the case then actually Scotland would be in a position to just open schools normally.

I’m thinking of [the example] of the Faroe Islands, Iceland, New Zealand, but I think it’s more likely to be in a position to that of Denmark and Norway where you have to have some sort of precautions in place, you have a low number of community cases and you need to keep in place certain measures but you can slowly release them as you see, and become more and more confident, that you have transmission under control.

And it’s not going to be a case of going back exactly as it was last time. There needs to be thinking around hand washing facilities, assemblies, for example, are not going to be possible, how you get parents and teachers and children to and from school and the role of face coverings if they’re going to be on public transport.’

Q. You haven’t mentioned social distancing and that’s what limits how schools will be able to open [in England]. Are you suggesting that social distancing should just go?

‘It’s not just as easy as that. It depends upon communities. If there was a local area in Scotland that had no cases I would say that social distancing is currently not necessary. Especially among kids. We have seen that social distancing has been a cost free exercise. There’s more concern around teachers, their distancing.

What we have noticed is that it is teacher to teacher transmission that is likely to set off chains of infections. We see much more limited evidence of children to adult transmission.’

Q. Whatever the rates of infection is it a failure not to get children back to school in August or September?

‘We definitely have to find a way to get children back. Kids will have been out … for six months. It’s a heavy price to pay. So the imperative is children. It comes above shops, pubs and gatherings, which are all so important to the economy. Kids don’t have a voice, don’t have a strong lobby, they don’t vote so sometimes we forget about their interests and that they do need to get back into school and we need to figure out a way to prioritise those settings and make things safe enough that there is confidence among parents and teachers to engage and participate fully.’

Anna Ekström, Swedish Education Minister, on the Swedish experience where schools have remained open during all of the pandemic, Radio 4, World at One, 16th June;

‘We have concluded that children have not been a driving force in the pandemic and, moreover, the staff within the school and pre-school system which have remained open, they have been found to not to have been diagnosed with covid-19 to a greater extent than those in other professions. Also we have big public support for keeping schools and pre-schools open and also, of course, the support of the teachers’ unions.’

Q. One of the fears here is that the staff might be at risk but you are saying that staff are no more at risk if schools return?

‘That is what our public agency has found. …The fact that we had schools open so far hasn’t led to a higher degree of infection among the staff.’

Q. Have the teaching unions always been on side?

‘Both of them have been on side always but I would like to add that they have, of course, being unions, they are critical when it comes to conditions and the terms of employment and they have been critical on lots of things but the fact that we kept schools open has not been part of the criticism.’

Q. What is the social distancing within schools?

‘That’s a difficult part. Our school building are clearly not built for a pandemic. We have used the WHO [World Health Organisation] recommendation. That is, keeping a distance between children in the classrooms, making sure that the canteens are not too crowded, making sure that lots of teaching is conducted outdoors.’

Q. Have you kept the one metre distance in schools?

‘Honestly I can say that schools aren’t built for this. The children are not always the best at keeping their distance and this is an area we had lots of discussions, all the time.

The handling of the schools in this pandemic has never been reaching an easy decision. It has been about weighing one kind of risk against another kind of risk. I am constantly aware of the risk if infection but I’m also constantly aware of the risk of keeping schools closed because that is a concrete link for all children.’

1,500 paediatricians have signed a letter to the Buffoon asking that the opening of schools be made a priority. Dr. Max Davie, Consultant Community Paediatrician, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Colleges’ Officer for Health Promotion, Radio 4, World at One, 18th June;

‘We are very concerned about the continued absence of children from school, particularly disadvantaged children. One of the big focuses of our work … has been on inequalities and we can only see a prolonged absence from school widening inequalities, both academic but also health inequalities across physical and mental health, with any disadvantaged child suffering disproportionately.’

Q. Are the risks now greater of not going to school that going to school?

‘For some children that’s true. I work sometimes in child protection … and we have a lot of children that being at home with parents who aren’t coping or who have issues of their own, is becoming more and more stressful and difficult and dangerous and we’re having some very difficult cases coming through where things have broken down. Schools really are a bulwark for a lot of very vulnerable families. They provide so much holding things together as well as, of course, the conduits for things such as vaccinations and a lot of mental health work that goes into children. … All this then happens through schools and losing that really just takes away a cornerstone of the whole system at a local level.’

Q. But schools are still open for vulnerable children as well as those of key workers?

‘They are but it all depends on how you define vulnerable children. So, if a child has vulnerability such as a diagnosis of ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder] … they are not necessarily being offered a place because the definition of vulnerable is often quite a bit more narrow than perhaps would be ideal. Children are getting an input but they need to get the full input that the school does a fantastic job of providing.’

Q. Can you give an example of the kind of things you are seeing?

‘It’s difficult to talk about individual cases but I would say three things.

One is families with children with really significant special needs who are not perhaps at the threshold where they would be getting a school place. When you are struggling with their behaviour with three months in, confined to a small flat, often in an urban area … it must be becoming very difficult and tempers are getting frayed … and children are less safe.

The second area is where you have families with very significant mental health issues in the parents. They are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with children and therefore things happen in such situations that can be harmful to the children and then we have to step in. It’s much better if we can support children before that happens.

If you’re not seeing them, they are not in contact with professionals, then we don’t know what’s happening in the home and that’s very worrying.’

Q. Are you calling on the Government to open schools now?

‘What we’re really calling for is a plan. When I speak to teachers what they want is a plan. They don’t know what’s happening next week or next month. They just don’t know what’s going to happen. What we want is a coherent and sensible plan to get children back into school as soon as possible.’

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England;

[Tthere is a] ‘dangerous threat’ [to children’s rights as reduced access to education was being allowed to become] ‘the default’. ‘You have to come up with the level of intervention, such as the Nightingale hospitals, such as the job retention scheme. … There’s no reason why we can’t do that for children.’

The contact tracing app saga continues

James Bethell, an hereditary peer and a junior minster in the House of Lords (currently involved with the introduction, or perhaps not, of the NHS tracing app) said, on 17th June, that the much lauded application was not a priority for the Government at the moment [for that read its not working and they don’t know how to get it up and running] claiming that the pilot on the Isle of Wight had shown that people preferred to be contacted by a human being. He further said the app was unlikely to be ready ‘before the winter’.

Michael Veale, lecturer in Digital Rights and Regulation at University College London and part of the team that developed the app now being used in Germany and Switzerland, among other countries, Radio 4, World at One, 18th June;

Q. Have other countries found that people prefer human contact rather than technology?

‘Other countries have seen manual contact tracing and app contact tracing as going hand in hand. The concern that many countries, and this is also the same with the UK Government, have with calling people on the basis of an app result is that you encourage phishing, with calls from people pretending to be from ‘test and trace’ and trying to get people to pay for a test, or something like that, and it’s very difficult to verify. It’s always going to be a concern in these situations.’

Q. When you look at the UK results this morning where there is a 25% gap is an app needed to fill that gap?

‘The app is really useful in that area but we don’t have the data to say who that 25% of people are. The app is particularly useful when you are near somebody on a bus or train, for example, who you might not know the name of and so they may not be caught by a manual tracing process.

But if the 25% of people who don’t respond to manual contact tracing are the same 25% who don’t install an app then that might not be such a useful development.’

Q. The Government is talking about some concerns with their own app. Is it just being put on hold?

‘It sounds like it. Many countries have developed their own app, simultaneously or even before the UK. …

It’s now been the case that Germany launched theirs on Monday and 6.5 million people in Germany downloaded it in 24 hours. Italy has had theirs launched for a couple of weeks. Denmark launched theirs today. So we’ve really seen a great amount of development and take up but the UK has chosen an app which isn’t compatible with these countries’ apps. And that raises questions for holiday makers in particular.’

Q. If you went into another country couldn’t you download their app?

‘The challenge is where would you get tested? You need the app to work when you’re at home so that when you encounter tourists you can register them when you go on holiday. But when you get tested when you get home you need your tests result to propagate alerts to those people in whatever country you have visited. So it’s important the same app that works fluidly across borders.

The European Commission has been developing inter-operability guidelines which make all these apps work together very neatly. The UK’s version is simply not compatible with this.’

Q. So what should the UK be doing now?

‘The UK has never had a unified app. NHSX has always been NHS England. Northern Ireland has stated they would wish to focus more on the Republic and not use the English app. I think the UK should simply take some of the open source code from the many countries who have deployed these apps already and consider rolling it out in the UK.

That would be the sensible approach to make it work across borders with a system we see is working elsewhere.’

Q. So the NHS could do that, as could other nations?

‘Yes, … it’s totally within their ability to do that and we’ve heard they’ve been scoping and developing this idea of a decentralised app on the back burner.

You may find that countries start to impose quarantine on people who come in without an app in a different way from the people who come in with an app and that might really effect holiday makers who wish to go abroad and also in the economy more widely.’

Q. Is that being talked about in Germany?

‘Yes, Germany … specifically called out the role of this app on holiday. They haven’t announced any policy on it yet but I know these discussions are occurring at European level … those countries who are looking to make their apps inter-operable with each other.

This is not just Europe. Japan also has a decentralised application so it’s really going this far with inter-operability.’

And then the British position altered on that same day with yet another Government ‘U-turn’. These are now coming thick and fast. This followed confusion, to say the least, amongst Cabinet Ministers – they can’t even get their stories right let alone manage the country through a pandemic.

Before the ‘U-turn’ there were doubts being cast that the NHSX, go-it-alone app was doomed from the start.

As the figures are now showing that the Government is far from delivering a ‘world-beating’ contact and trace programme the numbers aren’t being made public in the way we have become used to. The reason from this can be shown by the effectiveness of the contact tracing in its first days – which may (or may not) be improving.

Free school meals during summer holiday

The fact that this became an issue last week says a lot about British society and the Government the people had chosen to ‘lead’ them. The Government for not realising that after throwing billions into ‘doing whatever it takes’ to defeat the virus they were willing to take a stand on a move that would cost very little in the overall scheme of things. Once the Buffoon and his minions had taken a stand there were even people in his own Party talking out against it.

The fact that it was a over-paid footballer who took the lead in a campaign to reverse the decision suggests that British people have lost the plot when it comes to defending their own interests. Where were the organisations of organised labour (i.e., the Trade Unions) in all this? They were noticeable by their absence. If they said nothing as they were disgusted that a rich society such as is Britain needs to have so many of its children needing to get assistance merely to eat well that would be one thing – but I fear they are also caught up in the capitalist trap that ‘the poor will always be with us’.

For that is the great obscenity about free school meals – as has been stated here when the issue has come up since the UK lock down began in March. The fact that children need these free meals (or vouchers when out of school) shouldn’t be treated as an example of a fair society it merely demonstrates the opposite. It should be considered as a matter of disgrace that such a situation has been allowed to develop – as it is with the Food Banks.

Figures published before the pandemic indicate that there are (roughly) 1,661,000 children claiming free school meals in the four constituent parts of the the United Kingdom. That was an average of about 15% of the school population nationwide – but, obviously, some areas would be higher. At the beginning of 2020 that was the highest rate it had been since 2014, indicating that the effects of short-term and zero-hour contracts (which have been on the rise in recent years) are some of the factors pushing these numbers higher. With the loss of jobs (which are mainly those with lower pay) and the chaos caused in the last three months that figure is certainly considerably higher now.

One of the side effects of the pandemic is that statistics (which used to send most people to sleep or were dismissed as ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’) have become sexy now, are more in the public domain with statisticians more prepared to place their findings in front of a populace who might be interested in knowing what the numbers say about British society. And as the debate about free schools meals was filling the headlines for a couple of days figures were published which clearly showed that the north-south divide is still living and well in Britain – with all the areas with the highest take up of free school meals being in the north.

This ‘debate’ takes place a few months after the Government’s own Social Mobility Commission (in a survey published towards the end of January) found that there were 600,000 more children living in poverty in Britain at the beginning of 2020 than there were in 2012. If it was bad in January it will only be worse in June.

When did the virus first appear?

Although there are too many vested interests involved to get a clear answer to this question – as well as the desire to look for a scapegoat and apportion blame – it’s interesting that speculation is rife about the actual start of the pandemic. If it was around in August 2019 why wasn’t it picked up by other countries much earlier? Surely the earlier it was a round the more difficult it will be for those who wish to push all the blame for the world’s woes onto the Chinese Government?

The privatisation of contact tracing

This is a strange one. One of the biggest financial institutions in the country had such faith in the Government’s ‘world-beating’ contact tracing programme that they introduced one just for their workers. Don’t know how that will fit in with any national plans. If nothing else there will be duplication of effort and a very fractured tracing system.

Covid and gender inequality

The list of those who are having to endure the adverse effects of the reactions to the pandemic gets longer. Statistics are already showing that the impact upon women in the work place will be worse post pandemic than it was before the March lock down.

A medical opinion of the Buffoon’s response to covid-19

…. isn’t favourable. Even more, the worse response in a generation.

The story of lack of preparedness of PPE

… doesn’t go away. The scandal is not new but as time goes by more damning evidence arises about how the Government didn’t prepare for a potential pandemic – even though they were encouraged to do so.

Lack of resources cost thousands of lives

…. in care homes. Again, not a surprise but this issue is not going to go away quietly.

Spend, spend, spend

never mind that those few industries that still exist in Britain are using the opportunity of the pandemic to shed thousands and thousands of jobs – the way out of the economic crisis is in the hands of the consumers. The Buffoon, on the eve of the opening of ‘non-essential’ shops in England, called upon the British public to ‘shop with confidence’. Consumer spending (and the consequential increase in personal debt) was rising until just before the pandemic caused the lock down and had kept the economy going for a number of years. But this was building upon sand and is unlikely to be able to pull the country out of its downward trajectory.

How’s the Buffoon doing within his own Party?

It seems the Buffoon is even disappointing his own side. That will come to nothing. All he has to say is that if they keep quiet they can take advantage of the gravy train for the next five years. A Tory with principles is an oxymoron.

How crucial is an effective ‘contact tracing system’ to end the lock down?

The problem here is that if we wait until the system is doing what it’s supposed to do Hell would have frozen over. It could also be the case here that the scientists are covering their backs in case the relaxing of the lock down causes ‘spikes’ or even a ‘second wave’. The problem here is that although there have been localised outbreaks in a number of countries that have started to return to some aspect of normality is that cases of covid-19 might have risen – but the news on the deaths has been sparse. Don’t even know if there have been any – the most vulnerable in society being allowed to be killed off in the first wave (at least here in Britain).

How many have died of the virus worldwide?

This is a question the answer to which we will have to wait years. There are so many variables and so many interests that want to be protected that it’s doubtful the true number will be any more than an estimation. What people do with that knowledge is another matter. Will populations throughout the world hold their leaders to account for what they have, and have not, done in response to the pandemic? Lots of discussion about this – nothing concrete so far.

Quote of the week

‘We have spent tens of billions, not millions, billions, wrapping our arms around the vulnerable.’

Grant Shaps, Transport Minister on 16th June.

This was just repeating the almost exactly the same words of the Buffoon the day before. A phrase that probably being tested to see what the response would be. If you lived in a care home those arms were more like those of Death itself.

More on covid pandemic 2020

Art, Literature, Music and Culture in Socialist China

Workers' Meeting

Workers’ Meeting

More on China …..

Art, Literature, Music and Culture in Socialist China

Culture and Education in New China, includes Report on Cultural and Educational Work by Kuo Mo-jo and six other reports, 110 pages. (Peking: FLP, n.d. [but either late 1950 or early 1951]).

To Trumpet Bourgeois Literature and Art is to Restore Capitalism — A Repudiation of Chou Yang’s Reactionary Fallacy Adulating the ‘Renaissance’, the ‘Enlightenment’ and ‘Critical Realism’ of the Bourgeoisie, by the Shanghai Writing Group for Revolutionary Mass Criticism, (Peking: FLP, 1971), 53 pages.

A Glance at China’s Culture, by Chai Pien, 106 pages. (Peking: FLP, 1975).

Painting

Selection of Artistic Works by Shanghai Workers, Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 1974, 91 pages. A wonderful collection of paintings, with captions in Chinese.

Shanghai workers’ art selection, a collection of a couple hundred wonderful Chinese political paintings from the later stage of the Cultural Revolution. (Peking: 1975), 110 pages.

Peasant Paintings from Huhsien County, compiled by the Fine Arts Collection Section of the Cultural Group under the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, as exhibited in Peking in 1973. (Peking: People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, 1976), 85 pages.

An article about these paintings appeared in China Reconstructs magazine, Jan. 1974, pp. 17-20

Wood Cuts and Paper Cuts

The East is Red: Paper Cuts of the Chinese Revolution, with text by Lincoln Bergman and paper cuts by members of a People’s Commune in Fatshan, 56 pages. (San Francisco: People’s Press, 1972)

Papercuts – Tigers, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in color, 7 pages.

Papercuts – Karst Landscape, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in color, 4 pages.

Papercuts – A Cock Crows at Midnight, n.d. (probably from the 1970s), in black, 8 pages.

Sculpture

Rent Collection Courtyard: Sculptures of Oppression and Revolt, probably the most famous set of works of art in China in the Maoist era. This is a great collection of photographs of these wonderful and emotionally powerful sculptures. (Peking: FLP, 1968), 88 pages.

Introduction to Rent Collection Courtyard, a small pamphlet that accompanied the ‘strip’ version of the sculptures. (Peking: FLP, 1968) 19 pages.

Wrath of the Serfs: A Group of Life-sized Clay Sculptures, powerful scenes of figures showing the pre-revolutionary Tibetan system of exploitation. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 88 pages. (Partial scanner distortion on sheet 17.)

A discussion of this exhibit appeared in Chinese Literature magazine, Feb. 1976, pp. 109-117.

Graphic Histories and Literature (Picture-Stories)

The Old Messenger, by Chun Ching, drawings by Ting Pin-tseng. (Peking: FLP, 1956), 72 pages.

Immortal Hero Yang Ken-sze, story by Wang Hao about a real-life hero in the Chinese People’s Volunteers in the Korean War. Drawings by Ho Yu-chih. (Peking: FLP, 1965), 3rd ed., 140 pages.

Red Women’s Detachment, picture-story by Liang Hsin about the slave girl Chiung-hua on Hainan Island in 1930 who escapes and joins the Red Army. Drawings by Li Tzu-shun. (Peking: FLP, 1966), 148 pages.

Tunnel Warfare, picture-story adapted by Che Mei and Pi Lei about the clever tactics of the masses and people’s militia in Hopei Province during China’s War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-1945). (Peking: FLP, 1972), 164 pages.

Norman Bethune in China, a wonderful, inspiring work featuring fine ink drawings on every page. The adaptation is by Chung Chih-cheng, and the illustrations are by Hsu Jung-chu, Hsu Yung, Ku Lien-tang and Wang Yi-sheng. (Peking: FLP, 1975), 124 pages.

Storms on the Chinkiang Docks, a story of a struggle on the docks during the revolutionary war. Illustrations by Hu Po-tsung and Wang Meng-chi. (Peking: FLP, 1975), 88 pages.

Flying Eagle Cliff, adapted by the Kwangtung People’s Publishing House, drawings by Kuang Ming-yin, Tso Yi, Liu Wei-hsiung and Chung Hsien-chang. It is not clear if there is a historical basis to this story, or if it is just literature. Either way, it is a fine and moving story which is especially good at bringing out that the Communists can’t do what the masses must do themselves; to arrest the class enemies before the masses are aroused would be useless. (Peking: FLP, 1975), 164 pages.

Literature

A Brief History of Chinese Fiction, by Lu Hsun. (Peking: FLP, 1964), 2nd edition, 524 pages.

Lu Hsun – Great Revolutionary, Thinker and Writer, a loose-leaf collection of color paintings, (FLP: 1975), 36 pages. English:

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 1, (Peking: FLP, 1956), 488 pages.

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 2, (Peking: FLP, 1957), 378 pages.

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 3, (Peking: FLP, 1964), 358 pages.

Selected Works of Lu Hsun, Vol. 4, (Peking: FLP, 1960), 326 pages.

Selected Stories of Lu Hsun, by Lu Hsun. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 282 pages.

Old Tales Retold, by Lu Hsun. A collection of 8 tales from 1922-1935. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 150 pages.

The True Story of Ah Q, by Lu Hsun. Probably his most famous work. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 5th edition, 82 pages.

Dawn Blossoms Plucked At Dusk, by Lu Hsun, a collection of essays written in 1926 and first published in 1928. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 138 pages.

Wall of Bronze, by Liu Ching, a novel of the War of Liberation. (Peking: FLP, 1954), 300 pages.

The Builders, by Liu Ching, a novel about the struggles over mutual aid, co-operatives, and socialist collectivization in the Chinese countryside. (Peking: FLP, 1964), 588 pages.

The Man Who Sold a Ghost: Chinese Tales of the 3rd-6th Centuries. (Peking: FLP, 1958), 190 pages.

The Battle of Sangkumryung, by Lu Chu-kuo. Novel about a major battle won by Chinese People’s Volunteers in Korea. (Peking: FLP, 1961), 176 pages.

The Seeds and Other Stories, 14 stories by mostly young writers written during the Cultural Revolution. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 204 pages.

City Cousin and Other Stories, 8 stories, mostly by amateurs, about life in China at this time. (Peking: FLP, 1972), 204 pages. [3,685 KB]

Bright Clouds, by Hao Jan, 8 short stories. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 162 pages.

Yenan Seeds and Other Stories, 6 short stories by various writers. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 156 pages.

The Making of a Peasant Doctor, by Yang Hsiao, a novel. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 228 pages.

Poetry

Mao Tse-tung Poems, by Mao Tse-tung. (Peking: FLP, 1976), 1st edition, 72 pages.

Wild Grass, all 23 prose poems of Lu Xun which were written in 1924-26. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 82 pages.

Mountains Crimsoned with Flowers, by Li Ying, 16 poems. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 44 pages.

Battle of the Hsisha Archipelago (Reportage in Verse), by Chang Yung-mei (Peking: FLP, 1975), 50 pages.

Music

Songs and Dances of the Chinese Youth, (Peking: FLP, 1959), 62 pages.

Historical Revolutionary Songs, (Peking: FLP, 1971), 28 pages.

Theatre and Film

On Stanislavsky’s ‘System’, by the Shanghai Revolutionary Mass Criticism Writing Group, (Peking: FLP, 1969), small pamphlet format, 47 pages.

A Vicious Motive, Despicable Tricks – A Criticism of M. Antonioni’s Anti-China Film China, by Renmin Ribao Commentator, Jan. 30, 1974. (Peking: FLP, 1974), 23 pages.

Opera

On the Revolution of Peking Opera, by Chiang Ching [Jiang Qing] and others, (Peking: FLP, 1968), 76 pages. Chiang Ching’s speech only (7 pages).

Red Detachment of Women. This is the most famous of all the model revolutionary Peking Operas created during the Mao era in China. It depicts the liberation of a peasant girl in Hainan Island and her role in the Chinese Communist Party. It is adapted from the original novel based on the true stories of the all-female Special Company of the 2nd Independent Division of the Chinese Red Army, first formed in May 1931.

Video: (in Chinese) Part 1 [54:51 minutes]; Part 2 [45:29 minutes];

The Red Lantern, a model Peking Opera on a contemporary revolutionary theme.

The Red Lantern: May 1970 Script, Hsinhua News Service, Aug. 6, 1970, 18 double pages in teletype font.

Shachiapang, a model Peking Opera on a contemporary revolutionary theme.

The Story of the Modern Peking Opera Shachiapang, illustrated with drawings, 52 pages. (Peking: FLP, 1972).

Shachiapang – Model Peking Opera on Contemporary Revolutionary Theme, screen play with photographs. (Colombo, Ceylon: Afro-Asian Writers’ Bureau, 1967), 86 pages.

Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. This is one of the 8 model works of revolutionary Peking Opera created during the Mao era. It is based on an actual event that took place in 1946 during the Chinese Civil War. A young communist reconnaissance team soldier, Yang Zirong, disguised himself as a bandit to infiltrate a local gang, eventually helping the main revolutionary force to destroy the band.

Video: (in Chinese) Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy [1 hour, 58 minutes]

Libretto [Script] in English, October 1969, issued by Hsinhua News Agency (June 20, 1970), 22 double pages.

Miscellaneous Arts

Suzhou Embroidery, a fine hard-cover volume in Chinese with some beautiful examples of art from the Cultural Revolution era. (Shanghai: 1976), 78 pages.

Bookmarks in the shape of leaves with frog designs, non-political but artistically appealing bookmarks from China, probably from the 1970s, 7 pages.

Acrobatics and Sports

Chinese Acrobatics, photo book with introduction and captions in English, French and Swahili, (Peking: FLP, 1974), 126 pages.

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