The start of a second lockdown – or measures to prevent one?

More on covid pandemic 2020

The start of a second lockdown – or measures to prevent one?

The recent introduction of restrictions on the numbers of people who can meet others, not from their own household, is a step backwards in the fight against the coronavirus – and offers a potential get out for the Government of the Buffoon when it comes to answering the question of who might have been responsible for the chaos and deaths that have enveloped the country in the last six months.

It was presaged by with an attack upon young people and the crass and ignorant attempt to make them feel responsible if infections, hospitalisations and deaths of their older relatives was a consequence of them meeting up with their friends and partying. Even the Government realised they had gone too far with the slogan that implied young people would be responsible for the deaths of their grandparents.

And now that the so-called ‘Rule of Six’ (how pathetic are the spin doctors who come up with these slogans etc., probably Cummins in No 10) has been introduced the State is attempting to pitch neighbour against neighbour with the Justice (or really no-Justice) Minister calling upon people to report any infringements of the six maximum regulation to the police. This is after the police had asked the question ‘where do you want out priorities to lie?’ when it came to more serious offences.

So the return to a partial lock down is a return to the tactics of March. Nothing has been learnt, nothing has been developed to deal with a pandemic , nothing other than a repeat of how populations dealt with epidemics hundreds of years ago.

But that shouldn’t be surprising.

From the very beginning the idea that testing would lie at the centre of any strategy has been known but, at least in the UK, not actively implemented in any manner that could lead to success against the virus. Promises are made, figures are thrown around like confetti and criticisms are brushed aside by the Buffoon himself as an attack on the ‘hard working NHS workers’ (a phrase that has been brought out a number of times since March), a denial he probably believes himself, in his own Trumpian manner, but which ring hollow to any sentient being.

In six months, even if starting from absolute zero, the country should have been able to set up a functioning testing system that would deal with many thousands of tests per day. In such a serious situation the State should not be asking and paying huge sums to private companies to provide an inadequate service, it should be telling companies what their priorities are and requisitioning whatever is needed to carry out the task that will allow the country to get on top of the disease.

But then capitalism is dominated by its anarchic constitution and has no interest in anything other than the profit motive. If lives are saved in the process that is merely a side product.

The recent votes in Parliament over the break with the European Union show that the present Tory Government thinks it is invulnerable, that it can do whatever it likes. The self serving cretins of the 650 will not do anything to rock the boat and risk losing their privileges.

By pitching the people against each other and stimulating a climate of fear and blame (directed as far away from the Government as possible) they hope to retain their positions of power.

And the virus? Who cares?

Latest restrictions

The 14th September saw the introduction of nationwide restrictions which are supposed to address the issue of the increase of infections in the last couple of weeks. As is always the case with any introduction of a new tactic to combat the coronavirus this introduction was accompanied by confusion – as all the four constituent parts of the UK have adopted a similar but not the same approach.

Although this was touted as a national response to a national issue there were suggestions that they were merely copying some of the approaches used by Belgium, especially as there are rumblings of a nationwide curfew being imposed on pubs and restaurants.

But is this further restriction on the movements in the UK necessary anyway? Yes, the numbers of infections are going up but there are reasons for that which might not indicate a disaster waiting to happen. A break down of the numbers gives a slightly different impression.

Although the Buffoon is always ‘following the science’ not all scientists are in agreement with the new restrictions.

It’s not the Government’s fault – it’s ours

The Buffoon and his Government have always covered themselves since the pandemic hit the UK in March of this year, first by ‘hiding’ behind ‘the scientific advice’ and now by putting all the blame on the people of the country – at the moment specifically the young – for the increase in infections and the threat of a ‘second wave’.

The Buffoonette (Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary) even coming up with the crass sound bite of ‘Don’t kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on.’ Obviously he has already forgotten that tens of thousands of ‘grans’ died as a result of the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in care homes, together with the lack of any testing capability in those homes, a situation which was exacerbated by the hospitals being instructed to transfer older patients to care homes without adequate safeguards being in place. There’s also no guarantee that this situation won’t arise again if infections get into care homes in the coming months.

Considering that there were so many deaths in care homes during the height of the pandemic in the UK it’s shouldn’t be surprising that there is concern as we go into winter. The Government has written to care home providers warning them of the situation – but they were perfectly aware of the situation and needed no reminder. What do do need is provision of PPE and a reliable testing regime to avoid the spread of the disease if there is a second outbreak. However, unless there’s a change in the approach from Government things don’t look so good in coming months.

The NHS – after the heroes

Once they were ‘heroes’ – but not any more. Now they are just workers who have to do what they are told.

And the general organisation of the NHS doesn’t seem to be getting to grips with resolving the possibilities of ‘collateral damage’ caused by the emphasis, in the past and to some extent still, on the pandemic and its consequences.

The ‘R’ number – what is it?

The ‘R’ Number is being touted all the time now to justify the latest restrictions – after a few months when it was consigned to oblivion. But what exactly is the ‘R’ number? I was led to believe that it was a notional figure that really doesn’t have much use during events such as the present pandemic and can only be really gauged in hind sight and therefore useful in understanding the development of the event but of little use when you are in the middle of it.

Whatever the case a couple of articles which might be able to shed some light on the matter – from the ‘experts’.

What is the R number?

And is it any use when we are talking about ‘herd immunity’?

Testing

A new feature – a quiz. Question: By what date did the Buffoon say that the UK would have a ‘world beating’ track and trace system up and running? Answer: 1st June 2020. This was in a statement in the British House of Commons on 20th May, 2020. (Watch the video if you can stomach listening to his ramblings.) Question: When will Britain have a ‘world beating’ track and trace system in place in the UK? Answer: Either when the pandemic is a distant memory or when Hell freezes over, whichever is the sooner.

Having been out of the headlines for a while (kicked out by the issues surrounding the return of schools and education in particular) testing has come back with a vengeance in the last week or so.

This one has been around for a while, since testing went out into the community. People sent long distances for Covid tests. This ‘apology’ was made 11 days ago – however the situation is no better (and might even be worse now than then). Matt Hancock has insisted problems with the testing system will be ‘sorted in the short term’ – so no need, really, to be concerned.

If you want to get tested (in the country with the ‘world beating’ testing system) then be prepared to see a great deal more of that country than you would really wish to if you were ill. The last I heard (just over a week after this report) the record for the distance someone was told to go to get a test was 618 miles – from Plymouth to Aberdeen, and back again.

And once you’ve travelled more than a thousand miles it’s not certain that the test was worth it in the first place. Some research has shown that the tests might be picking up old and dead bits of the virus – so the person told to self isolate might not really have to do so.

The airline and tourist industries are clutching at straws and are, and have been, arguing for some system of testing at airports to allow (and encourage) more people to travel. They argue this has been proven to be a success in a number of countries. A few days later it was reported that a test to meet all the requirements would be ready by the end of the month.

From the very beginning of this pandemic there have been many calls for testing not just for those who think they might have the infection but also as a means of monitoring the population in general to aid in the society getting back to something approaching normality. It was, therefore, good to hear that mass testing was going to be trialled in the UK – with plans to ‘roll it out’ across the nation towards the end of the year. It was even better to hear that such tests could provide a result within 20 minutes.

Then I woke up from my dream and realised this was just another propaganda exercise by the Buffoon and his minions to give the impression they are doing something meaningful. Dates will slip, numbers of tests will reduce but what will certainly be achieved is another shovelling of millions of £s into the off shore bank accounts of more (sometimes the same) Tory industry supporters.

This developed into the bizarrely named ‘Moonshot’ programme a week later. Although, in principle, a good idea this Government (and the private infrastructure they have contracted to carry out the testing so far) has not shown a shred of evidence that it is capable of getting anyway near the target. In fact, Britain getting a rocket to the real Moon before the end of civilisation is more likely than this testing target. One of the (slight) stumbling blocks being that the technology to make it happen doesn’t yet exist.

A few days ago Matt Hancock was able to identify the reason for the delays in the testing regime – it was the fact that too many people were asking for tests. And these people weren’t genuine in their request, they were not suffering any of the symptoms they just wanted to know if they could go away on holiday with a piece of paper saying they were clear. So nothing to do with the incompetence of the Government or their privatised testing system.

The more the Government says there’s no problem the more the evidence shows that the testing system (let alone the track and trace that’s supposed to go with it) is getting worse not better.

People in England’s 10 worst-hit Covid-19 hotspots unable to get tests.

Even hospitals can’t return to any sort of normality as the testing crisis is even hitting medical staff.

For an up to date review of the testing system, how it’s working (or not) and the problems people have in accessing a test locally here’s a item that was discussed on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme on 14th September.

Corruption in Britain – surely not?

If you think the UK isn’t corrupt you haven’t looked hard enough.

Data

A huge amount of personal data is being collected in all countries – mobile phones are ubiquitous even in poor countries – and there have for long been questions about the breaches in privacy that this means to the population. Regulations about privacy have been discussed and adopted in many countries but the British Government seems to be aiming to crash through all that by using the desire to boost economic recovery after the damage done by the pandemic. As in many spheres of life post-pandemic governments worldwide will be pushing through measures which the populations might have fought against in normal times. They will use the already common phrase of ‘pandemic fatigue’ to get their way. If we let them.

And Hancock has already made statements which mean that any privacy in relation to the data collected by the NHS will be a thing of the past saying ‘We are absolutely rigorous about the needs of privacy, but we must not let that get in the way of innovation that can improve people’s lives.’

Do you know what happens to your data when you scan the pub’s QR code with your Smartphone? Perhaps you should start asking?

The long awaited contact-tracing app

It was promised months ago. It was tested on the Isle of Wight to great fanfare. It was considered a success. Then it wasn’t. Then the home grown app was ditched and an ‘off the shelf’ version by Google/Apple was chosen instead. But it seems the new app is NHSX mark 2 but all details about privacy that were so important a few months ago seem to have been pushed into the background. It’s due to be launched, in England and Wales, on 24th September. We shall see.

And the idea of a ‘passport’, associated with the use of this app, starts to get more attention

Mortality from covid – or something else

Information on the ‘collateral damage’ due to the closure of the NHS for everything that wasn’t covid related continue to emerge. Some statistics indicate that non-virus deaths at home might have been behind surge in excess fatalities. The separation of these statistics in the future will be crucial to get an understanding of the development of the 2020 pandemic to ensure the world is better prepared for the next one.

Considering that the shortage of ventilators was being touted as a problem of the high mortality in the early days (and now there’s probably a glut of un-used – and never to be used – ventilators in hospital store rooms) they might have been the problem and not the solution.

Sweden

Sweden is a conundrum for most governments of the world. Whereas the overwhelming number of countries adopted a response no more sophisticated than that used in the 1340s (with the ‘Black Death’ in Europe) and 1665 (with ‘The Great Plague of London’), which was to introduce a ‘lock down’, the Swedish people decided to do something a bit more measured. Figures sometimes show that it might not been the best tactic – then other statistics come out showing it might well have been the best approach.

Vaccine

The search for a vaccine against the present pandemic has many reasons. Fame, money and recognition are the principle ones. Finding a vaccine that will turn covid into something manageable might also be in the frame. However, whatever the reasons politics will also be involved. The claim (as yet unsubstantiated) that the Russians have developed a vaccine will always be attacked. Capitalist countries invaded the Soviet Union in the first days of the Revolution in 1917 and they cannot tolerate the fact that Russia (even though now a capitalist country) might beat them to the goal. Therefore it must pain them to learn that there are some positive results arising from the vaccine now been tested and developed in the country.

To get an idea of exactly what a vaccine does – and how they are developed – there was a useful introduction on the BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science programme of Thursday 19th September.

The closer the country/world gets to a viable and tested vaccine the more the question of who will get the vaccine first will become more of an issue. For months now the richer countries of the world (even though within those countries there are huge variables in wealth distribution) have been pre-ordering vaccines which might not even prove to work – so ‘vaccine nationalism’ (where a particular country grabs as much as possible for its own population) already exists. There has been talk (probably based more on optimism than reality) since the outbreak that the world would be a more caring and better place after the pandemic. Where an effective vaccine (when/if it ever gets produced) goes in the early days will test the truth of that optimism.

A further update on the progress towards a vaccine in the UK, including some of the caveats, were part of an interview on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme on 14th September.

How the virus is prospering in certain communities

Covid-19 might be demonstrating some unique aspects but it is no different when it comes to attacking the poorest within various societies. It could be around and causing problems in some of the most ‘deprived’ areas of the UK for the simple reason of poverty.

Covid in the world

A pandemic is by definition a worldwide phenomenon but apart from numbers, which are usually published in an attempt to show that other countries are dealing with the problem in an even worse manner than in the UK, we get little information about the consequences of the disease on the very poorest of the world’s population. Immigrant workers in the obscenely oil rich Arabian countries has long been an issue. The treatment of African migrant workers in Saudi Arabia demonstrates the need for a truly radical change of that society.

The future – or not – of the NHS

The whole of the Buffoon’s approach to dealing with covid as we enter winter is to place the burden on the NHS (National Health Service) and then blame it if all goes wrong. Due to the inept dealing with the crisis in the early part of this year the faith that many working in the NHS have in the government is leading many of them to consider leaving the profession – at least in this country or the nationalised sector. Why work in an under funded NHS, with poor provision of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and when you are only considered ‘heroes’ when it suits Government propaganda? A recent survey shows many have doubts of their futures in the NHS.

Covid used to justify anything

It’s already been suggested here, on a number of occasions, that various organisation and businesses will use the pandemic as an excuse to do what they were planning to do before the pandemic but blame it on the worldwide disease. The latest, in a social context, is the barring of the Grenfell bereaved from attending the too long drawn out and almost certainly inconclusive public enquiry.

Food banks

There’s no surprise that the present situation will lead to an increase in the demand for the services of the food banks, especially by those who have never used them before – which should be seen as a cause for shame rather than pride.

The return of mass events?

It’s easy to get lost in the miasma surrounding testing. There are too many claims and too many promises to be sure of what is happening. But a bit of innovation in the use of testing might be a step forward in attacking the effects of the virus rather than just responding to so-called ‘spikes’, or even ‘second waves’. The trouble is that this comes from Hancock – who has spouted so much gibberish in the past months – who suggests that there could be a ‘covid pass’ to allow people to attend theatre performances as well as mass sporting events.

Herd immunity

Does it exist or doesn’t it. The issue of ‘herd immunity’ will be an ongoing one until covid-19 is constrained to the past. At the same time the longer the pandemic continues the more information will be collected which will, perhaps, clarify the situation. Studies of the figures for the period ending in April suggest levels of those infected might have well been much higher than was thought at the time.

And finally …

Face coverings

Face masks could be giving people Covid-19 immunity.

More on covid pandemic 2020

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