How many days from a second national lock down – if only a ‘circuit breaker’?

More on covid pandemic 2020

How many days from a second national lock down – if only a ‘circuit breaker’?

It’s now just under seven months since measures were taken in the United Kingdom in an effort to control the covid-19 pandemic – the ‘first lock down’. From the beginning it was obvious the British Government didn’t have a strategy in how they were going to deal with this (not totally unexpected) catastrophic event. Now approaching winter there still isn’t one.

Restrictions that are due to come into force in the next couple of days in Scotland will almost certainly be emulated – although possibly in a watered down manner – in the rest of the four ‘nations’ that make up the UK.

The problem with these new restrictions is that once they are imposed how do you then relax them or remove then all together? The logic of the case made by some scientists and some politicians (although there is starting to be an element of criticism of the actual tactics from both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ in Britain) is that such restrictions will have to remain in place until a vaccine (if an effective one is ever produced) can curb the worse excesses of the disease.

Numbers of infections fluctuate – sometimes understandably (as with the return of schools, colleges and universities) sometimes for no apparent reason. Statistics of infections, hospitalisations and deaths are used to justify particular actions and it is only some time after the change in policies that they can be analysed and the ‘truth’ of the situation fully understood.

The economy is in free fall and even though this is a characteristic of capitalism this one is different in that the capitalist representatives in government (not only in the UK but throughout most of the world) are actually causing the crisis by their sheer inability to come up with imaginative and effective solutions to the problem because they lack any strategy at all.

At present in Britain the so-called ‘hospitality sector’ (pubs, restaurants, hotels and leisure activities) is in the sights of those about to pull the trigger. Whether it will have any effect is debatable but as has been the case since the very beginning, it gives the impression (no more) that the Government is ‘doing something’.

To continue to follow the same sort of policies that were used in epidemics and pandemics centuries ago has patently shown itself not ‘fit for purpose’ in the 21st century world. Those who oppose the lock down tactic (it’s a misuse of the word to call it a strategy) merely hope and pray, with all fingers crossed, that the virus will just get fed up killing people and go away.

Those who call for a more proactive approach to both save lives and reduce the huge, still hidden, impact of closing down a modern society at least have a strategy.

Preparedness for the pandemic

I’m sure that, for years, we in the UK were told that the country had made preparations in the event of a global pandemic. The buying and storing of Personal Protective Equipment was, presumably part of that. However, I have been unable to come across anything that indicates there was a strategy to deal with such an event.

Everything that has happened in Britain since news of the outbreak in China first became common knowledge has been a ‘knee jerk’ reaction to the situation as it was perceived at the time or the political pressures under which the Government might have been – always hiding behind ‘the scientific evidence’.

However, nothing approaching anything that could be classified as a strategy – or if it does exist I haven’t been able to find any proof of it.

Last year, the Global Health Security Index (from the World Economic Forum) considered the United Kingdom second in the world for pandemic readiness, in first place was the United States. Events since the beginning of the year have proven the saying that the first shall be last.

What went wrong. It has been argued that in Britain it was because the Buffoon sabotaged the system.

However, another report (from April this year) stated that the British Government KNEW it wasn’t prepared for a pandemic – even before covid-19 outbreak. Briefings recommended preventative measures – but these were, seemingly, just ignored.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Most countries in the world have followed the ‘easiest’ way to deal with the pandemic by closing society down and hoping it will all go away – basically putting their heads in the sand. China was probably the guilty one here. They had no imagination and locked society down as they had no imagination (or preparation and/or strategy) to deal with such a pandemic – and then the rest of the world (equally lacking in preparation, imagination or strategy) did likewise (that is, apart from Sweden).

However, from the start there have been many who have argued for a different approach and as knowledge of who covid-19 effects the most their voices have gotten louder. Let the majority of the population get on with their lives (with certain minor changes to habits), protect the most vulnerable in society and deal with covid-19 as the world has been dealing with such diseases for centuries.

On 7th October a group arguing for this approach published what is strangely called ‘The Great Barrington Declaration’. It was signed by a thousands of people from the scientific community as well as members of the general public. You can add your name by going here.

One of the signatories, Sunetra Gupta, explained their thinking on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme on the 7th October.

The ‘so-called’ Swedish Experiment

‘So-called’ because the majority of the establishment, both political and scientific (and their toadies in the media) who are the ostriches which are dominant in the argument at the moment, try to denigrate anything which differs from their orthodoxy. Although slanted to the present method adopted by the Buffoon in the UK a BBC Radio 4 programme, The Briefing Room, on the 24th September, had a look at what had happened and was happening in Sweden.

Infections in England

A look at the statistics towards the end of September asks if there is a North-South divide in England when it came to infections.

One of the problems of local lock downs is that there is no strategy established how to get out of the situation of increased restrictions. Added to that infections tend to increase rather than fall. This has been put down to the continuing confusion that reigns throughout the nation.

Fragility of the NHS

NHS staff took more than 500,000 sick days due to mental health issues in May – and the situation would probably get worse as time goes on as the pressures of dealing with the pandemic increase.

Covid impact on NHS capacity in England to last ‘several years’.

Breast cancer missed for thousands of women because of covid related screening delays. Up to a million might have missed out on scans.

There are doubts of the resilience of the NHS in the coming winter, some predicting a ‘triple whammy’.

Covid could cause a ‘tsunami of cancelled NHS operations’.

Women’s health is bearing the brunt of the covid pandemic.

Patients face being sent to back of NHS queue as waiting lists reviewed.

Lies damn lies and statistics

Statistics tell us a lot – and then they don’t. Most people have probably encountered statistics in the last seven months in a way they have never before in their lives. That’s a good thing as they can help us to understand what is happening – but the problem with statistics is that they can be (and often are) manipulated for various causes.

A ‘reassessment’ of figures from the early part of the year (the study upon which the Buffoon used to justify his ‘500,000 dead’ speech) is now suggesting that going down the ‘herd immunity’ route – as opposed to the total local down that was followed – could have been the way to save lives. (N.B. This is from an article in the Daily Telegraph which is starting to bang this particular drum quite noisily at the moment.)

The difficulties caused by the ‘asymptomatic’ character of covid-19 has been highlighted in a study which looked at how infections were manifested between April and June of this year.

Coronavirus Act

The act brought in to ‘deal with the pandemic’ contains quite draconian powers. This was pointed out when the act came in on 25th March. It has to be ‘reviewed’ every six months (as was the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973). The Irish related law first had a proper discussion in the early days but eventually just went through on the nod. It will be interesting to follow the fate of this latest law – once laws are introduced governments are very reluctant to see them abolished, especially when it gives them carte blanche to impose local restrictions under whatever pretext.

On the 29th September the extension was backed by 330 for to 24 against and was discussed for 85 minutes. It will be an indicator of the way British society is heading if the debate is shorter in six months time.

Postmortem of how the ‘first wave’ was handled

Did the NHS 111 Covid helpline fail hundreds of families?

Anyone want an unused ventilator? The Government acquired 14 times more ventilators than were needed for the pandemic. However the National Audit Office considers it was best to be safe than sorry. After all, in the present spending spree £569 million is nothing – and we should never miss an opportunity to pass fortunes from the public purse to the private sector. A little bit of pre-planning and preparation for such a pandemic might have mitigated this mad rush to buy what is now looking like useless hardware.

Vulnerabilities to the virus

Some people might have been born with less resistance to the covid-19 virus.

Vulnerabilities to the covid infection are a mixture of nature and nurture. A new one to be added to the nature list is our connection to our very earliest ancestors. If your ancestors had intimate contact with Neanderthals, and thus share genes, then this also makes you more vulnerable. However, it’s not certain what that means as a report released at the beginning of this year came to the conclusion that all modern humans have Neanderthal genes

As knowledge of the virus increases it has been reported that loss of smell may be clearer sign than a cough.

Scientists study whether immune response wards off or worsens covid.

Testing

A new global test will give results ‘in minutes’. However, as pointed out in the last post, it’s the richer countries that are hoovering up all these cheap and quick test kits – and for themselves and not the poorer countries of the world.

Airport testing to be launched within weeks. This test would cost £150 but would, in theory, cut quarantine time in half. So still slightly self selecting in that many people will be excluded due to the cost.

16,000 coronavirus cases missed in daily figures after IT error. This was blamed on Microsoft (for not making Excel accept more than a million lines), Public Health England (this from Matt Hancock who put the responsibility for the failure on the ‘legacy system’) or Uncle Tom Cobley and All. In fact anyone but the Buffoon and his Government.

NHS tests threatened by Roche supply chain failing. This is a crazy one. Why is such a major capitalist enterprise totally unable to get the logistics right when making a location change? Supposedly the move was in preparation for the UK leaving the European Union. Why didn’t they foresee the problems? Was it all due to cost cutting – which is often the case for such failings? And why did they carry out the transition in such a cavalier manner in the middle of a pandemic when their testing equipment was vital to the process of dealing with covid-19? They’re making a fortune out of the suffering of the British people but they are still incapable of providing an efficient service. And, no doubt, they will suffer no sanction for their incompetence.

First there was going to be testing at airports – then there wasn’t. If, when is still in doubt. Welcome to the land of the ‘world beating’ testing regime. Why does anyone even want to come to the UK?

A Tory’s ‘re-writing of history’

Jeremy Hunt, at one time in Matt Hancock’s position as Health Minister, sought to re-write history when discussing the failings in the testing regime on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme on the 5th October.

Some points from this cretin’s few minutes on the radio;

the argument for localism was put from the beginning – but there was the issue of lack of finance

he tries to give the impression he is speaking in reaction to the recent failure (16,000 tests not being recorded and no contact tracing of their contacts) when it was the Government who went for the centralised system from the start

the 100,000 tests per day was just a publicity stunt brought out when criticism of the Buffoon was getting more intense

it was never stated that dealing with large numbers of tests needed large centralised laboratories

a centralised system meant that public money could be shovelled into the bulging bank accounts of private companies – going local would mean giving money to local authorities

there has not just been one ‘glitch’ – the system has been a disaster from the start

going local now will allow the Buffoon and his lackeys to blame others if things go wrong in the future

from the beginning (if they had anything approximating to a strategy) the Government should have identified all the places with capabilities for testing and should then have told them what to do, requisitioning their spaces and personnel if necessary, at no cost to the public purse, as private companies have been given billions of pounds of public money already

criticism of the present failings is not ‘the benefit of hindsight’

he just reiterates the arguments that local tracing is more efficient – but these arguments were not accepted by the Government months ago

The Buffoon’s policies of the past – and the future?

The 10pm curfew for pubs came under a lot of scrutiny as there didn’t seem to be any scientific proof for it (other than other countries had done it so it must be right) and was full of contradictions.

Asking over-65s to shield is ‘age-based apartheid’.

Leak reveals possible harsher three-tier England covid plan.

NHS Track and Trace app

How does the NHS app work? A short introduction from Radio 4’s World at One on the day of the launch of the app in England and Wales, 24th September.

Difficulties started to show themselves the day after the app was launched.

Problems also arose on Day 3 – with users unable to share the results of any tests via the app.

NHS tracing app problem that left tens of thousands of tests unlogged – but it was supposed to have been fixed quite quickly.

‘I spoke to one person in four months‘.

Police told not to download NHS covid-19 app

Covid fatalities

At the end of September it was estimated that about one million people have died in the last ten months due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Now that’s a lot of people – but this has to be placed in context.

Let’s have a look at some of the other causes of death worldwide.

Water and sanitation

829,000 – 2016

Tuberculosis

Over a million every year. It’s the world’s deadliest infectious disease.

AIDS

Estimated 770,000 in 2018. This figure has gone down substantially since the peak in 2004.

Hunger and hunger-related diseases

Around 9 million every year. NINE MILLION! In a world where in some countries obesity is becoming one of the most serious problems and the amount of food waste is almost unimaginable.

Malaria

About 435,000 in 2017.

Influenza

Around 646,000 people each year.

Hepatitis C

Around 400,000 each year.

Most of all these above statistics relate to those who are the poorest in the world. Note that these cases of ‘common’ diseases of the poor are every year. They have been dying in the past, the present and there’s no indication that these numbers will reduce significantly in the future – not with all the effort being placed on developing a vaccine for the rich – whether that be relative or absolute.

If covid-19 had stayed where it should have, i.e., in the East and the southern hemisphere, there’s no shadow of a doubt that all the resources that have been devoted to finding a vaccine would not have been brought into play.

Although the number of cases in the UK has been growing it is still far from the dire consequences predicted a couple of weeks ago. Even with an increased number of cases the growth is actually slowing down – apart from blips that occur when the testing system breaks down.

One law for us and one law for them

It was only for a few days but all the bars in the so-called ‘Mother of Parliaments’ didn’t have the same restrictions placed on them as all such places in the rest of the country. In itself it’s only a small issue but it’s a clear indication (even though these ‘us and them’ have been regular occurrences in the last six months) that the rich and ‘powerful’ don’t think that they should be included in any restrictions imposed on the majority of the population.

And even the Buffoon’s father can’t be convinced to ‘play the game’.

Return of University students

It shouldn’t have been a surprise that cases of infections would increase once students went or returned to university. Student accommodation is probably where you find the highest concentration of people in such a small space anywhere in the UK – apart from gangsters who run slave operations. In some ways this may not necessarily be a bad thing and here this blog doesn’t disagree with the Buffoon’s Government on this matter.

Although testing positive the symptoms in the vast majority of cases are minor – if not non-existent. And an element of ‘herd immunity’ in a University context may not be a negative consequence.

However, PC Plod doesn’t accept the anger of students being locked into their halls of residence after they were told that going to university would be ‘safe’.

Paranoid – or are they actually watching you?

Monitoring of workplace computers has existed for many years. Now, using the pandemic as an excuse, companies are extending this to those who work at home.

Flu vaccine

Elderly facing winter flu vaccine shortage. This is unbelievable and just demonstrates, yet again, the lack of strategy and general ‘joined-up thinking’ of the Buffoon and his Government. Ever since the drop in infections in August there was talk about how a serious flu outbreak this coming winter would exacerbate the covid pandemic. Instead of planning for this, organising the vaccine procedure and getting on top of things from the beginning the neo-liberal fundamentalists just left it to the ‘market’ to decide priorities.

Care Homes

After the high percentage of deaths in the ‘first wave’ occurring in the care home environment you would have expected there to have been major efforts to ensure this is not repeated in any potential ‘second wave’ or even natural increase in infections due to the arrival of winter. But this is Britain and that’s not the case. Instead of creating a steel wall around these most vulnerable they are being left at risk due to the poor testing regimes still in place.

A report by Amnesty International states that the treatment of residents and staff in care homes over the last six months has been a ‘violation of human rights’. However this criminal neglect of the most vulnerable doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.

Elderly care at home

BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours looked at how this situation was still fraught with problems on the 29th September.

And a strategy?

The word is being used more now – but there’s no substance behind it.

More on covid pandemic 2020

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