A year since Britain first heard of covid-19

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A year since Britain first heard of covid-19

It was in the final week of January 2020 that people in Britain became aware of a new virus that was starting to get out of control in China. Was that the first time we came across the term covid-19? If not once we learnt that designation it should have started to ring alarm bells. We were hearing about it at the end of the first month of 2020 but it must have been around for a few months before that.

For most people it probably registered as something serious – but not that serious. We had been told for years that science knew that something like this was bound to happen at some time (we had had three or four ‘near misses’ already in the 21st century) and that our governments were aware and prepared for any such eventuality. How wrong we were.

In criticising the Buffoon and his Government for its actions (or more normally its in-actions) throughout 2020 the term ‘too little, too late’ has often been used. That critique might well have been valid since the end of March last year but it’s more important to remember what had happened (or not happened) in the years – even decades – before the dawn of 2020.

The National Health Service (NHS) had been undermined and parts of it privatised ‘secretly’ through the back door. Care of the elderly wasn’t a concern for any government, whatever their political colour, although they recognised there was a problem, said they would fix it – and never did a thing.

There was no preparation for the likes of a pandemic. No rational stock piling system of necessary equipment (which meant that some of it was ‘out of date’ when needed as there had been no rotation of materials). And, most importantly, no strategy of any kind of how to deal with such a crisis, which took into consideration the myriad of potential problems, and no structure that could be set into motion at the flick of a switch to deal with all related matters from the care of the sick to the dissemination of clear and concise information.

‘Too little, too late’ could be used to describe the situation in Britain since the 1980s.

As a consequence what do we have a year down the line?

  • the highest per capita death rate of any country in the world
  • an untold number of fatalities waiting to happen due to the health system being turned over, for months, almost exclusively to dealing with the covid virus
  • an NHS which is on the point of collapse
  • an NHS workforce that is being pushed to its limits, not just during the winter (a perennial problem for years) but throughout the year
  • an educational system that was unfair at the start and becoming even more so
  • young people totally confused about their futures
  • an increasing level of unemployment, the level of which we won’t know about for a good few months yet
  • an economy that wasn’t that healthy before now in free fall
  • an unimaginable debt which will be pushed into the future (on top of the debt created to pull the capitalist system out of the mire caused by its innate greed which led to the 2008 financial crisis which had also been pushed into the future) and which the young will be expected to pay for – whether they know or realise it or not
  • a number of vaccines which might (or might not) protect people, which might (or might not) make them less infectious, which might (or might not) deal with the many variants that are popping up everywhere, which might (or probably won’t) be distributed worldwide to populations who need the protection from a vaccine much more than the majority of people in the richer, capitalist countries

And still we’re no closer to actually placing the pandemic behind us than we were this time last year.

Will the next 12 months be like it was in the film ‘Groundhog Day’? Quite possibly. But there will almost certainly be one important difference. Bill Murray’s character learnt from the mistakes he made – the Buffoon in Britain, and all the rest of the Buffoons in government in the rest of the world, are unlikely to be as receptive.

The next pandemic

It might be strange to look at potential pandemics in the future whilst in the middle of one that has ben raging for over a year now but unless we are constantly aware that pandemics are likely to become the norm (rather than the exception) we will be in danger in forgetting how things had been managed in the past and make the same mistakes in the future.

The new mosquito bringing disease to North America – but no need to worry about malaria, this species brings with it all mosquito carrying diseases except malaria. Will that mean the world’s pharmaceutical companies will increase efforts to look for a way of combatting disease carrying insects. When it was just effecting the poor they didn’t really care. Now it might start to threaten the richer countries in the northern hemisphere it becomes a different matter. But even if they do come up with a prophylactic or cure it won’t be the poor that gets the first option – just see how matters are playing out over the covid vaccine.

Infection and mortality rates

Ten months since the first lock down the same slogans are being revived. If everything that people are expected to do now, so long after the first infections were identified in the country, is merely to achieve the same aim, that is, to avoid the NHS from being overwhelmed, then really we’re no further forward than we were in spring of 2020. It means that we have just being playing a waiting game in the hope that the virus would ‘tire and just go away’, burn itself out. By not being pro-active and basically marching on the spot we are no better off than those in the 17th century who prayed to the Lord for salvation from the Plague. The risk averse approach of most scientists to lock everything down (and the criticism that we haven’t locked down society enough) also shows that progress in science and medicine over the centuries hasn’t been able to come up with strategies which use that increase in knowledge for the overall benefit of society. Crossing our fingers and praying that all would turn out well would have been as effective.

Mixed messages have been emanating from the Buffoon and his Government since the pandemic hit Britain ten months (or so) ago. This has only served to cause confusion and despair – and not least one of the reasons some people are not sticking to the restrictions. One of the tactics the Government has been using from the very beginning to get compliance is by promoting an environment of fear amongst a sizeable proportion of the population – and they seem incapable of not stoking those fears (even if they are not based upon any identifiable factual information).

Such is the situation over the new ‘variants’. New UK covid variant may be 30% more deadly, says Johnson. But the following day; ‘More deadly’ UK variant claim played down by scientists. Following the science – or what?

Number of patients on ventilators passes 4,000 for first time. Going back six months or so it was stated that knowledge gained at the beginning of the pandemic had meant fewer people were being put on ventilators. The numbers are announced but not the reasons for this going back to the original approach.

How is the virus changing

There’s a new variant almost every day now. Will this make it harder to get to ‘herd immunity’? Perhaps – but there is still hope.

After the virus being ‘stable’ for the best part of a year it’s now throwing up potential problems by having to be described by its various ‘variants’. How did they evolve and what do they mean?

Why being more transmissible rather than more deadly isn’t good news.

The Vaccination Programme

I’m sure there’s going to be many strange stories in relation to the vaccination programme/s in Britain and other parts of the world. So this one to start.

Doctors told to throw away leftover covid vaccines rather than giving second doses. But then it does come from The Telegraph.

The British Government is intent on going for the big centres (ten more to open in England – and presumably more to follow) rather than concentrate on a local level. It might be a short term ‘solution’ – we’ll have to see how matters pan out over the next few months – but it might be missing a golden opportunity to develop a structure that can respond to such epidemics in the future.

The jockeying for position in the ‘vaccination queue’ – and also a cynical opportunity to gain some level of popularity. Priti Patel ‘working to get jabs to front-line roles’.

Now there might be justice and validity in many of these preferences but such a discussion shouldn’t be just out for the loudest to get what they want. Once a vaccine was considered the only get out of the pandemic there should have been a ‘task force’ which looked at all the options and could come out with arguments for why the the roll out was focussing on some groups rather than others.

In a rational society that would include not vaccinating some people in the UK until more vulnerable people in other parts of the world had been vaccinated first. But no British government would ever have the nerve to stick to a principled stance. This is even though a pandemic means that if we don’t get to grips with the virus in all parts of the world the chances of a future outbreak can never be ruled out.

UK to look ‘very carefully’ at vaccine dosing after concerns raised over level of protection. But when Israel is involved in the issue it would be useful to remember that the country is basically Pfizer’s poodle and will say anything to keep on the right side of the pharmaceutical giant – as long as it doesn’t involve extending the vaccination programme to Palestinians.

Queue jumping becoming more common – and inevitable as long as there’s no proper and clear strategy about vaccination and as long as the ‘free market’ is allowed to determine matters. Wheelchair firm tells of access to jabs ‘through a back door’.

On 21st January Radio 4’s World at One aired various views on the question of ‘one dose or two’ – and the gap between them.

The North/South divide hasn’t gone away. Claims supplies ‘diverted from the North’ raise concerns.

Why combining the Oxford vaccine with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine could make it more effective.

Why the UK’s ‘lumpy’ roll out shouldn’t be a concern – this article also addresses the matter of the moral obligation of vaccines being sent to poorer countries.

Vaccinations in the rest of the world

Surprise! Surprise! The richer countries are grabbing all the stocks of vaccines and ignoring the (probably) most needy in the world. The World Heath Organisation (WHO) calls this a ‘catastrophic moral failure’.

This issue was discussed on Radio 4’s World at One on 18th January.

So, how and when will lower-income countries get access?

Israel has become the ‘poster boy’ when it comes to the speed in vaccinating it’s population. But always with Israel, what you see is only the tip of a very dirty iceberg. Some of those details came out on Radio 4’s World at One on 18th January.

On 19th January Radio 4’s World at One looked at the Israeli response to its ‘obligations’ to the people who’s land they illegally occupy and proposals for vaccinating Palestinians against covid. In this short piece its interesting how the Israelis cite an agreement of the 1990s but ignore how their actions in the intervening 25 years have made any commitments to the health service in Palestine an almost impossibility. For a deeper look at Israeli attitudes to the Palestinian people the report by B’Tselem makes interesting reading.

This one for EU bashers. EU vaccine woes mount as new delays emerge.

Testing

Even with a number of vaccines the general (scientific) consensus is that testing is also needed to get on top of the pandemic. In the UK it’s almost impossible to know where we stand on this issue. Plans are made, ambitious goals are set, failure is the result. Now to add to the general confusion in the education sector Ministers are now set to halt plans for daily covid tests in English schools.

‘Collateral damage’

The ‘vulnerable’ old are dying, the young are getting the dirty end of the stick from the ‘efforts’ by governments to cope with the pandemic. If a measure of a society is how it deals with its old and young then Britain doesn’t (not surprisingly after so many years of institutionalised selfishness) come out too well. Another report emphasises this by coming to the conclusion that one in four UK young people have felt ‘unable to cope’ in pandemic.

One law for the rich and ‘famous’ – one for the rest of us

This story got worse as the days wore on but initially tennis stars’ arrival angers stranded Australians. Even those so-called ‘celebrities’ that come from humble backgrounds rapidly take on the spoilt brat approach when they have a healthy bank account.

Politicians drank on Senedd (the devolved Welsh Parliament) premises despite booze ban. Probably wanting to avoid waste!

(This eventually led to a few resignations. However the point isn’t what they did it’s the idea that there are those who think that because of their position in society they are not covered by the same restrictions as the vast majority of the population. Here I’m not referring to young people going to raves – they’re doing it because they don’t trust those in government and are prepared to take risks.)

The issue of masks

From arguments way back in March that mask wearing possibly had more negatives that positives we are getting to a situation where some high-tech (and more expensive) mask is the way forward. Wear medical-grade masks if you can’t socially distance, Britons told. Whether this will take supplies from places where it might be more useful or who will actually have to pay for this more expensive equipment is not addressed. We will soon have a situation in Britain as it was in World War Two with people walking around with a gas mask in a box hanging from their shoulders.

Poverty in Britain

Poverty is easy to resolve – you just stop al the wealth being collected into a few hands and create a society which works for the benefit of the majority. I accept easier to say than do – and experienmts in the past have not achieved what they set out to do. But what is certain is that there will never be a solution to poverty under capitalism – it’s very existence depends upon inequality. And even if some ‘go up’ it only means that others will have to ‘go down’.

But that doesn’t stop the likes of the privileged Buffoon coming up with another meaningless and impractical suggestion. His latest is that girls’ education is the key to ending poverty.

At the beginning of January the Resolution Foundation brought out a report of how 2021 will be for the poorest in society, in their report The Living Standards Outlook.

Poorer pupils falling behind during lock down. Again, Surprise! Surprise! But nothing gets done about it, such as general provision of computers and connectivity.

Travel restrictions

This is another of the ‘will they, won’t they’ stories. UK shuts travel corridors and requires negative covid tests to enter. Whether at this stage of the pandemic this will have any real effect must be debatable. What is not debatable is that this provides an ideal opportunity for bandits around the world to make money out of the crisis with the provision of expensive tests to those who ‘need’ to travel.

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