England on the eve of ‘Freedom Day’

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England on the eve of ‘Freedom Day’

In less than an hour Britain (or at least the English part of it) will enter a watershed moment for 00.00 on Monday 19th July 2021 will see the end of all restrictions under which the country has been living for the last 16 months. Or it won’t. (It also should be the end of this Journal of the Plague Years 2020-202? – but it won’t.)

(There are even nightclubs waiting to open up, with queues forming, as I write, to enter on the stroke of midnight.)

Legal restrictions will be lifted but that doesn’t mean that local restrictions won’t remain in place. For example, masks will not be obligatory on some forms of public transport but will be on others and it varies between different parts of the country (England) and matters won’t be changing on the 19th in the other constituent nations of the so-called ‘United Kingdom’. And worse still some areas seem to be following a ‘wait and see’ approach before making a final decision.

The uncertainty and confusion that has beset the whole approach to dealing with the pandemic is now being carried over into the ‘new normal’. Having had no strategy to deal with the consequences of the covid virus since March 2020 the government of the Buffoon is basically giving up and hoping for the best – more or less what they have been doing since the pandemic hit.

When it comes to the science people can get proof of their approach whatever it might be. Some scientists are predicting the end of civilisation as we know it, others are arguing the ‘if not now, when’ approach. No doubt all will eventually be proved correct, at least in their own eyes.

From the beginning we have been arguing here that there must be a better way of dealing with a pandemic than following the tactics that were adopted 700 years ago during the time of the ‘Black Death’ (bubonic plague) that swept through Europe. But that would require a strategy which has been sorely lacking. At the same time it cannot be denied that the ‘collateral damage’ caused by the lack of a clear and carefully thought out strategy has been, is and will be in the near to long-term future, immense.

Modern societies just can’t close down with the hope the virus will run its course and eventually disappear. If that thought did exist at the beginning of 2020 the hope has all but been dispelled by the general argument now that ‘we will have to live to learn with the virus and that it will be with us (probably) forever’.

However important it might be for British society to get back to normal (with all its problems of inequality, racism and poverty) it would have been useful if lessons of mistakes made in the last 18 months had been learnt so the country was more prepared for what is to come – an uncertain future for sure.

But in England (and it’s not really any better in the rest of the UK) that’s not the case.

On the very eve of ‘Freedom Day’ the Buffoon makes even yet another U-turn (this time one of the quickest ever, timed at less than three hours) over the matter of self isolation of himself and his spendthrift neighbour. But it wasn’t just the changing of approach to self isolation (‘one law for us and one law for them’) it was the way it was explained away.

In the same way that the Buffoon has lied and blustered his way through events of the last year and a bit he turned his lack of strategy on to the population of England. His video speech explaining the change in approach consisted in mainly saying that we all have to be follow a sensible lifestyle in the coming weeks and months and ignoring the chaos that his own actions (and that of the rich and powerful) in the last 18 months has just created confusion in the minds of some, incredulity in those of others, and downright antagonism in the minds of the rest.

We didn’t enter the pandemic all together and we’re not moving out of it (however temporary it might be) as a united force that would be the only hope, if not a guarantee, of success.

From tomorrow the debate will change, accusations will be liberally thrown around and politicians will be seeking to score points for their own short-term ends. ‘I told you so’ will become the most oft quote phrase and chaos will reign.

How well or badly we in Britain will get through this crisis is still in the balance. But the same question that was posed at the beginning of 2020 is still valid so many months later. The ruling class in Britain (and the rest of the world) have shown themselves incapable of dealing with such a crisis – apart from filling the banks accounts of their cronies and allies with public wealth.

Are working people willing and able to do better?

Vaccination programme in Britain

Covid-19 vaccine boosters: is a third dose really needed?

Most covid deaths in England now are in the vaccinated – here’s why that shouldn’t alarm you.

Can ‘viral shedding’ after the covid vaccine infect others? That’s a big ‘no’.

Pressure builds on ministers to reach a decision on covid vaccines for children. This decision will be based upon politics and will have nothing to do with science – or the ‘data’. There is in Britain – as in virtually all the wealthier countries – no real concern for situation in the poorer countries where many millions of the ‘most vulnerable’ are still from being protected. The Buffoon will be playing to the selfish gallery.

Freedom Day … or perhaps not

End to Covid rules for England ‘leaves 3.8 million vulnerable people feeling abandoned’.

UK faces a difficult summer.

Confusion continues to reign

UK government under fire for mixed remote work messaging.

The ever-changing virus

Lambda variant is now in 29 countries, but what evidence do we have that it’s more dangerous?

Consequences of the virus

Younger adults still at risk of serious organ damage.

Long covid has more than 200 symptoms.

The argument over masks

Seven reasons mask wearing in the west was unnecessarily delayed.

Who gains from pandemics (and in any other health care situation)?

UK drug companies fined £260 million for inflating prices for National Health Service.

Test and trace

More than half a million people in England pinged by NHS test and trace app in a week, the highest figure recorded.

Wealth distribution in Britain

The Resolution Foundation produced a report, (Wealth) gap year: The impact of the coronavirus crisis on UK household wealth and there was a discussion around the findings of this report in a webinar on 12th July.

The masters of the U-turn

Buffoon and chancellor to self-isolate in U-turn. This one in less than three hours.

Vaccine ‘passports’

Are covid-19 vaccine passports fair?

Poverty in Britain

More than 1million children from key worker families living in poverty, says Trades Union Congress. So when are the unions going to do something about it?

The Joseph Rowntree Trust has published another report into poverty in Britain entitled A Minimum Income Standard for the United Kingdom in 2021. Also just the findings.

The expiry of the Universal Credit uplift: impacts and policy options, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

The future of the country in the feet of a football team

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

The future of the country in the feet of a football team

If there was one word that could be used to describe the manner in which the present covid pandemic has been managed in the UK then that word would be ‘surreal’. (I have been more closely following the situation in Britain but from what I know about other parts of the world the epithet would not be misplaced elsewhere.)

Perhaps, at the very beginning, there was an excuse for this impression. But only a small ‘perhaps’. Previous governments, of whatever political colour, had given the impression they were planning for any such eventuality (be it medical, natural or even military) but when it came it seemed – in Britain, at least – that they had been planning for the wrong type of pandemic. The cunning covid virus had snuck under the radar and it should have been a variety of flu.

That was a weak argument as there must be certain constants that exist in a pandemic; testing; isolation plans; a properly functioning, resourced and financed health service; support for those who are infected but can’t work; a well thought out strategy; an idea of worst case scenarios; a long term perspective as a modern city based society has little to fall back on compared to when pandemics (much more virulent and destructive in terms of human life) struck in past centuries – failure to do so could quite well lead to a situation where the cure can become more destructive and longer lasting than the disease itself.

But none of that was there, nothing concrete and thought through existed from the start and the situation is not that much better now.

Following the ‘data and not dates’ has meant that prior to long publicised ‘crunch’ times speculation is rife, with the Government no doubt promoting leaks to see how they are picked up by the media and the population in general. Lacking any strategy, lacking any real ideas, lacking any courage they seek to place (in whatever manner) the responsibility upon the the people themselves.

Whilst claiming ‘leadership’ the Buffoon and his acolytes have bounced around like a ball in a squash court with no one knowing where the ball will land. U-turns have been made on virtually all important decisions (when they are proven to be totally out of tune with reality or because they realise the plans just aren’t workable) and getting close to any sort of strategy is just a pipe-dream.

The period where speculation is rife before the making of a decision on the way forward gets extended from one week to two, the resultant ‘debate’ almost certainly causing more confusion the longer it goes on. But one thing is certain, whatever the consequences of changes in the present circumstances (which must happen, at some time in the future, a modern society can’t go on as it has in the UK for the last 18 months or so), if it all goes tits up it won’t be the Buffoon or the politicians that are at fault.

The Tories have tried (probably not very successfully) to claim credit for the success in the vaccination programme in the country. They were hypocritical in their ‘celebration’ of the 73rd anniversary of the establishment of the National Health Service which took place on 5th July. A party that had fought against its establishment in the first place, has been trying to undermine it ever since and which is, at present, pushing through changes that will further weaken its ability to provide what it promised to do in the immediate post-war years looks even more shallow when they are forced to attend such celebrations.

Now the Buffoon has become the country’s most avid football supporter and the Euro Cup Final that’s taking place as I type is supposed to have everyone in the country supporting ‘our’ team, an attempt at narrow minded nationalism which will help us to cope as we come out of the ‘unprecedented’ situation of the last year and a half.

If the feel good factor kicks in if England win what happens if they lose?

Vaccination programme in Britain ….

Covid vaccines: combining AstraZeneca and Pfizer may boost immunity.

Heart inflammation link to Pfizer and Moderna jabs.

….. and the rest of the world

Delta variant exposes the flaws of stop-start vaccination programmes.

Proposals to extend covid jabs to children in west would delay worldwide roll out and allow deadly variants to develop elsewhere.

South Africa’s vaccine quagmire, and what needs to be done now.

The ever changing virus

What’s the ‘Delta plus’ variant? And can it escape vaccines?

Age, sex, vaccine dose, chronic illness – insight into risk factors for severe covid is growing.

We should treat covid like norovirus – not the flu.

Moving forward …..

Chris Whitty: keeping covid restrictions will only delay wave.

Why it’s time to think differently about covid.

Living with covid: is now the right time for England to lift all restrictions?

….. or pumping up the fear

UK scientists caution that lifting of Covid rules is like building ‘variant factories’.

Covid-19: ‘For us it’s not freedom day, is it?’

Global experts urge Boris Johnson to delay ‘dangerous’ covid reopening.

England’s ‘freedom day’ to be day of fear for elderly people.

‘Collateral damage’

How missing out on nursery due to covid has affected children’s development.

A hidden covid crisis? Assessing the pandemic’s impact on young workers and their mental health. This page has a link to a recording of a webinar that looked at this issue in May.

Remote workers suffered most mental distress during pandemic.

Some things we are learning

How scientists can help tell if someone caught the virus at a nightclub.

Why we should stop testing in schools.

Poverty in Britain

How inequality explains the high impact of covid-19 in the UK.

£20 cut to benefits to impact families’ ability to put food on the table.

Universal credit £20 top up to be phased out.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies published a report entitled Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK: 2021. On 8th July there was also a webinar where this report was introduced.

The covid death toll in poorer areas highlights long term inequalities in Britain, the conclusion of a report by the Health Foundation entitled Unequal pandemic, fairer recovery.

Chaos that follows the ‘no strategy’ strategy

Parents angry at shifting government covid messages.

Covid-19: New rules for schools in England to be set out.

Hypocrisy in Britain

For an example of the shallowness of British society, and the ease with which a sizeable section of the population can be lulled into inactivity, just look at the ‘honours’ system that operates due to the existence of an hereditary monarchy. At a time when wide ranging changes are being proposed for the National Health Service which could drastically alter (for the worse) general working conditions; when staff shortages are getting worse – not solely down to the pandemic as it arrived at a time of a staffing crisis that had been developing for years; when a derisory pay offer is being offered by the Buffoon’s government which will very likely lead to strike action and/or an even greater departure of trained staff; and still a lack of a strategy to deal with covid – which we are constantly being told will be with us for ever – what is the government’s response? The Queen gives ‘courageous’ and ‘dedicated’ NHS the George Cross as William and Kate mark its 73rd birthday

Corruption in Britain

Greensill given access to covid loans without detailed checks.

Testing

UK pupils use orange juice to fake ‘positive’ Covid test results.

Test-and-trace rules ‘wreaking havoc’ for pubs and restaurants.

After the pandemic – or at least after Britain returns to ‘normal’

Why early-years education must be prioritised in pandemic recovery plans.

The Centre for Ageing Better has produced a report on access to the internet for older people, Covid-19 and the digital divide, with suggestions how things could change in the future.

Sunak must spend extra £10 billion a year on public services because of Covid – Office for Budget Responsibility.

Lessons from the pandemic

Human behaviour: what scientists have learned about it from the pandemic.

And how did it all start?

Covid origins: Scientists weigh up evidence over virus’s origins.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

No strategy – no way forward

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

No strategy – no way forward

When it comes to the pandemic there’s a bit of a hiatus in Britain at the moment. As there is still (as there has never been) no coherent strategy all that the Government is doing is crossing their fingers in the hope that the pandemic will just go away. That was the Buffoon’s approach in March 2020 and it hasn’t really changed. If there has been a change in perception it was that the pandemic was an ideal opportunity for the State to give billions of pounds of the public’s money to private companies – preferably those with a link to the ruling Conservative Party.

When the first indications that a vaccine would be quickly available this was touted as being the way out of the problem. However, even though the vaccination programme in the UK has been one of the most successful in the world that certainty seems to be gradually drifting away. Now things are happening which weren’t planned for – such as variants which are always expected in such circumstances but lacking any strategy the Government hasn’t really allowed for them.

We are still in the realm of knee-jerk reactions;

  • what to do with school children when one child in a ‘bubble’ tests positive;
  • which countries people can go to or what they must do when they come back from ‘foreign climes’;
  • whether mass events should or shouldn’t take place;
  • whether such mass events cause outbreaks – or they don’t;
  • what will happen later in the year and will the covid outbreak be superseded by the regular winter influenza season, sometime serious, sometimes not;
  • there’s still a great deal of confusion for higher education students in how the first term of the new academic year (which starts in September) will look like;
  • whether unemployment will increase drastically after support packages end or whether there will be a labour shortage;
  • whether England’s progress through the Euro Football tournament will be ‘what the country needs’ after a ‘unprecedented year’ or will lead to further ‘disappointment’.

The Government certainly, and probably the majority of the population are just crossing various parts of their bodies in the hope that things will get better. But history has shown that hope alone for a better future rarely leads to good results – very often the reverse.

What the country (and the world – there being challenges in many of those countries that were considered to have been on top of the issue in the past year or so) needs is a proper strategy which addresses the underlying causes and systemic failures to deal with such ‘natural’ disasters as a pandemic.

What we have been shown in countless examples since the end of 2019 is that the present ruling system is incapable of formulating such a strategy – at least as far as it goes in benefiting the vast majority of the population.

Vaccination programme in Britain ….

Did a delayed second dose give the delta variant an evolutionary helping hand?

The only vaccine being distributed ‘at cost’ and the only one that has ‘serious’ side-effects. Coincidence? Just means more money being shovelled, worldwide, into the bank accounts of ‘big pharma’. The Oxford vaccine: the trials and tribulations of a world-saving jab.

Why most people who now die with covid in England have had a vaccination.

….. and around the world

Sinopharm covid vaccine: the world needs to keep using it, even if it’s less effective.

To end covid-19 we need vaccine justice for developing countries not outdated charity.

The G7’s vaccine pledge: donating 1 billion doses to end the pandemic is far too little.

What are the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines? And how effective are they?

G7 donations unlikely to bring pandemic to an end by 2022.

South Africa’s latest covid-19 lock down puts spotlight back on vaccination failures.

Data not fear

No major outbreaks found at government mass pilot events.

What the pandemic has exposed

How covid-19 exposed the systemic ageism at the heart of Britain.

What about ‘herd immunity’?

A phrase that went out of fashion for most of the last year, now coming (quietly) back into the conversation.

Covid-19 may never go away, but practical herd immunity is within reach.

But ….

Global herd immunity remains out of reach because of inequitable vaccine distribution – 99% of people in poor countries are unvaccinated.

‘Long covid’

More than 2 million adults in England have had ‘long covid’ for over 12 weeks.

‘Collateral damage’

At least 130,000 households in England made homeless in pandemic.

Compare with that article with another published in the same newspaper on the same day. Clamour for wealth tax grows after revelations about super-rich’s affairs.

Number of children on free school meals in England soars to 1.7million.

Working from home: How classism covertly dominated the conversation.

What has been the experience of those young people who started university in September 2020? Not very good, it seems. Some idea of the result of the last year can be listened to in this section from BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme of 24th June, Students value for money.

The situation in schools is becoming chaotic – and unsustainable if the idea is to keep education as normal. Yet another mismanaged process with the Government making changes – or maybe not – or maybe not until later in the year. No strategy means even more uncertainty. And who was it came up with the idea of ‘bubbles’? As if a pandemic can be managed in such a childish manner. Williamson wants to scrap bubbles to keep pupils in school.

Poverty in Britain

Statistics reveal a 153% increase in UK households hit by benefit cap.

A report produced by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Freeing low-income single parents from in-work poverty’s grip, concentrates upon the situation in Scotland – but a similar situation (as always) would also exist in the other parts of the so-called ‘United Kingdom’.

‘Jaw-dropping’ fall in life expectancy in poor areas of England.

Covid death rate 25% higher in Greater Manchester.

Who has/is gained/gaining from the pandemic

Although sold as a worker friendly measure the real winners of the so-called ‘furlough scheme’ was, is and will continue to be the major companies that operate throughout Britain. Here’s an example of just one of them – so sure of themselves that these millionaires don’t even attempt to hide their greed. JD Sports faces investor backlash over boss’s bonus.

Counterfeiting – the underworld threat to beating covid-19.

Power, wealth, and justice in the Time of covid-19.

Contracts given out because of the need for speed – or was that just a cover for corruption and cronyism? BBC Radio 4’s File on Four looked at this on 22nd June 2021, in a programme entitled Contracts of interest.

Covid loan fraud and error will cost UK taxpayers tens of billions.

Concerns over VIP lane for covid testing contracts after ‘fast track’ email revealed.

What’s happening in the shadows

The government is relentlessly privatising the NHS.

Decisions are supposedly being based on ‘data not dates’ – but the data is being kept secret. Experts press ministers to publish mass event pilot findings for England.

‘Lessons’ from the pandemic

What we can learn about risk from the covid experience.

‘Natural’ disasters are due to societal failures – so, here’s a six-point pandemic recovery plan.

Learning from covid: how to improve future supplies of medical equipment and vaccines.

Fire, tsunami, pandemic: how to ensure societies learn lessons from disaster – this page offers a link to a podcast.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?