The vaccination programme gathers pace – but will it be enough?

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

The vaccination programme gathers pace – but will it be enough?

When I published a comment on this site on 23rd March, which was the first post in what was to become The Journal of the Plague Year 2020-2?, I didn’t for one second think that the pandemic would be allowed to take hold in the way it has. Three months, perhaps in a totally disastrous scenario six, but ten and with no real end in sight? No way. Surely modern medicine, science and technology would mean that 21st century societies would come up with something more imaginative and effective than the same tactics used in the 14th (The Black Death) or the 17th (The Great Plague of London) centuries. But I had forgotten that capitalism, even in the 21st century, is no less primitive than the feudalists or transitional capitalists of those past events.

The reason for starting the series was twofold. As an aide mémoire to myself to record what was happening, as it was happening, and also to assist in the refutation of the re-writing of history that I was sure would come however long the pandemic might dominate life. The first reason would also help in reminding the population of Britain (who, in general, have the memory that would embarrass a May fly) of what was said and done on their behalf by the Government of the Buffoon.

That reason has yet to be tested as we are still far from the end when people begin to forget the start.

However, the re-writing has already started.

Towards the end of an interview on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme on 12th January, Jeremy Hunt, at one time Health Secretary (before he stood against the Buffoon for leader of the Party – and hence Prime Minister – and therefore fell out of favour) stated the following;

‘It was in the immediate post-war years that we took that very inspiring decision, in 1948, despite the country being bankrupt, to set up the NHS – with cross party support. And, I hope, when we put this pandemic behind us, we can use it as another 1948 moment to address some of the long term issues in the NHS, like training enough doctors and nurses, which we never seemed to do enough of. This is a moment to really sort out some of these long term issues.’

Now most of that I would agree with – although Hunt’s statement does contain an untruth as the Tories fought tooth and nail against the principle of a National Health Service in Britain and effectively made it much weaker than even the Social Democratic Labour Party wished. But Hunt is not only claiming ownership of the concept of the NHS from the post-war years but also attempts to give the impression that he is one who has been in support of the NHS during his own time in politics.

But before this cretin is allowed to get away with unsubstantiated statements it might be worthwhile looking at his record.

He was Health Secretary from 2012-2018. That’s the longest time the post has been held by one individual in British history. During that time rather than build the NHS into an organisation that was capable of dealing with the increased demand, mainly from an ageing population and advances in medicine which could keep people alive for longer than was the case in the 1940s, he put the NHS through one of its most bitter conflicts since establishment by forcing new, unjust and odious contracts upon junior doctors – leading to one of the very few strikes in the history of the NHS.

The shortages and problems in the NHS were obvious to even the least interested member of the public with reports of lack of beds, patients waiting in corridors and general staff shortages being continually in the news, especially during the winter months. The situation in the care sector was becoming a national disgrace and embarrassment and was a major contributory factor in the high number of deaths in care homes in the early part of last year.

However, whilst Health Secretary Hunt did nothing to alleviate these problems. His tactics achieved (what he wanted) the very reverse, supporting the private health sector which Tory governments have been championing against the NHS since they got back into power in 1951.

So his words above are just for the ignorant masses and an attempt by the Tories to obscure their actions and intentions of the past 70 years.

And Hunt’s character is ‘questionable’, to say the least. He was;

  • found to be in breach of the rules during the 2009 Parliamentary Expenses scandal
  • failed to declare property interests in 2018

both of which were explained away by him having ‘forgot’

  • and he wasn’t averse to using nepotism when it suited him (2010).

If the population of Britain wants to be able to cope with any future pandemic (that is, assuming any of us survive this one) then these are the things (as well as many others) they will have to remember or else they will be spending more of their time in the future attending funerals than birthday parties.

One year since first reports ….

…. what have we learnt and still to learn?

The Buffoon’s achievements of 2020

UK coronavirus deaths pass 100,000 after 1,564 reported in one day.

Lock down Number 3

Can lock down stop the new coronavirus variant?

Are covid patients getting younger?

Vaccinations

The prospect of a vaccine was held out like a carrot to get people to comply with the various restrictions – so much so as it was presented as a ‘magic bullet’ that would solve all our problems. However, when it (they) arrived things weren’t that simple. Below just a few of the issues surrounding vaccines, who should get them when and how effective vaccines will be to allow society to return to a ‘new normal’.

Can we really jab our way out of lock down?

Going from two to one caused (and is still causing) some concern. In Scotland there was concern over change to covid plan.

Few vaccines prevent infection – here’s why that’s not a problem.

The Government has continually resisted concentrating efforts to defeat the virus at a local level, especially when it came to testing. They still don’t seemed to have learnt the lessons of the past and have established seven mass vaccination hubs for England

Delaying the second covid vaccine dose – a medical expert answers key questions.

On 7th January there was a discussion about the pros and cons of the policy of one jab for the many rather than two for half as many on Radio 4’s Inside Science. One important point here was – towards the end – the idea that data has to be collected NOW, from the start of the programme, if not nothing will be learnt for the future.

More companies (this time some of the smaller ones, wanting to get their snout in the trough – or a real desire to help speed up the vaccination programme? Pharmacies’ offer to give covid jabs snubbed by ministers.

We can speed up covid vaccine push, say small chemists.

To be real this vaccination programme has to be completed as soon as possible. This is an ongoing debate and will be with us for the best part of this year – at least. UK vaccine minister vows ‘massive uplift’ in number of jabs this week.

Some think it can happen very quickly. NHS could vaccinate UK against covid in five days, says Oxford professor.

How will vaccines affect the length of England’s lock down?

Covid19 immunity: how long does it last?

With the arrival of ‘variants’ – why resistance is common in antibiotics, but rare in vaccines.

Covid: vaccinating our way out of a crisis.

In any such massive vaccination programme there will be teething problems but these could have been reduced to a minimum if work on the logistics of the matter had been carried out months ago, working through all the possible scenarios to test how the unexpected could have been resolved. But as with all aspects of this pandemic there has been no strategic thinking and it looks very likely the vaccination programme will also be a victim of this fundamental failing.

General Practitioners (GPs) leading the way in covid vaccine roll out are forced to slow down.

Can the UK vaccinate 15 million people by mid-February?

Vaccines alone aren’t enough to eradicate a virus – lessons from history.

Vaccination programmes worldwide

The Israeli vaccination programme is being lauded as the example to follow – but most reports on the Israeli ‘success’ omit to say that the country is an illegal occupying power in most of what it considers to be its territory. And as an occupying force the Israeli Armed Forces have been following the same tactics used by all invaders from the wars in the last century or so – that is, persecuting the local population, denying them freedoms their own citizens consider as normal, breaking international conventions when it suits and, in the period of the present pandemic, considering those living in the occupied territories to be not worthy of decent medical treatment. The Zionist occupiers have been systematically ignoring the needs of the Palestinian people since the pandemic broke at the beginning of last year and now Palestinians will have to wait at the back of the queue when it comes to vaccination, with few of them being even considered before March – that is, until the master race have all been adequately protected.

‘Immunity passports’

Although the concept was rubbished months ago it was obvious that such a scheme needs to be implemented to ensure a freer flow of people in future months. Whether proof of vaccination was only introduced on an ad hoc, private basis or became an international requirement to give people a vaccination and not provide them with evidence of some sort of immunity would be reckless if not downright stupid.

But in Britain, in place of making a decision, vaccine passports are to be trialled by thousands.

Adopt EU-wide vaccine certificate, suggests Greek Prime Minister – which would leave the UK out in the cold.

Could a wristband or certificate allow you out of lock down after a negative coronavirus test?

Testing – and all that goes with it

This has been dropping down the agenda for the last few weeks, however that only suits the Government as the failings in the system persist. However, it should be an integral part of any strategy (what strategy?) to get the country – and indeed the rest of the world – out of the mire of the pandemic.

Why we need to test covid-19 tests.

Rapid tests for asymptomatic people to be rolled out – but at the same time in Liverpool, the location of the ‘asymptomatic testing pilot’ the tests are being restricted to only ‘essential workers’.

A view on future testing from Devi Sridhar, an advisor to the Scottish Parliament on the pandemic, on Radio 4’s, World at One, 11th January.

‘Test before travel’ plan in disarray as start date is postponed.

Regulator refuses to approve mass daily covid testing at English schools. Is it going to be possible to get on top of the whole issue of testing before the arival of the next pandemic? Not in the UK, it seems.

Poverty in Britain

Pandemic Pressures – why families on low income are spending more during covid-19.

The IFS Deaton Review – of Inequalities, a New Year’s Message.

There’s no shortage of data about the severe levels of poverty in Britain and one of the ‘advantages’ of the pandemic is that this is being discussed and publicised in a way it wasn’t this time last year. However, knowing the situation is one thing, doing something about it is another. Is the British working class up to the task?

The Rowntree Trust publishes an annual report with details of the extent of poverty and the Findings and Full Report for 2020-21 has just been produced.

Liverpool ‘pilot’ – update

It’s difficult to work out what’s happening with the Liverpool testing ‘pilot’. It was lauded in November, then questions were asked about the validity of the Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test was brought into question and at that time the opening of the test centres became erratic (and certainly not friendly for an asymptomatic, all city testing programme) and now limited to only so-called ‘essential’ workers. Even this list keeps on getting added to or subtracted from.

On 15th January this was the list of those able to get a test;

Who can get tested?

The centres on the map below are open for front line workers with no Covid-19 symptoms to get tested. These are workers who cannot work from home and also have physical contact with other people as part of their job. They include:

    • NHS and care workers
    • school staff
    • supermarket employees
    • delivery drivers
    • factory workers
    • transport workers

Students who are returning to university and unpaid carers with no Covid-19 symptoms can also get tested. Covid-19 symptoms are a high temperature, a new continuous cough, and loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

If you are not a front line worker there should be no reason for you to need a symptom-free test during lock down, however, you will not be turned away. (my emphasis – and this rider has only appeared recently, probably when the Council realised that after having encouraged people to have a regular test last year they would sound ridiculous if people are rufused acces to the test centres.)

This seems strange when the rest of the country is supposed to be introducing asymptomatic testing on a mass scale.

Face masks/coverings

Although not based on any scientific evidence (if so, it hasn’t been made public) Borough Market (London) becomes first outdoor space in UK to legally enforce face masks.

Paul Hunter, an epidemiologist and advisor to the World Health Organisation, on the wearing of masks outside, on Radio 4’s World at One on 12th January

Government U-turns

I’m sure someone is keeping an account of the number of U-turns made by the Buffoon and his Government. I, however, have lost count. Here’s just another.

Government U-turns on school guidance for children of ‘key workers’. It also begs the question ‘when is a key worker not a key worker’?

The Homeless

Despite Government ‘promises’ hundreds of homeless people pushed back on to streets of London during first lock down ‘due to lack of support’.

How prepared was/is the NHS?

‘We are not coping’: Paramedics warn of deaths as hundreds of emergencies wait hours for help

How the covid surge has left the NHS on the brink.

It was referred to in the last blog, with an interview with the author of the report into the 2009 swine flu epidemic. It might be useful to present the whole document, ‘The 2009 Influenza Pandemic’, published in July 2010.

Not the same for everyone

Why Instagram is still full of celebrities ‘on holiday’.

Nothing to do specifically with the pandemic but worth reminding readers of the situation that has existed for decades – and will into the future if people are prepared to accept the status quo. FTSE 100 (Financial Times Stock Exchange top 100 companies) chief executives ‘earn average salary within 3 days’

Surprise, surprise, super-rich skip coronavirus vaccine queue by jetting abroad to get jabs.

The UK’s wealth distribution – and characteristics of high wealth households.

Free school meals

The fact that these are means tested (dependent upon income) benefits in the UK is a disgrace in itself but even after handing out seemingly countless billions of pounds to private industry the Government cuts corners when it comes to providing a small amount of food to some of the poorest families in the country.

Concerns after parcels outcry – after pictures of the supposed £30 packages were shared on social media. The fact that the private company involved, Chartwell’s, had to have this matter brought to their attention before doing anything about this speaks volumes. Also the fact that this company has been creaming off public finance since the forced privatisation of school meal provision from the 1980s onwards should be up for reconsideration. These private companies just take the making of profit from poverty as a given norm.

The disgrace of this situation was highlighted in a couple of interviews on Radio 4’s World at One on 12th January.

The reluctance of the Government to provide the assistance in the form of cash is yet another example of the way successive governments have tried to stigmatise the poorest in society. They can’t be trusted to have money, the argument goes, as they will obviously spend it on cigarettes, booze or gamble it away in the betting shops.

The nutrients children should be getting.

Pie in the sky – by and by

IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies, a left-leaning, so-called Think Tank) calls for a fairer UK after covid brings greater inequality. As if that’s going to happen – if we don’t force it.

Changes in the law

Once they have these laws remember they never want to give them up!

Police chief calls for power of entry into homes of suspected lock down breakers.

And a slight sideways move, but relevant nonetheless. Is your boss spying on you?

Help for renters?

Renters are being failed by governments on both sides of the Atlantic – it can’t be up to celebrities to help.

Clarity – or confusion

Stormont meeting to clarify exam situation.

Calls for clarity for university students in Wales on return.

Before anything happens there’s always far too much speculation – which only causes confusion. As with international travel.

Arrivals in UK could soon need negative test.

Travellers must show negative covid test to enter UK.

All a field day for private suppliers of what will be very expensive tests.

How many ‘variants’?

And how dangerous are they. Yet another tactic to increase the general fear level within the population.

South African variant may evade vaccines and testing, warn scientists.

Now there’s a ‘Spanish’ variant – a return to 1918 – and, in the last few days, the Brazilian version.

‘Collateral damage’

London hospital halts urgent cancer surgery due to ovid cases.

Britain heading for ‘perfect storm’ over fitness in winter lock down.

Life-saving transplants delayed as coronavirus patients fill beds.

Almost 200,000 patients now waiting at least a year for routine NHS operations – and four and a half million on waiting lists.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

A new year – but nothing has changed

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

A new year – but nothing has changed

2021 was barely a day old before we were forced to realise that the new year would be no better than the old. Yet another U-turn by the Buffoon’s Government – this time on schools re-opening after the holiday – more confusion and the almost certainty of lock down number 3.

If people were expecting a new start then they were disappointed. The same inept, confused and bewildered politicians are still in ‘control’.

For some 2020 has been a disastrous year (loss of jobs, loss of income, loss of life) and we have been told innumerable times that we were living through ‘unprecedented’ times. That’s not really true, there are epidemics raging throughout the world all the time – it’s just that the latest one has had a severe impact upon the more wealthy countries in the world (and they can’t cope with it).

In many ways Britain (as have so many countries in Europe) has gotten off relatively lightly. Yes, the heaviest burden has fallen on those in the country who are less able to bear the strain (the sick, the elderly, the poor) but they’re the ones who, historically, have always suffered most when the norms of society break down (be it economic crashes or war).

For those the temptation is to forget what has happened in the last nine, going on ten, months. To think of the future – which may not be so bad – rather than remember the past – which we know was.

However that would be a mistake. The pandemic has not caused many of the problems that exist in British society but it has definitely highlighted many of the disparities, inequities and downright criminal situation in which far too many of the population live. But that is capitalism.

In good times the problems can get easily swept under the carpet and forgotten by the majority who are managing, more or less well, but at least able to exist in a reasonable manner. Throwing a few pence in a charity tin, buying a copy of the Big Issue or putting a few groceries in the collecting bins for food banks after a supermarket shop enables people to think they are doing some good and helping those more in need, ‘less fortunate’.

The pandemic, or more importantly, the manner in which it has been mismanaged has shown that there are huge numbers of working people who are on a knife edge when it comes to a crisis. The increased use of food banks is a clear example of that.

So people shouldn’t forget 2020. Quite the opposite. If they wish to have long term security they should remember the lessons of how they have been treated by a system that exists for no other reason than to make profit from the labour of others.

Capitalism’s representatives throughout the world have proven themselves incapable of dealing with extreme circumstances. They have wandered from one inept and poorly thought through action to another and we are no closer to living virus free now than we were just short of a year ago.

Their ineptness in the past has reduced the number of ways forward. They have created such a chaotic situation that it is luck which is going to get us back to some semblance of normality, not any strategic thinking.

At the moment, on the eve of the announcement of a further lock down in England, we should remember who brought us to this state of affairs. If we forget (just to make ourselves feel better) then we will be facing the same situation in the not too distant future.

Like the many natural occurrences that will be catastrophic to humanity (for example, the earthquake that will be caused by the San Andreas Fault in California) it’s not a matter of if, it’s when.

How prepared was Britain for the pandemic?

An update following a report produced years ago (2009) by its author on BBC Radio 4’s the World at One on the 29th December.

What is the risk of infection?

An analysis of this issue was discussed on Radio 4’s World at One on 29th December.

Vaccines and vaccination programme

As virtually all the governments of the world were totally inept and unable to come up with a strategy to defeat the covid virus they all put their faith in a vaccine that would take the responsibility away form themselves. That being the case, and placing all their eggs in one basket, why wasn’t there a ‘task force’ given the job of working out all the potential problems and pit-falls that would accompany a nationwide vaccination programme?

There were months when all these details could have been worked out; who would get the vaccine first and in what order would the rest of the population follow; how would the vaccines be distributed; who would be needed to administer the injections and the establishment of a resister of those who could assist in this process, i.e. retired NHS staff; what sort of campaign would be launched to ensure the greatest possible take up; what sort of documentation could be provided to help people return to a ‘normal’ life when aspects of society start to demand proof of vaccination before people could take part in certain activities (this is being denied now but it will almost certainly creep into all societies worldwide as the year goes on); establishing the policy of vaccinating the greatest number or ensuring those in the highest risk bracket get the highest level of protection first; and understanding and managing the general logistical problems associated with vaccinating a population of 60 million plus people in the shortest time possible.

So there is little reason to be confident that the magic solution to the pandemic will be introduced smoothly.

A couple of other points on the vaccination programme.

When the Buffoon makes wild promises we should remember what happened about those in the past. Have people already forgotten the ‘world beating’ testing system that would be testing tens of thousands way back in May. Those really insignificant figures weren’t met – apart from magically on the date ‘promised’. So his claim of 2 million vaccinations per week have to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

Also, the idea of postponing the second vaccination for those who had already been given the very first vaccines in the country might well have a lot of validity. (Is not a vaccine that ‘needs’ two shots just another scam by the pharmaceutical companies to increase their profits anyway?) However this news is being delivered to people who had already been made frightened of their own shadow by the fear campaign of the Government over the last ten months to obtain compliance of their knee jerk policies. It just demonstrates, yet again, no strategic thinking and a contempt for people in general.

Mistakes sometimes lead to positive outcomes. Oxford vaccine mix up came from scientists misreading the strength of Italian manufacturers’ supply.

If a cure isn’t enough try prevention. Antibody therapy could confer instant immunity to Covid-19 on at-risk groups.

Or use what’s already been around for a long time. Dexamethasone demonstrates power of large-scale, randomised trials in finding effective medicines

But it’s not all good news. Many medics ‘frustrated’ about low priority given to front line staff at high risk of infection.

Will it happen here? Spain to keep register of those who refuse Covid vaccine.

Israel vaccinates half a million in nine days – but how many were Palestinian?

The question most people are asking – when will you be eligible for the covid vaccine?

There was no doubt that it would have been approved, but it was left to virtually the end of 2020 before the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved for use in UK.

Race to roll out Oxford covid vaccine to stave off third lock down – although it’s now looking like the English variant is winning that particular race.

Tesco offers to help with roll-out of Oxford vaccine.

Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine roll out plan changed following approval. But that’s all right, the approval was only a formality. So the vaccine is approved with the proviso that the second injection is within three weeks. Then the Government decides (‘following the scientific advice’) that it’s Ok to delay the second jab until 12 weeks after the first. So is it approved or not?

12-week vaccine gap defended by UK medical chiefs.

Doctors call for rapid roll out of vaccines – which makes sense but has the infrastructure been put in place?

Medics complain of ‘bureaucracy’ in bid to join covid vaccine effort.

Chris Whitty moves to head off General Practitioners’ (GP’s) rebellion over Pfizer covid vaccine doses

Retired medics trying to help covid vaccination drive say offers being ignored.

The Liverpool ‘pilot’

‘We are now in the Systematic Meaningful Asymptomatic Repeated Testing or ‘Smart’ phase of our testing pilot. This is phase 2 and picks up from the successful mass testing pilot in November 2020 that helped Liverpool City Region secure Tier 2 status.’ (Liverpool City Council website, accessed 31st December 2020)

From about the middle of December the various sites were NOT open weekends and Bank Holidays. We are supposed to be in a war yet the centres take a day off – does the virus? Most centres were busy in the days leading up to the 25th and 31st December – due to people wanting to see if they were infected before meeting up with family, This provides no useful information about the efficacy of testing asymptomatic people. Other than that the centres are all very quiet and their continued value is questionable.

From 31st December, Liverpool is in the higher Tier 3 – so what’s the reason for the testing? It’s considered to be flawed due to false negatives, it’s not really getting the numbers that it should, and it hasn’t kept Liverpool out of the higher Tier. Just seems, now, to be throwing good money after bad.

Not sure where the so-called ‘pilot’ fits into a locked down future as Liverpool’s acting mayor calls for yet another one.

Nightingale Hospitals and systemic failings in the NHS

At some time in the future there should be a review of the whole concept of these ‘Nightingale Hospitals’. Were they just another knee jerk response to show that the Government was doing something – whilst at the same time throwing millions of pounds of public money into the bank accounts of their friends? Could/can they ever have been used to the full? Wasn’t it realised that there might be a problem of staffing given the shortages of experienced staff existing in the National Health Service (NHS) long before anyone thought of a pandemic? As it stands at the moment they seem to be just a herd of white elephants.

In the meantime, London’s NHS Nightingale ‘on standby’ – but not the other seven in England?

Being prepared in London – but not being used. Critically ill patients ‘evacuated’ hundreds of miles as fears grow London could run out of beds – being taken as far as Plymouth and Leeds.

Nightingale hospitals stand empty despite surging covid cases as medics warn of staff shortages.

Key London hospital preparing for covid-only care as cases surge.

London’s Nightingale hospital expected to take patients as NHS struggles with number of severely ill people.

NHS staff fear speaking out over crisis in English hospitals.

A nurse speaks about failings in the NHS and why the Nightingale Hospitals will never realise their ‘potential’ on the BBC Radio 4’s World at One on 29th December.

Lorry drivers at ports

The lack of forethought meant thousands of lorry drivers, most of them from other European countries, were stuck in limbo with poor living conditions due to the closure of the links between Britain and France just before the December holiday. No wonder they were angry.

As a consequence of this lack of understanding the Army was brought in to take over covid testing for hauliers trapped near Dover – being joined by 30 or so French firefighters!

The value of statistics

The country (world?) has been awash with statistics since the beginning of the pandemic but of what use are they – if they don’t paint the full picture? The more infectious ‘variant’ hits London and the South East, the inept Government of the Buffoon wants to keep Cockneys at home so raise the fear level as rational argument may not work – people don’t trust them because they have told so many lies and have carried out so many U-turns in the last nine months or so people don’t know if they are coming or going. Then they panic. Call 999 – perhaps when there was no need – so the numbers shoot up. Such figures have to be unpicked before they are used to justify further draconian restrictions at the beginning of 2021.

London Ambulance Service receives as many 999 calls as first wave – just before the December holiday.

One law for the rich – another for the rest of us. Or on the road to forget?

In May last year the writer Neil Gaiman broke lock down regulations on travel by journeying all the way from New Zealand to the Isle of Skye in Scotland. He boasted about this on social media and he was ‘spoken to’ by the police – as far as I know that’s about as far as it went.

Now we are constantly being told of fines being given to ordinary people who ‘break the rules’, such as those who have been partying over the last few months – and even the case recently of a group being fined for playing dominoes in a restaurant basement.

But for the rich and influential there seems to be no sanction whatsoever – even when it comes down to free publicity provided by the BBC. Gaiman was given a huge chunk of the BBC Radio 4 arts programme, Front Row, on 24th December – no mention there of his ‘rule breaking’.

Now I don’t consider all these rules to be useful in countering the pandemic but what we should expect is that the rules apply to all – but in capitalist societies it’s money that makes all the difference.

To lock down or not to lock down

Risk averse scientists still only have a lock down to offer – this time blaming the ‘mutated variant’.

Collateral damage

It goes on and on.

Covid poses ‘greatest threat to mental health since second world war’.

Parents warned of ‘sharp rise’ in eating disorders.

Hospital admissions for children with eating disorders rise by a fifth in England.

How covid lock downs are wiping out the gains made by ‘disadvantaged’ children.

UK high street lost 177,000 jobs in 2020.

Youth organisations in England face wholesale closure.

The use of fear or ….

Decisions about which patients receive life-saving treatment could be imminent, doctors warn.

Covid rule-breakers ‘have blood on their hands’.

… the use of patronage to get the desired result

Lots and lots of NHS staff in the New Year’s anachronistic Honours List

How many ‘tiers’ to go?

‘Tier 5’: England faces possible new Covid restrictions.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

Nine months and a day since the beginning of the first lock down ….

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

Nine months and a day since the beginning of the first lock down ….

…. and how long until the end of the last?

Coincidentally the first deaths attributed to the bubonic plague reported in London, in what came to be known as the Great Plague, were in March 1665, more or less at the time of the first deaths in the UK during the covid-19 pandemic. In the seventeenth century, by the end of February, it was considered safe for ‘the King to return to the capital’. Just under a year.

If we compare the two outbreaks what do we find.

London in 1665; a filthy city with poor sanitation; a population with poor ideas of hygiene; over-crowding in the areas of the poor (i.e., virtually all the working class); huge disparities of wealth; a wastrel as a monarch, constantly demanding (and getting) money from a sycophantic and grovelling parliament; inept Buffoons in government; corruption running rife; charlatans posing as ‘experts’; fear and superstition dominating people’s thoughts; false news; no strategy to deal with the problem; a lock down of most of the workings of society; ignorance of the cause of the disease; hoarding of necessities (though not toilet paper); mountebanks and fraudsters taking advantage of the gullible; unemployment and other consequences of a closed down society; a failure to use known technology to combat the silent killer; and xenophobia, all looking for someone to blame, as long as it wasn’t themselves.

London in 2020; more or less the same.

So 365 years of ‘progress’ has done us no good at all!

In fact it’s worse than that. Life was starting to get back to normal by the spring of 1666. Who is courageous (or stupid) enough to bet that life will be back to normal in any country in the world – let alone Britain – by the spring of 2021?

When I started with these posts I (as did, I believe, the vast majority of the population) thought that a modern, sophisticated, technologically advanced society would have been on top of this pandemic within a mater of a few months, three with luck – at the very outside six. But it was soon clear that that was not to be the case.

Leaders of the capitalist world in 2020 were no more capable of coming up with innovative and imaginative ways to deal with this virus than their predecessors in the latter part of the seventeenth century.

The closer we get to a resolution of the issue something comes up to push the end date further into the future.

These blog posts are collected together in a page entitled ‘Journal of the Plague Year 2020’. By the time the next post appears the title of that page will have been changed to ‘Journal of the Plague Years 2020-202?. And that’s being optimistic, especially if we take into account the huge amount of public debt that’s been incurred by our incompetent ‘leaders’.

But then people get the leaders they deserve!

Vaccines and the vaccination programme

A ‘logistical nightmare’? Perhaps. So how will the UK jab millions of people?

Will a vaccine cocktail be better than a single malt? Trials to test combination of Oxford and Sputnik vaccines.

Pfizer vaccine final results: it’s highly protective – but how long for?

Vaccines are here – but how long will it take to get to everyone? Vaccinating entire UK population could take a year, scientists warn.

UK citizens get less legal protection for covid jabs than other vaccines – and that could undermine confidence.

With overall costs for vaccinating the UK population at £12 billion, the public accounts committee flags ‘highly unusual’ arrangements.

Belgian minister tweets EU’s covid vaccine price list to anger of manufacturers. In all stages of a ‘war’ there will those who will make a fortune. Why isn’t it called what it is – profiteering?

Another example of lack of thinking about the programme before the first needle entered the first arm. And then realising the mistake. NHS scraps order to ‘waste one in six’ vaccine doses.

There needs to be a proper strategy for the vaccination programme yet even at the start there is confusion as doctors and nurses at one of London’s front line hospitals denied coronavirus vaccine.

B Liar weighs into the vaccination debate. I’m sure his suggestion that young people get the vaccine at an early stage (whatever merits the suggestion might have) will go down like a lead balloon. We are in a race against time, he says, we must change our vaccine policy now.

What’s it like working in a hospital during the pandemic?

Two doctors describe working on the front line of Liverpool’s second wave – from this page there’s a link to a podcast where their story is told.

Liverpool ‘pilot’ and non-symptomatic testing

This continues to be badly managed – and ceased to be (if it ever was) a real ‘pilot’ soon after it started at the beginning of November. The number of test sites continue to vary day by day; there’s no longer a running total of the numbers actually tested or found to be positive (figures rising so slowly it would be embarrassing); no lessons learnt (or if so, not published) to enable other cities to be part of the Buffoon’s £100 billion ‘Operation Moonshot’; doubts being cast on the efficacy of the tests anyway; and testing has fallen out of fashion as the vaccination programme starts to spread throughout the country.

However, there’s been a bit of a mad rush in the last few days – but hardly likely to be of any use statistically. People just want to know if they have the virus before visiting family and friends over the coming weekend.

Plans for 30-minute covid testing in England halted amid accuracy fears.

Origin of the virus – and its variants, or, more frighteningly ‘mutations’

Almost a year since the world became aware of a new virus. But are scientists more aware of where it started? What do we know now about where coronavirus came from?

Coronavirus mutation – not as scary as it sounds.

Test-track-trace

This issue is definitely taking a back seat – and the policy seems to be changing on a weekly basis.

Who’s really to blame for England not having a ‘world-beating’ system? Perhaps us. It’s probably a thankless task telling people what they should do when the national strategy is non-existent and confusion reigns but they don’t deserve to be abused. ‘People threaten us and block our calls‘ says a contact tracer.

11,000 coronavirus cases delayed from Wales figures after ‘system maintenance’.

Poverty in Britain

Pre-existing inequality led to record UK covid death rate – according to the Build back fairer – The covid-19 Marmot Review.

Another study, this time in Scotland, found similar results. Poverty linked to higher risk of covid-19 death.

Even the suggestion of this is a disgrace – Unicef to feed hungry children in UK for first time in 70-year history. According to a YouGov poll, 2.4 million children in the UK were living in households facing food insecurity as of May this year. Unicef said a grant of £25,000 would be provided to School Food Matters. The charity will use the money to supply (not that many!) thousands of breakfast boxes to vulnerable children in south London over the Christmas school holidays.

But instead of making sure no child should need to take handouts of food what do the privileged and entitled (in the form of the living anachronism that is Jacob Rees-Mogg) of the sceptred isle say – they attack Unicef for pointing out that policies to alleviate poverty are a sham.

But then – Jacob Rees-Mogg under fire for dismissing Unicef’s UK grants as stunt.

I don’t agree with it but here for information. Feeding Britain’s Children – inside Marcus Rashford’s campaign to tackle child hunger. (Interesting that this article appeared on the Sports pages of the BBC’s website.)

Immunity Passport

Digital covid-19 health passes are coming for travellers.

Britain – the pariah of Europe (and the world?)

Nobody wants to have any contact with the ‘infectious’ British – and do so without thinking and cause huge amounts of chaos that has a greater effect on their own citizens than it does the British – by many nations imposing UK travel bans over new variant. Then they realise the ‘new variant’ is probably all over Europe anyway – and then comes along another ‘new’ variant, this time from South Africa. Every reaction is just a knee jerk (in virtually all countries) – not thought out and not part of any long-term strategy.

UK food producers face ‘black Christmas’ as goods perish amid border gridlock.

Why the decision of the French Government to bar access should have caused such a problem so quickly is a mystery. (Well not, we’ve come to expect that no one considers potential problems in the UK, that would suggest a strategy, suggest planning.) It’s December, it’s winter, many circumstances (weather related) could have closed down the ports. Added to that the British have had to suffer four and a half years of interminable wrangling on the country getting out of the European Union and that would have effected the smooth running of the ports. Why weren’t there contingencies for what they knew was coming up – which would have made the country more able to to deal with the unexpected. Why did covid testing kits have to be brought in? Why was everything last minute? Isn’t there a committee somewhere which tries to foresee the unforeseen?

At least by the late afternoon of 24th December Europe was free of the British. The problem is that the British aren’t.

‘First world’ problems?

Britain might be facing a ‘salad crisis’ – with a shortage of that important food, lettuce. With all the problems in the world (most of which have been around long before anyone heard of covid-19) is this really something we should worry about?

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

It starts to get difficult of how to classify these types of news items. Do they go under ‘Ineptitude’ or do they belong under ‘State Corruption’?

Hospital gowns that cost £122 million never been used – and will probably be allowed to go out of date and then get thrown away.

Not only has Britain been paying over the odds for PPE – we’ve been getting defective shipments. One of the most important tasks for James Bond.

And the corruption continues. Government’s PPE ‘tsar’ linked to companies awarded state coronavirus contracts.

How consultants, airlines and China cashed in on PPE scramble – I like the idea of blaming China because they can actually produce PPE, whereas Britain couldn’t at the beginning and I’m not so sure now. Xenophobia lives in (soon to be) post-EU Britain

The Swedish ‘experiment’

All the countries which have been following the same policies of lock down followed by lock down have been hoping for vindication of their actions as opposed to the line followed by the Swedes. It’s taken almost ten months, and it’s only a small concession, but probably the least effective policy adopted worldwide is being taken up in Sweden with face coverings being used on public transport.

A further report tries to shame both Sweden and Japan for not abiding by the World Health Organisation (WHO) norms. However, I would have thought we are still far too close to the pandemic to be able to make any meaningful comparisons of the different tactics. And probably won’t be able to do so with any accuracy for a considerable time to come.

The wearing of masks

I’m not a supporter of face coverings/masks. The information (now conveniently dropped from the media) that was being published at the beginning of the varieties of lock down indicated that they had little use – other than possibly psychological. However, I don’t then stand in front of the press and make high sounding moral statements about their efficacy. Those who do – and then don’t abide by their own recommendations/strictures only deserve our contempt. The latest to demonstrate their ‘exceptionalism’ is the nationalist leader in Scotland

Nightingale Hospitals

I don’t understand why these were set up. Why not use these temporary hospitals to separate the covid from the rest of the other reasons people go to hospital? Then you wouldn’t have a situation where NHS hospitals are running out of beds as Covid cases continue to surge. The use of the temporary hospitals would be creating something similar to ‘fever hospitals’ of the past – something which some virologists have been suggesting since the early part of the year.

It would also give the staff and general organisation established (or let us hope such a structure has been set up) to run these Nightingale Hospitals to work through any teething problems when the numbers were relatively low.

As the number of infections is supposedly going up at the end of the year these new places could be flooded – whilst not fully prepared. There might be even more of a case for opening these locations with the ‘new variant/s’ on their way.

But, it appears, the London Nightingale Hospital (the cost of which must have been astronomical) isn’t even ready for any influx. Staff shortages leave London’s Nightingale hospital without intensive care beds.

Care home visits

The ‘vulnerable’ in care homes still being badly treated – by failed Government promises as commitments of UK care home visits is not being realised.

‘Collateral damage’

The treatment of the elderly in British care homes has been a disgrace for the best part of two decades, the pandemic has only made a bad situation worse. So finds a report produced by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, entitled ‘Covid-19 and disruptions to the health and social care of older people in England’.

UK loses 819,000 paid jobs since start of pandemic.

UN says the pandemic has turned the clock back decades on gender equality.

NHS facing prospect of having to cancel thousands of operations – because Christmas hasn’t been totally cancelled.

Cancer scan backlog raises late detection fears.

Child abuse referrals up nearly 80%, says National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

Homeless people in temporary housing at highest level since 2006.

Covid anxiety: Child ‘asking if he’s going to die’. Seems some lack of communication here between parents and child – but, perhaps, not really a surprise when the only way the Government has been able to get away with many of its policies over the last nine months has been by establishing a climate of fear.

Who will pay for the pandemic?

That’s a silly question, really. Obviously it will be the working people of Britain. But there are other possible alternatives.

Footing the covid-19 bill: economic case for tax hike on wealthy. The argument being that -surprise, surprise – tax cuts over the last 50 years has increased inequality.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?