Seven months into the pandemic – yet back to square one

More on covid pandemic 2020

Seven months into the pandemic – yet back to square one

When I posted the first article under the heading ‘Journal of the Plague Year 2020’ on 23rd March of this year I didn’t (in my most fearsome nightmares) think I would still be posting about the crass incompetence of the Buffoon and his Government just under seven months later.

In that first post I bemoaned the fact that it seemed that society (or at least those who are in charge of its present day capitalist manifestation of it) hadn’t seemed to have learnt anything over the seven hundred years since the Black Death took with it at least a third of the population of Europe before it eventually fizzled out in 1351.

If the feudalists and the capitalists hadn’t been able to learn anything in 700 years I suppose it was foolish to believe they would learn anything in seven months.

The oppressors and exploiters haven’t moved on – there’s no incentive for then to do so as they consider they are masters of the universe and even if a few of them die their system will carry on without them. However, the rest of society is very different from what it was all those centuries ago.

Science, technology and education have all moved ahead in leaps and bounds. Even though there are still fundamentalist sects (which can include mainstream religions) that still live in an ideological past the majority of society – at least in the more established capitalist societies where workers have been able to extract a few concessions, including education, from the exploiters – looks at the world in a very different way from the subsistence farming peasant of the 14th century. Or so I would like to believe.

In Britain (without looking at the experience of other countries throughout the world) there are countless examples where working people have stood up against the failings of the ruling class. In Britain one of those examples was the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 which had a direct connection to the consequences of the plague of 30 years before.

The capabilities, opportunities, knowledge and potential to make sure we never have to live through such chaos are there in a abundance. However, alongside those positives we still have the disease of subservience and a culture of parliamentary cretinism which prevents too many people from taking direct action outside of the electoral process.

In the last seven months the Tories have shown themselves incompetent and incapable of coming up with an effective strategy to deal with the issue at hand. But not for the first time and like the proverbial ‘bad penny’ they keep on bouncing back. The Parliamentary opposition in the form of the Labour Party is no different – and have constantly failed to deliver when they have been in the position to change society for the benefit of the majority. None of these groupings will ever change.

As we in Britain (as in many other countries worldwide) start to face another sequence of lock downs – whatever they may be called; local, partial, national, ‘fire break’, ‘circuit breakers’, or any other meaningless term some bright spark will invent – if we stick to the present system the future will just be a succession of ‘Groundhog Days’ where the future only offers us more of what has gone before. But probably worse.

I have little doubt that I’ll have to change the name of this collection of posts to Journal of the Plague Years 2020-2021 – if we are lucky.

Preparedness for a pandemic

In the last post I stated that there didn’t seem to be any specific plans for a pandemic in Britain – although in past years and even in the early days of he covid-19 outbreak we were ‘reassured’ that the Government had a considered plan in place. But I was wrong. However, you wouldn’t think so with the chaotic and uncoordinated manner in which policy has been made since the end of March.

I don’t know what’s worse, having a strategy and ignoring it or not having a strategy at all. It’s all about crimes of commission or omission.

The theory, and a few guidelines, can be read in an article entitled ‘How to prepare for a pandemic’.

For a detailed (very detailed) strategy was produced by Public Health England in 2014. Specifically two documents, the Pandemic Influenza Response Plan and the Pandemic Influenza Strategic Framework. The first is a very long document, with suggestions of who, what, when where and why at the different stages of any pandemic. The second is a much shorter overview of what should happen. (It has to be remembered that these documents where designed for a hypothetical outbreak and recognise that actions and decisions would be subject to change and alteration in the event the hypothetical becoming the reality.)

Annotated versions, where I’ve picked out the items I thought were the most important, are also available of the Plan and the Framework.

The problem is that the Government doesn’t seem to have read, or at least understood, documents which have been published in their own name. Public Health England (PHE) seems to have been marginalised from the start – not least because it places an emphasis on matters being dealt with at a local level – and has now been abolished because it was considered (probably by the puppet master Cummins) to be ‘not fit for purpose’. That’s why everything has been pushed into the hands of private companies and we can all see the pig’s ear they have made of everything they were paid a huge amount to do.

One matter that is stressed in the Plan is the necessity and infrastructure needed for testing, which has become such a contentious topic in the present pandemic. Again, if the Buffoon or his acolytes read that they don’t seem to have understood what were the implications.

Whitehall told to release secret 2016 files on UK pandemic risks. The Government has until the 23rd October to accede to the Information Commissioner’s Office request – or explain way not.

Protests against restrictions

There have been plenty of complaints about some of the lock down measures but little actual action. One minor one was the dumping of ice from the bars that were closed down in Central Scotland earlier in the month.

Students aren’t too happy about the food they’re being given when forced to self isolate, saying they are being given cheap junk food instead of decent, nutritious food.

This was announced, but little seems to have moved forward. England’s hospitality bosses prepare legal challenge to covid lock downs.

Deaths in the UK 2020

A report that looked into the total number of deaths in the UK in 2020, most of which would have been under the time of the lock down due to the pandemic, found that Britain didn’t fare too well in comparison with 20 other countries. This was mainly due to the manner in which the NHS had been run down, attacked as a social structure and starved of investment in terms of both materials and staff in the last few decades. In a sense, whatever the Buffoon had done we, in Britain, were on a hiding to nothing. This was highlighted in an interview on Radio 4’s World at One on 14th October with Professor Majid Ezzati, from Imperial College, London.

The ‘herd immunity’ argument

Life can go back to normal if we make it our common goal to achieve herd immunity.

Consequences of covid-19

Another to add to the list – covid may cause sudden, permanent hearing loss.

Protests that there should be more restrictions

Scientists want much stricter measures to curb what they consider is the infection rates getting out of hand – and have been saying so for some time;

Planned new rules for north of England are not enough.

UK at ‘tipping point’.

Sage scientists called for short lock down weeks ago

Two-week circuit breaker ‘may halve deaths’.

Covid the new Scrooge

First your holidays now covid has its sight on Christmas.

Fear used to ensure ‘compliance’

Man gets covid twice and second hit ‘more severe’. Even though of the millions who have caught the infection only twenty or so have been recorded as having been infected twice. Isn’t that statistically insignificant? If so, why does this make the headlines?

University of East Anglia party students fined £10,000.

More on ‘collateral damage’

Although it’s been mentioned before, as time goes by more details start to emerge. Three million patients have missed cancer screenings since start of pandemic. With a lcak of any strategy and with a possible ‘second lock down’ on the way these figures are not going to get any smaller. This could end up causing more suffering and deaths without any real advantage being achieved by the Government’s ‘response’ to the situation in the country.

‘Protect the NHS’ message led to 90 per cent drop in hospital admissions.

More than 26,000 extra deaths this year, mainly in their own homes. A statistic which cries out for a more strategic approach to dealing with the pandemic – not just in the UK but other parts of the world as such figures will be duplicated in many countries.

Nightingale Hospitals

What has happened to England’s seven Nightingale hospitals? A good question as these have cost a fortune and most have never been used.

A few days later, as part of the campaign to create a climate of fear and aid compliance it was announced that those in the north locations were being brought up to a state of readiness.

Earlier in the pandemic some scientists were calling for the establishment of ‘fever hospitals’. If the number of infections is putting a strain on the normal hospitals, and reducing capacity due to distancing measures, wouldn’t it be a good idea to send all covid cases to these temporary hospitals from now on and create specialist teams which only deal with covid cases? If there were fears of a heightened risk of infection amongst staff (or other possible psychological pressures) then surely it’s not outside of the bounds of possibility to rotate those working there? Always the emphasis is on the problem and not the potential solution.

The shortage of nursing staff in the UK

There’s been a crisis in the NHS for years – and the way successive governments have sought to deal with staff shortages (and to save money by not training nursing staff in the UK) is by stealing valuable staff from the poorer countries of the world. This has been a disgrace and is a continuation of colonial exploitation by taking resources from the poor and giving them to the rich – although here (as with slavery) human resources. Self-sufficiency is the answer.

Hospitals battle coronavirus outbreaks as workforce shortages drive cancellation fears.

Testing

This issue continues to be problematic, aspirations not being matched by capabilities.

Used coronavirus tests handed out by mistake.

Trailblazing’ plans to cut travel quarantine.

Health and safety breaches at testing lab.

Test and Trace records worst week yet.

Boris Johnson promised a ‘world-beating’ system – but Government’s Sage committee says all three pillars aren’t working.

Buffoon ‘won’t hit target of 500,000 Covid tests a day by end of month’.

The Government can’t get the test, track and trace regime working but they can find time to give PC Plod more powers as they are to be given access to NHS self-isolation data.

The Buffoon promised a ‘world beating’ test, track and trace system. A report compared the UK with five other countries throughout the world. Britain didn’t come out to well. The results of this study were presented on Radio 4’s Inside Science on 15th October.

There are many conclusions from this study which should have an impact upon pandemic preparations in the UK in the future (that is, assuming we all don’t die due to the incompetence of our ‘leaders’). But what is obvious is that the majority of the problems that have arisen in the last seven months have been down to policy decisions of the last couple of decades (where both major political parties have been in control) which have basically decided that everything should be determined by the ‘market’, that economic liberalisation – which has been accepted as given by far too many people, including the working class – should decide what happens. Such an approach was questionable in the past but the pandemic has shown that such an approach is totally incapable of dealing with a medical, economic and political crisis.

People with suspected covid sent to non-existent test centre.

What was most interesting about this news is the way the Department of Health and Social Care reacted to this;

‘We are aware of an issue with an incorrect testing location in Sevenoaks. This issue has now been resolved and people are being redirected to the correct site. … NHS Test and Trace is providing tests at the unprecedented scale of more than 270,000 tests per day nationally and we are on track to achieve capacity for 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.’

In place of responding to the chaos all we are given is more spin, more smoke and mirrors.

Annual influenza vaccination

The Government extended the coverage of those it recommends should have a flu jab to those above 50 (and not 65 as is generally the case). However, this statement was made without the Government making sure enough of the vaccine was available and also establishing the infrastructure that would deal with a doubling of the numbers of those eligible for the injection. It also came across problems due to the virtual privatisation of this task with private chemists being able to provide the service. This matter was covered in a Radio 4, You and Yours item on 16th October.

Poverty in the United Kingdom

Two recent reports illustrate the level of poverty in the United Kingdom. The covid-19 pandemic hasn’t caused these problems – only exacerbated already existing issues. The level, depth and widespread nature of poverty in Britain has been a disgrace for decades. For that to exist in the fifth or sixth richest country in the world just goes to show the lies of capitalism that it is the best system for the majority of people.

In the 1970s there was a phrase that most people in Britain ‘were only one pay packet from destitution’. The truth of that has been demonstrated innumerable times in the past 50 years. The pandemic, by concentrating matters in weeks when it would normally show itself over years, has only made this dire situation more obvious – both to those who are losing their jobs and the rest of the ostrich population who have been happy to continue turning their backs on a situation which they might have found distasteful. Also those who thought they might have been immune from this particular disease of capitalism are now beginning to realise that no one who doesn’t have a private income and depends on their standard of living by their employment is entirely immune.

The first report, by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, entitled Poverty in Scotland 2020, concentrates its focus on the northern part of the United Kingdom. The situation in Scotland hasn’t improved significantly with the growth of the Scottish Nationalist movement in the country – no surprise as all nationalist movements devoid of Marxism-Leninism are bound to only benefit the local capitalist and not the majority of the population.

Although focussing on Scotland there’s no reason to believe the situation is not similar (if not worse) in the other parts of the UK.

The second is by Save the Children and is entitled Winter plan for children. It would more appropriately be entitled No winter plan for children. This report predicts severe problems for even more children and their families this coming winter with the pandemic only (again) exacerbating and already well entrenched and almost institutionalised system of child poverty.

This obscene reality should make any right thinking person in Britain angry but it sometimes becomes difficult when people were interviewed pre-December 2019 General Election leaving food banks and making positive comments about the Tory Buffoon for whom the same cretins were going to re-elect in a matter of days. Chickens coming home to roost?

Poverty campaigners estimate 1 million pupils have recently signed up free school meals for first time.

Again from Scotland – but applicable in the the rest of the UK – a warning about bad living conditions, poor housing and inadequate heating leading to a disproportionate amount of suffering being dumped on the poor.

A footballer campaigns for the extension of free school meals but he doesn’t realise that he is merely perpetuating poverty and is nowhere closer to eliminating it. His reward in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List only confirms the uselessness of his campaign – and how it is appreciated by the State.

Is re-infection a real issue?

Not really. A little over 20 people have been recorded as having been re-infected after an initial dose of the virus – out of the millions who had contracted the disease worldwide. That makes the numbers statistically insignificant so why are these few cases given such prominence in the media? A rhetorical question – it’s obviously designed to maintain the ‘fear of death’ level.

Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London put this matter into perspective in an interview on Radio 4’s World at One on 13th October.

All in this together!

It’s just a sign of their insensitivity. Members of Parliament could be due a £3,000 pay rise. Will it make those who are being made redundant or put on short time angry? It should, but the British have accepted more in the past so no reason for the politicians to have too many fears of the gates of Westminster being stormed ala Petrograd in 1917.

Dominic Cummings continues to use the system to his advantage – this time by avoiding council tax.

Care Homes – and the re-writing of history

Jeremy Hunt, who a few years ago was the Health Secretary and oversaw the break down of the NHS and the care system, continues to attempt to re-write history. Following on from his attempts highlighted in the last post he continues to paint himself as reasonable and caring whilst at the same time trying to divert criticisms away from the Buffoon’s Government. Hunt may resent being pushed to the sidelines but his loyalty is still to the Tory Party and his class.

In an interview on Radio 4’s World at One on 13th October he claimed that the reasons the percentage of deaths in care homes was so high (an estimated 40%) during the outbreak earlier in the year was due to causes which have now been rectified. Those were: agency workers transmitting the disease from one home to another; patients not being tested on leaving hospital and being sent to a care home; and a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

He approaches these problems as if they were not identified at the time (which is a lie) and that the Government was the entity to sort the issues (which is another lie). A drop in infections generally and not as many old and vulnerable people to kill pulled the Tories out of their mire. The most recent pronouncements by care home providers (let alone those who care for people in their own homes) don’t paint too promising a picture for the coming winter months.

The panic-mongers

It never does any harm to introduce a bit of peripheral ‘research’ to increase the fear levels and introduce a bit more baseless panic. Your mobile phone and cash in your pocket might be out to kill you! If certain circumstances are manipulated you can prove anything. However, they are only ‘infectious’ when kept in the dark – a bit like the population of the country.

Corruption accompanies any crisis

The issue of corruption and contracts being awarded without proper process have come up a number of times in the last seven months. The only difference is that the numbers keep on getting bigger. At the moment there’s a legal case being brought by some Members of Parliament against the Government (doesn’t that illustrate the failings of the British ‘democratic system’ not its strengths?) for Ministers ‘keeping the public in the dark’ over private contracts.

Consultants’ fees ‘up to £6,250 a day‘ for work on covid test system – and they still can’t get it right.

Government pays BA and Virgin £70 million to fly PPE from China – PPE travels in First Class.

Nationalists

In the (rejected) pandemic strategy adopted in 2014 (illustrated above) it was hoped that the four ‘nations’ that comprise the UK would act in concert. In your dreams! The nationalists, whichever their variety, will always seek to make their own decisions – whether it is for the benefit of the whole island or not. The latest example if the so-called ‘three tier’ lock down system.

There are still things going on behind the scenes

Obviously it’s the pandemic that’s hogging the headlines but we should not forget that government still carries on. And in the UK we have a government of self-seeking Tories with a huge Parliamentary majority. In such a circumstance so-called ‘rebels’ can make a lot of noise but they know that their future is secure as there will always be enough toadies (not wanting to risk their lucrative positions) to ensure the Government gets its way. That was the case of maintaining food health standards after Britain leaves the European Union at the end of this year. (Start dipping your chicken in the local municipal swimming pool – if it’s still open – to know what it will taste like in a year or so.) Under normal circumstances there would have been much more noise and the outcome could have been very different. Almost certainly there are other matters just going through on the nod which will come back to bite the British population in the not too distant future.

More on covid pandemic 2020

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.

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Increased restrictions in September – too few or too many?

More on covid pandemic 2020

Increased restrictions in September – too few or too many?

On 24th September new restrictions came into force in England (the other three ‘nations’ in the UK following similar but not exactly the same guidelines – only making the confused situation even more so.)

It’s difficult to understand which scientific advice the Buffoon is following. The ‘lock everything down and try to suppress the virus’ brigade, who seemed to have been in the ascendant up till now, don’t think he has gone far enough. The ‘let’s get used to having to live with the virus’ brigade, on the ‘back foot’ in recent times are happy that the restrictions aren’t as severe as they could have been.

Whatever side of the argument there is an expectation that infections will rise and with the return of Universities in England, happening as I write, that’s almost a certainty. One side will argue this is a reason for more restrictions, the other side will say that’s OK, let’s adapt and protect the most vulnerable in society as the majority of those infections will be among the younger, and more resilient portion of the population.

The problem is that as the Buffoon doesn’t have a strategy (or if he does he’s keeping it a State Secret) any future response will be more dependent on the competing forces rather than ‘following the science’.

For any lay person who wants to understand the situation we are hampered by the lack of complete and comprehensive data on these infection rate. We shouldn’t be too surprised at that. Local Councils who have been arguing for a more local based track and trace system have been complaining about lack of information for months now – and I don’t get the impression the situation even now is what they would like.

A big figure of infections will be thrown around but it doesn’t tell us much if the vast majority of those just stay at home and let the disease take its course – as they would with a mild case of the flu or a common cold. What is important to know is: the number of hospitalisations; the age and gender of those infected; where they work or study; their possible health vulnerabilities; and the number of deaths attributed to covid.

And a lot of what should determine the way forward is still not in place. Tests results take too long; some people are asked to travel so far it is impractical so they don’t test and are a potential threat to others; the track and trace system is a farce; communication of what should be done in the event of being told to self-isolate is poor and a support system for those who might live alone is still no where in place. Recent cases of infections in a couple of Scottish universities where students have been told to self-isolate come with support in terms of deliveries of food and other necessities. That’s ‘doable’ in the context of a student accommodation block – not so much countrywide.

One disturbing comment (almost throw away) that the Buffoon made on the 22nd September that should be closely monitored was his mention of the use of the Armed Forces to support the police in the monitoring and control of the population. Some dismissed this as just referring to ‘back room’ operations but if that was all it implies why was there a necessity to mention it as a raft of measures to police the restrictions on peoples’ movements and activity?

Although a Buffoon he’s too – or at least those behind him pulling the strings are – smart to mention something if it didn’t have meaning.

The lack of real response from the Labour Party also shouldn’t be a surprise. From the very beginning they’ve just followed behind what the Tories have proposed, any criticism being limited to the oft repeated phrase ‘too little, too late’. They criticise the Government for not having a strategy but I haven’t seen any sign of a strategy from them.

One issue that is also worrying, in the sense that there’s a move to make it more the norm than the exception, is the increased locations and times people will be obligated to wear a mask or face covering. This is an issue which is very likely to be considered a norm once this present pandemic has passed over (if it doesn’t kill us all in the process).

At one time the Government campaign against flu was the simple, uncomplicated request to take a responsible approach with the slogan ‘Coughs and sneezes spread diseases – trap them in your handkerchief’. Simple and if not adopted by all was something that people were aware of and could act appropriately.

The obligation to wear a mask doesn’t take into account that people; don’t wash them regularly; don’t dispose of the one-use masks responsibly; re-use one-use masks multiple times; don’t wash their hands when they take them off – which is impossible once away from home as in public places all such wash room facilities have disappeared in the last 20 years; wear them around their necks when not on the face; build up the virus in the mask in between uses; touch their faces and masks before touching other hard surfaces where it could be spread to others; and generally don’t use them in a way that would possibly make the use effective.

But what do we know. The millionaire politicians and scientists know better than us.

How good is the science for the September 2020 restrictions?

The figure of 50,000 infections per days was mentioned to frighten people but how likely is it when we compare the UK situation to that which has already developed in France and Spain?

The two sides of the scientific argument – do we suppress or live with the virus?

For an understanding of the statistics the Radio 4 programme, More or Less, looked at the ‘doubling’ of infections on 23rd September, first on hospitalisations and deaths and secondly, the issue of ‘false positives’. (An interesting point in the section on hospitalisations and deaths was the fact that there are delays up to 28 days for the reporting of deaths. If these numbers are important during a pandemic – as they could have an impact upon policy decisions) shouldn’t the Government make it mandatory that these reports are sent as soon as possible?)

Living with the virus or attempting to defeat it?

This subject will probably take on more significance as time goes on and the attempts (perhaps) to suppress the virus don’t have much success. If one tactic proves to be failing then it is time to change direction. Some, including myself, think we are at that place now – the Buffoon, his Government and a sizeable section of the scientific community think not. Time will tell.

How do we live with the virus? We have to plan what to do when there are ‘circuit breaks’ or local lock downs/increased restrictions. David Nabarro, from the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave his view of what should happen in an interview on Radio 4’s World at One on 18th September.

Local ‘lock downs’ – what prompted that in the North east of England?

An item on Radio 4’s World at One on 17th September considered the background to the decision by the Buffoonette to declare the North East of England a special case.

What does ‘follow the science’ really mean?

Six months (at least in the UK) into the pandemic and divsions in the scientific community are becoming more polarised. On Monday 21st September, in expectation of something changing within days two ‘open letters’ were sent to the Chief Medical Officers of the four ‘nations’ of the United Kingdom.

One was written by Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Carl Heneghan of Oxford University, the University of Buckingham’s Professor Karol Sikora and Sam Williams, director of the consultancy firm Economic Insight – also being signed by a total of 31 prominent scientists in the field of epidemiology. This letter suggested a different strategy should be followed rather than just shutting the doors and hoping the virus would go away.

The other letter (from the Government’s toadies) can be read by following the link from an article in the online British Medical Journal.

Both these letters came to light on the same day as an ‘unprecedented’ press conference from No 10 Downing Street (the office of the British Prime Minister) by the two most senior scientists who have been ‘advising’ the Government since the very beginning.

In a country that constantly harps on about the media being ‘objective’ it was interesting to see, in two concrete circumstances, where impartiality was certainly lacking. That doesn’t surprise me, even less so bother me, it’s the crass hypocrisy that is most annoying.

The Radio 4 programme, the World at One, at 13.00 on Monday 21st September was almost totally devoted (it’s a 45 minute programme) to presenting the issue as presented by the Government’s scientific commentators earlier that day. But to show ‘impartiality’ the programme had an ‘interview’ with Karol Sikora (one of the authors of the anti-Government policy open letter mentioned above). He was asked 2 questions and the whole ‘interview’ lasted less that 2 minutes 20 seconds.

The British Medical Journal also followed the Government line by having a direct link from the article to a copy of the pro-Government open letter but only a link to a tweet for those arguing for a change in strategy. Here there was a difference in the emphasis that demonstrates the hypocrisy.

The messages from the Government

Some of the adverts produced by the Buffoon’s Government since the end of March are becoming incredibly annoying. The latest, ‘Hands – Face – Space’ doesn’t even get the most important message right, according to some scientists. It should be the other way around with social distancing being the most effective tactic for people to adopt.

Testing

How is the ‘world beating’ testing system operating in Britain during September – before an increase in restrictions. This is a constantly changing situation.

Government to prioritise NHS and care homes for testing.

Matt Hancock – we will ration tests.

Cases are rising rapidly and the UK’s testing infrastructure is straining at the seams.

Hancock says Covid testing crisis may last weeks.

Coronavirus testing chaos ‘puts children at back of queue‘.

Not only are potential vaccines being hovered up by the richer countries, the most simple tests (which would be most effective in countries with less access to laboratory facilities and with poor transport infrastructures) are also being taken selfishly for the ‘rich’.

Problem: private companies have been making a pig’s ear of the test and trace system. Solution: give more work to private companies. This time Amazon are in the frame.

Schools, colleges and universities re-start in September at the same time as many people would return to work following the summer holidays. This has been the situation for decades yet those at the head of the Test, track and trace programme didn’t foresee a huge upsurge in requests for tests. If you made it up it would have been considered fantastical.

Chaos, confusion and anger – welcome to a new Covid test centre.

The failures in the testing centres is starting to put pressure on hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) Departments.

More and more areas of the UK are undergoing their own local lock down caused by the higher than the average number of infections. However, even in these areas the test and trace regime is not up to the job.

But in all crises there are those who benefit – here it’s ‘consultants’.

The head of the Government’s test and trace system didn’t fare so well as an internet provider – she brings the same level of expertise to dealing with the pandemic.

Technology doesn’t always work – so beware putting too much faith in it.

Scientists hit back when accused by the head of the test and trace system, Dido Harding, that she wasn’t given adequate information about the surge in demand for tests in September.

The long-awaited NHS tracing app is due to be launched on 24th September – however (as is normally the case) there’s not a lot of information about some of the crucial aspects of this technology which will determine its success. On 23rd September there was an interview with Lilian Edwards (an expert of technology law) about the known – and unknown – details of this new app, on Radio 4’s World at One.

More or Less, on Radio 4, on 20th September, looked at the numbers on both covid testing capacity in laboratories and also whether the Buffoon’s ‘Operation Moonshot’ makes any statistical sense.

Vaccine

The rise in ‘vaccine nationalism’ continues despite warnings that more will die unless there is equal access to a vaccine globally.

Food Banks, food policy and a lack of a strategy

A recent report by the Trussell Trust (one of the biggest providers of food banks in the UK) demonstrates how the pandemic has made the situation worse for those already using them and is forcing others to go to food banks for the first time.

As with so many other issues surrounding poverty in the 6th richest nation on the planet the fact that so many people struggle to feed themselves with wholesome and healthy food has been highlighted due to the pandemic. Not because the pandemic itself has caused this poverty (although that is part of the problem) but in the present climate of openness and people talking about their problems the rest of the population is being forced to hear about, if not necessarily do anything to prevent, the matters that effect millions in the British population.

On 23rd September Radio 4’s You and Yours consumer programme had an interview with Professor Tim Laing who has long been arguing (and so far not successfully) for the need for a comprehensive and well thought out food strategy to ensure that food poverty is eliminated.

Universities and the student return

If the university experience for young people isn’t bad enough they are now being threatened with the end of their university careers with automatic suspensions if they break any of the ‘oft times not very well thought out’ regulations.

The anti-lock down movement

Protest songs against war, unemployment, climate emergency and now against the imposed lock down on people in the UK.

Care Homes

Life in care homes isn’t getting any better – even though they were the locations of the majority of deaths in the first six months of the pandemic. There are doubts whether they are fully prepared in the event of another general outbreak and some family visits are being curtailed by those providers who are ‘over cautious’.

You can’t change the culture that has developed in care homes in the last decade (poor wages, low staff levels, lack of training, no career path, minimum wage/zero hour contract agency working, etc.) overnight. Glib statements made by the Tories about improving the situation in care homes are merely empty words when confronted with the reality within British society. The current situation was outlined in a  section of Radio 4’s You and Yours programme on 17th September.

The ‘Nationalists’

The Scottish Nationalists don’t only want to determine what happens in the area ‘north of the border’ they also want to determine what happens in the rest of the UK. After spending the last six months constantly wanting to demonstrate their ‘independence’ from England (although they are quite happy to have matters decided for them in the European Union) and arguing that the border between Scotland and England means they can make their own decisions they now interfering in the affairs of another country.

Flu jabs

For some time now there has been talk about increasing the number of people who have been (for a number of years) considered vulnerable to the regular influenza outbreaks – those over 65, pregnant women and those with certain respiratory diseases – to include those over 50. However, if the talk is there it’s not entirely clear that the infrastructure exists to cope with the increased demand. Instead of expecting people to ask for the injection why weren’t they contacted so that the programme could be followed in an orderly and structured manner, ensuring that the most vulnerable were not left out. The situation that seems to be developing is similar to the panic buying that follows the announcement of any new restrictions on movement due to the pandemic.

Even the scientists are millionaires

The forelock-tuggers of Britain have been happy enough for the rich politicians to tell them what to do for the last six months, they must be over the moon now to know that even one of the scientists who are passing on advice to the government are also millionaires. And will be even more wealthy if the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) vaccine proves to be effective.

(One of the interesting developments in the last six months, since the pandemic started to close down British society, is that it’s what are considered the ‘right-wing’, pro-Tory, pro-wealth newspapers (such as the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph) are more likely to publish scoops about the abuses of wealth by the very politicians they used to support.)

‘Herd immunity’

Even though they (the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and the chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty) painted a ‘doomsday’ scenario in their presentation on the 21st September – softening up the public for whatever the Buffoon would announce in the next couple of days – it wasn’t enough to save them from being criticised for one time arguing for the ‘herd immunity’ approach in dealing with the virus.

Prospects for employment in the coming months

A recent report by the Resolution Foundation suggests that unemployment levels, in the coming months, will reach those in the 1980s (the ‘Golden Thatcherite Years’).

Poor Housing

Those living in badly maintained and decaying private rented accommodation will be at increased risk this coming winter due to the added threat of covid-19. The report, produced by the Centre for Ageing Better, has repercussions for others than the old, there being people of all ages who are already suffering from ailments caused by their living conditions.

Government strategy

What’s a strategy?

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