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

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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?

Will it be Armageddon? Britain returns to school and work

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

Will it be Armageddon? Britain returns to school and work

It’s officially the end of summer in Britain – which is normally marked by the return of schools, colleges and universities, the return to work after the summer holidays and some half decent weather after a disappointing July and August. 2020 is no different in that respect. What is different is that the country is now six months into a pandemic.

All those events happening at the beginning of September do not come as a surprise. They are scheduled years in advance and that being the case the population of Britain should have been approaching this milestone with the confidence that everything had been planned to make sure that with an increased movement of people, on a daily basis, everything was in place to mitigate any resurgence of the covid-19 virus.

But that’s forgetting we are in Britain. A country which decided that the best leaders to take us into the third decade of the 21st century should be a bunch on chinless, public school educated, self-centred, capitalist (and imperialist) orientated self-servers. At the head of this gang of no-marks is a Buffoon of the greatest order who’s ‘gift’ is to sound erudite and intelligent but when you examine his words they turn out to be as substantial as the Emperor’s new clothes.

So we enter the autumn without a Plan A – let alone a Plan B which some people are calling for.

If inaction and confusion could be excused when they were faced with an ‘unprecedented and challenging’ (words that should be banned from the English language once the virus is put in its place) event such as the pandemic there is no excuse whatsoever six months down the line.

At this time preparations should be being made for the colder weather when people would be likely to be in closer contact with strangers. Instead various interest groups will be bickering about the how, why and what of the present situation in education and the workplace.

If it doesn’t turn into Armageddon it will be a matter of luck not circumstance.

Covid rules – and our understanding of the virus

When everything that has been decided by the government of the Buffoon since the beginning of the pandemic has been ‘led by the science’ it’s slightly bemusing if the science being used is out of date when it comes to the so-called ‘2 metre rule’.

How long has the virus been in the UK? Since the 21st February it seems. Only important in hindsight but it does indicate that being able to spot something new and also the ability of receiving quick results from any tests will be crucial when the next pandemic hits.

Face coverings

The Buffoon ‘explained’ his most recent U-turn (to date) on 28th August;

‘What you’ve got is the WHO saying the face coverings should be used by over 12’s and what we’re saying is if a school is within a hot spot … then it probably does make sense, in confined areas outside the classroom, to use a face covering in the corridor and also, as they discovered in Scotland, where they have had the kids in for at least a couple of weeks now, was that it was raining outside and people were coming in and they were congregating in the corridors and the move to face coverings, they thought, was. So what we’re doing, following what the WHO have said, then if you’re in a hot spot area where there is risk of, a higher risk of transmission, then face coverings in those types of areas. But not in the classroom, because that’s clearly nonsensical, you can’t teach with face coverings and you can’t expect people to learn with facings and the most important thing is just washes.’

Katharine Birbalsingh, the founder and head mistress of the Michaela Community School in Brent, in North London;

You need to take into account children’s group behavior in a school before you can then say they’re safer with mask. What about the children who turn up to school with uniforms that aren’t washed, but they don’t necessarily wash themselves. They come to school, they’d be wearing reused, dirty masks. They’ll swap them, joke and wear them incorrectly, they’ll lose them.

When half of your children show up to school not wearing masks, what do you do? Do you exclude them? The girls will be in the loos, checking them to make sure they look nice. They’ll be touching their faces all the more. We need to account children’s behavior when considering whether or not masks are safer. I would actually argue that they make them less safe.’

Is the second wave coming?

Not if we follow the WHO’s (World Health Organisation) ‘Disease X’ preparedness advice – even though there are likely to be more outbreaks throughout Europe come the winter.

Sergio Brusin, principle expert at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said the scenario of hospitals being overwhelmed, as they were during March and April, was unlikely to reoccur due to the experience gained in the last six months and the fact that health services throughout Europe were more prepared to face what might develop in coming months.

‘The resurgence in cases will go for quite a few months. [But] it will probably never get to the same level as the first big wave in Spring, … Although we’ve seen hospitalisations going up in some countries it is not anywhere near to the situation in March and April. The ICUs are not clogged and our health services now have much better planning and response times. So, I am optimistic we will not see the big horrible scenes we saw in March and April, but we will see a lot more cases’, he said.

Although the same day the same newspaper (The Daily Telegraph) seemed to contradict itself when reporting on the increase in the number of infections.

The search for a vaccine

The race in the search for a vaccine continues. However it’s difficult to determine if the principal aim is to save lives or the kudos of being the first (and the ability to make a lot of money – just coincidentally – in the process). In supporting the home team the UK government has increased funding for the team at Cambridge University.

What’s also interesting in this article is the use of a new name for the virus that is presently creating chaos throughout the world. The term we’ve been using, covid-19, doesn’t seem to fit in with the concepts of the scientific community and they want a name which more accurately reflects the nature of the virus. So the name to remember is SARS-CoV-2. But that can’t be so easily turned into ‘covidiot’ to blanket condemn anyone who might be critical of the rules and regulations that are being forced upon us by the Buffoon and his crew.

As an aside. As people talk about a new, more caring world after this pandemic passes by will it mean that governments worldwide will be throwing limitless amounts of money at a vaccine or other effective measures to combat malaria? That disease has been killing millions of people in the poorer parts of the planet for decades (if not centuries) but we don’t seem to be that much closer to a resolution of this killer of the poor. But then, so far (but perhaps not for much longer with the climate emergency which is seeing the spread of the malaria mosquitoes into more northerly latitudes) malaria isn’t such a killer in the richer, northern countries.

There may not (yet) exist a vaccine against covid-19 but there is (and has been for a long time now) an effective vaccine to combat flu – or perhaps there isn’t. The Buffoon and his Government have stated a number of times that they want to help mitigate any outbreak of covid by stamping down (as much as is possible) on any possible influenza outbreak. But those vaccinations may not be available until December.

Consequences and vulnerabilities of the virus

The risks to those who are classified as clinically obese has been around for a while. Another report seems to confirm that, increasing the chances of death by 48%.

On the up side women may have a stronger immune response to the virus.

It’s also been known since very soon after the outbreak that children are less likely to die from contracting the disease. Considering the time of year, with schools already re-starting or about to do so in the next few days, that the Government should bring out a report that concludes that no healthy child has died as a result of contracting the disease isn’t surprising. It was released in an effort to boost the confidence of parents to encourage them to send their children back to full time education.

However, what the Buffoon and his government don’t seem to realise is that by upping the fear factor to ‘fever pitch’ earlier in the year in an effort to get the population to abide by their restrictions in movement they have created an element of paranoia that won’t be brushed away with any report. Neither have it’s confusing statements and notorious U-turns helped in creating a situation where the population has any confidence in what the Government says.

More cases are being reported but they are not accompanied by any significant increase in deaths. Why is this?

More funding has been provided for scientists who are looking into the issue of immunity, especially in how long such immunity might last and why there’s such a variety in the severity the virus has on different individuals.

Poverty in Britain

One of the many issues highlighted in the last six months is the extent and depth of poverty in Britain, one of the top ten wealthiest countries in the world. Although not a surprise (after all poverty is a natural consequence of capitalism and will exist as long as capitalism exists) the way that poverty manifests itself has been swept away, forgotten or ignored for years. Now the poor have become more visible – to the extent that some people might be considering that the existence of food banks and homelessness is a national shame and should be addressed in the near future. I have my doubts about that unless more people start to look at the world in which we live in a different manner – and are prepared to change it. In the meantime more than 80% of those who were in a bad shape before March consider they are worse off six months later, having to sell what little they have to keep themselves afloat.

The way that poverty has been approached in Britain, ever since those in positions of power and wealth started to get a guilty conscience on seeing the poor all around them, has been to mitigate the situation without dealing with the root causes. Hence the welfare state and more recently the proliferation of food banks in all parts of the country. The problem with this approach is that it accepts that ‘the poor will always be with us’ and obstructs any activity which seeks to do away with poverty all together.

We need a change in policy from the ‘Can I have some more’ approach of Oliver, of accepting the crumbs that fall from the table to demanding the total control of the bakery.

But as the pandemic has highlighted many other aspects of poverty it is also showing up these amelioration schemes for what they are, mere shams which try to give the impression that something is being done to help some of the most vulnerable in society. In Scotland funds that could have helped many people in the last six months weren’t used because the poor weren’t told that ‘help’ was available.

The return to school is also providing an opportunity of an overpaid footballer to demonstrate he hasn’t forgotten his background, his roots. This sort of help fits in with the argument above but it also asks the question why such non-governmental approach is even needed when billions of pounds have been thrown at the business community is if money was going out of style.

Education – and the return of schools, colleges and universities

Education has dominated matters in the UK for the last month and will continue to do so for at least another month as more schools, colleges and universities attempt to restart after what should have been the summer break but has now been a period of almost six months. Knowing that this was about to happen on set dates it’s totally ‘reprehensible’ (according to various teaching trade unions) that advice on re-opening should be published just days before the majority of primary and secondary schools are due to return (and even after some have returned in a few parts of the country).

In the country with the largest land mass in the world (Russia) and the country with the largest population (China) the schools and colleges all go back at the same time. In Britain it varies not just between the constituent ‘countries’ of the island but also between neighbouring education authorities. Although quite ludicrous in normal circumstances that difference could have been used to the advantage of managing the virus as those parts of the UK with the greatest number of pupils/students could have learnt from those with smaller populations but who had returned three or four weeks ago – as was the case of Scotland.

That opportunity seems to have been wasted but here is what Devi Sridhar, Professor and Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, has to say about the Scottish experience (28th August).

In the days that see the return of children to school in the greater part of the UK a report is released showing that the gap between the rich and the poor children has grown 46% in a year. Why is there this constant reinforcement of the so-called ‘disadvantage’ of many young people from poor families instead of doing away with poverty? There’s no need (and never has been) for a report to let a society know that poverty exists. What is needed is action to end it forever.

Testing

Although lower down the page on this post it is universally accepted that the testing regime will be the lynch pin in any strategy (which still doesn’t exist in the UK) to defeat the virus. Last week Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, became all enthusiastic about mass testing. It will be interesting if a) the government achieves its goal and b) how long it will be able to maintain the numbers.

Not only the numbers tested is important but the speed at which the results are returned. In general the time lag seems to be getting worse not better. But both Scotland and Wales think the answer is in the technology.

Speedy tests are also seen as the answer to ‘unlock travel’ in a new test being trialled at Heathrow (London) airport.

Housing

I don’t even pretend to understand the situation over evictions at the moment – other than that the ban on evictions has been extended for a few more months but without a long term solution even being discussed. A pro-tenant housing lawyer tries to fight through the ‘rules’.

Anyone who is facing eviction (or knows of someone in that situation) should contact Acorn (in England) and Living Rent (in Scotland).

Care Homes

It was in care homes where the majority of deaths occurred during this pandemic so far (that is, in the first wave – if we are to have a second). Many of the problems that were the cause of that death rate have not been resolved and it will be a hard time for both the staff and residents if matters get out of hand later in the year.

But rather than attempt to plan for the future information is being suppressed ‘to protect commercial interests’.

Life in Covid Britain

Although not as a consequence of the pandemic (but the situation wouldn’t have been helped by the cock-up on the releasing of exam results and the confusion and uncertainty about schools, colleges and universities returning at the moment) the Good Childhood report has revealed that British children (15 year-olds) have the lowest happiness levels in Europe – mainly caused by a ‘fear of failure’.

‘Collateral damage’ of the pandemic in the UK

In the background over the last few weeks has been the so-called ‘collateral damage’ caused by the emphasis of the NHS on dealing with the pandemic since March this year. Unfortunately, the more information that comes out the bleaker the situation seems to become. If the matter isn’t addressed the numbers of deaths from other causes will start to compete with the fatalities due to covid-19 – even in the country with the highest death rate per head of population in Europe.

Radio 4’s World at One looked at a case study on 26th August.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

When you thought the situation in Britain couldn’t get any worse – the Buffoon opens his mouth

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

When you thought the situation in Britain couldn’t get any worse – the Buffoon opens his mouth

If you are unfortunate enough to be living in Britain in 2020 – during the covid-19 pandemic – you are used to waking up hoping you had seen the worse – and then you would see, hear or read the latest cock up of the Buffoon and his gang (and pinch yourself hoping it was all some surreal nightmare).

Every time the present Government is questioned or criticised about its ‘handling’ of the pandemic the stock answer is that we should concentrate on dealing with the crisis in a united manner and that any review of what was, or was not done, will be part of an investigation at some time in the indeterminate future. Obviously the Buffoon and his Government hope that at that time people would have forgotten what a pig’s ear they had made of the situation from the very beginning – a wish that, unfortunately, will probably turn out to be true.

However, a short ‘review’ just short of three months into Britain’s response to the pandemic;

  • the death toll is around 64,000 (as of the end of May) – that being the difference in the average number of deaths in the last five years in the same period and what has happened in 2020 (considered as being the most accurate estimation as many deaths, especially in the early days, were not being put down to covid-19)
  • the ‘world beating’ test and trace programme is an embarrassment (see below)
  • the situation in care homes continues to be dire (see below)
  • most (if not all) policy decisions are taken by the Government in an ad hoc manner surprising those who have to carry out these policies (see below)
  • there’s a ever growing major difference of opinion between the scientific advisors and the politicians (see below)
  • there’s seemingly no strategic plan to get as many children as possible back to school as soon as possible (see below)
  • the prospects for the economy in the coming years is predicted to be the worst in Europe

Fourteen day quarantine for anyone entering the United Kingdom

The plans are announced – and immediately people ask the question – why now?

Robert West, Professor Of Health Psychology, University College London, on Radio 4, World at One, 2nd June, talking about the plans to introduce a 14 day quarantine for all travellers coming into the United Kingdom from 8th June;

‘There is science behind it but of course the science is ambiguous here with regards to exactly what policy you adopt. …

It’s a cautious approach but the science would also support other chunks of measures such as those being adopted by other countries which might involve having more testing of people as they come into the country and other preventative type measures. ….

What’s puzzling a number of people is that this seems a particularly cautious approach for people coming into the country when we’re seeing a relaxing, to some degree against the scientific advice, with the approach we are adopting for the people already here.

It would be fine if the Government were to say …. there are reasons for doing so while other countries are taking a different approach.’

Q. The line ‘we owe it to victims to impose a quarantine’ [Priti Patel]. Is that how you see it?

West laughs. ‘It doesn’t make any sense. [Laughs again, then stutters looking for words to express his reply in the face of such a ludicrous statement.] That’s just a very generalised, emotive argument you could apply to anything.

We owe to the victims to apply appropriate cautious measures across the whole gamut of what we are doing and that includes getting a decent contact, testing, tracing and isolation system in place – which we should have started on a long time ago.

Talking about ‘we owe it to the victims’ is not a particularly helpful contribution.’

Universities opening in September

Julia Buckingham, Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University and President of Universities UK, on what situation students will possibly face at the beginning of the academic year in September 2020, Radio 4, World at One, 2nd June;

‘There are some wonderful examples of digital eduction now, techniques like virtual reality, so I do see this as a really exciting opportunity. If I’m honest it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and I think our students will actually embrace it.’

The reason for including this quote are twofold. The first is that this use of technology, especially when coupled with the ‘bubble approach’ being discussed at the moment, will change the whole ethos of attending University. If you can do all the work at a distance (which is the case for the majority of the students not involved in hands on practical courses) then why go in the first place.

With the cost of University fees and living costs this is a very expensive way of having a party – which you won’t be able to have because of the ‘bubble approach’ and social distancing. You might as well sign on to a university, go across the world where the sun shines most of the time and living costs are cheap and just pay for a good internet connection.

The second is what follows the phrase ‘if I’m honest’. This is just one example where different organisations and businesses will use the effects of the covid-19 ‘new normal’ to bring in practices they have wanted to introduce but couldn’t due to potential opposition. They will now make it a fait accompli and push the blame on a guiltless virus. It won’t be able to say that it wasn’t its idea.

To make the experience of being a students totally miserable (as well as expensive) it is being suggested they might have to stay in ‘protective bubble’.

Already universities are nervous – especially those which are over dependent upon foreign students, even more so those which have been cultivating the very lucrative Asian, mainly, Chinese ‘market’ – education is more of a business now and education seems to be a bit of a sideline. But even domestic students are thinking about their future and deferrals are certainly being considered by many. What to do if they don’t go to University might be what swings it – a ‘gap year’ travelling, finding a job for a year might not be viable alternatives.

The Buffoon and his Government inept and incompetent? – of course not

The Buffoon at Prime Minister’s Question Time in the Houses of Parliament, 3rd June, in response to a challenge on the ineptitude and incompetence of his Government’s approach to the covid-19 pandemic;

‘I really do not see the purpose of these endless attacks on public trust and confidence. What we’re trying to do is to …. [communicate] clear messages about how to defeat this virus.

Test and trace is a vital tool in our armoury and, contrary to what he [Starmer, leader of the Labour Party] says, actually we did, by the end of May [he meant April] get up to 100,000 [although that figure is generally accepted to have been ‘massaged’] tests a day and we got to 200,00 by the beginning of this month [another figure that has been extensively challenged].

That was an astonishing achievement, not by government but by tens of thousands of people working to support government. [Interesting how here the Buffoon turns a question of the truth of what Ministers have said and claims it as an attack on people carrying out the tests and the tracing. Also how those people are doing the job ‘to support the Government’ – as if they have faith in what it is doing.]

I think he [Starmer] should pay tribute to them and what they’ve achieved. [Here the Buffoon reiterates his ‘support’ for those who are being ‘questioned’ in the validity of the figures.]’

And this is the problem (one of many) of Parliamentary so-called ‘Democracy’. These characters aren’t concerned about dealing with the issues of the day, they are more concerned with playing to the gallery of their supporters. In Britain it’s played like a Public (in Britain that means private) school debating society. It’s not what is said but how it is said in order to win support – the solution to the problem doesn’t come into it.

If you can stomach it you can see a performance what is called PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions) of the 10th June.

The mandatory use of face masks on public transport

The World Health Organisation doesn’t do itself any favour when faced by the cretins such a Trump. Now, seven, eight or even nine months (depending upon who you listen to about the actual first appearance of the virus) they reverse their policy on the general population wearing masks whenever they might have close contact with others outside of their immediate circle.

Devi Lalita Sridhar, Professor and Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, Radio 4, World at One, 5th June;

‘There’s emerging evidence [although no mention of what or from where] about the positive impact that mask usage can have in reducing transmissions. … it would have been nice to have had this done earlier.

I agree with the British Medical Association that the latest proposals don’t go far enough. What we need to be seeing is mandatory masks whenever distancing is not possible. This means in shops, on public transport, in work places, airports, train station. This is a first step but there’s a long way to go.’

Q. Has mask wearing worked elsewhere?

‘It’s difficult to say. A lot of countries introduced a package of measures at the same time. We also need to look at a package of measures, we need to look at the cumulative effect that they can have together, even if each alone has a weak evidence base.’

This is a matter that’s been really badly handled in Britain by both the politicians and the so-called ‘scientific experts’. Also the introduction of the mandatory use late (as is that of the 14 day quarantine for those entering the country) doesn’t help to inspire confidence.

The pros and cons as I understand it;

Pros.

If someone is infected with the virus, and especially if they are not aware of it, the wearing of a mask will capture some, but not all, of the virus if they were to cough or sneeze – or even talk to someone close to them. The figure varies widely, down to below 50% by some estimates, but that would still make for a reasonable lowering of risk. And that’s it.

Cons.

The wearing of a mask will not prevent the virus from infecting you if someone coughs or sneezes in the vicinity. The problem here is that most people believe it will protect them. That’s why you see people alone in vehicles wearing a mask. And the majority who wear them when they are outside, and alone, are not doing it in an effort to not spread the infection they don’t know they have on to others. It’s fear which drives this wearing of masks and creates a false sense of security, which itself can cause problems.

The biggest ‘con’ that was being ‘promoted’ weeks ago was the fact that if someone is infected and they are breathing into a mask, that mask will accumulate millions of spores of the virus. Any mask, especially in the heat of summer, will soon get sopping wet and an infected person (who doesn’t know they are infected) is supposed to take that mask off in a controlled manner, dispose of it safely (or bag it if it is to be used more than once), wash their hands with sanitiser without touching any surface at all, including their own face.

That’s not going to happen.

To actually breathe and feel comfortable people will be constantly touching the mask and – if infected – then spreading the virus on anything they touch. It is just not possible to go through any daily routine without touching anything, including the face which we touch hundreds of times a day due to evolution.

For those who are good with the sewing needle – or were brought up on Blue Peter – here’s what you should do to prepare for the 15th June.

The British Medical Association has asked for the wearing of masks to be extended beyond public transport to any potential contact between individuals – and that they should be provided free. However, although there are plenty of hints at how to make your own masks those to buy are in relatively short supply – and/or expensive. Other countries where masks wearing is mandatory supply them and have controlled the price. For example, to just less than a Euro each in Spain and they have even gone down in price in Holland, where a pack of ten was €10 but are now selling (in normal supermarkets) at less than €7.

A slightly different take on ‘mask wearing’ and as an example of the Buffoon and his Government’s inability to deal properly with those who have to implement their policies – seemingly thought of after cigars and brandy (copious amounts of) they decided that everyone that enters a NHS facility (either workers or visitors) should have to wear a mask. However, the Government ‘forgot’ to consult with the NHS trusts – those responsible for enforcing such a policy.

Schools – when or even if – they open

Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, Radio 4, World at One, 8th June;

Q. What is different about September that will allow whole schools to open?

‘The joy must really be out about whole schools being able to open in September. It all depends where we are with the coronavirus at that point; whether the R rate is down, whether the number of cases is low enough and whether we’re confident that schools can operate. If you’ve got a whole school in there’s no way you can have social distancing. There’s much that is dependent on the spread of the virus, how well it’s controlled.’

Q. Isn’t there a point when certain children are more at risk not going to school than doing so?

‘Disadvantaged children, perhaps should be the priority. I was surprised when the Prime Minister said that first year groups should go back first. My union would have said that disadvantaged children should go back first because, you’re right, they need school the most, they benefit from school the most and they suffer when they can’t go to school. [If such a policy were adopted that would make the children feel good, wouldn’t it? There’s the whole rejects from society in one place at the same time. In a culture where bullying is rife surely such stigmatisation is the last thing that’s needed?]

We do know that in secondary schools there is a focus on disadvantaged children and vulnerable children being in school but the problem we’re got is that many of the families are extremely concerned. [For example] many Bangladeshi families won’t send their children back to school as they live in multi-generational households and they’re afraid they’ll bring the virus home.’

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, on the debacle and confusion around if/when/who on schools re-opening in 2020, on 9th June;

She accused ministers of ‘failing to prioritise schools and lacking the necessary will and ingenuity to overcome the difficulties that are involved in social distancing’. She also found the ‘delayed return deeply worrying’ and it was ‘a disruption not seen since World War Two’. Further that ‘a decade of catching up on the education gap may well be lost’.

Andrew Snape, Professor in General Paediatrics and Vaccinology, Radio 4, World at One, 9th June;

Q. Children don’t seem to be badly effected by the virus. Is that correct?

‘That’s right, as a paediatrician that’s really important. Children don’t seem to get sick from covid-19. There is a small number of cases of post-covid inflammatory syndrome but in the overall picture the risk to individual children is very small.’

Q. Do they spread it to adult?

‘Although children can carry the virus ….. perhaps 1 in 200 children, but they seem not to be the super-spreaders that they are for influenza. Children are fantastic at spreading influenza … but that’s not the case for covid-19. … It’s much more common that adults bring the virus into the household.’

Q. Are you confident to send your children back to school?

‘Yes, I’m confident of sending my children back to school. The risk as an individual would be very low. The bigger question is ‘does my children’s school re-opening increase the spread through the community?’ because it’s not just the children at school. It’s the teachers who are mixing in the staff room, it’s the parents mixing at the school gate and bringing their children to school. So there’s all the other elements that need to be very carefully looked at and managed to avoid the actual opening of the school creating a spread of the virus through the community.’

Q. How important is mitigation?

‘It’s really important. There’s not a lot of evidence that children are spreading it. … A lot of effort would need to go into ensuring there’s not a lot of mixing of parents and the teachers, to try and minimise their social interactions might even be more important in reducing the spread.’

David Blunkett, former Education Secretary in a Labour Government, Radio 4, World at One, 9th June;

Q. What’s the problem about schools not going back as was previously announced?

‘To be honest I think it’s a lack of will, it’s a lack of ‘can do’, it’s a failure to do what we’ve already done with the health service and the economy, which is to say ‘there are challenges, there are real problems but we are going, as a nation, to actually seek to overcome them’. It’s easier for Scotland, they go back much earlier in the summer anyway but for England and Wales it’s a different matter.

Why is it that other countries, not just in Europe but across the world, can have the ambition to get their children, in all kinds of creative ways, back into school and we can’t?

I can only conclude that the Government are losing the plot.’

Q. You are saying it’s a lack of will on the part of the Government, not that it’s the parents taking a precautionary approach?

‘Well, it’s a Catch 22. the less confident the Government is, the less clear they are about what steps they’ll take themselves to help those local authorities and education trusts to manage this transition, the more parents get worried,

This is an endeavour for all of us to work together. We have 600,000 people taken on as volunteers nationally to help with vulnerable people at home. We’ve got supply teachers who are not being paid anything. We’ve got excellent teachers doing their utmost to work with children at home.

We can take up the suggestion … of using other buildings, we can do what the Americans do … which is to close roads around schools to make space available. All of this could be done with a bit of thinking creatively and everyone working together.

Q. However much space you give them aren’t children going to break the 2m or 1m rules? And it’s six months, it’s not the end of the world. What price do you think will come with this?

‘If it’s not the end of the world why do we have the education systems we have here and in the rest of the world?

I spoke to someone who said her nephew, who is in his mid-teens, spends everyday until 12.30 in bed. That won’t be because teachers aren’t trying or parents aren’t actually encouraging it will be because a kind of lethargy comes out in teenagers if they don’t have a structure and they don’t have encouragement. … I just know that we’ve got to do this.

If we can set up the Nightingale hospitals in the time we did why on earth can’t we invest in the future of out children?

Q. Where does the initiative need to come from?

‘The Government should say to local authorities and education trusts – get together, come up with a plan which includes mentoring and recovery programmes in certain schools as well as staggered hours and new premises. Come up with that plan and we, as a nation, will fund it. The funding from the middle of June through into August, we’ll pick it up again in September if the scientific advice is that we can’t actually go back to complete normality. We’ll reduce the distancing for schools to a metre – which is being done across the rest of Europe and is the advice of the WHO – and above all we’ll say to people at local level use your initiative, have confidence to develop programmes locally.

Of course, take the advice of the directors of public health at local level but try and do it in a very positive way so that you can deal with any spikes, you can be confident there’s no infections at the present time … and then we can ensure that we not only give the confidence to parents and to teachers and children but we also allow those parents to go back to their jobs where they will be contributing to the recovery of our economy.’

Was the lock down worth it – and effective?

Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford, Radio 4, World at One, 9th June;

Q. Would you have argued for ‘herd immunity’ all along?

‘Yes, I would have said that but with the proviso that we put as much money as possible – and to make up for what hasn’t happened over the last 30 years – to support the vulnerable sectors of the population.

I think at that point we had enough information to know that there were certain sectors of the population that were particularly vulnerable and that we needed to protect them – and the word ‘protect’ carries with it all sorts of implications – but essentially it seemed to be that there was a real gap in the resources available to achieve that.

Let’s now try and divert as many of these resources as possible to protect the vulnerable population and to reduce their risk. And the way to reduce this risk to the vulnerable population – as we have done unwittingly in many cases with the pathogens that do kill us … is by having enough immunity ourselves such that the risk posed to the vulnerable population is low.’

Q. So the majority of the population carry on as normal and catch the virus and build up ‘herd immunity’?

‘That’s how we have traditionally dealt with the pathogens that do at the moment kill the elderly and the vulnerable.

It’s a terrible thing that that happens but it happens.

I guess we’ve made the decision that we need to balance out that problem against the problem of completely shutting down the economy or compromising out social interactions to the point of farce.’

Q. Has the lock down been a farce?

‘We are trying to wriggle out of this situation in a way that is quite farcical. We come up with rules that are arbitrary, to my mind.’

Q. The idea would be to change the strategy with the vulnerable staying indoors?

First of all we need to go out there and make a proper map of what their risk is. The risk to the elderly and frail is not just contingent upon how elderly or frail they are but how immune the rest of the population surrounding them is. We need to go out and test, to the best of out abilities, knowing now that some people are not going to register positive on these tests simply because they happen to be entirely resistant to the disease.

We need some clever statisticians and people who are disinterested in promoting any kind of sense of what they think is going on, to make proper, clear, best assessments about what the risks are to the vulnerable in every part of the country.

Just in the UK there is a huge variation in who has been exposed given the locality. There’s enormous heterogeneity and homogenising this data just to fit certain precepts or preconceptions is not helpful.

What we need to do is go out there, look at who’s been exposed in different regions and come up with a strategy, put public money into supporting the people who are vulnerable given the risks that they face. … We need to make sensible decisions about how to protect people.’

Q. Should we be relaxed about the R number, lift the lock down quickly and not be phased by the idea of a second wave?

‘There will be a resurgence of this like any other respiratory pathogen in the winter and we need to prepare for that.’

Q. We hear there’s some regret in Sweden due to the death toll. Would that not have happened here if we didn’t have lock down?

‘I think it’s unfortunate that people are focussing on that point. … What was said was that they could have done better to protect the care homes and indeed that’s what we should have done.

It’s unfortunate people are jumping on that [failing in Sweden] to say they should have had a lock down earlier.

What I don’t understand about the lock down is what is the exit strategy from it anyway?’

Q. Would you lift it as quickly as possible?

‘Yes, right now, absolutely.’

Q. Do you think the disease arose earlier in China than was suggested?

‘Absolutely, yes,’

Q. When did you think it appeared?

‘… In any normal system by the time it takes for deaths from the disease [to be recorded] it’s been around for at least a month.’

Q. So October rather than November?

‘Yes, something like that.’

Related to this idea is the uncertainty of how many people might, for whatever reason, already be (or have always been) resistant to covid-19.

Care Homes

This issue will run and run. This sector was in a dire state prior to covid-19 and the political philosophy and attitude of the Tories – which is to step back from any social welfare that benefits the general population – won’t just evaporate. And even when they make a big splash about giving to the sector it’s more giving with one hand and taking with the other.

More than 25,000 patients discharged to care homes in crucial 30 days before routine testing.

Even thought he care homes have become the epicentre of the disease in Britain they are still not getting the priority they need. And the stupidity of the Government is demonstrated by the fact that they are seemingly incapable of avoiding criticism by making sure care homes are at the top of the list for any developments in the battle against the virus. Instead of giving the impression they see that mistakes were made in the past (and will do their best to do better in the future) they continue to try to score political points – even when the facts stand in opposition. This was the case about testing kits – and the difference between being delivered and used. (Note how Hancock gets testy when challenged in the video clip.)

Another view on Hancock and numbers.

Test, track, trace – and isolate

Only 4 in 10 Covid-19 patients contacted at start of government’s ‘test and trace’ scheme.

The people of Britain were promised a ‘world beating’ test and tracing system. However, in the first days of June there was nothing for many of the staff employed to do this had a great deal to do.

Matt Hancock under fire over incomprehensible testing targets.

Sir David Norgrove, chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, sent a letter to Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, on 2nd June where he stated that the figures being presented were ‘still far from complete and comprehensible’ and that many of the ‘key numbers make little sense’. This was partly in response to the Government’s ‘massaging’ of their testing ‘target’ numbers, mainly the 100,000 by the end of April and the 200,000 by the end of May – both of which were ‘met’ but with dubious counting.

But the ‘world beating’ system is not going to be with us soon. The autumn might be more likely.

The privacy issue also keeps on running.

Open Rights Group to challenge UK over test and trace data retention.

This might be academic. We still don’t know exactly when the magic app will be in general use.

And which app? There’s now the possibility that the NHSX will ditch their own, centralised app and revert to the ‘off the shelf’ system developed by Apple and Google and which is being used in other countries.

Watch this space.

For an interesting view on the ‘complications’ surrounding tests and how the figures we are told about and reality are not always in line listen to the first 15 minutes or so of the BBC Radio 4 programme, ‘More or Less‘ on Friday, 5th June.

Food Banks

The obscenity gets even worse.

The stories behind the statistics.

Two metres – or less

This has now become part of the debate.

Two-metre rule halves chances of catching coronavirus.

Although there is a push to reduce the social distancing rules – especially as in Britain the 2 metre rule is out of kilter with many other countries.

How did covid-19 land on the sceptred isle?

Through the ability of scientists to break down the genetic sequence of the virus – and with the sharing of information between countries of their particular outbreaks – it’s possible for scientists to identify from which part of the world those in Britain contracted the disease – normally by close contact from someone infected from those countries. And that happened on more than 1,300 occasions.

That puts the idea of instituting a quarantine for visitors to the UK from 8th June into context – stable doors and bolting horses come to mind.

And for the xenophobes the majority of those cases came from two countries – France and Spain. That shouldn’t come as any surprise as with the explosion in recent years of air travel with the budget airlines those are the two most popular countries for British travellers – and the UK for the French and Spanish

Asymptomatic spread of coronavirus

It has long been argued that it’s the asymptomatic individuals that were the biggest spreaders of the coronavirus – not out of Mary Mallon fear and ignorance – but because they don’t know they are infected. That seemed to be challenged somewhat by a statement from Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19. However, there was later some ‘clarification’ that she was arguing for emphasis to be placed on tracing contacts with anyone who was proven to have had the disease. But I still slightly confused.

Has the Dominic Cummins affair gone away?

Perhaps not. Reminiscent of Al Capone being imprisoned for tax evasion (and not the countless murders for which he was certainly responsible) Cummins – or his family – might have broken local government planning regulations when a farm building was converted for residential use. Haven’t heard any more of this so don’t know if it is just bubbling under the surface.

And as neither Cummins not the Buffoon are prepared to do the ‘right thing’ it is being left to private individuals to make the rich and powerful abide by the same rules that the majority of the population are expected to do with a private legal case being progressed to get the prosecution service to take the matter seriously.

Risk of getting severe case of covid-19

To the conditions that have become recognised as presenting a higher risk in the present pandemic (older than 70, being male, from a BAME community, suffering from ‘underlying health conditions’, diabetes, dementia/Alzheimer’s) can now be added another – baldness.

What we might learn to face the next pandemic more efficiently

The virus has been around long enough now – with hundreds of thousands of scientists trying to learn as much as possible about all of its hidden characteristics – for a fuller picture to be constructed which might make the next pandemic less traumatic.

Should the lock down had happened earlier?

Forgetting for the moment whether the lock down should have happened at all (see the section above arguing it wasn’t the right tactic if other provisions had been in place) there are scientists who are now arguing it was imposed too late – by about a week.

On Sunday 7th June, Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of Sage, told the BBC ‘We should have gone into lock down earlier’ and that by not doing so it ‘has cost a lot of lives’.

The response from Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary was ‘There’s a broad range on Sage of scientific opinion and we were guided by the science, which means guided by the balance of that opinion’.

I suppose we would have a better idea of what the ‘scientific advice’ was if the Government were to publish any of their reports in a timely fashion. Even though calls for the publication of, at least, summaries to these reports being published more or less at the same time as the decisions upon which they are ‘based’ have been made for months we seem to be no closer to a situation of openness.

On the 10th June, Neil Ferguson (remember him? He was one of the ‘naughty’ boys and girls who broke their own rules but at least had the good grace to fall on their own swords – unlike Dominic Cummins) weighed into the ‘controversy’.

At a meeting (virtual) of the Commons Science and Technology Committee he said ‘We knew the epidemic was doubling every three to four days before lock down interventions were introduced. … ‘So had we introduced lock down measures a week earlier, we would have reduced the final death toll by at least a half.’

Whilst not openly agreeing with this one of the other top scientific advisers, Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said he had a long list of regrets – the most important being the stopping of the testing regime.

The Buffoon, on the other hand, whipped out a straw boater and cane and gave a rendition of Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?