UK Budget 2021 – relief for business; suffering for the poor

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

UK Budget 2021 – relief for business; suffering for the poor

The vaccination programme in Britain continues to go well (especially when compared to the experience across the Channel in the European Union – but, then, what can you expect from ‘Johnnie Foreigner’), infections are falling as are deaths. Capitalism in Britain breathes a sigh of relief – as does their present puppet – the Buffoon.

It seems like they have got away with it.

Totally unprepared at the beginning, lacking any semblance of a strategy – even a year after the pandemic hit the sceptred isle – ‘science’ has pulled them out of the mire by being able to produce a vaccine that seems to work. (Let’s not talk about how much the British government, i.e., the British people, paid for that vaccine programme. Pumping gold into peoples’ arms would probably have been cheaper.)

Despite the ineptitude, the incompetence, the lies, the corruption, the arrogance of the rich and powerful, the U-turns, the confusion and fear levels going through the roof the Buffoon is coming out Okish, if not smelling of roses.

Even after showing their contempt for the ‘heroes’ of the National Health Service with the derisory pay increase (not forgetting that all the ‘heroes’ in the other public services will get nothing at all) there doesn’t seem to have been any great condemnation of the present government.

And even if people had gone to the streets – the only real way to show anger in any society – then that would have been turned against the demonstrators as they would be ‘putting other people’s lives in danger and would be undermining all the sacrifices of the past year’. You have to admire them – they place the blame for the crisis on the victim and shrug off any responsibility.

So it’s back to business as usual with the Budget of 3rd March 2021.

Money continues to be given to businesses that probably won’t exist by the end of the year – and shouldn’t all these entrepreneurs and petty minded petite-bourgeoisie refuse such state support as it goes against the grain of neo-liberalism?

Money gets thrown at first time house buyers – trapping them in the iron grip of debt – but offering no relief to those who have no other option than to rent. Companies will have to pay increased corporation tax (but not until 2023 – and perhaps not even then if the memory of the British population in the past is anything to go by) yet at the end of summer this year the poorest in society will be faced with a huge financial break with the withdrawal of the extra £20 per week that has been paid (temporarily) to raise the level of Universal Credit – an already totally inadequate system whose flaws still exist even if not now being highlighted.

And after almost a year where there seemed to be no limit to the amount of money that was available to pull capitalism out of the crisis it itself had created the tap is to be turned off and there will be more ‘belt tightening’ and a virtual return to austerity.

As with the financial crash of 2008 – yet another capitalism created crisis due to greed and arrogance – the cost of the pandemic will again fall upon those who were completely innocent and of its causes.

Perhaps not completely innocent. The crime of omission in allowing the capitalist system to continually play fast and loose with the lives of billions of people is just as pernicious as the crime of commission of the perpetrators.

Vaccination Programme

UK think tank calls for door-to-door covid jabs to tackle vaccine disparities.

Number of UK Covid vaccinations falls by a third as vaccine supply dips. (24th February)

Extra £1.6 billion for UK’s covid vaccination roll out.

How does the Johnson & Johnson vaccine compare to other coronavirus vaccines? Four questions answered.

Covid vaccines: how to make sense of reports on their effectiveness.

The UK’s speedy covid-19 vaccine roll out: surprise success or planned perfection?

Coronavirus vaccine scams – fraud experts give their top tips to help you stay safe.

How well does the AstraZeneca vaccine work? An expert reviews the current evidence.

Privatisation of the pandemic

In the USA but we have seen similar in the UK with the awarding of billions pounds worth of contracts to untested providers

Massachusetts spent 20 years refining its own mass vaccination plan. Then it looked elsewhere.

The ever changing virus

World yet to see ‘full extent of coronavirus evolutions’.

New coronavirus variant: here is what scientists know about B1525.

What problems do coronavirus variants pose?

New covid variant infects 16 people in UK.

Recognition of the ‘heroes’

One of the problems of many workers in the British National Health Service (NHS) – especially the medical staff, the nurses and the junior doctors – is that it has taken them the best part of 75 years to recognise they are actually ‘workers’.

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, even though the NHS was under almost constant attack by various British governments, the idea that such medical workers would go on strike was received with shock and horror. This was to defend their own pay and conditions let alone to support those other workers who were facing the destruction of their jobs as successive governments presided over the the de-industrialisation of the United Kingdom.

At that time there was even a television soap opera called ‘Angels’ (which ran from 1975 to 1983) which perpetuated this myth that workers who took care of others were not the same as those who worked in any other industry. Too many heath workers took in that propaganda and their conditions and workload got worse each year as a result.

With the arrival of the covid pandemic at the beginning of 2020 the NHS was found to be in a sorry state – desperately short of staff, underfunded and led by managers whose main concern was the balance sheet rather than the best care of those in the time of their greatest health need.

No surprise there. Whatever social welfare function the NHS had at the end of the 1940s had been stripped away and was being converted into a money machine for private companies and investors. What capitalism does to every endeavour. No profit = no use.

To make up for the unpreparedness of the government of the Buffoon for the pandemic, the shortage of vital Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well as an adequate provision of the equipment necessary (in the early days when the virus was still not fully understood) the Thursday ‘Clap for the NHS’ was turned into a nationwide ritual.

Instead of being considered as skilled workers medical staff were being applauded for being ‘heroes’. But that cost nothing. Neither for the government or the population of Britain. This activity ceased by the end of May 2020 as a growing number of NHS workers started (belatedly) to realise that this was just an empty gesture that took the pressure off the government – and in effect, put all the pressure on those working in the NHS (and other so called ‘essential industries’).

And following the Budget of March 2021 those same workers that were so lauded for their ‘sacrifice and dedication’ only a few short months ago have learnt what their true value is to this government of over-privileged public schoolboys and girls.

The reaction, so far, from the health workers has been one of anger. But what will come of that? Will they act as workers, organise and take action to force the government to act? Will workers in other industries support them (difficult as that is after years of attacks and the weakening of Trade Unions)? Time will tell.

However, workers in Britain should be careful. Already, in their ‘justification’ for awarding health workers a measly handful of crumbs, the Buffoon is seeking to divide the working class by stating that other public service workers won’t even get that. Unless the action is taken in a unified manner, across the whole country and all industries, this struggle will end up being splintered and divided – the only winners being the capitalist system.

‘A 1 per cent pay rise is the worst kind of insult the government could give health workers’

Nurses prepare for strikes over 1% NHS pay rise in England.

Managing the pandemic in hospital

NHS faces questions over covid infections contracted in hospital.

Critical care beds shortage prompts calls for review – but this is all down to government policies over the last three deaceds (at least) on top of which has to be added post-2008 ‘austerity’.

Susceptibility to infection

Do genetic differences make some people more susceptible to covid-19?

Covid deaths high in countries with more overweight people.

Who profits from a pandemic?

Moderna forecasts $18 billion in sales of covid vaccine this year.

AstraZeneca and Moderna’s contrasting rewards for fighting covid hardly seem fair.

From Pfizer to Moderna: who’s making billions from covid-19 vaccines?

The return to ‘normality?

English school leaders despair over new rules on covid tests and masks.

‘Immunity Passports’

Vaccine passports to prove covid immunity could be banned in some circumstances.

Government considering revamp of NHS app for vaccine certification.

Thousands sign petition against ‘vaccine passports’.

Green pass: how are Covid vaccine passports working for Israel?

Austerity will remain after the pandemic

Austerity to continue for many public services as Budget makes further £4 billion of cuts.

Strip away pandemic largesse and UK is banking on recovery with no extra public spending.

Poverty in Britain

Is covid at risk of becoming a disease of the poor?

A-levels: Poorer students ‘three grades behind’.

Universal credit: the whole system needs an overhaul.

One in five UK schools has set up a food bank in covid crisis.

Why has the UK’s covid death toll been so high? Inequality may have played a role.

But it’s not (unsurprisingly) just a problem in Britain

The Millionaire Senators who voted against the Minimum Wage in the USA

All in it together?

The very private life of Sir Chris Hohn – the man paid £1 million a day.

The problems for private renters

Eviction orders being issued despite UK government covid pledge.

Bail out renters, not just landlords, unions urge Rishi Sunak ahead of Budget.

‘Collateral damage’

England’s covid catch-up plan for pupils – summer schools and tutoring.

Covid job losses show structural racism of UK labour market.

Study shows one-in-three children have rarely been leaving the house.

Collapse of social care could force more elderly people out of their own homes.

Thousands of urgent operations building up across London as covid pressures continue.

Young ethnic minorities bear brunt of recessions, and it’s happening again.

The price of global pandemic responses has been to make many other diseases worse.

Special needs pupils in England living in dread of returning to the classroom.

Schools warned to be alert for mental health problems among pupils as they reopen.

What comes after the pandemic?

More of the same if we listen to some so-called scientific ‘experts’. It might have been a positive development that scientists have become the new ‘rock stars’ over the course of the last year but that new found fame (and fortune) should be taken in context. One of the reasons that ‘experts’ started to be distrusted was the way in which they were used in a number of high profile criminal cases where the decision of the jury depended upon who was the most convincing ‘expert’ – and the prosecution could always afford the most high profile and therefore, most ‘credible’.

Now they have the limelight some are trying to keep themselves there for as long as possible. As the UK appears to be coming out of the present lock down there is optimism that ‘normality’ will return in the not too distant future. However, those ‘experts’ who are risk averse are already raising the spectre of a return of non-covid respiratory diseases this coming winter – and in the process attempting to maintain the idea of control over the population. This control will be in the areas such as the (unproven) wearing of face coverings/masks. (It’s perhaps pertinent here to mention that this has become one of the growing cottage industries in recent months and small companies are now dependent on this fad staying around for some time.)

The manner in which many governments throughout the world, and especially in Britain, have managed the pandemic in the last year or so has been totally inadequate for a so-called modern society in the 21st century. To ‘institutionalise’ a minor tactic which doesn’t address the main issues surrounding the incompetence and corruption that has dominated the last 12 months will just be another way the thieves and incompetents get off the hook.

UK must prepare for ‘hard winter’ of flu.

Personal data in private hands

Yet another dodgy contract given under the excuse of dealing with the pandemic – but which will have consequences far beyond the period the virus is dominating British life. NHS faces lawsuit over data deal with “spy-tech” firm Palantir.

Leadership in the pandemic

We get the leadership we deserve.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

The second lock down and the Liverpool ‘pilot’

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

The second lock down and the Liverpool ‘pilot’

It seems that the Government of the Buffoon is innately stupid. Even when they decide to do; something intelligent; something which others had been calling for for months; something which has strategic merit; and something which is a different approach to the tried and proven to be unsuccessful tactics of the past eight months they still manage to cock it up.

I’m talking, of course, of the pilot of the city wide non-symptomatic testing of as many people as possible in the city of Liverpool which began at midday on Friday 6th November (see below). (Arrangements have changed in the last week and it’s no longer necessary to book, you just turn up at any of these centres.)

But one of the most important things about this pilot is the word ‘pilot’ and what it signifies. My dictionary definition of this version of pilot states; ‘used in or serving as a test or a trial’, ‘serving as a guide’.

That implies that you run the scheme for a certain period of time, evaluate how it has gone – in both practical terms and in the results that were obtained, and then decide on the success (or otherwise) of the scheme and then introduce it (or not) in other areas.

But not the idiots who run Britain.

On the evening of Monday 9th November (three and a half days into the ‘pilot’) the office of the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock – one the of the Three Bellends (see below) – contacts 67 different local authorities (mainly in the North of England) stating that they would also be provided with resources for introducing such city wide testing.

Now I’m all in favour of such testing, have argued that it should have been introduced (or, perhaps, more importantly, ‘piloted’) many months ago and then, after proper evaluation introduced throughout the whole of the island of Britain. But you need information to anticipate any possible problems (as well as highlighting the positives) of such a scheme. This has never been done before on such a scale and teething problems are inevitable but what you get if 68 towns/cities are doing their own thing is 68 versions of chaos – and no lessons for the introduction in rest of the country that will inevitably follow in its wake.

I attended the first day of the test in Liverpool and wrote about the experience on this blog earlier in the week. The of the points made about that visit was that there was no obvious monitoring of the scheme and that those young soldiers inside the building were merely processing people and not noting down any problems or other issues which might have a bearing on the efficient extension of this scheme to other parts of the country. In fact, that blog post is the only thing I am aware of approximating an evaluation of the ‘Liverpool pilot’.

Being a good, responsible and caring citizen of the city of Liverpool I sent a link of my ‘findings’ to the City Council. I never even received an acknowledgement that my notes had been received. As there was no ‘feedback’ requested from participants and as there seemed to be no one monitoring what was happening in the (now) 17 centres throughout Liverpool I doubt whether the Labourites in charge if the city have a better understanding of the word ‘pilot’ (in this context) than the Buffoon down in London.

Politicians of all colours (being at foundation guardians of the capitalist system) follow the same trajectory in a crisis such as this present pandemic. Their principal aim is to come out of the situation making sure that any blame is placed somewhere else, anywhere apart form their own door steps. The consequences that such actions have on the majority of the population is irrelevant.

And don’t get me on the introduction of the ‘second lock down’ in England with its leaks, in-fighting, half truths, selective statistics, muddle guidance, uncertain longevity and possible end.

Was the country prepared for such a pandemic?

Not according to a former chief medical officer.

The present (and second of how many) lock down

To justify another lock down the Buffoon quotes frightening ‘statistics’ which predict virus deaths ‘twice as bad’ as spring.

And continues to stick to the fear factor when those ‘statistics’ are challenged. If you can’t keep them safe then keep them afraid.

Other figures suggest that the ‘second peak might have passed’. But the lock down stays.

Lock downs have been seen by many as just digging a hole from which it is almost impossible to escape. One suggestion is by dividing the population into two – with your house number determining your future.

Nationalism

I don’t understand the nationalists within Britain. For eight months the so-called ‘devolved administrations’, especially in Scotland and Wales, have made an effort to be different from what has been proposed in England. In some ways I can see their point, the Buffoon has never given the impression that he knows what he’s doing and his Government has made so many U-turns most people have lost count.

However, the reasons the nationalist have chosen different paths was merely to demonstrate, however illogically, that they were in control in their little patches of land. In the strategy documents produced in readiness for such as this present pandemic it was stated that the hope was all the 4 separate administrations would work in concert. That hasn’t happened yet.

But, all of a sudden, the Welsh first minister states that all the UK nations should work together in the weeks coming up to Christmas. I don’t really see, apart from a little bit of populist posturing, why Christmas should be any different from the rest of the year.

Then the following day the same Welsh first minister declares that GCSE and A-levels in Wales will be cancelled for 2021. Which is not the same in the rest of the UK and which will cause all kinds of problems and conflicts, if not treated very carefully, when it comes to University application time.

A report by the Institute of Government highlights how the childish squabbling of the Nationalists have not served the people throughout Britain at all well.

The spread of the virus

How the news was reported in the days before the second lock down.

Nearly 100,000 catching virus every day.

‘Second wave’ could last until April in ‘worst-case scenario’.

Understanding ‘aerosol transmission’ could be key to controlling coronavirus.

Coronavirus rules in England aren’t working, scientists say.

Does coronavirus spread more easily in cold temperatures?

Face masks

This was talked about at the very beginning of the pandemic, i.e., that face coverings cease to become effective if basic hygiene practices are not followed. But how many really people follow good practice? Face masks should be washed and tumble dried each day.

The poor suffering the most

Again one of those issues that have been reported on a number of occasions – but still worth noting. Despite protestations and false concern expressed by the Buffoon the pandemic still leaves poorer families £170 a month worse off.

But, it seems, more people have recovered their concern for the poorest in society. There was a ‘dramatic softening in attitudes’ even before the covid pandemic after years of Thatcherite sponsored selfishness and lack of concern for others. Also there’s a consequent increase in the desire to tackle the tax avoidance practised by the rich to pay for higher benefits.

Unemployment, yet to reach its peak, will also effect the young and those from ethnic minorities the most.

Another U-turn (this time on free school meals) which benefits many in the short term but which shys away from the main issue.

Redundancies at record level as pandemic takes further toll.

Food banks

Way back in 2012 a post on this blog considered that the aim of the Trussel Trust (the biggest charity operator of food banks in the United Kingdom) ‘to have a food bank in every town and city’ was a shameful goal for any organisation to have in one of the top five richest countries in the world. Such an aim is merely putting a sticking plaster over what is a suppurating wound of hunger for a significant proportion of the population. The fact that eight years on the demand for their services has increased many fold just goes to show that food banks are, in many senses, part of the problem and not the solution.

As with many consequences of poverty in Britain the covid-19 pandemic has not caused the problem – exacerbated it yes, but what it has mainly achieved is the uncovering of the full extent of poverty throughout the country. A recent report from the Trust observed that 2,600 food parcels provided for children every day in first six months of the pandemic.

Food banks are getting visits from the so-called ‘newly hungry’.

Increased control by the State

As has been stated here a number of times capitalist states will use any crisis to increase their control of the population. Measures might be introduced under benign circumstances but the problem is these measures, or more especially the laws that allow them, tend to stay for long after the initial cause is just a bad memory.

Such an example is Manchester University installing fencing around student accommodation – and in the process handing out public resources to private business – which sees the rightful and legitimate opposition from the students.

The university initially insisted it had written to students informing them about the construction, but has since acknowledged work began “ahead of the message being seen”.

What a bunch of wankers!

The privatisation of the pandemic and corruption runs rife

Over the last seven months unimaginable amounts of money have been thrown at the ‘private sector’ – whether to keep companies in business or the more important task of transferring monies from the public to the private purse. But the ‘private sector’ will never be up to dealing with such as a pandemic as the over-riding principle is always the maximisation of profit – which will always go against the public good. Even though the ‘private sector’ has shown itself wanting since the pandemic broke they will still be brought it to cover any cuts in the public sector which successive governments (of whatever colour) had introduced in the name of ‘efficiency’.

Whitehall scrambles private sector to avoid second wave disaster.

Not satisfied with taking the money being offered the gangsters of capitalism still believe they have to resort to fraud. £45m deal for NHS masks collapses amid fraud claims. The contract was still awarded even though the Government was warned, in June, that things were dodgy.

Labour demands answers from vaccine head over PR bill.

Although not directly a matter to do with the pandemic but a situation which prepared the country for getting itself robbed stupid once money really started to slosh around. This is a matter of Tory ministers directing monies to their patches so they can claim the credit for ‘improving’ their own area – whether that was a priority or not.

More on ‘collateral damage’

Mentioned in virtually all postings after we had been living under the pandemic for a few months it’s still worth re-iterating that the world still goes around even with the virus. The lack of a proper strategy generally, in all countries worldwide, means that the so-called ‘collateral damage’ keeps increasing.

50,000 cases of cancer left undiagnosed due to Covid disruption. And that could double within in year if the same approach is followed.

Some of these problems have been put down to the too simple message of ‘Protect the NHS’.

And with such situations comes the recriminations.

Another study has shown that a four-week cancer treatment delay raises death risk by 10%.

And a study from the United States indicates that a significant number of people who contract the virus also suffer mental health conditions in the aftermath.

Almost 140,000 patients waiting longer than a year for NHS treatment.

One rule for us – another for them

A crisis is an opportunity for the rich – even the most talentless.

While the rest of us are worrying about seeing relatives and job security, the super-rich are flying to party islands on private jets.

Cummins has got away with it for a while – will that continue (probably).

Test-trace-track

THE hot potato of the pandemic continues to be thrown up in the air.

England’s contact-tracing system needs better data handling to beat covid-19.

Prior to the announcement of the pilot in Liverpool (see below) it was stated that 10% of England’s population could be tested for covid-19 every week. To really get on top of the spread of infections in the UK many more people nationwide will need to be tested on a regular basis. But again the question has to be asked – What about the poorer parts of the world?

We were told suitably qualified personnel would staff the call centres. That doesn’t seem to be the case as teenagers ended up operating crucial parts of England’s test and trace system.

The NHS app evolves, this time sending more people into self-isolation. There are always problems when more people are told to do something which doesn’t make sense to them – and which might seriously effect their general well being. Perhaps a sledge hammer to crack a nut.

The debate about what happens to information gained by the app and how secure it is continues to run

And then sometimes it doesn’t work.

More than 7,000 of the app’s users were given the wrong self-isolation information due to a faulty update

City wide testing – the Liverpool ‘pilot’

This is one of the few good ideas that have come out of the ‘battle’ against covid-19. And Liverpool is a good choice as a pilot it being a medium sized city, a diverse population (in terms of age, ethnic variety and wealth). It could bode well as a way to deal with the virus – if it works.

The Army are supposed to be in charge of this (which started on 6th November) and everything will depend upon whether there has been local input to the locations of the testing centres or whether an outside organisation thinks it knows best. If it has been properly planned (and it is hoped that the planning for this began some weeks ago and not the day after it was announced) then it could be a way out of the total mess and chaos that has characterised the so-called war against this tiny virus. Obviously only time will tell. With the second national lock down having started on 5th November (so not much burning of the failed Catholic regicide in effigy this year) and due to last for a month – which coincides with the Liverpool pilot – then if positive results have not been achieved by the end of the 28 days then we are really snookered.

Some various news reports of what might be the most significant positive development for months.

Liverpool to pilot city-wide coronavirus testing.

New procedure offers results in just an hour, rather than the more usual 24 – 48 hours.

Up to 500,000 people in city will be tested in bid to measure feasibility of mass population screening.

Liverpool Covid tests will ‘open door to more routine way of life’.

But those frightened ‘scientists’ who can come up with nothing new – even though the old tactics have not shown themselves to be effective – try to pore cold water on the initiative.

Vaccine and immunity

A vaccine might be on the way – but don’t get too optimistic.

But another look at immunity might be more positive.

The big issue of recent days is the announcement of a ‘90% success rate vaccine’. Matt Hancock, who has been mercifully quiet recently, claims the credit and states that the NHS ‘is ready’ to introduce a mass vaccination programme when it is already pushed to the limit due to decades of cuts and financial neglect.

But after the euphoria of the announcement comes the cooler analysis. Good news yes, but …

‘Back to normal by spring’ – are we expecting too much from the first COVID-19 vaccines?

The ever expanding effects of covid-19

Look at your feet if you think you may have contracted the virus – for covid toes.

Reactions to Government policy

Pub renames itself The Three Bellends with dig at Johnson, Hancock and Cummings.

Not much fun being a mink in 2020

Denmark announces cull of 15 million mink over covid mutation fears.

And the Dutch mink don’t fare any better.

Fears over mutated covid virus from mink lead to Denmark travel ban.

No one, yet, has made any comment of whether the new vaccine which has been so trumpeted in the last couple of days, will be able to cope with the little present the mink have given the world.

Finally:

How the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha’s care about it’s subjects

William Saxe-Coburg and Gotha – the heir to the oppressive monarchy of Britain – contracted the virus earlier in the year but kept it quiet as ‘he didn’t want to worry the population of the country’. It’s good to know that some rich boy is really concerned about our well being.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

Increased restrictions in September – too few or too many?

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

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?

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?