Seven months into the pandemic – yet back to square one
When I posted the first article under the heading ‘Journal of the Plague Year 2020’ on 23rd March of this year I didn’t (in my most fearsome nightmares) think I would still be posting about the crass incompetence of the Buffoon and his Government just under seven months later.
In that first post I bemoaned the fact that it seemed that society (or at least those who are in charge of its present day capitalist manifestation of it) hadn’t seemed to have learnt anything over the seven hundred years since the Black Death took with it at least a third of the population of Europe before it eventually fizzled out in 1351.
If the feudalists and the capitalists hadn’t been able to learn anything in 700 years I suppose it was foolish to believe they would learn anything in seven months.
The oppressors and exploiters haven’t moved on – there’s no incentive for then to do so as they consider they are masters of the universe and even if a few of them die their system will carry on without them. However, the rest of society is very different from what it was all those centuries ago.
Science, technology and education have all moved ahead in leaps and bounds. Even though there are still fundamentalist sects (which can include mainstream religions) that still live in an ideological past the majority of society – at least in the more established capitalist societies where workers have been able to extract a few concessions, including education, from the exploiters – looks at the world in a very different way from the subsistence farming peasant of the 14th century. Or so I would like to believe.
In Britain (without looking at the experience of other countries throughout the world) there are countless examples where working people have stood up against the failings of the ruling class. In Britain one of those examples was the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 which had a direct connection to the consequences of the plague of 30 years before.
The capabilities, opportunities, knowledge and potential to make sure we never have to live through such chaos are there in a abundance. However, alongside those positives we still have the disease of subservience and a culture of parliamentary cretinism which prevents too many people from taking direct action outside of the electoral process.
In the last seven months the Tories have shown themselves incompetent and incapable of coming up with an effective strategy to deal with the issue at hand. But not for the first time and like the proverbial ‘bad penny’ they keep on bouncing back. The Parliamentary opposition in the form of the Labour Party is no different – and have constantly failed to deliver when they have been in the position to change society for the benefit of the majority. None of these groupings will ever change.
As we in Britain (as in many other countries worldwide) start to face another sequence of lock downs – whatever they may be called; local, partial, national, ‘fire break’, ‘circuit breakers’, or any other meaningless term some bright spark will invent – if we stick to the present system the future will just be a succession of ‘Groundhog Days’ where the future only offers us more of what has gone before. But probably worse.
I have little doubt that I’ll have to change the name of this collection of posts to Journal of the Plague Years 2020-2021 – if we are lucky.
Preparedness for a pandemic
In the last post I stated that there didn’t seem to be any specific plans for a pandemic in Britain – although in past years and even in the early days of he covid-19 outbreak we were ‘reassured’ that the Government had a considered plan in place. But I was wrong. However, you wouldn’t think so with the chaotic and uncoordinated manner in which policy has been made since the end of March.
I don’t know what’s worse, having a strategy and ignoring it or not having a strategy at all. It’s all about crimes of commission or omission.
The theory, and a few guidelines, can be read in an article entitled ‘How to prepare for a pandemic’.
For a detailed (very detailed) strategy was produced by Public Health England in 2014. Specifically two documents, the Pandemic Influenza Response Plan and the Pandemic Influenza Strategic Framework. The first is a very long document, with suggestions of who, what, when where and why at the different stages of any pandemic. The second is a much shorter overview of what should happen. (It has to be remembered that these documents where designed for a hypothetical outbreak and recognise that actions and decisions would be subject to change and alteration in the event the hypothetical becoming the reality.)
The problem is that the Government doesn’t seem to have read, or at least understood, documents which have been published in their own name. Public Health England (PHE) seems to have been marginalised from the start – not least because it places an emphasis on matters being dealt with at a local level – and has now been abolished because it was considered (probably by the puppet master Cummins) to be ‘not fit for purpose’. That’s why everything has been pushed into the hands of private companies and we can all see the pig’s ear they have made of everything they were paid a huge amount to do.
One matter that is stressed in the Plan is the necessity and infrastructure needed for testing, which has become such a contentious topic in the present pandemic. Again, if the Buffoon or his acolytes read that they don’t seem to have understood what were the implications.
Whitehall told to release secret 2016 files on UK pandemic risks. The Government has until the 23rd October to accede to the Information Commissioner’s Office request – or explain way not.
Protests against restrictions
There have been plenty of complaints about some of the lock down measures but little actual action. One minor one was the dumping of ice from the bars that were closed down in Central Scotland earlier in the month.
Students aren’t too happy about the food they’re being given when forced to self isolate, saying they are being given cheap junk food instead of decent, nutritious food.
This was announced, but little seems to have moved forward. England’s hospitality bosses prepare legal challenge to covid lock downs.
Deaths in the UK 2020
A report that looked into the total number of deaths in the UK in 2020, most of which would have been under the time of the lock down due to the pandemic, found that Britain didn’t fare too well in comparison with 20 other countries. This was mainly due to the manner in which the NHS had been run down, attacked as a social structure and starved of investment in terms of both materials and staff in the last few decades. In a sense, whatever the Buffoon had done we, in Britain, were on a hiding to nothing. This was highlighted in an interview on Radio 4’s World at One on 14th October with Professor Majid Ezzati, from Imperial College, London.
The ‘herd immunity’ argument
Life can go back to normal if we make it our common goal to achieve herd immunity.
Consequences of covid-19
Another to add to the list – covid may cause sudden, permanent hearing loss.
Protests that there should be more restrictions
Scientists want much stricter measures to curb what they consider is the infection rates getting out of hand – and have been saying so for some time;
Planned new rules for north of England are not enough.
UK at ‘tipping point’.
Sage scientists called for short lock down weeks ago
Two-week circuit breaker ‘may halve deaths’.
Covid the new Scrooge
First your holidays now covid has its sight on Christmas.
Fear used to ensure ‘compliance’
Man gets covid twice and second hit ‘more severe’. Even though of the millions who have caught the infection only twenty or so have been recorded as having been infected twice. Isn’t that statistically insignificant? If so, why does this make the headlines?
University of East Anglia party students fined £10,000.
More on ‘collateral damage’
Although it’s been mentioned before, as time goes by more details start to emerge. Three million patients have missed cancer screenings since start of pandemic. With a lcak of any strategy and with a possible ‘second lock down’ on the way these figures are not going to get any smaller. This could end up causing more suffering and deaths without any real advantage being achieved by the Government’s ‘response’ to the situation in the country.
‘Protect the NHS’ message led to 90 per cent drop in hospital admissions.
More than 26,000 extra deaths this year, mainly in their own homes. A statistic which cries out for a more strategic approach to dealing with the pandemic – not just in the UK but other parts of the world as such figures will be duplicated in many countries.
What has happened to England’s seven Nightingale hospitals? A good question as these have cost a fortune and most have never been used.
A few days later, as part of the campaign to create a climate of fear and aid compliance it was announced that those in the north locations were being brought up to a state of readiness.
Earlier in the pandemic some scientists were calling for the establishment of ‘fever hospitals’. If the number of infections is putting a strain on the normal hospitals, and reducing capacity due to distancing measures, wouldn’t it be a good idea to send all covid cases to these temporary hospitals from now on and create specialist teams which only deal with covid cases? If there were fears of a heightened risk of infection amongst staff (or other possible psychological pressures) then surely it’s not outside of the bounds of possibility to rotate those working there? Always the emphasis is on the problem and not the potential solution.
The shortage of nursing staff in the UK
There’s been a crisis in the NHS for years – and the way successive governments have sought to deal with staff shortages (and to save money by not training nursing staff in the UK) is by stealing valuable staff from the poorer countries of the world. This has been a disgrace and is a continuation of colonial exploitation by taking resources from the poor and giving them to the rich – although here (as with slavery) human resources. Self-sufficiency is the answer.
Hospitals battle coronavirus outbreaks as workforce shortages drive cancellation fears.
This issue continues to be problematic, aspirations not being matched by capabilities.
Used coronavirus tests handed out by mistake.
‘Trailblazing’ plans to cut travel quarantine.
Health and safety breaches at testing lab.
Test and Trace records worst week yet.
Boris Johnson promised a ‘world-beating’ system – but Government’s Sage committee says all three pillars aren’t working.
Buffoon ‘won’t hit target of 500,000 Covid tests a day by end of month’.
The Government can’t get the test, track and trace regime working but they can find time to give PC Plod more powers as they are to be given access to NHS self-isolation data.
The Buffoon promised a ‘world beating’ test, track and trace system. A report compared the UK with five other countries throughout the world. Britain didn’t come out to well. The results of this study were presented on Radio 4’s Inside Science on 15th October.
There are many conclusions from this study which should have an impact upon pandemic preparations in the UK in the future (that is, assuming we all don’t die due to the incompetence of our ‘leaders’). But what is obvious is that the majority of the problems that have arisen in the last seven months have been down to policy decisions of the last couple of decades (where both major political parties have been in control) which have basically decided that everything should be determined by the ‘market’, that economic liberalisation – which has been accepted as given by far too many people, including the working class – should decide what happens. Such an approach was questionable in the past but the pandemic has shown that such an approach is totally incapable of dealing with a medical, economic and political crisis.
People with suspected covid sent to non-existent test centre.
What was most interesting about this news is the way the Department of Health and Social Care reacted to this;
‘We are aware of an issue with an incorrect testing location in Sevenoaks. This issue has now been resolved and people are being redirected to the correct site. … NHS Test and Trace is providing tests at the unprecedented scale of more than 270,000 tests per day nationally and we are on track to achieve capacity for 500,000 tests a day by the end of October.’
In place of responding to the chaos all we are given is more spin, more smoke and mirrors.
Annual influenza vaccination
The Government extended the coverage of those it recommends should have a flu jab to those above 50 (and not 65 as is generally the case). However, this statement was made without the Government making sure enough of the vaccine was available and also establishing the infrastructure that would deal with a doubling of the numbers of those eligible for the injection. It also came across problems due to the virtual privatisation of this task with private chemists being able to provide the service. This matter was covered in a Radio 4, You and Yours item on 16th October.
Poverty in the United Kingdom
Two recent reports illustrate the level of poverty in the United Kingdom. The covid-19 pandemic hasn’t caused these problems – only exacerbated already existing issues. The level, depth and widespread nature of poverty in Britain has been a disgrace for decades. For that to exist in the fifth or sixth richest country in the world just goes to show the lies of capitalism that it is the best system for the majority of people.
In the 1970s there was a phrase that most people in Britain ‘were only one pay packet from destitution’. The truth of that has been demonstrated innumerable times in the past 50 years. The pandemic, by concentrating matters in weeks when it would normally show itself over years, has only made this dire situation more obvious – both to those who are losing their jobs and the rest of the ostrich population who have been happy to continue turning their backs on a situation which they might have found distasteful. Also those who thought they might have been immune from this particular disease of capitalism are now beginning to realise that no one who doesn’t have a private income and depends on their standard of living by their employment is entirely immune.
The first report, by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, entitled Poverty in Scotland 2020, concentrates its focus on the northern part of the United Kingdom. The situation in Scotland hasn’t improved significantly with the growth of the Scottish Nationalist movement in the country – no surprise as all nationalist movements devoid of Marxism-Leninism are bound to only benefit the local capitalist and not the majority of the population.
Although focussing on Scotland there’s no reason to believe the situation is not similar (if not worse) in the other parts of the UK.
The second is by Save the Children and is entitled Winter plan for children. It would more appropriately be entitled No winter plan for children. This report predicts severe problems for even more children and their families this coming winter with the pandemic only (again) exacerbating and already well entrenched and almost institutionalised system of child poverty.
This obscene reality should make any right thinking person in Britain angry but it sometimes becomes difficult when people were interviewed pre-December 2019 General Election leaving food banks and making positive comments about the Tory Buffoon for whom the same cretins were going to re-elect in a matter of days. Chickens coming home to roost?
Poverty campaigners estimate 1 million pupils have recently signed up free school meals for first time.
Again from Scotland – but applicable in the the rest of the UK – a warning about bad living conditions, poor housing and inadequate heating leading to a disproportionate amount of suffering being dumped on the poor.
A footballer campaigns for the extension of free school meals but he doesn’t realise that he is merely perpetuating poverty and is nowhere closer to eliminating it. His reward in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List only confirms the uselessness of his campaign – and how it is appreciated by the State.
Is re-infection a real issue?
Not really. A little over 20 people have been recorded as having been re-infected after an initial dose of the virus – out of the millions who had contracted the disease worldwide. That makes the numbers statistically insignificant so why are these few cases given such prominence in the media? A rhetorical question – it’s obviously designed to maintain the ‘fear of death’ level.
Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London put this matter into perspective in an interview on Radio 4’s World at One on 13th October.
All in this together!
It’s just a sign of their insensitivity. Members of Parliament could be due a £3,000 pay rise. Will it make those who are being made redundant or put on short time angry? It should, but the British have accepted more in the past so no reason for the politicians to have too many fears of the gates of Westminster being stormed ala Petrograd in 1917.
Dominic Cummings continues to use the system to his advantage – this time by avoiding council tax.
Care Homes – and the re-writing of history
Jeremy Hunt, who a few years ago was the Health Secretary and oversaw the break down of the NHS and the care system, continues to attempt to re-write history. Following on from his attempts highlighted in the last post he continues to paint himself as reasonable and caring whilst at the same time trying to divert criticisms away from the Buffoon’s Government. Hunt may resent being pushed to the sidelines but his loyalty is still to the Tory Party and his class.
In an interview on Radio 4’s World at One on 13th October he claimed that the reasons the percentage of deaths in care homes was so high (an estimated 40%) during the outbreak earlier in the year was due to causes which have now been rectified. Those were: agency workers transmitting the disease from one home to another; patients not being tested on leaving hospital and being sent to a care home; and a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
He approaches these problems as if they were not identified at the time (which is a lie) and that the Government was the entity to sort the issues (which is another lie). A drop in infections generally and not as many old and vulnerable people to kill pulled the Tories out of their mire. The most recent pronouncements by care home providers (let alone those who care for people in their own homes) don’t paint too promising a picture for the coming winter months.
It never does any harm to introduce a bit of peripheral ‘research’ to increase the fear levels and introduce a bit more baseless panic. Your mobile phone and cash in your pocket might be out to kill you! If certain circumstances are manipulated you can prove anything. However, they are only ‘infectious’ when kept in the dark – a bit like the population of the country.
Corruption accompanies any crisis
The issue of corruption and contracts being awarded without proper process have come up a number of times in the last seven months. The only difference is that the numbers keep on getting bigger. At the moment there’s a legal case being brought by some Members of Parliament against the Government (doesn’t that illustrate the failings of the British ‘democratic system’ not its strengths?) for Ministers ‘keeping the public in the dark’ over private contracts.
Consultants’ fees ‘up to £6,250 a day‘ for work on covid test system – and they still can’t get it right.
Government pays BA and Virgin £70 million to fly PPE from China – PPE travels in First Class.
In the (rejected) pandemic strategy adopted in 2014 (illustrated above) it was hoped that the four ‘nations’ that comprise the UK would act in concert. In your dreams! The nationalists, whichever their variety, will always seek to make their own decisions – whether it is for the benefit of the whole island or not. The latest example if the so-called ‘three tier’ lock down system.
There are still things going on behind the scenes
Obviously it’s the pandemic that’s hogging the headlines but we should not forget that government still carries on. And in the UK we have a government of self-seeking Tories with a huge Parliamentary majority. In such a circumstance so-called ‘rebels’ can make a lot of noise but they know that their future is secure as there will always be enough toadies (not wanting to risk their lucrative positions) to ensure the Government gets its way. That was the case of maintaining food health standards after Britain leaves the European Union at the end of this year. (Start dipping your chicken in the local municipal swimming pool – if it’s still open – to know what it will taste like in a year or so.) Under normal circumstances there would have been much more noise and the outcome could have been very different. Almost certainly there are other matters just going through on the nod which will come back to bite the British population in the not too distant future.