A week of incompetence, hypocrisy, revenge and corruption – life returns to normal in the UK

More on covid pandemic 2020

A week of incompetence, hypocrisy, revenge and corruption – life returns to normal in the UK

The weekend of 4th – 5th July saw a big jump towards normality (or the ‘new normal’ as we are been encouraged to say) in England, especially with the opening of more business, including pubs and restaurants. But if the majority of the population have to get used to the ‘new normal’ we see no change in the old normal of the British ruling class.

As life has changed back to what it was pre-March 23rd, with the slowing down of the pandemic in the country (or not, depending on which scientific expert you wanted to listen to) we have seen signs that some things hadn’t changed at all in the country, especially when it comes to the attitudes of the cretins the population has chosen as its ‘rulers’.

I don’t condemn the Buffoon for what he says and does. He was born into the class that has been exploiting and oppressing the workers of this country (and many other parts of the world) for centuries. In many ways he’s the perfect person to represent his class – criticisms bounce off him as if he were wearing armour, scandal slips off him as if the armour was coated with Teflon, he does and says anything he likes with impunity as he knows that he will survive whatever happens, like many of his class he has had the arrogance bred into him that he can never do wrong and certainly never runs the risk of being held responsible for his actions.

Together with arrogance comes hypocrisy and a total lack of irony. He stood behind a board with the words ‘Protect the NHS’ and never once considered this was against all he has believed, treated with contempt and acted against all his miserable life. He expects the people to ‘abide by the guidelines’ (imprecise, muddled and contradictory much of the time) which were issued when the relaxation of restrictions on businesses was announced, implying that if it all goes tits up it would be our fault and not anything to do with the crass incompetence and lack of imagination of his government over the last four months – and of his class for the last four centuries.

No, it isn’t the Buffoon that’s at fault, it’s the forelock tugging British working class which constantly lacks the courage to take matters into its own hands and instead continues to vote for those who know where their class interests lie and who use the pusillanimity of the workers to suck the country of its resources and do whatever it suits.

Social care

One person who knew that the Tories would revert to norm once the height of the pandemic crisis had been reached was Sir Simon Stevens, head of NHS England. Looking at what had transpired in the last four months and the number of deaths that had occurred in care homes and the so-called ‘fault lines’ that had been exposed by the pandemic he stated that a complete reform of the social care structure was needed within a year. He made these calls in an interview on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC 2, on 5th July. To the best of my knowledge, neither the Buffoon nor any other member of his government have made a response to this demand for a radical improvement in social care provision in Britain.

Care homes – or a leopard never changes it’s spots

Care homes, and social care in general, came to dominate the early part of the week. The Tories sought to divert attention away from this by their characteristic drip feed of relaxations – so that issues of why all beauty salon treatments couldn’t be carried out would dominate the headlines and so push structural matters into the background.

It also came as no surprise that, at the first opportunity, the Buffoon started to apportion blame on others in an effort to divert attention from his own personal incompetence and that of the bunch of buffoonettes around him.

In place of agreeing with the head of NHS England the Buffoon, the day after Stevens had made his call on the Sunday morning television, attacked the very workers in the care sector – who had been declared ‘heroes’ over the last four months – by saying that ‘too many care homes didn’t follow procedures’.

Such comments, not surprisingly, created a nationwide, and angry, response.

The fact that this comment should be taken as planned and considered – and not a Buffoonism – was proven by the fact that ‘No 10’ (the term used in Britain to refer to the office of the Buffoon, Number 10 Downing Street, in London) refused to apologise. In fact the Tories have surrounded the Buffoon and defended his comments in the way they should have defended the residents and workers in care homes during the height of the pandemic – and in the future.

One comment from Downing Street;

‘… nobody knew what the correct procedures were because the extent of asymptomatic transmission was not known at the time.’

So why, apart from trying to steer blame and responsibility upon anyone else as long as it’s not the Buffoon and his Government, was the comment made? What use does it have in the fight against the virus?

And, of course, they didn’t refer to the matter of Dominic Cummins ignoring a clear ‘procedure’ not to travel nor to the fact of the Buffoon’s own father just jetting off to a holiday home in Greece when the rest of us were told to stay at home. Both stories which seem (but shouldn’t) to have been forgotten. Nothing new there. One law for them, one law for us.

Mark Adams, Chief Executive of Community Integrated Care, a national social care charity, accused the Buffoon of;

‘seeking to re-write history, for the mistake after mistake made by the Government.’

He wrote that the Buffoon’s comments were an insult to care home staff who had worked long and hard in extremely difficult circumstances.

Others responded by saying it was ‘a huge slap in the face’ for the sector and that the Buffoon was merely attempting to deflect blame for Government failings.

But the Buffoon has to be careful. When he makes statements which annoy so many people there will always be those who will look deeper for the dirt on the Government. Arrogance has a price.

It emerged that warnings about staff working in multiple care homes (due to the chaotic and desperate shortage of trained staff in the sector) were missed by Ministers as long ago as the beginning of April – long before the so-called ‘guidelines’ were produced.

And then, ‘coincidentally’, later in the week a report was published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) of 50 care homes that were inspected where, it was alleged, procedures were not followed. The Buffoon fighting back. It’s always interesting, the timing of the release of such reports.

Imelda Redmond, National Director Healthwatch England, ‘champion’ of health and social care users, Radio 4, World at One, 7th July;

Q. Can you understand why people are angry about the Buffoon’s comments?

‘Yes and the issues underlying all of this have been there for a very long time. There’s been under-investment in social care for vary many years. There needs to be very significant amount of reform which has been talked about for many years but hasn’t been acted upon. Actually, all those fault lines have been laid bare during the pandemic.’

Q. Do you see this as a ‘positioning’ ahead of any future enquiry?

‘I don’t think it’s a matter of where blame lies but we do have to understand and learn lessons as quickly as we can before we enter winter so we can be ready to deal with the issues.

The care sector is a very complex sector and we didn’t have a real handle on it, when the pandemic hit, of the complexities of the sector. We know more now but we really need to get to grip with this before we enter winter and perhaps a ‘second wave’.’

Q. So what is your answer to why there are so many deaths in the care sector?

‘We talk to families all over the country all the time and the kinds of things they are saying is that care homes were instructed to receive people from hospitals, if you remember. There was Government pressure to get people out of hospital so we would have capacity to deal with people who were very ill. But those people coming out of hospital were not always tested, or were not tested in the early days. That’s part of the problem.

The other issues are around the lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that they had. To be frank it was a difficulty that the social care sector in general had in getting access to the right type of PPE. … Nobody had a handle on the sector. Also the data was poor. There’s no way of contacting all social care at the same time, some people pay for their own care, some are paid through local authorities. It’s really that complexity that wasn’t understood.’

Q. Is there sufficient grip on it now?

‘Under the leadership of David Pearson and senior people at the Department of Health and Social Care there’s a better grip on it now than there was.’

Q. Sufficient?

‘Really we won’t know until later. The Task Force has only been around for about three weeks. There’s a greater grip on it. Nurseries are getting tested and tracing, we’re beginning to see more data coming through so there’s a better grip than we had but the underlying problems are that we didn’t plan properly and we really need to get that in place now.’

Finally on the care home front, more ‘collateral’ damage, this time patients with dementia ‘deteriorating’ due to the lack of family visits – which will no doubt have an effect on mortality rates sooner rather than later.

Did covid-19 exist a long time before December 2019?

This idea has been around for a while but seems to be getting more attention now. Not really sure where this will lead – or whether it will entail a change in tactics of how to overcome the virus. If nothing else it starts to take the pressure off the Chinese as ‘being responsible’ for the pandemic. If there were cases of the virus way back in 2019 in a number of countries then either medical staff weren’t able to spot a pattern or hospital administrators and/or governments sat on the information. If it wasn’t causing deaths (and therefore potentially making itself known) then this would have an impact upon the numbers of people who, potentially, have some resistance to the virus if not being completely immune.

Dr Tom Jefferson, Senior Associate Tutor, Centre for Evidence-based Medicine, Oxford, Radio 4, World at One, July 6th;

‘We have had a series of reports of the presence of viral particles, complete or fragments, of them in sewage and waste water and this goes back, the earliest I’m aware of, in March 2019 in Barcelona.’

Q. That would suggest it came from Europe not China.

‘No, it would suggest it was being excreted, with people’s stools, and got into waste water and got into sewage sometime, at least, by March 2019 if the study findings are confirmed. As you know there are a lot of false positives and a lot of uncertainty about testing.

The other thing we should bear in mind is that tests that have been done are on sewage and samples of sewage that have been frozen and kept. These are tests that can’t tell us whether the virus was active or alive. It could have just been fragments but it suggests that the micro-organism had been around for some time.’

Q. It’s not just Spain. There was Milan, Turin in mid December, even in Brazil in November.

‘Indeed. Australia as well and I have just seem something from Korea so it’s possible in the next few weeks we’re going to have more and more information.

What you’ve got to bear in mind is that these are reports that need to be confirmed.’

Q. But we didn’t have deaths back in March 2019.

‘We don’t know that. The thing is you only recognise, really only identify, a micro-organism when it causes problems, causes disease or death. Now to identity disease or death you’ve got to have an eye for it, like our Chinese colleague in Wuhan who recognised there was a sequence, a series of deaths which were unexplained.’

Q. Are you suggesting that there were deaths from the virus in early 2019 or just spreading among the population and not causing deaths?

‘I think the latter is more possible, more probable because if the findings in the sewage samples are confirmed then that would suggest that people were excreting them in their stools.’

Q. All the present theories are that it started in China, related to bats, but you’re saying it could have originated anywhere?

‘I don’t see why it should have originated from any particular country. It manifested itself in epidemic form in that country [China] first, as far as we are aware of, but we are now discovering that there were other cases. We are now almost certain there was a case in France at the end of December. So we just need to be broad-minded and try not to box our ideas in too much.’

Jefferson also wrote an article at the beginning of March – which might be useful when considering what we know then and what we didn’t then.

Transmission routes increase

Sneezes, being touched by an infected person, touching a surface which might have the virus there just waiting for a foolish host. Now, airborne transmission can’ be ruled out, possibly, according the the World health Organisation (WHO). We are well and truly doomed and starts to make a mockery out of any distance in ‘social distancing’.

University students and rebates

There’s a great deal of uncertainty in the British University community at present. Although not specified thirteen British universities are possibly on the brink of bankruptcy. Added to that many of the others (even those in the Russell Group) will have problems as they have relied on the money provided by foreign students, especially from China, who are unlikely to be coming as first year students in the 2020-21 academic year. Also many UK students are considering deferring as the ‘university experience’ just won’t exist with ‘social distancing’.

But the universities haven’t given up on getting hands on that money. Education is a business now and education takes the back seat.

Julia Buckingham, President Universities UK, Radio 4, You and Yours, July 6th;

Q. How do universities respond to the suggestion they shouldn’t have a blanket refusal for demands for refunds?

‘Universities have had to adapt their approach to teaching and learning because of the covid crisis and the most important thing for all of us was the health and safety of our students and our staff.

So we needed, unfortunately, to very rapidly transition to online learning and the support of our students because it simply wasn’t safe to continue with face to face teaching.

We have done our very best to ensure that all teaching can be completed, all modules completed, all our learning resources accessed and that students can achieve the desired learning outcomes in this academic year. And we’ve gone to very great lengths to make sure that assessments can be delivered online to ensure that as many as possible of our students will graduate at the end of the academic year or they have got the qualifications they need to progress to the next year of study.’

Q. Students who are not happy with what they have received have been advised to go to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) but they are told the Adjudicator doesn’t have the ability to make a decision on academic matters. You’re wasting students time by giving them that advice, aren’t you?

‘No. Every university has a very clear procedure for looking at complaints and concerns raised by students and we are recommending that if students are concerned by the level of support that they had then they should access that process and we will do our very best to make sure that things are moved forward as speedily as we possibly can do.’

Q. How many have you dealt with already?

‘Different students will complain at different times. The students have been very busy doing assessments and I don’t have the information across the sector of the number of complaints and appeals that have come. But the universities will handle these and in the event that the student is not satisfied with the outcome from the university then they have recourse to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.’

Q. But not if it is about the quality of the academic provision. This is outside the remit of the OIA.

‘If the students feel they have not had adequate support, adequate learning then those things go through the the complaints process and the OIA will look to see if the university has followed the process properly.’

Q. Now that students pay for their education they regard it not as a service but as a commodity. Universities don’t seem to accept that they are then covered by consumer law and you’re not doing anything about that.

‘Universities are working very hard to provide students with the very best information that we can at this time. But we all have to recognise that covid has been exceptionally challenging and it’s not always possible to provide students immediately with the sort of information that they want. I think the Office for Students (OFS) has been very clear in making sure that we should be providing information in a timely way but recognising that we are continually working with a series of unknowns.’

Q. There will likely be very few foreign students starting this autumn and many UK students might defer. The OFS has said if new students starting in the autumn face significant changes to their courses that universities must inform them, secure their consent and explain what the options are if they don’t accept the changes. Have all your 137 members done that?

‘Our universities are working very hard to develop their teaching programmes next year. It’s a long and very detailed process. Of the universities we have surveyed 97% have said they are aiming to deliver face to face teaching on campus next year. This means a vast amount of work in making sure our campuses are safe – that is the top priority.

With social distancing as it is at the moment that means that in many places, a lecture theatre for example, could only have 20% of the normal number of students within it. There is very, very detailed planning ongoing to make sure we deliver the education. What many universities are saying is that education next year will be blended.

So lectures, for example, will be delivered online, in a virtual environment – and actually many students like that because it gives them the opportunity to re-run the lecture, over and over again, and really get to grips with it. That will be supplemented with face to face teaching which, wherever possible, will be done on campus.

But we have to be prepared that there could be a further lock down and we need to be prepared to switch back to digital learning only to make sure that our students get the support they need.’

Testing

A ‘world beating’ testing regime – not yet.

The Lighthouse Laboratories have ‘failed to deliver robust data’, according to the Institute of Biomedical Science.

Home tests are taking too long and ‘they render tracing scheme useless’.

And anti-body tests aren’t living up to expectations (or hopes).

The ever elusive tracing app

Continues to be elusive – and barely gets a mention now.

Is there such a things as ‘herd immunity’?

This is another topic that’s starting to get more space. Perhaps we need anti-body testing regimes in many other countries, who have adopted various strategies in dealing with the virus, to start to get any meaningful idea on a world scale. I would have thought the tighter the lock down, the more the restrictions, the less the ‘herd immunity’. If so we face the shock horror of the possibility of Trump and Bolsonaro being proven correct in their non-tactics.

No ‘herd immunity’, according to a Spanish study.

Yes, if you look at a New York based study.

But many of us might have had a level of natural immunity even before the pandemic was declared.

As a reminder, just what is immunity – and how can you get it.

What about a ‘second wave’?

Is a ‘second wave’ likely?

And when it comes to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the UK ready?

The issue of masks

There is still no real consensus on the wearing of masks. The problem here is that the level of fear (at least in British society) is that the wearing of masks will become more general outside of the home as those not wearing a mask (or a face covering) will be seen as virtual ‘Typhoid Marys’ – not a way to establish policy.

The Buffoon is now saying that the scientific evidence is moving in favour of mask wearing on a greater scale and it’s likely it will be mandatory, in certain circumstances, in a few days – as always the Government lets speculation run rife before making a grandstanding statement.

However, in all this mad rush to conform with what other countries have instituted the downsides of masks/face coverings are being ignored. As has been the case since the very beginning the only ‘expert’ advice that the Buffoon follows is that in which he (or his master Cummins) is in agreement.

The future NHS

The NHS might have survived the pandemic to date but it seems, due to pre-existing staff shortages, only by the skin of its teeth. We might not be so lucky in the future if covid comes back with a vengeance later in the year, according to many organisations representing workers in all levels of the service.

On top of everything else there are now arising a whole raft of issues that are accompanied by contracting the virus and a special approach is being established to provide care over an extended period.

In yet another example of the Tories back-tracking on previous pledges, especially the one about providing the NHS with ‘whatever it needs’, the promises of financial support which are made with such fanfare (especially by the rich kid poster boy Chancellor) are coming with serious strings – once people analyse the small print.

And now that the Buffoon is out of hospital himself (he must have felt at risk going into a NHS hospital, probably the first time other than wanting to make a show of concern, normally he would have been using private facilities) and the ‘heroes’ are no longer needed in the immediate future, any concessions are being revoked. One of the first to go is free car parking of all NHS staff.

The timing of the release of reports into the NHS is always suspect and is often part of a political agenda. That doesn’t mean that shortcomings in the NHS shouldn’t be exposed and solutions found but they have to be taken in the context of what has been happening to the NHS structure since the 1980s. The way it was turned more into a business rather than a service a culture was created that has led to most of the scandals and malpractice of recent years.

The Cumberlege Inquiry, which looked at the issue of patients being put at risk from unsafe medicines and implants, has just published its findings where patients were ‘being exposed to a risk of harm when they do not need to be’. Jeremy Hunt, a previous Tory Health Minister said ‘we must not allow this seminal report to gather dust on a shelf’. However, when he has made statements about reviews of the present Government and its cack-handed handling of the pandemic he continually tries to push this as far as possible into the future.

One of the unintended consequences of the desperation to curb the spread of covid-19, especially in the early days when the knowledge base was low, is the (perhaps) over-use of antibiotics which could fuel a ‘superbug time bomb’ in the future.

After spending the last almost four months praising the NHS the Buffoon (no doubt just uttering the words that have been fed to him by the puppet master Cummins) is now planning on a major restructuring of the National Health Service (NHS).

This seems to be prompted by the fact that senior people in the NHS don’t always kowtow to government diktat.

Anyone who has lived through major reorganisations of large concerns such as the NHS knows that this never goes well – often changes being reversed to what they were before. But in the process there is huge damage to the organisation – financial, operationally and also in staff relations.

With already reported staff shortages and the possibility of a ‘second wave’ in the near future the reorganisation of the NHS now seems to be bordering on the criminal. So much for ‘Protect the NHS’ slogan.

And all this comes less than a week after the hypocrites were ‘celebrating’ the 72nd anniversary of the foundation of the NHS.

The collateral damage of the covid-19 shut down – not pandemic

The pandemic has put a halt to the vast majority of regular treatments for a number of reasons. Staff working elsewhere, people afraid to report problems to GPs and that fear also preventing patients attending testing and scanning appointments. A report has stated that could, over the course of the next year, lead up to 35,000 extras deaths from treatable cancers.

This matter was also discussed on Radio 4’s Inside Health on 8th July.

Also the climate emergency hasn’t gone away – even if for the last four to six months various countries throughout the world have been pumping less crap into the environment – yet the almost unbelievable amount of disposable plastic from PPE might have counteracted the poison pumped into the atmosphere.

Changes at the top – or the creation of a new committee

When a government such as that of the Buffoon finds that a structure no longer suits their political agenda then the response it to change that structure. This has happened with the arrangement which was praised so much over the last four months.

As part of these changes a new unit, Joint Biosecurity Centre, was to take charge of overall covid-19 response. A lot of people saw problems here.

A Government spokesman said a slimmed-down Sage would focus on longer-term concerns, such as the impact of winter.

‘Sage will continue to provide a single consensus view of scientific advice at the heart of government decision-making, to inform the national strategic response to the coronavirus epidemic.

As we move into the next phase of the coronavirus response, the JBC will complement the work of Sage, providing more operational focus including data analysis and epidemiological expertise, with the aim of ensuring that outbreaks of coronavirus are detected and brought under control quickly.’

Modern day slavery and the pandemic

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, 5th July, when referring to the not relaxing of the lock down in Leicester;

‘Infection in Leicester was running at three times the rate in the next highest city. In stopping that the first priority is stopping the virus but there are clearly also other problems under the radar, that have been under the radar in the past in Leicester, that need action.’

Those ‘under the radar’ problems were many garment factories in Leicester which were functioning in conditions akin to modern slavery.

It was revealed that a major British fashion retailer, Boohoo, used these factories for much if its supply of clothing. This led to a number of well known (in the fashion world) stores dropping Boohoo like a red hot brick. An element of hypocrisy here as so much clothing these stores sell, mainly women’s clothing, is so cheap that some one had to be exploited – if not in this country then in sweat shops in Asia.

Then, only a few days later, it emerged that one of the founders of Boohoo has links to some of the factories at the centre of the scandal – so not really a surprise to them.

It will also be interesting if anything really happens here – and who will take the brunt of any closure. It’s highly likely that many of those working in these factories might well be ‘illegal immigrants’ (the reason the slave/gang masters are able to function without any news of the conditions being made public). The Tories haven’t shown themselves sympathetic to such groups in the past – and at the time of writing (11th July) the French riot police had just cleared away about 1,000 people from temporary encampments in Calais, at the request of the British.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

At the beginning of April – and for a number of weeks after – the issue of PPE was rarely out of the news. Eventually, too late for some, this equipment was provided for those who needed it. But it came a cost – £15 billion. Someone saw the Buffoon coming – but will we ever know who and why.

Homeowners and renters – different treatment

When Tories talk about homes they mean homes to buy. Ever since Thatcher, in the 1980s, realised that she could use the selling off of council homes at a vastly reduced rate to buy herself votes and dig away at a system that had provided decent homes for working people this has been a principal plank in the Tories programme. No matter people have the risk of negative equity, never mind the fact that it was the housing policies, throughout the world, in various countries that was integral to the financial collapse of 2008.

And social housing has continued to be attacked and those unable, or unwilling, to get into home ownership are increasing forced to rely on the private renting market – one that is fraught with dangers, both financial and physical, due to the unregulated nature of the sector.

The Buffoon had to be forced to declare an eviction ‘holiday’ during the pandemic but that will end soon and there is bound to be a slew of eviction notices during the early autumn. Studies by Shelter, the housing charity, show that the numbers of those in arrears have doubled since March and the pandemic lock down. In England, Acorn, and in Scotland, Living Rent, are preparing to fight this injustice.

And when the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, sought to ‘stimulate’ the economy he decided on handing more money to home owners (or rather many people caught in a lifelong cycle of struggling to pay their mortgage) rather than assistance and promotion of social housing. This came in the form of paying each house £5,000 for insulation and double glazing – attempting to build his ‘green’ credentials at the same time as giving money to those who least need it.

It wasn’t spelt out in his announcement on 8th July but the consequence of his proposed changes to stamp duty will benefit those wealthy people who are buying second homes or buying to let – and not the first time buyers it was pushed as helping. The biggest expansion in the revitalised British economy will, it seems, be in the production of bulldozers to shovel more pound coins into the bank accounts of the rich.

The Swedish experience

The analysis of the different approach from most countries in Europe followed by Sweden will be interesting when it is finally released. Unlike the Westminster government the Swedes are looking at what they did right, or wrong, now – not some indeterminate time in the future.

Britain and the world in figures

When it comes to ‘world beating’ the Buffoon is right – but not in the manner he would really like. Amongst the G7 nations (the most developed, ‘traditional’, pre ‘fall of Communism’ capitalist countries) the percentage excess death rate is the highest.

They don’t get any better a week later.

And why did Japan ‘do so well’ and the UK so badly?

This might be interesting for the cases and deaths on a local authority basis in the United Kingdom, as of the first days of July.

Changes using covid as an excuse

There will be many things that will change under the excuse that there was no alternative due to the covid crisis, from Government, local authority, business and even at social enterprise level. Some of it might be forced upon organisations others welcomed as a get out of potential problems that would have existed under ‘normal circumstances’.

As a result of the Buffoon’s call to ‘Build, Build, Build’ we are likely to get ‘Shoddy, Cheap, Nasty’.

Just over three years after the avoidable blaze at Grenfell Tower in London – which resulted in the death of 72 people – the ex-residents are not really any closer to getting ‘justice’ (whatever that might mean in capitalist Britain). Now the survivors can’t even attend the hearing to investigate what happened that night of the 14th June 2017. The reason given? Covid-19. Those still fighting for an answer to why things were allowed to get such a state are just brushed away.

They will be able to watch a live video recording but that’s not the same. In such circumstances you need to be read the body language of all the participants to really understand what is going on, also to look at the reactions to events by others on the room. By denying the survivors that right they are being denied ‘justice’.

‘Collateral damage’ in the south as a result of northern hemisphere centrism

There’s a problem with the knee jerk reactions that have been made in many countries since the start of the covid pandemic – very often the plans are not thought through and they don’t realise the consequences of their actions or decisions. Such is the case surrounding vaccination programmes in the southern hemisphere which were stopped following WHO ‘advice’. Now, in at least 68 countries, these very same experts are concerned of the long term implications of the suspension of these programmes.

When it comes to covid-19 the young are less likely to suffer serious consequences yet the diseases that vaccination can prevent have been proven to kill millions over time.

The pandemic has shown that most countries really don’t have a strategy to deal with it. The same is the case when decisions are taken which effect many other countries. If there is to be any real preparation for the next pandemic (the not if but when one) then there should also be consideration of the risks involved unless more lives are put at risk by hasty, unthought and poorly considered policies.

Corrupt and inept governments in some countries are so weak and care so little about their populations that gangsters are picking up the ‘social care’ provision that should be the duty of the state. In Mexico the drug cartels are having a field day in attracting mainly young people to help them in their ‘business’ as they are desperate for any source of income.

The cartels don’t care for these people and are just using them, as Pablo Escobar was successful in doing in Colombia in the 1980 and early 90s. But even in the short term life is better than any dependence upon the state. Apart from anything else this makes any war against these gangsters more difficult to pursue as the drug barons are seen as modern day ‘Robin Hoods’.

… and to finish …

Corruption at the highest level – or why they are in politics

It seems that the people who are responsible for giving out contracts are so arrogant they think they can do what they want that they don’t make much of an attempt to hide what they are doing. A sizeable contract was given, without tender, to a research company to which there are close links with Michael Gove and Dominic Cummins.

More on covid pandemic 2020

Britain and the Pandemic – May Day weekend 2020

To wear a mask - or not

To wear a mask – or not

More on covid pandemic 2020

Britain and the Pandemic – May Day weekend 2020

Over this weekend workers worldwide should have been demonstrating and marching for May Day – the Workers’ Day. In the recent past in Britain these demonstrations have been embarrassingly small – if indeed they take place at all.

As this pandemic drags on there is more news of workers being abused in the situation of the lock down as well as major companies announcing job losses (more on that in a later post). This means that it is likely that many thousands of people will be told that they have no job to go back to whilst they are either being laid off or on ‘furlough’.

British Trade Unions have forgotten that what makes the working class different from other classes is their solidarity which enables them to face the attacks of the capitalists. It is almost certain that when the ‘new normal’ is established there will be a need for workers to take to the streets to retain or regain their jobs – and this will be in all sectors and will effect all age groups.

When we do go on the streets we should not be demanding a return to the previous period of exploitation but a change in the very structure of society. After all, billions of pounds is already being spent to prop up private businesses – both big and small. Capitalism has been fighting against state intervention since its inception – unless it means bailing them out of their self made crises, as in 2008.

If we are paying for these companies to remain in existence then it shows that capitalism has failed under its own ‘rules’. If we are paying to keep them alive then they belong to us. We should not give them back.

Although a day late Happy May Day to all! (although, of course, not to the Buffoon and his mates)

Testing

Chris Smith, a virologist at Cambridge University, said on BBC Radio 5 Live, on 17th April, when addressing the need of getting Britain moving again;

‘We need to have a strategy to getting out of lock down and part of that strategy is almost certainly going to be testing. And testing to find out who has got the virus right now but also tests to find out who has had the virus, who is immune from the virus, which bits of the country are more vulnerable to getting resurgences and which are not. And until that testing is rock solid and in place I think it’s a slightly risky then to say ‘well, let’s just take our foot off the pedal.’

Britain woke up surprised and shocked, on Thursday 30th April, to the news that the Government’s target of 100,000 coronavirus tests by the end of the month would not be achieved.

And then they were equally surprised and shocked to wake up on 1st May to hear that the Government would reach, or at least get close, to their self chosen target.

They did – or didn’t, depending upon who you belive. It all revolves around around 40,000 tests they were posted out. No doubt this will be kicked asround over the weekend of the 1st – 4th May.

The fact that this is just a numbers game will, no doubt, be forgotten in the celebrations and the noise of champagne corks popping.

Here’s part of Matt Hancock’s presentation of the ‘goal’;

‘At the beginning of last month, at this podium, I set a goal that anyone who needs to be tested should get a test and that, as a nation, we would achieve 100,000 tests per day by the end of the month. I knew that it was an audacious goal but we needed an audacious goal because testing is so important for getting Britain back on its feet.

I can announce that we have met our goal. The number of tests, yesterday, on the last day of April, was 122,347. This unprecedented expansion in British testing capability is an incredible achievement but it is not my achievement, it is a national achievement. Achieved by a huge team of people working together and I tell you this the testing capacity that we’ve built, together, will help every single person in this country.

Testing is crucial to suppress the virus. I know from personal experience, too, just how much people with symptoms want to know if they’ve got the disease. I know that I did. It helps remove the worry, it helps keep people safe and it will help us unlock the lock down. So many people have tragically died and the challenge that we still face is vast but we’re making real progress.’

At the daily press conference at 17.00, 1st May.

But that target bears nothing to the, as usual, even bigger claim by Donald Trump when it came to the USA. At a news conference on Tuesday (28th April) he claimed the US would reach 5 million daily virus tests ‘very soon’ – he’s never specific. The figure comes from some scientists who said that number of daily tests by the end of June would be needed to re-open the economy safely. Presently there are about 200,000 tests being carried out daily.

‘We need army of volunteers to track down virus’

Prof Devi Sridhar, chair of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University, added her voice to the call for a much wider testing programme associated with tracking and tracing which would require thousands of amateur detectives. Quite rightly she said there would be no shortage of volunteers to do this and also cast doubt upon the cheaper but less effective option of using a Smartphone app to do this. (Since the government said it wasn’t going to use the Apple/Google app this issue – like so many others in the past two months – has gone somewhat quiet.)

CYA

In the very first post in this series I mentioned the reason the Tory politicians always had an ‘expert’ at their side when making statements at the regular press conferences was so they always had someone who could be made a scapegoat in the event of everything hitting the fan.

Those experts have obviously become aware of the situation (very naïve of them if they didn’t understand that from day one – but better late than never) as can be seen in the followiung statement by Stephen Powis, Medical Director, NHS England, on the 26th April;

‘I think it’s highly likely there will be a different combination of measures, some of which are in place at the moment but others that have heard about, such as more sophisticated track and tracing. It’s the role of the scientists to look at that and to provide advice but, of course, it’s the role of Government, quite rightly, to look at these and decide which particular combination is the appropriate combination to take forward.‘ [My emphasis]

Many people have been saying what needs to happen about testing, tracking and tracing (including on this blog) but the Government is just playing the numbers game. Powis is basically saying; ‘don’t blame us [experts and scientists] if the Buffoon doesn’t act on tracking and tracing as the way to go forward.’

The poor always pay the most – surprise, surprise!

More poor than wealthy in Britain die

It always bemuses me when reports that the poor have suffered more than the rich, in such circumstances as the present pandemic, is presented as something which comes as a surprise. You don’t need to be an ‘expert’ to understand that poverty is the cause of the overwhelming amount of suffering, disease and death in the world. Why should it be any different even in a ‘properous’ country such as Britain?

On 1st May it was reported by the Office for National Statistics that those from the poorer areas of England (and it was also the case in Wales and almost certainly the same in Scotland – if not more so) were twice as likely to die from the covid-19 pandemic as those in more prosperous areas – 55 per 100,000 as opposed to 25 per 100,000.

The reasons for the higher death rate?

Professor Danny Dorling, Oxford University, 1st May;

‘People are much more crowded in the poorer parts of our cities and often in worse health overall. This has been the case for years and years but now some of the worse health inequalities in the whole of Europe. The virus moving through the country is revealing some of our weaknesses and some of our inequalities.’

Helen Barnard, Acting Director Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1st May;

‘If you are on a low income a lot of the time you’ve got constant anxiety, the stress of trying to make ends meet when you just don’t have enough money to cover the basics. You’ve often got people who are going out to low paid , insecure, hard jobs which is putting a lot of pressure on their health. And people are more likely to be living in homes that are overcrowded, damp, that aren’t healthy. So all of those things come together and mean that people are a lot more likely to have underlying health conditions.’

Will we continue to permit the existence of a system which allows such a situation?

‘Collateral damage’ in the poor southern hemisphere countries

As a result of the basic close down of the industrial societies over the last few weeks there are fewer supplies of drugs getting to the poorer parts of the souther hemisphere. Diseases which are easily controllable with vaccines, such as measles and polio – which have all but been eliminated in the northern hemisphere – are still a major problem in many poorer countries but international programmes by the likes of UNICEF have been having success in recent years.

In the past much of these consignments have arrived on commercial airlines but as international travel of any kind has ground to a halt these vaccines are no longer arriving to the places where they are needed.

Richer countries have long been myopic when it comes to problems in other parts of the world – or even other parts of the same country. There are north-south divides within countries, London-centrism, Euro-centrism, and decisions are often made without taking into account the collateral damage that might occur in other places ‘where we are not’.

The inability of capitalist governments to get to grips with the pandemic and resolve matters so that society can get back to functioning in a reasonable manner is necessary not just for those particular countries but for the populations in those countries that have been made poor at the expense of the imperialist nations of the past and the present.

Without the vaccines untold thousand, mainly children, will die.

Rough sleepers

It was reported on 29th April that 90% of rough sleepers were now off the streets, some of them in 4 star hotels which would have refused them entry little over a couple months ago. The report didn’t mention actual numbers but it will be interesting to see what happens when the hotels are permitted to have paying customers and the ‘rough sleepers’ are ‘asked’ to leave.

Care homes

On 29th April Dominic Raab suggested that the biggest threat to care homes was the amount of staff who are constantly going in and out of the buildings and they could be bringing the virus into the environment with them.

Another attempt of the Government to place the blame on anyone but themselves. For years they have been following policies which make the situation in care homes almost unsustainable but the past is forgotten in their ‘blame culture’ and don’t accept the fact that the whole service had been on the brink of collapse long before the pandemic outbreak is just conveniently forgotten.

This statement coincided with a report from Scotland which said that 39% of all deaths in the country were in care homes.

Education

Provision of laptops

On 29th April it was announced by the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, that 200,000 laptops are to be provided for ‘disadvantaged’ children, who might be even more effected by the closure of schools as they don’t have the facilities to study – even if they want to. Two issues here; they won’t be available until the end of May and, more importantly, why are do we still think it is acceptable that there should be any ‘disadvantaged’ children at all in such a rich country?

Vouchers for school meals

Yet another national disgrace is the fact there are close on 3 million school children who get free school meals – when at school. Even before the decision to close all schools was taken certain charities recognised that there would be a problem if some children were not going to school. When the decision to close schools was made there was a recognition of this need but it took a long time to get it up and running on a mass scale – and there are still a number of problems to date.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Tory Government decided to give this very lucrative contract to a private company. What might be a surprise to the naïve (but not to those who accept that hypocrisy is embedded in the Tory psyche) as this present government is so anti-Europe that the company chosen is a French owned one, Edenred, which has it’s headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux, just outside Paris.

As the Tories believe that the poor will always spend any money they get on booze, tobacco and drugs before feeding their children it was decided that in place of cash the substitute for the free school meals would be in the form of vouchers that could be used in part payment in various supermarkets and other smaller chain stores. The vouchers are worth £15 per child per week.

There have been a number of problems with this scheme:

  • it’s a completely new concept and people, teachers and parents are floundering to get to grips with the system
  • so many people are having to go on the system regularly that the site crashes (described by one frustrated parent as like playing ‘ a really bad fruit machine’.)
  • the infrastructure of the stores that can take the vouchers has still not been fully established
  • it’s a stress that has to be repeated periodically (every week, fortnight or month)
  • government guidelines were poor (e.g., about multiple submissions)
  • the site was never designed for such mass applications

On 29th April Vicky Ford (an ex-investment banker), Minister for Children, in an interview on Radio 4’s You and Yours, was boasting that £35 million was paid out in one week, which covered 2 million children. We will never advance as a society if we allow people who think that throwing crumbs at poor workers is all that is needed to make the problem go away.

Face masks

Former Chief Scientist at the Department of Health, Dr David Harper, also former special advisor to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

He stated that the Government is giving confused and confusing messages about face covering;

‘I still think there are a lot of things we don’t know about covid-19 and the virus that causes it, bearing in mind people might be infectious and not showing symptoms and might not be able to adopt or maintain the physical distancing measures that are the front line protection. In those cases where somebody might need to be in an enclosed space, for example, using public transport to get to work because that are an essential worker, then, I personally, would ask the question; why not wear a simple face covering as a way of possibly reducing the risks to others?’

Should the Government clearly state that if you are going out and travelling then use some form of face covering?

‘It seems to make absolute sense to me to take all the precautions that might help reduce the risk. And it is about risk reduction.’

What about clarity about what happens in the weeks ahead?

I think that it would be helpful [for clarity]. I have no doubt at all that the Government have plans already developed but, of course, the people – they are grown ups, they want to hear more and more about what the Government is planning. And if the messaging is right and people are taken along with the planning process why wouldn’t Government be telling the public what they have in mind to prepare themselves for the sort of situations we are discussing now. To get that messaging right about face covering and so on and if that is going to be implemented at a later stage then why not address it now and particularly to avoid the potential, and real, confusion when parts of the UK is saying one thing and parts of the UK is saying something apparently different.’

The Government says that risks confusing the main message?

‘There’s a real risk that the message could be confused because it feels as if the messaging is confused as we sit here discussing the risks today.’

Are the government treating us like children?

‘I think that is a risk. I think the government have a strategy, that’s what they’re sticking with and they will adjust this strategy according to the changing situation. But at the moment that feels, from what people are saying just in social conversation, that there is this feeling that Government is not sharing as much as they possibly could to help the public understand better what it is that’s being done and maybe to get some reassurance and to increase that trust in what the Government is saying.’

Is the Government hiding behind the science?

‘I don’t think they are hiding behind the science. I think the scientists in this country are amongst the best in the world and the scientific processes should be set up to facilitate that input of the scientific advice. But, of course, the risk assessment, the science, the evidence base, is one part of the whole picture and what ministers, as the risk managers, are doing is take account of the science but putting it into the context of the politics, the finances, the social pressures and so on and so forth. So it’s a very complex process. I don’t think government would be hiding behind science. I think that would be a very bad thing to do.’

Why, therefore, are they not coming up with a plan?

‘It seems as though it is very much along the lines that you alluded to earlier, that the Government don’t want to distract from those key messages at the moment, which are absolutely critical; the staying at home, the physical distancing. And I think it feels as though the Government are saying; there will be time to get these other messages out in the right way but at the moment the focus is absolutely, critically, on the first line protection.’

World at One, Radio 4, 13.00, 30th April 2020.

This confusion in Government was demonstrated only a matter of hours after this interview – so Harper’s contribution didn’t have much effect upon those in Downing Street. A radio news report on 1st May reported that there’s evidence that face covering would have a weak but positive effect on reducing coronavirus transmission. On the 30th April the Buffoon had said face masks could be useful in helping people feel safe as the lock down is eased, i.e., it doesn’t really do any good but is a psychological crutch for the frightened. But still no real guidance from the government.

If there’s no consensus on what should be the policy on face masks in the UK this is repeated in Europe. As part of its relaxing of lock down in Germany anyone who enters certain shops are required to be wearing a ‘face covering’ – it seems there’s a fear that stating ‘face masks’ might cause a run on surgical masks and therefore putting pressure on health services requirements as well as creating a black market for them.

Travelling under the Channel

On 2nd May Eurostar put the following on its website;

‘From 4 May, passengers must wear a face mask or face covering at our stations and on board in line with guidelines announced by the French and Belgian governments.

Please ensure you have a mask with you when you travel. Any type of mask is suitable as long as it effectively covers your nose and mouth.

If you don’t have a mask you may be refused travel on our services. We’d like to advise you that fines may be imposed in France and Belgium if you’re not wearing a mask.’

There’s a creeping expansion of face masks use although the science still hasn’t come to a consensus about how effective they are – with some arguing there are more negatives than positives.

The Tories are afraid to make a decision on this as they know there will be a certain amount of opposition from a sizeable portion of the population and don’t want to take the flack – they would rather it creeps in with certain private organisations and businesses (e.g., Eurostar) making their own rules. That way the Tories can put their hands up and say; ‘don’t blame us’. In fact it’s their weakness that’s on display.

Spain

On 2nd May it became mandatory for all those travelling on public transport to wear masks. To make this easier for people a total of 13 million masks would be made available for free. One of the other reasons the Buffoon won’t say that it is mandatory in Britain is that they couldn’t be able to do similar. There’s still complaints about those in the NHS and care homes finding it difficult to source PPE – so there’s no chance they will be handed out for free in this country.

What’s important in society

Over the last couple of months there have been many fine words spoken about how the pandemic will change how people see the world. We can only hope that is true – we have allowed ‘our world’ (whether it be in Britain or the planet) to go to crap.

A couple of questions I have about when ‘the world’ returns to some sort of normality is how will we really think of those who are of value to society. The Thursday evening (20.00) ‘Clap for Carers’ – and other key workers – is all well and good but will we, as a society, be making sure that these workers are given the respect and recompense they deserve?

The British people have allowed their public services to be attacked and deprived of resources for decades, with the majority of them doing absolutely nothing to fight against it. On the contrary, there are millions within the British population who have been continually supporting the political parties who have been instituting such cuts in finance. The same people, and others, also seem to think that; a modern society functions better with an ever increasing number of people on short-term or zero-hours contracts; food banks in every town is considered a ‘success’; and that it is OK for the poor, in general, to get poorer and for more and more of the wealth of the country to be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

Their crassness in following, admiring, emulating and aspiring to be a ‘celebrity’ also adds to this distorted view of society and the shift away from what is, or at least should be, important in 21st century Britain. People who contribute nothing to the development of a society are lauded and consequently rewarded with huge amounts of money (various sports-people, ‘social influencers’, financial wheeler-dealers, etc.,) whilst those who produce and keep society functioning are looked down upon and virtually despised.

Will that change when the new ‘normality’ arrives?

Indications on some social habits don’t bode to well. The most important activity for the Danish when restrictions were relaxed there in the middle of April was a rush to the barbers and hairdressers.

In Britain, at least two weeks before any level of relaxation of restrictions would occur, there was a report that 1st May that Greggs, the fast food bakery, would be careful how they re-opened their shops in the Newcastle area – as a trial to see what is possible nationwide – when fears were expressed that customers starved of their sausage rolls would storm the shops and cause a potential virus exchanging hotspot. (Or is it just a marketing stunt à la Ryanair’s ‘proposal’ to charge for use of toilets on their planes?)

Being deprived of fast food has probably improved the health of many in the UK over the last couple of months – as did rationing during the Second World War – but how long that will last after lock down is nobody’s guess.

Who’s views are leading the fight?

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, Today Programme, Radio 4, 16th April;

‘The scientists can say what they like; the commentators can say what they like; frankly the interviewers can say what they like but WE will do what is best by dealing with the virus’

[Hancock getting a bit ratty here.]

That was in response to what Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College and one of the Government’s scientific advisors, said earlier on the same radio programme;

He had suggested that a small army of people might be needed to trace those who had come in contact with the virus. That relaxing lock down measures required a single minded emphasis on scaling up testing and putting in place the ability to track down cases. He would have liked to have seen more evidence the Government is preparing for this. There was a Government Department for ‘Brexit’, why not for covid-19?

Hancock added that he [Ferguson] was not seeing such action because he was advising the government but was not in the Government.

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

Some quotes on this matter which have, so far, been missed;

David Nicholls, Doctor’s Association, 18th April;

‘In January Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that the NHS was prepared and yet yesterday he’s saying that he would love to be able to wave a magic wand to get as much PPE as needed. This hardly encourages confidence for staff, like myself, who have been working this weekend. It’s an absolute disgrace!’

Saffron Cordey, Deputy Chief Executive, NHS Providers, 18th April;

‘Following WHO guidelines has to be the way that we go. They are saying if other stocks aren’t available then this is the way to go [re-use old equipment] and it is safe to use. I think on that basis it is worrying, it is concerning and it’s deeply frustrating for those who are working so hard, but we are in a situation where these guidelines have been issued.’

Neil Dickson, Chief Executive NHS Confederation, 18th April;

‘The decision has to be at each individual level and obviously each individual or member of staff will have to make their own decision. This is emergency guidance which has not been invented by Public Health England, it is guidance that is supported by the WHO but it is meant for emergencies and that’s where we’re at, we’re in an emergency.’

Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, 20th April;

‘The UK, regardless of the position that we maybe in now, has been an international exemplar in preparedness. So the fact that there is a pandemic stockpile is considered a very high quality mark of a prepared country in international terms.’

It’s not surprising that this brown nose support for Government inadequacies was met with derision from the medical and scientific community. I don’t know if she’s been in the limelight of the daily press conference since. How the mighty have fallen.

In an interview on World at One, BBC Radio 4, 30th April, Professor Neil Mortenson, President Elect of the Royal College of Surgeons, on whether there were enough tests and (Personal Protection Equipment) PPE for front line medics;

Q. The Government are not talking about ending the lock down but easing restrictions. Will that still mean lives are lost?

‘I don’t know for sure. I mean if the restrictions are lifted safely then clearly that would be in order but what I’ve been saying is that the latest survey, where we’re again assessing how much PPE, for example, our surgeons, and especially dentists, had on the front line, we were surprised to see that two weeks later still one third of our staff didn’t have adequate PPE and that included both the gowns, the eye protection and the masks. And, of course, there is a problem with testing too because we would like to see all our staff tested on a routine basis and it looks as if that might be happening but it hasn’t happened yet.’

Q. So one of the 5 critical tests of the Government is no where being met?

‘Yes, that’s in fact what I’m saying.’

Q. You warned the Buffoon in using the NHS as an economic punchbag. What do you mean by that?

‘What I mean is that obviously if we relax the shut down and we have increasing numbers of patients coming along, a new surge if you like of covids, and that’s going to have a huge impact on the NHS and our ability to cope. There will be a halting of our planned extension of semi-urgent surgery. That will incur huge costs and obviously, although I can quite understand that everybody wants to get the economy running again, there has to be a balance of these costs and if that’s done too soon there will be huge costs on the health side too.’

Q. Should BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people] health workers be taken away from the front line in the NHS?

‘Well, I didn’t actually say that no BAME surgeon should be in the front line, it’s all about assessing risk. It’s clear that the BAME community are disproportionately effected here, we don’t know why, but we have to take this risk very seriously.

In our survey which found that about 15% of our staff were being coerced into doing procedures without adequate PPE [interjection; Coerced?]. Yes, in other words their hospital management were saying you must still go ahead and do this and they felt they didn’t have adequate PPE. I mean, if there’s a surgeon from the BAME community and they feel they’re seriously at risk then they shouldn’t put themselves at risk and be in a highly risky situation.

Obviously it’s about assessing that risk together with their age, their underlying health conditions and so forth. So it’s about assessing risk and we said to all our staff if they don’t have adequate PPE they shouldn’t put themselves in harms way.’

Q. Ultimately it comes down to having adequate PPE?

‘Absolutely. As I say, if at this moment we don’t have adequate PPE and there is, if you like, a relaxation and the numbers surge then we’ll be in even more trouble that we are already.’

But it doesn’t get any better.

On 1st May, one person attempting to purchase PPE online for the care home sector described the process ‘like the Wild West’.

On a new vaccine

Sarah Gilbert, head of the team attempting to develop a vaccine at Oxford University, 19th April, when talking about what needs to be in place when a viable vaccine is ready for production;

‘So those companies need to have new equipment, they need to have their staff trained to use the new protocols and the new quality control assessments. And all of that can happen but the companies we are going to be working with are going to need to stop doing what they normally do and make this vaccine instead. So we need support for this all to make sure that done in a fair way while trying to do something that’s very important.’

Nadine Dorries, Health Minister, on Twitter (why do all politicians think they must have a Twitter presence?);

‘There will have to be some sort of lock down until there’s a vaccine. Until then society will have to adapt to protect public health and the economy.’ 16th April.

Normally it takes decades to develop a vaccine – why are things moving so quickly now? And if it is because so many resources worldwide are being devoted to the search for a covid-19 vaccine (which might have to be adapted as the virus adapts) why can’t, after the pandemic, the worldwide science and pharmaceutical industry put as much effort into finding whatever is necessary to stop malaria killing millions each year. Or is it because it is only the people in the poor countries that die in droves from malaria?

Immunity or a vaccine the way out?

There has been a fair amount of discussion of whether there is, in fact, any real immunity to this virus by those who have contracted it in the past, whether asymptomatic or in a much more serious manner. It’s obviously an important matter as it will determine whether society will ever get back to what is now being called the ‘new normality’.

A German study at the beginning of April found that there was some evidence for this – and it might have been on this evidence (as well as other) that determined the German Government to relax certain restrictions on 20th April.

However, there have been reservations of the reliability of these tests with a warning that they won’t be able to declare if someone is risk free to others nor will it guarantee they will not contract the disease themselves.

For those, like myself, who don’t fully understand the science when it comes to anti-bodies and testing for them in the situation of a pandemic you might be interested in what I think is a well explained and informative (without being overly jargon based) piece on BBC radio 4’s Inside Science programme of 30th April.

The Buffoon’s offspring

Call me a cynic but; would Buffoon junior have been born in a NHS hospital if it weren’t for the pandemic? I haven’t heard about which hospital it was born in but I can’t imagine one of those that might have had a bad reputation due to its poor response to the cuts over the last 20+ years.

Was the confinement originally planned to be elsewhere? A more salubrious private nursing home for example? As Private Eye says: ‘I think we should be told’. But we won’t.

The Nationalists

It seems that the place of the nationalist in Britain, both those in Wales and Scotland, should appear here just before Trump – birds of a feather.

Scotland

The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon ‘suggests’ the use of face masks. By not making a decision on this it opens the way for all sorts of unpleasant circumstances. All it needs is for a conflict to arise when someone doesn’t want to wear a mask is victimised by a crazy, frightened mob. Those who seek to ‘govern’ should be prepared to make the decsion that makes matters clear to all. This voluntarism just doesn’t work. As the ignorant in Scotland lead – the ignorant of England and Wales are likely to follow.

Wales

On 1st May, Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales made the declaration that between 55,000 and 65,000 (depends upon how extensive the hand out will be) NHS and care home workers would receive a one off £500 bonus. Although it’s within the remit of the developed Welsh government to give this bonus they don’t have control of the tax system and will have to get the agreement of the Westminster Government to waive the tax – which he requested. I’ve heard of no developments on that matter.

What we have hear, again, is another effort of the developed administrations to separate themselves from the national government in London.

However, I don’t know how well Drakeford might have considered this bonus. The Social security system is so complex and bizarre that for some people the bonus might be a bane and not a boon. It must be remembered that many working in the care sector are some of the poorest paid in the country and many will be claiming other benefits. Some of those benefits have crazy cut-offs and £1 over a certain threshold could mean the loss of many of them – well in excess of £500.

Trumpism

This isn’t very current but I haven’t mentioned it here before – although I’m sure people will remember it being reported last month.

According to the Washington Post, Trump insisted his name be added to the $1,200 pandemic relief cheques being sent out to 70 million poor Americans – an ‘unprecedented’ decision that will reportedly ‘slow their delivery by several days’.

No doubt this was done in an effort to encourage Trump supporters to not cash the cheques and just keep them as a souvenir as they will have a personally signed cheque from their hero President.

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