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?

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

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

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 2020-2?