Pandemic – what pandemic?

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Pandemic – what pandemic?

Surely pandemics of the past were nothing like the one the world is living through now. In previous pandemics news about what was happening on the other side of the world either just didn’t exist or would take some time to filter down to the vast majority of the population. With modern technology what happens in Australia and New Zealand, for example, can be known about almost instantly. However, the speed of communication is nothing if people don’t know how (or don’t want) to use that rapid sharing of knowledge to the advantage of all.

That means each country is following its own road with no concern for the long term, worldwide domination of the virus. The consensus now seems to be accepting that covid will be with us forever and that attempts to achieve and maintain a zero level of infection is unlikely – although China and New Zealand still seem to be sticking with their original ‘strategy’. If different countries are shooting into different goal mouths then it doesn’t bode too well for the future.

When it comes to vaccines the selfish, ‘western’, capitalist world continues to grab as much as possible for it’s own privileged populations – the UK just in the last day or so announcing that they had ordered (and paid for) 100 million doses of the very expensive and difficult to transport Pfizer vaccine. The fine statements made at the G7 meeting in June about sharing the available vaccines with the poorer nations on the planet are conveniently forgotten. In England children are being brought into the programme and third doses are being proposed for an, as yet, indeterminate section of the population.

So the chaotic situation that has dominated the last 18 months or so has morphed into surrealism. Life ‘goes on as normal’, people go on holiday, mass sporting events go ahead and it’s difficult to remember that the virus is still with us and we still lack a real strategy to deal with it.

As has been the case for a while now there’s a great dependence being placed upon chance, that the virus will not be as virulent if it returns in a major way in the autumn. But if things do turn bad later in the year there’s no strategy to deal with another major outbreak – so, basically, nothing’s been learnt since the beginning of 2020.

Many of the world’s ‘leaders’ (and probably a sizeable proportion of the populations in the richer countries) are like ostriches with their heads buried deep in the sand. Pandemic, what pandemic?

Vaccination programme in Britain …..

UK doctors alarmed at ‘shambolic’ roll-out of covid jabs for children.

Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) ‘largely opposed’ to Covid vaccination for children under 16.

Vaccinating teenagers is beneficial, even if their vulnerability to covid-19 is low – if you ignore the moral argument about what is happening (or not) in the rest of the world.

Oxford-jab chief criticises UK’s covid booster plan.

How will covid vaccines work on compromised immune systems?

Teenage jab roll out moving cautiously.

Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine: rare blood clot syndrome has high mortality rate.

Should we tell stories of vaccine sceptics who have died of covid?

Is catching covid now better than more vaccine?

….. and the rest of the world

World Health Organisation (WHO) calls for moratorium on booster shots – is it justifiable?

How effective are covid-19 vaccines? Here’s what the stats mean … and what they don’t.

India is preparing for another covid surge but low vaccine coverage leaves it vulnerable

G7 nations will have stockpiled a billion spare covid vaccine doses by end of 2021.

India approves world’s first DNA covid vaccine.

After India’s brutal coronavirus wave, two-thirds of population has been exposed to SARS-CoV2.

Immunocompromised people make up nearly half of covid-19 breakthrough hospitalizations – an extra vaccine dose may help.

Anti-body testing

Antibody tests offered to public for first time. Is there a reason this wasn’t started a long time ago? The more information the better to deal with the pandemic, no?

The ever mutating virus

What happens if a far more lethal coronavirus emerges in pets?

SARS-CoV-2 mutations: why the virus might still have some tricks to pull.

New covid variants ‘would set us back a year’, experts warn UK government.

New wave of covid infections possible when schools and office workers return.

UK covid cases have fallen dramatically – but another wave is likely.

Jabbed adults infected with Delta ‘can match virus levels of unvaccinated’.


Thousands isolated unnecessarily because of NHS covid app error.

Why are things so different in Africa?

The impact of covid-19 has been lower in Africa. Why?

What does China have to teach us?

From ground zero to zero tolerance – how China learnt from its covid response to quickly stamp out its latest outbreak.

China hits zero covid cases with a month of draconian curbs.

Hundreds quarantined in Shanghai as China nears 2 billion covid-19 vaccine doses.

British Trade Unions get to grips with the pandemic

Urgent call for covid-safe ventilation in schools.

‘Herd immunity’ – or not

Delta variant renders herd immunity from covid ‘mythical’.

Travelling in a time of covid

Ministers accused of destroying trust in England’s covid travel rules.

‘Collateral damage’

Private schools poised to widen lead over state pupils at A-level.

Covid is making a summer break something only the rich can afford.

Could NHS waiting lists really reach 13 million?

England’s pandemic crisis of child abuse, neglect and poverty.

Almost 1.2 million people waiting at least six months for vital NHS services in England.

Working from home has created an ‘overtime epidemic’.

A million jobs in peril as one in 16 UK firms say they are at risk of closure.

How the pandemic exposed the crisis in children’s social care. (Links to a podcast.)

Record number of young people wait for eating disorder treatment in England.

The pandemic transformed how social work was delivered – and these changes could be here to stay.

How decades of Neoliberalism left the NHS on the brink.

Poverty in Britain

The National Housing Federation released a report in July 2021 about the experiences of social housing tenants in claiming Universal Credit during the present covid pandemic entitled ‘Universal Credit: claiming during the coronavirus pandemic – A survey of housing association tenants claiming Universal Credit in 2020/21. In comes in two versions, the Executive Report and the Technical (full) Report.

Cuts to Universal Credit will leave children hungry.

Who’s making it big in Pandemic Britain?

Covid contracts: inquiry to look into use of WhatsApp, says Information Commissioners Office – they knew they were doing something illicit hence trying to do business through less traceable forms of communication.

‘Lost samples and late results’: the Tory donor, his son and their travel-test firms.

Church leader who sold £91 bogus covid remedy appears in court. This was first highlighted here about a year ago – so things aren’t moving particularly fast.

Mask wearing – after the pandemic?

Will mask wearing still be common in Britain after the pandemic is over?

Impossible to get the testing right – or how to make easy money

Anger at overflowing covid test drop boxes.

PCR tests for travel: Competition watchdog to investigate if excessive profits are being made.

Ministers face calls to intervene in ‘scam’ covid travel test system.

UK watchdog (Competition and Markets Authority – CMA) vows to help fight rip-off covid test firms.

Government warns covid test firms over misleading prices.

How are the ‘strategies’ working in other countries?

Has the Delta variant derailed Australia’s zero-covid strategy? (Podcast.)

New Zealand borders to remain closed for rest of the year.

Why I no longer think we can eliminate covid – public health expert.

New Zealand pandemic strategy in doubt amid Delta spread.

What will happen when it’s all over?

Plagues and classical history – what the humanities will tell us about covid in years to come.

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England on the eve of ‘Freedom Day’

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England on the eve of ‘Freedom Day’

In less than an hour Britain (or at least the English part of it) will enter a watershed moment for 00.00 on Monday 19th July 2021 will see the end of all restrictions under which the country has been living for the last 16 months. Or it won’t. (It also should be the end of this Journal of the Plague Years 2020-202? – but it won’t.)

(There are even nightclubs waiting to open up, with queues forming, as I write, to enter on the stroke of midnight.)

Legal restrictions will be lifted but that doesn’t mean that local restrictions won’t remain in place. For example, masks will not be obligatory on some forms of public transport but will be on others and it varies between different parts of the country (England) and matters won’t be changing on the 19th in the other constituent nations of the so-called ‘United Kingdom’. And worse still some areas seem to be following a ‘wait and see’ approach before making a final decision.

The uncertainty and confusion that has beset the whole approach to dealing with the pandemic is now being carried over into the ‘new normal’. Having had no strategy to deal with the consequences of the covid virus since March 2020 the government of the Buffoon is basically giving up and hoping for the best – more or less what they have been doing since the pandemic hit.

When it comes to the science people can get proof of their approach whatever it might be. Some scientists are predicting the end of civilisation as we know it, others are arguing the ‘if not now, when’ approach. No doubt all will eventually be proved correct, at least in their own eyes.

From the beginning we have been arguing here that there must be a better way of dealing with a pandemic than following the tactics that were adopted 700 years ago during the time of the ‘Black Death’ (bubonic plague) that swept through Europe. But that would require a strategy which has been sorely lacking. At the same time it cannot be denied that the ‘collateral damage’ caused by the lack of a clear and carefully thought out strategy has been, is and will be in the near to long-term future, immense.

Modern societies just can’t close down with the hope the virus will run its course and eventually disappear. If that thought did exist at the beginning of 2020 the hope has all but been dispelled by the general argument now that ‘we will have to live to learn with the virus and that it will be with us (probably) forever’.

However important it might be for British society to get back to normal (with all its problems of inequality, racism and poverty) it would have been useful if lessons of mistakes made in the last 18 months had been learnt so the country was more prepared for what is to come – an uncertain future for sure.

But in England (and it’s not really any better in the rest of the UK) that’s not the case.

On the very eve of ‘Freedom Day’ the Buffoon makes even yet another U-turn (this time one of the quickest ever, timed at less than three hours) over the matter of self isolation of himself and his spendthrift neighbour. But it wasn’t just the changing of approach to self isolation (‘one law for us and one law for them’) it was the way it was explained away.

In the same way that the Buffoon has lied and blustered his way through events of the last year and a bit he turned his lack of strategy on to the population of England. His video speech explaining the change in approach consisted in mainly saying that we all have to be follow a sensible lifestyle in the coming weeks and months and ignoring the chaos that his own actions (and that of the rich and powerful) in the last 18 months has just created confusion in the minds of some, incredulity in those of others, and downright antagonism in the minds of the rest.

We didn’t enter the pandemic all together and we’re not moving out of it (however temporary it might be) as a united force that would be the only hope, if not a guarantee, of success.

From tomorrow the debate will change, accusations will be liberally thrown around and politicians will be seeking to score points for their own short-term ends. ‘I told you so’ will become the most oft quote phrase and chaos will reign.

How well or badly we in Britain will get through this crisis is still in the balance. But the same question that was posed at the beginning of 2020 is still valid so many months later. The ruling class in Britain (and the rest of the world) have shown themselves incapable of dealing with such a crisis – apart from filling the banks accounts of their cronies and allies with public wealth.

Are working people willing and able to do better?

Vaccination programme in Britain

Covid-19 vaccine boosters: is a third dose really needed?

Most covid deaths in England now are in the vaccinated – here’s why that shouldn’t alarm you.

Can ‘viral shedding’ after the covid vaccine infect others? That’s a big ‘no’.

Pressure builds on ministers to reach a decision on covid vaccines for children. This decision will be based upon politics and will have nothing to do with science – or the ‘data’. There is in Britain – as in virtually all the wealthier countries – no real concern for situation in the poorer countries where many millions of the ‘most vulnerable’ are still from being protected. The Buffoon will be playing to the selfish gallery.

Freedom Day … or perhaps not

End to Covid rules for England ‘leaves 3.8 million vulnerable people feeling abandoned’.

UK faces a difficult summer.

Confusion continues to reign

UK government under fire for mixed remote work messaging.

The ever-changing virus

Lambda variant is now in 29 countries, but what evidence do we have that it’s more dangerous?

Consequences of the virus

Younger adults still at risk of serious organ damage.

Long covid has more than 200 symptoms.

The argument over masks

Seven reasons mask wearing in the west was unnecessarily delayed.

Who gains from pandemics (and in any other health care situation)?

UK drug companies fined £260 million for inflating prices for National Health Service.

Test and trace

More than half a million people in England pinged by NHS test and trace app in a week, the highest figure recorded.

Wealth distribution in Britain

The Resolution Foundation produced a report, (Wealth) gap year: The impact of the coronavirus crisis on UK household wealth and there was a discussion around the findings of this report in a webinar on 12th July.

The masters of the U-turn

Buffoon and chancellor to self-isolate in U-turn. This one in less than three hours.

Vaccine ‘passports’

Are covid-19 vaccine passports fair?

Poverty in Britain

More than 1million children from key worker families living in poverty, says Trades Union Congress. So when are the unions going to do something about it?

The Joseph Rowntree Trust has published another report into poverty in Britain entitled A Minimum Income Standard for the United Kingdom in 2021. Also just the findings.

The expiry of the Universal Credit uplift: impacts and policy options, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

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The future of the country in the feet of a football team

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

The future of the country in the feet of a football team

If there was one word that could be used to describe the manner in which the present covid pandemic has been managed in the UK then that word would be ‘surreal’. (I have been more closely following the situation in Britain but from what I know about other parts of the world the epithet would not be misplaced elsewhere.)

Perhaps, at the very beginning, there was an excuse for this impression. But only a small ‘perhaps’. Previous governments, of whatever political colour, had given the impression they were planning for any such eventuality (be it medical, natural or even military) but when it came it seemed – in Britain, at least – that they had been planning for the wrong type of pandemic. The cunning covid virus had snuck under the radar and it should have been a variety of flu.

That was a weak argument as there must be certain constants that exist in a pandemic; testing; isolation plans; a properly functioning, resourced and financed health service; support for those who are infected but can’t work; a well thought out strategy; an idea of worst case scenarios; a long term perspective as a modern city based society has little to fall back on compared to when pandemics (much more virulent and destructive in terms of human life) struck in past centuries – failure to do so could quite well lead to a situation where the cure can become more destructive and longer lasting than the disease itself.

But none of that was there, nothing concrete and thought through existed from the start and the situation is not that much better now.

Following the ‘data and not dates’ has meant that prior to long publicised ‘crunch’ times speculation is rife, with the Government no doubt promoting leaks to see how they are picked up by the media and the population in general. Lacking any strategy, lacking any real ideas, lacking any courage they seek to place (in whatever manner) the responsibility upon the the people themselves.

Whilst claiming ‘leadership’ the Buffoon and his acolytes have bounced around like a ball in a squash court with no one knowing where the ball will land. U-turns have been made on virtually all important decisions (when they are proven to be totally out of tune with reality or because they realise the plans just aren’t workable) and getting close to any sort of strategy is just a pipe-dream.

The period where speculation is rife before the making of a decision on the way forward gets extended from one week to two, the resultant ‘debate’ almost certainly causing more confusion the longer it goes on. But one thing is certain, whatever the consequences of changes in the present circumstances (which must happen, at some time in the future, a modern society can’t go on as it has in the UK for the last 18 months or so), if it all goes tits up it won’t be the Buffoon or the politicians that are at fault.

The Tories have tried (probably not very successfully) to claim credit for the success in the vaccination programme in the country. They were hypocritical in their ‘celebration’ of the 73rd anniversary of the establishment of the National Health Service which took place on 5th July. A party that had fought against its establishment in the first place, has been trying to undermine it ever since and which is, at present, pushing through changes that will further weaken its ability to provide what it promised to do in the immediate post-war years looks even more shallow when they are forced to attend such celebrations.

Now the Buffoon has become the country’s most avid football supporter and the Euro Cup Final that’s taking place as I type is supposed to have everyone in the country supporting ‘our’ team, an attempt at narrow minded nationalism which will help us to cope as we come out of the ‘unprecedented’ situation of the last year and a half.

If the feel good factor kicks in if England win what happens if they lose?

Vaccination programme in Britain ….

Covid vaccines: combining AstraZeneca and Pfizer may boost immunity.

Heart inflammation link to Pfizer and Moderna jabs.

….. and the rest of the world

Delta variant exposes the flaws of stop-start vaccination programmes.

Proposals to extend covid jabs to children in west would delay worldwide roll out and allow deadly variants to develop elsewhere.

South Africa’s vaccine quagmire, and what needs to be done now.

The ever changing virus

What’s the ‘Delta plus’ variant? And can it escape vaccines?

Age, sex, vaccine dose, chronic illness – insight into risk factors for severe covid is growing.

We should treat covid like norovirus – not the flu.

Moving forward …..

Chris Whitty: keeping covid restrictions will only delay wave.

Why it’s time to think differently about covid.

Living with covid: is now the right time for England to lift all restrictions?

….. or pumping up the fear

UK scientists caution that lifting of Covid rules is like building ‘variant factories’.

Covid-19: ‘For us it’s not freedom day, is it?’

Global experts urge Boris Johnson to delay ‘dangerous’ covid reopening.

England’s ‘freedom day’ to be day of fear for elderly people.

‘Collateral damage’

How missing out on nursery due to covid has affected children’s development.

A hidden covid crisis? Assessing the pandemic’s impact on young workers and their mental health. This page has a link to a recording of a webinar that looked at this issue in May.

Remote workers suffered most mental distress during pandemic.

Some things we are learning

How scientists can help tell if someone caught the virus at a nightclub.

Why we should stop testing in schools.

Poverty in Britain

How inequality explains the high impact of covid-19 in the UK.

£20 cut to benefits to impact families’ ability to put food on the table.

Universal credit £20 top up to be phased out.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies published a report entitled Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK: 2021. On 8th July there was also a webinar where this report was introduced.

The covid death toll in poorer areas highlights long term inequalities in Britain, the conclusion of a report by the Health Foundation entitled Unequal pandemic, fairer recovery.

Chaos that follows the ‘no strategy’ strategy

Parents angry at shifting government covid messages.

Covid-19: New rules for schools in England to be set out.

Hypocrisy in Britain

For an example of the shallowness of British society, and the ease with which a sizeable section of the population can be lulled into inactivity, just look at the ‘honours’ system that operates due to the existence of an hereditary monarchy. At a time when wide ranging changes are being proposed for the National Health Service which could drastically alter (for the worse) general working conditions; when staff shortages are getting worse – not solely down to the pandemic as it arrived at a time of a staffing crisis that had been developing for years; when a derisory pay offer is being offered by the Buffoon’s government which will very likely lead to strike action and/or an even greater departure of trained staff; and still a lack of a strategy to deal with covid – which we are constantly being told will be with us for ever – what is the government’s response? The Queen gives ‘courageous’ and ‘dedicated’ NHS the George Cross as William and Kate mark its 73rd birthday

Corruption in Britain

Greensill given access to covid loans without detailed checks.


UK pupils use orange juice to fake ‘positive’ Covid test results.

Test-and-trace rules ‘wreaking havoc’ for pubs and restaurants.

After the pandemic – or at least after Britain returns to ‘normal’

Why early-years education must be prioritised in pandemic recovery plans.

The Centre for Ageing Better has produced a report on access to the internet for older people, Covid-19 and the digital divide, with suggestions how things could change in the future.

Sunak must spend extra £10 billion a year on public services because of Covid – Office for Budget Responsibility.

Lessons from the pandemic

Human behaviour: what scientists have learned about it from the pandemic.

And how did it all start?

Covid origins: Scientists weigh up evidence over virus’s origins.

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