A new year – but nothing has changed

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

A new year – but nothing has changed

2021 was barely a day old before we were forced to realise that the new year would be no better than the old. Yet another U-turn by the Buffoon’s Government – this time on schools re-opening after the holiday – more confusion and the almost certainty of lock down number 3.

If people were expecting a new start then they were disappointed. The same inept, confused and bewildered politicians are still in ‘control’.

For some 2020 has been a disastrous year (loss of jobs, loss of income, loss of life) and we have been told innumerable times that we were living through ‘unprecedented’ times. That’s not really true, there are epidemics raging throughout the world all the time – it’s just that the latest one has had a severe impact upon the more wealthy countries in the world (and they can’t cope with it).

In many ways Britain (as have so many countries in Europe) has gotten off relatively lightly. Yes, the heaviest burden has fallen on those in the country who are less able to bear the strain (the sick, the elderly, the poor) but they’re the ones who, historically, have always suffered most when the norms of society break down (be it economic crashes or war).

For those the temptation is to forget what has happened in the last nine, going on ten, months. To think of the future – which may not be so bad – rather than remember the past – which we know was.

However that would be a mistake. The pandemic has not caused many of the problems that exist in British society but it has definitely highlighted many of the disparities, inequities and downright criminal situation in which far too many of the population live. But that is capitalism.

In good times the problems can get easily swept under the carpet and forgotten by the majority who are managing, more or less well, but at least able to exist in a reasonable manner. Throwing a few pence in a charity tin, buying a copy of the Big Issue or putting a few groceries in the collecting bins for food banks after a supermarket shop enables people to think they are doing some good and helping those more in need, ‘less fortunate’.

The pandemic, or more importantly, the manner in which it has been mismanaged has shown that there are huge numbers of working people who are on a knife edge when it comes to a crisis. The increased use of food banks is a clear example of that.

So people shouldn’t forget 2020. Quite the opposite. If they wish to have long term security they should remember the lessons of how they have been treated by a system that exists for no other reason than to make profit from the labour of others.

Capitalism’s representatives throughout the world have proven themselves incapable of dealing with extreme circumstances. They have wandered from one inept and poorly thought through action to another and we are no closer to living virus free now than we were just short of a year ago.

Their ineptness in the past has reduced the number of ways forward. They have created such a chaotic situation that it is luck which is going to get us back to some semblance of normality, not any strategic thinking.

At the moment, on the eve of the announcement of a further lock down in England, we should remember who brought us to this state of affairs. If we forget (just to make ourselves feel better) then we will be facing the same situation in the not too distant future.

Like the many natural occurrences that will be catastrophic to humanity (for example, the earthquake that will be caused by the San Andreas Fault in California) it’s not a matter of if, it’s when.

How prepared was Britain for the pandemic?

An update following a report produced years ago (2009) by its author on BBC Radio 4’s the World at One on the 29th December.

What is the risk of infection?

An analysis of this issue was discussed on Radio 4’s World at One on 29th December.

Vaccines and vaccination programme

As virtually all the governments of the world were totally inept and unable to come up with a strategy to defeat the covid virus they all put their faith in a vaccine that would take the responsibility away form themselves. That being the case, and placing all their eggs in one basket, why wasn’t there a ‘task force’ given the job of working out all the potential problems and pit-falls that would accompany a nationwide vaccination programme?

There were months when all these details could have been worked out; who would get the vaccine first and in what order would the rest of the population follow; how would the vaccines be distributed; who would be needed to administer the injections and the establishment of a resister of those who could assist in this process, i.e. retired NHS staff; what sort of campaign would be launched to ensure the greatest possible take up; what sort of documentation could be provided to help people return to a ‘normal’ life when aspects of society start to demand proof of vaccination before people could take part in certain activities (this is being denied now but it will almost certainly creep into all societies worldwide as the year goes on); establishing the policy of vaccinating the greatest number or ensuring those in the highest risk bracket get the highest level of protection first; and understanding and managing the general logistical problems associated with vaccinating a population of 60 million plus people in the shortest time possible.

So there is little reason to be confident that the magic solution to the pandemic will be introduced smoothly.

A couple of other points on the vaccination programme.

When the Buffoon makes wild promises we should remember what happened about those in the past. Have people already forgotten the ‘world beating’ testing system that would be testing tens of thousands way back in May. Those really insignificant figures weren’t met – apart from magically on the date ‘promised’. So his claim of 2 million vaccinations per week have to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

Also, the idea of postponing the second vaccination for those who had already been given the very first vaccines in the country might well have a lot of validity. (Is not a vaccine that ‘needs’ two shots just another scam by the pharmaceutical companies to increase their profits anyway?) However this news is being delivered to people who had already been made frightened of their own shadow by the fear campaign of the Government over the last ten months to obtain compliance of their knee jerk policies. It just demonstrates, yet again, no strategic thinking and a contempt for people in general.

Mistakes sometimes lead to positive outcomes. Oxford vaccine mix up came from scientists misreading the strength of Italian manufacturers’ supply.

If a cure isn’t enough try prevention. Antibody therapy could confer instant immunity to Covid-19 on at-risk groups.

Or use what’s already been around for a long time. Dexamethasone demonstrates power of large-scale, randomised trials in finding effective medicines

But it’s not all good news. Many medics ‘frustrated’ about low priority given to front line staff at high risk of infection.

Will it happen here? Spain to keep register of those who refuse Covid vaccine.

Israel vaccinates half a million in nine days – but how many were Palestinian?

The question most people are asking – when will you be eligible for the covid vaccine?

There was no doubt that it would have been approved, but it was left to virtually the end of 2020 before the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved for use in UK.

Race to roll out Oxford covid vaccine to stave off third lock down – although it’s now looking like the English variant is winning that particular race.

Tesco offers to help with roll-out of Oxford vaccine.

Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine roll out plan changed following approval. But that’s all right, the approval was only a formality. So the vaccine is approved with the proviso that the second injection is within three weeks. Then the Government decides (‘following the scientific advice’) that it’s Ok to delay the second jab until 12 weeks after the first. So is it approved or not?

12-week vaccine gap defended by UK medical chiefs.

Doctors call for rapid roll out of vaccines – which makes sense but has the infrastructure been put in place?

Medics complain of ‘bureaucracy’ in bid to join covid vaccine effort.

Chris Whitty moves to head off General Practitioners’ (GP’s) rebellion over Pfizer covid vaccine doses

Retired medics trying to help covid vaccination drive say offers being ignored.

The Liverpool ‘pilot’

‘We are now in the Systematic Meaningful Asymptomatic Repeated Testing or ‘Smart’ phase of our testing pilot. This is phase 2 and picks up from the successful mass testing pilot in November 2020 that helped Liverpool City Region secure Tier 2 status.’ (Liverpool City Council website, accessed 31st December 2020)

From about the middle of December the various sites were NOT open weekends and Bank Holidays. We are supposed to be in a war yet the centres take a day off – does the virus? Most centres were busy in the days leading up to the 25th and 31st December – due to people wanting to see if they were infected before meeting up with family, This provides no useful information about the efficacy of testing asymptomatic people. Other than that the centres are all very quiet and their continued value is questionable.

From 31st December, Liverpool is in the higher Tier 3 – so what’s the reason for the testing? It’s considered to be flawed due to false negatives, it’s not really getting the numbers that it should, and it hasn’t kept Liverpool out of the higher Tier. Just seems, now, to be throwing good money after bad.

Not sure where the so-called ‘pilot’ fits into a locked down future as Liverpool’s acting mayor calls for yet another one.

Nightingale Hospitals and systemic failings in the NHS

At some time in the future there should be a review of the whole concept of these ‘Nightingale Hospitals’. Were they just another knee jerk response to show that the Government was doing something – whilst at the same time throwing millions of pounds of public money into the bank accounts of their friends? Could/can they ever have been used to the full? Wasn’t it realised that there might be a problem of staffing given the shortages of experienced staff existing in the National Health Service (NHS) long before anyone thought of a pandemic? As it stands at the moment they seem to be just a herd of white elephants.

In the meantime, London’s NHS Nightingale ‘on standby’ – but not the other seven in England?

Being prepared in London – but not being used. Critically ill patients ‘evacuated’ hundreds of miles as fears grow London could run out of beds – being taken as far as Plymouth and Leeds.

Nightingale hospitals stand empty despite surging covid cases as medics warn of staff shortages.

Key London hospital preparing for covid-only care as cases surge.

London’s Nightingale hospital expected to take patients as NHS struggles with number of severely ill people.

NHS staff fear speaking out over crisis in English hospitals.

A nurse speaks about failings in the NHS and why the Nightingale Hospitals will never realise their ‘potential’ on the BBC Radio 4’s World at One on 29th December.

Lorry drivers at ports

The lack of forethought meant thousands of lorry drivers, most of them from other European countries, were stuck in limbo with poor living conditions due to the closure of the links between Britain and France just before the December holiday. No wonder they were angry.

As a consequence of this lack of understanding the Army was brought in to take over covid testing for hauliers trapped near Dover – being joined by 30 or so French firefighters!

The value of statistics

The country (world?) has been awash with statistics since the beginning of the pandemic but of what use are they – if they don’t paint the full picture? The more infectious ‘variant’ hits London and the South East, the inept Government of the Buffoon wants to keep Cockneys at home so raise the fear level as rational argument may not work – people don’t trust them because they have told so many lies and have carried out so many U-turns in the last nine months or so people don’t know if they are coming or going. Then they panic. Call 999 – perhaps when there was no need – so the numbers shoot up. Such figures have to be unpicked before they are used to justify further draconian restrictions at the beginning of 2021.

London Ambulance Service receives as many 999 calls as first wave – just before the December holiday.

One law for the rich – another for the rest of us. Or on the road to forget?

In May last year the writer Neil Gaiman broke lock down regulations on travel by journeying all the way from New Zealand to the Isle of Skye in Scotland. He boasted about this on social media and he was ‘spoken to’ by the police – as far as I know that’s about as far as it went.

Now we are constantly being told of fines being given to ordinary people who ‘break the rules’, such as those who have been partying over the last few months – and even the case recently of a group being fined for playing dominoes in a restaurant basement.

But for the rich and influential there seems to be no sanction whatsoever – even when it comes down to free publicity provided by the BBC. Gaiman was given a huge chunk of the BBC Radio 4 arts programme, Front Row, on 24th December – no mention there of his ‘rule breaking’.

Now I don’t consider all these rules to be useful in countering the pandemic but what we should expect is that the rules apply to all – but in capitalist societies it’s money that makes all the difference.

To lock down or not to lock down

Risk averse scientists still only have a lock down to offer – this time blaming the ‘mutated variant’.

Collateral damage

It goes on and on.

Covid poses ‘greatest threat to mental health since second world war’.

Parents warned of ‘sharp rise’ in eating disorders.

Hospital admissions for children with eating disorders rise by a fifth in England.

How covid lock downs are wiping out the gains made by ‘disadvantaged’ children.

UK high street lost 177,000 jobs in 2020.

Youth organisations in England face wholesale closure.

The use of fear or ….

Decisions about which patients receive life-saving treatment could be imminent, doctors warn.

Covid rule-breakers ‘have blood on their hands’.

… the use of patronage to get the desired result

Lots and lots of NHS staff in the New Year’s anachronistic Honours List

How many ‘tiers’ to go?

‘Tier 5’: England faces possible new Covid restrictions.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?