The more we know the less we learn

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

The more we know the less we learn

One of the principal paradoxes of present day society is that the more we know the less we learn. The most obvious example of this is that although the fact that capitalism has not, does not and will not benefit the vast majority of the population of the planet that vast majority still allows capitalism to exist. We see it also in the approach, throughout the world, to the climate emergency and it has been demonstrated in countless ways in virtually every country in the world for the last couple of year – since it was recognised that the world was about to face a severe pandemic with the covid virus, news of which was becoming generally known exactly two years ago.

A pandemic such as covid-19 doesn’t respect borders and the very nature of the infection means that once you know of its existence – even if, at first, only in one place, one country (however far away it might be) it has already arrived. If this fact was not accepted two years ago it had been (at least by some of the ‘scientific community’) when the omicron variant appeared in Southern Africa at the beginning of December 2021. Many countries banned travellers from that part of the world but cases of the variant started to appear everywhere and now, in a very short time, the omicron variant is now the dominant one – kicking delta way off the stage.

However, the response to this new variant by the ‘richer’ countries of the world (and their populations) wasn’t that there should be an increased effort to make vaccines available to those in the poor parts of the world where vaccination levels barely reach into double percentage points but that the richer countries should vaccinate even more of their population (in terms of age) and more often. Now some people have received three vaccinations in less than a year and still there is no guarantee that this will suffice. And ‘they’ – the establishment who are bumbling their way through the crisis – wonder why there is an increasing number of people who are sceptical about accepting that they should be vaccinated at all.

So almost two years into the pandemic (that still has no visible end in sight) countries which should have been working in concert are continuing to ‘go it alone’ and do what seems to various government’s to be the most secure thing to do for their political futures – the ending of the pandemic not really coming into it. There’s still no strategy within country let alone on an international level.

Borders are closed to those from countries which are seen as posing a risk because infection rates are high yet that sort of statistic can change in a matter of days. It doesn’t have any real impact upon infection rates in country and is more to do with historic spats between countries than any idea of ‘following the science’. Such is the case of countries in Europe keeping out foreign visitors. Are we expected to believe that the closing of France to British visitors has nothing to do with Britain closing Britain to French visitors earlier in the year and the bitter wrangling that has been going on over Britain’s departure from the European Union for the best part of a year now?

At ‘best’ this is merely tribalism at worse it’s just a group of petulant children taking their ball away as they can’t get their own way. However, in the process more and more people are suffering – either directly from the virus or the increasing damage caused by the disruption to all societies due to poor leadership.

An extreme example of the pettiness of this approach (as well as the redundancy of narrow-minded nationalism) is demonstrated at present in the insignificant group of islands that sit on the Atlantic coast of Europe. There are supposed to be four ‘nations’ in the United Kingdom yet at the end of 2021 they are all following very distinctive and different approaches to the pandemic. Presumably they are all ‘following the science’ but that science is providing hugely disparate answers. Each of the ‘nationalities’ seek to show that they are the ones in control, they are the ones who decide, that they really ‘care’ for their populations. Therefore the message is far from clear and then there is surprise when people ‘break the rules’. (It should also be remembered that these restrictions are coming in at a time when reports of rule breaking by those in government during the course of last year are still fresh in people’s memories.)

The principal method most governments have used to gain compliance with their diktats is by creating a climate of fear – a fear of the ‘other’, the ‘foreign’, something which isn’t us. Mostly from outside of national boundaries but also, at times within countries. The problem isn’t so much that the government has failed to deal with the issue in a proper manner it’s that there are some within society who don’t tow the line and therefore put all of society at risk.

Some of those tactics may (possibly) have reduced infections but as they were not accompanied by a real strategic approach to the problem the possible breathing space they provided was wasted – and will be wasted in the future. Each time these tactics are introduced and fail the consequences for many become worse and the knock on effects will be seen for many years to come. Poverty, inequality on all kinds of levels, advances that have been trumpeted in recent years are all being lost and with the almost certain introduction of some form of ‘austerity’ that will follow the pandemic such ‘advances’ are unlikely to be regained any time soon.

This blog was asking in March of 2020 that, surely, there must be better ways to deal with a pandemic that was more efficient and effective than the tactics used seven hundred years ago when people were ignorant of what was happening and put much of their ills down to the will of whatever god different peoples believed in? But no, there isn’t.

With all the knowledge that has been accumulated over the centuries, with improvements in scientific knowledge and the techniques that exist to prolong life, with all the developments in technology, the world has proven itself to be as stupid and ignorant as we were in the 14th century when the Black Death spread through Asia and Europe.

The vaccination programme in Britain …..

A year of covid vaccines: how the UK pinned its hopes on the jab – and why those hopes are under threat.

Three ways to improve the uptake of Covid vaccines by ethnic minority groups in the UK.

….. and the rest of the world

Cuba’s covid vaccines: the limited data available suggests they’re highly effective.

US panel recommends J&J shots be sidelined after clot deaths.

Cuba defeats covid-19 with learning, science, and unity.

Experts identify 100 plus firms to make covid-19 mRNA vaccines.

The omicron variant

Vaccines should work against micron variant, WHO says.

Omicron study suggests major wave in January.

Omicron might evade antibodies – but that doesn’t mean you don’t have immunity.

Omicron: evidence shows it evades immunity from earlier infection more than other variants.

Omicron and covid boosters: everything you need to know.

The Omicron Shame: Why is the world punishing instead of helping Africa?

How effective are vaccines against omicron? An epidemiologist answers 6 questions.

Omicron is likely to hit deprived areas the hardest.

Omicron may not be the final variant, but it may be the final variant of concern.

South African and UK hospitalisation data: what it tells us about how deadly omicron is.

Mortality rates

Why excess deaths have varied so greatly around the world during the pandemic.

The U.S. experience: racism and covid-19 mortality.

Other ways to deal with covid

Vaccines are necessary, but not sufficient without better healthcare and ventilation.

Testing

Rapid lateral flow home testing kits have run out on government’s website.

Do lateral flow tests detect omicron?

Covid-19 home testing kits: should we be worried about their environmental impact?

‘Collateral damage’

Britain’s drinking deaths rose at record rate in pandemic.

Covid litter: we mapped discarded masks and gloves in 11 countries with the help of citizen science.

Half the world’s people could be at greater risk of malaria if control efforts do not improve.

The impact of covid-19 on the mental health of children and young people in the UK.

The impact of school closures: why reception year is so crucial to a child’s development.

Some schools struggling to stay open as covid cases rise.

Where are all the missing hospital patients?

A year of covid: the evolution of labour market and financial inequalities through the crisis.

England hospital units may close as staff revolt over jab mandate.

How covid is transmitted

How the disease moves through the air.

Covid ‘passports’

Covid passes: they can’t prevent every infection but do make events safer.

Head to Head: the ethics of vaccine passports and covid passes.

Poverty in Britain

Ayrshire charity CHAP reports increased demand for debt advice.

21% and rising: fury grows as credit card rates hit new high.

Hazardous private renting conditions costing NHS £340 million a year.

Why working from home leaves the lowest paid at more risk of infection.

New report uncovers reality of being homeless and working in Britain.

Inflation is pushing people deeper into poverty.

2021 annual report on education spending in England – basically education has been hit with so many cuts over the years it’s not able to carry out the task it was designed to do.

227,000 households across Britain experiencing worst forms of homelessness.

Poverty in the World

The World Inequality Report 1922 has just been published. The Executive Summary, the Full Report.

One rule for us, a different rule for ‘them’

Downing Street Christmas party: political communication expert on four key takeaways from leaked Allegra Stratton video.

No 10 [Downing Street, the Buffoon’s official residence in central London] says garden photo shows PM and staff having work meetings.

Trump Scottish golf resorts claimed over £3 million in furlough.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

Confronting a 21st century pandemic with 14th century tactics

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

Confronting a 21st century pandemic with 14th century tactics

Depending upon which ‘fact’ you believe the covid pandemic has been with us for just over or just under two years. 21st century societies, especially those in the richer countries, pride themselves on their sophistication and ability to deal with any problem that arises with the technologies that have been (and/or are in the process of being) developed through the increase in scientific knowledge, a process that really took off towards the end of the 20th century. Indeed, such claims have been made ever since the climate emergency became more widely known and accepted by the majority of scientists but not by some world leaders nor many of the companies that have played (and are still playing) a major role in causing the problem in the first place. Technology, those climate deniers say, will always come up with a solution – even if not until the eleventh hour.

However, the first time this bizarre ‘theory’ is put into practice it falls far short of the over-riding solution it is supposed to be.

Most countries put their faith in a vaccine that would protect against the outbreak and it arrived, relatively, quickly. This was due to an unbelievably huge public investment into the work of private companies (who are now reaping the benefit with their huge profits – why wasn’t something written in the agreement that in return for the public investment the vaccines would be supplied at cost?) and the knowledge base that had been established over the last couple of decades. But when the vaccine arrived it wasn’t enough.

First the vaccine was just going to be for the most ‘vulnerable’ in society but it was no surprise that those countries that had the wherewithal to secure vaccines would soon roll out the programme to include the majority of their population. Now children as young as five are being vaccinated and it would be no real surprise if babies and infants are soon to be included as well. First it was thought that two injections would be sufficient but now third ‘booster’ shots are being given to many in the rich countries and there is already talk that a regular ‘top-up’ injection might be the way forward for the next few years, at least.

This selfish grabbing of as many vaccines as possible by a few countries means that even after two years of the pandemic the vast majority of the population of the world (i.e., those in the poor South) haven’t even had a single injection. That’s bad enough but what is worse is that it doesn’t even seem to be an issue at the moment. Government’s keep their populations ‘happy’ – or at least some of them – by pumping the stuff into their arms and the calls to extend the vaccination to those who really are now the world’s ‘vulnerable’ fall on deaf ears. As with compensation due to the consequences of the climate emergency all the promises have come to nought.

The fact that we are in the middle (or even just the start) of a pandemic which, by definition, effects every corner of the globe, seems to have been forgotten as well as the fact that the longer the virus is allowed to grow and mutate in huge parts of the world the more it is likely to come back (to the North) in a form which the vaccines won’t be able to combat.

Not only has the vaccine programme in the richer countries been a display of immorality and hypocrisy it also demonstrates that nationalism and tribalism is triumphant and concern for the really poor people of the world is non-existent.

Worse still it’s not really working. There may be various reasons for this, the unvaccinated are in the firing line at the moment, but the prime reason is that no country in the world has really developed a proper strategy to deal with a disease that will likely be with us forever so has to be managed rather than defeated. The military terminology used from the start has blinded people to the reality that there is no real winner in this case.

As the days pass more countries in Europe are re-introducing various restrictions and lock downs. In Britain the Buffoon has said that’s not going to happen there but there have been so many U-turns in the last 18 months the Government resembles a child’s spinning top – so no real guarantee for the near future.

In the very first posts in this series ‘The Journal of the Plague Years 2020-2?’ the question was asked whether we, as a society in general, had learnt anything since the Black Death of the 14th century or the Great Plague of London in the 17th. Then the response was to hide away and hope for the best and, in reality, that’s all we’re doing now.

No society in the world has really taken a pro-active approach to dealing with the virus in a manner which didn’t create collateral damage which could ultimately be more expensive in the long run.

The problem is that such a strategy (which needs a whole raft of measures which include, but are not restricted to, a functioning, reliable and trustworthy testing arrangement which includes viable and effective support for those with the virus to be able to, and encouraged to, isolate for the general good) is not really viable in a capitalist society which leaves everything to the ‘free market’.

Because of that the merry-go-round of lockdown to lockdown is more than likely to continue for some time yet and the last page of this ‘Journal’ will not be published until some time yet.

 

Vaccination programme (and now a pill) in Britain …..

First pill to treat covid gets approval in UK.

Covid jabs to be compulsory for NHS staff in England from April.

Pfizer says antiviral pill 89% effective in high risk cases.

AstraZeneca to take profits from covid vaccine.

Medication holiday may boost vaccine protection.

Covid-resistant people inspire new vaccine tactic.

It’s bad enough that the richer countries are hoovering up all the available resources of vaccines – leaving the poorer countries to just manage on the crumbs – but now there are threats being made if people don’t take extra vaccinations (when at first we were told that two would be sufficient). When is this going to stop? Get a covid booster jab or risk more restrictions, warns the Buffoon.

Merck v Pfizer: here’s how the two new covid antiviral drugs work and will be used.

Care homes: why mandatory vaccination could make staff shortages worse.

Making vaccination compulsory for NHS frontline workers likely to make patients suffer.

….. and the rest of the world

This is Pfizer. What’s the catch? They’ve earned billions in the last year or so – so why this generous, esoteric approach now? Pfizer to allow developing nations to make its treatment pill.

Novavax covid vaccine is nearing approval – but what impact will it have?

How the pandemic is faring in Britain …..

Covid makes Christmas ‘problematic’, says Jonathan Van-Tam as he warns ‘darkest months’ are ahead of us.

UK bucking trend of rising covid cases in Europe.

Will this mean the return of free dental treatment for all in the UK? I don’t think so. Why having bad oral health could raise the risk of covid.

….. and throughout the world

Some of the richest capitalist countries in the world and they still can’t get it right! Even when they’ve been hoovering up unbelievably high doses of vaccine. WHO warns Europe once again at epicentre of pandemic.

Belarus: how an unpopular government is struggling to manage the covid crisis.

Austria’s lockdown for the unvaccinated: what does human rights law say? [This might now be redundant in the case of Austria but such a situation is sure to arise somewhere in the world before the end of the pandemic.]

How Peru became the country with the highest covid death rate in the world.

WHO says it is very worried about Europe surge.

‘Long covid’

Long covid: my work with sufferers reveals that western medicine has reached a crisis point.

Vulnerability to the virus

Gene commonly found in south Asian people affects covid severity.

The future treatment of the virus

Promising covid treatments could be growing under the sea.

A nation (or, perhaps, even wider afield) of hypochondriacs?

Is the common cold really much worse this year?

More on ‘covid passports/passes’

Why covid passes are not discriminatory (in the way you think they are).

‘Collateral damage’

What happened to furloughed workers after the end of the Job Retention Scheme?

The cost of covid: what happens when children don’t go to school.

Obesity among children soars after lockdown – and yet the country is bemoaning the fact that there is a ‘shortage’ of crisps!

Calling children ‘vectors’ during covid-19 is turning into discrimination.

…. or not?

Young and ethnic minority workers were hardest hit at the start of covid, but not any more.

Poverty in Britain

Hunger and the welfare state: Food insecurity among benefit claimants during covid-19. The executive summary, the Full Report and the Appendices.

England: Landlord possessions increase by 207%.

Cambs Universal Credit claimants ‘struggling to make ends meet’ after £20 cut.

Those continuing to profit from the pandemic – and often after huge public investment in research

This week Pfizer announced profits so far this year of $7.7 billion, 133% more than it made last year. And Moderna has made $7.3 billion in profit, after receiving over $10 billion of public funding for development and manufacture of its vaccine

This is a strange one

How creative industries could boost the economies of small islands crippled by covid.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

Britain and poverty – a case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

Britain and poverty – a case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

The covid pandemic didn’t cause poverty in Britain – though it didn’t help. However, many thousands of people would have been pushed over the established line and many thousands of others would have been forced into debt which makes their future prospects looking rather bleak.

What the pandemic has certainly done is to expose what had been previously hidden, by government intention and a general reluctance in Britain for too many of the population to accept that poverty exists – as they would then have to face the moral dilemma about what to do about it.

Anecdotal evidence shows that donations to food banks have increased in the last 18 months or so and it will be interesting to see how those levels are maintained now that there is a general sense that Britain is returning to ‘normal’ with those who can returning to work. But the changes that are taking place at the beginning of October 2021 also have a sting. The furlough scheme is coming to an end and in a few days the extra £20 given to those on Universal Credit will also be withdrawn.

(An interesting statistic from the past year is that under the furlough scheme people could claim up to £2,500 per month. Those on Universal Credit are now set to lose £1,040 PER YEAR. Even in the worst days of the pandemic, when millions were not able to work, it was the most wealthy in the population who were getting the greatest percentage of government assistance.)

Much has been said, by many, that once the country is out of the pandemic that it should ‘build back better’. If we take this (which I think is a meaningless sound bite) at face value what will it mean when it comes to poverty in Britain, with all that goes with it such as homelessness/expensive and poor rental accommodation? What track record do any of the parties that seek power in Westminster have to make us think that there will be anything radical that will seek to eliminate poverty?

The answer to that question is none.

Poverty is a direct consequence of capitalism. Capitalism needs poverty in order to be able to frighten, manipulate and control the working masses.

As this is the ‘Conference Season’ (when all the major political parties have their annual get-togethers) many promises will be made to be conveniently forgotten at the first opportunity or when ‘reality’ kicks in.

The very recent publication of the millions of leaked papers about how the ‘super-rich’ are able to maintain their wealth (and the political control that goes with it) in the so-called Pandora Papers (which, amazingly, have seemed to dropped out of the news very quickly) only goes to show what has been obvious for years (if not decades) and that is that the rich and powerful are becoming more so. With that increase in wealth comes an ‘entitlement’ for them to control so much wealth they could never really spend it. Some of the comments that were made by those exposed by the investigation over the last two years demonstrate that none of the respondents think they had done anything wrong.

And, legally they probably haven’t. They come from and create the sort of society which forces the vast majority to pay their ‘fair share’ of the tax burden but which provides ‘loopholes’ so that if you have enough to buy an accountant/lawyer or other form of shyster what you pay is vastly disproportionate to the amounts involved. This all comes after a number of years where major companies have been shifting addresses around the world so that they pay the minimum to stay ‘within the law’.

None of these individuals or companies will ever be prosecuted and they won’t even feel any shame of being caught out.

However, ordinary people have to wake up to the facts and realise that they are as much part of the problem as they are of the solution.

One of the first posts on this blog, when Left side of the road was started in the summer of 2012, was about food banks. That post was prompted by an article in which the Trussell Trust, the charity which runs the biggest number of food banks in the UK, stated that it wanted to see food banks in every city and town in the country. That, to me, was a ludicrous goal to set. Surely the aim is to see no food banks as society is sufficiently developed and cultured to have abolished poverty and the need for such charity.

Within Britain, and the same goes for much of the rest of the world, there seems to be an acceptance of the existence of poverty (dire and extreme as it is in some countries) and that the rich and the powerful have the right to accumulate vast fortunes and live an obscenely wasteful lifestyle – right next to people who never know where the next meal is coming from.

The only reason I can see for this acceptance of such an unjust system is that people who have the ability to change the situation somehow get a kick out of the existence of poverty, can make themselves fell good if they are in the fortunate position of having a bit of slack they can give in the form of charity and continue to look up to the celebrities, whether they be ‘royalty’ or just some pop singer.

This is akin to the mental disease, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

Vaccination programme in Britain …..

Freshers’ week drive to give covid jabs to students in England.

Compulsory vaccination: what does human rights law say?

Covid vaccine effects wane over time but still prevent death and severe illness.

Covid vaccine boosters – who will receive them and why are they being given?

Trials begin on Covid booster jab hoped to protect against new variants – but will these new ‘super’ vaccines be given to those who have already been vaccinated or to those still to receive the first dose?

….. and in the rest of the world (or not)

Covax misses its 2021 delivery target – what’s gone wrong in the fight against vaccine nationalism?

In hindsight there was no foresight: how Australia bungled its Pfizer Covid deal.

England’s Covid travel rules spark outrage around the world. Refusal to recognise vaccines given across Latin America, Africa and south Asia has been denounced as ‘discriminatory’.

Vaccine Apartheid’: Africans tell UN they need vaccines.

Hospital admissions – September 2021

‘A bit of a mystery’: why hospital admissions for covid in England are going down.

The wearing of masks

Evidence shows that, yes, masks prevent covid-19 – and surgical masks are the way to go [although these researchers have obviously never observed the manner that people, in all countries, don’t wear the masks as they ‘are supposed to’. If they don’t follow correct practice does not mask wearing cause a potential threat rather than a preventative in transmission?

The future of covid

Coronavirus unlikely to become more deadly because it’s run out of ‘places to go’.

Following the science?

No 10 [Downing Street – the office of the Buffoon] accused of side-lining behaviour experts on latest Covid measures.

‘Long covid’

Technical article: Updated estimates of the prevalence of post-acute symptoms among people with coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK: 26 April 2020 to 1 August 2021.

Double vaccination halves risk of developing long-lasting symptoms’

‘Collateral damage’

Britain’s covid-era university students may suffer ‘impostor syndrome’.

NHS backlog disproportionately affecting England’s most deprived.

Resolution Foundation warns of cost of living crisis.

Who is benefiting from the pandemic?

Private hospitals profit from NHS waiting lists as people without insurance pay out.

A year that changed the world – and medical companies’ fortunes.

Evil Doers: The Pharmaceutical Industry and the Pandemic – written about the US context but applicable anywhere in the world.

The world gone mad

If the world was working in concert it would have been a different matter.

Russia slams New York’s vaccine requirement for UN general assembly.

Ministers told to bar European Union from UK trial data in vaccines row.

Poverty in Britain

Who’s paying for the government’s plan to fix social care? A podcast.

Universal credit cut will push 800,000 people into poverty.

Child poverty now costs Britain £38 billion a year.

Social care plan will help just a tenth of UK’s older people in need.

The next three articles are mainly focussed on Scotland – but the figures will be mirrored in the rest of the UK.

Almost 300,000 people missed rent or mortgage payment in last year.

Child Winter Heating Assistance eligibility extended.

Energy crisis and price cap rise ‘could force 150,000 more Scots into fuel poverty’.

Buffoon refuses to say if he could live on basic universal credit pay.

Ending universal credit boost will hit sickest areas the hardest.

How (if) will it all end?

How will the covid pandemic end?

What kind of inquiry do we need to learn the right lessons?

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?