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?

A Tale of Two Countries – Britain and India

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?

A Tale of Two Countries – Britain and India

From the proverbial ‘man in the street’ at the bottom to the Buffoon at the top (to what depths has Britain plummeted when those last words can be written as a statement of fact?) there’s a general perception in Britain that we are the end of covid-19 – at least for the time being. However, the flaw in that reasoning is that we are in the middle of a pandemic and not an epidemic. Sorting matters out at home can never be guaranteed to be permanent – as we are seeing with the rising numbers of infections, hospitalisations (or not, if the health system in so many countries is so dire there is, effectively, no functioning health system – as in India) and deaths in various countries.

However, there can be no doubt that (so far) the vaccination programme in Britain has been a success. Although the Buffoon implies it’s due to his government’s activity the real truth is that the success has been achieved solely because none of the Eton boys and girls were involved in the logistical arrangements. The Government might have spent the money – but then its not coming from their pockets in the long term and who and how the ultimate bill gets paid is something we still don’t know about.

What that means in Britain is that instead of the news being dominated by the pandemic we are back to the same old scandals that preceded the outbreak at the end of 2019. Incompetence has been with us throughout the last 18 months (all the late decisions, U-turns, etc., etc.) but to that we now have sleaze and corruption (which, in reality, has always been with us) and now an even greater display of the way those the British people have foolishly chosen to rule themselves think they are entitled to do whatsoever they wish.

Yes, there are many more important issues to contend with than who originally paid for the refurbishment of the Buffoon’s flat but the ‘scandal’ just goes to show that even in ‘normal’ times there’s always money available to splash out on luxuries for the rich – when the rest of us were being told we had to tighten out belts.

Perhaps what the period of the pandemic has done is shine a spotlight on these matters when in the past they would have just been ignored as being insignificant. This has definitely been the case when it comes to the obscene levels of poverty that have become more well known in the last year or so. Whether the people of Britain draw a connection to these two extremes of lifestyles (so many families having to resort to food banks and free school meals and those in ‘power’ agonising on how to spend tens of thousands of pounds from the public purse to decorate a few rooms in a central London town house) and do something about it is questionable. I would like to think so but I’m not holding my breath.

The fact that the Buffoon can get away with saying ‘let the bodies pile high’ and the issue dropping out of the headlines within a matter of a couple of days doesn’t bode well.

But this corruption and incompetence is not just a UK phenomenon. The worsening (and still far from ending) situation in India is yet another example of how the world’s leaders can effectively cause a crisis which leads to even more people dying on the streets than is the norm in the country.

The Indian Hindu Fascist, Modi, should be held personally responsible for the deaths that are raging throughout the country at this time. Agreed he didn’t inherit a truly viable system necessary for a population of 1.4 billion people but what he has done has made a bad system even worse by the policies he has pursed in the last 20 years or so – first at a local level and latterly at the national.

When it comes to the pandemic India is dominating the news now (and, indeed, this post) – people literally dying in the streets or in hospital corridors, often due to lack of simple basics. This is obviously good news for the other government leaders throughout the world who have handled matters as badly. However, the cause for such dramatic and disturbing images is the same throughout the capitalist world. Neo-liberal economic policies, privatisation and mismanagement/corruption have brought so many countries virtually to their knees.

But these fascist leaders are like Teflon – nothing sticks.

The Buffoon in the UK should really be hammered due to his crass mismanagement of the pandemic of the last 15 months – but in the first electoral ‘test’ of his leadership tomorrow (6th May) – since the beginning of the pandemic – in local elections he will probably at least survive if not thrive.

In India Modi’s failure to gain control of West Bengal is being declared as a ‘defeat’ in the western press. Considering that the election there took place as the figures of deaths was rocketing in the country you would have thought the Indian people would have realised that all his claims are mere illusions. However, in the ‘defeat’ in West Bengal Modi’s party gained 40% of the popular vote and increased the number of seats they have in the Parliament by 77 – from just three in 2016.

Not what I would call a ‘defeat’ – and certainly not being punished for gross incompetence. It is to be assumed that some of those who voted for Modi’s Fascist Party are now dead or dying – I wonder if they realised/will realise their error of judgement before they close their eyes forever.

Vaccination programme in Britain …

Only 32 people hospitalised with covid after having vaccination.

Why calculating the risk of the AstraZeneca vaccine is so difficult.

Why some people don’t experience vaccine side-effects, and why it’s not a problem.

… and the rest of the world

Those who we foolishly allow to rule over us never cease to amaze. Instead of addressing the real problem they resort to expensive and complicated legal cases to resolve their own inefficiency. Just like spoilt children they threaten to take their ball away if they don’t get their own way. European Union Commission asks states to back legal action against AstraZeneca.

And they call this ‘leadership’ and wonder why people are confused? EU urges member states to re-embrace AstraZeneca vaccine.

Just what we need in the middle of a pandemic – drawn out court cases and shovelling public money into the pockets of lawyers – AstraZeneca sued by European Union over delivery of covid vaccines.

Vulnerability to the disease

Severe covid in young people can mostly be explained by obesity.

Corruption and covid

It seems the bigger the rewards the better the chances of being awarded lucrative contracts.

Lancashire firm wades into Dyson ventilators row. NorVap says it has been unable to sell devices it created in response to Hancock’s ‘ventilator challenge’.

‘Possible corruption’ in 20% of covid contracts awarded. Study of nearly 1,000 pandemic deals finds ‘systemic bias’ in favour of firms with political connections.

Not surprisingly corruption raises its ugly head in the United States as well – this time with the involvement of the ‘liberal’ and ‘caring’ billionaire, Bill Gates.

‘Utterly disgusting’: ‘Big Pharma’ lobby blitz against vaccine patent waivers denounced.

The pandemic in India

Why variants are most likely to blame for India’s covid surge.

‘We are witnessing a crime against humanity’: Arundhati Roy on India’s Covid catastrophe.

India covid crisis: four reasons it will derail the world economy.

‘We are not special’: how triumphalism led India to covid-19 disaster.

Radio 4’s The Briefing Room looked at the chaotic situation in India (and Modi’s responsibility for it) in a programme entitled ‘India’s Covid Catastrophe’ on 29th April.

Covid in India: the deep-rooted issues behind the current crisis.

How the Modi government prioritised politics over public health.

Covid-19 in India: an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

India covid crisis: four reasons it will derail the world economy.

How India descended into covid-19 chaos.

Coronavirus Emergency Powers Act

‘No meaningful parliamentary debate or scrutiny’ of covid laws, says former government legal chief.

‘Immunity Passports’

People in England could get covid passports for foreign travel by 17 May.

National Health Service (NHS) app to be used as coronavirus passport for international travel, Grant Shapps confirms.

Poverty in Britain

Kent council fined after mother and son left to live in tent in pandemic.

Tens of thousands in UK avoided universal credit during covid over stigma.

Whilst not in any way denigrating the intentions of this article I think it is optimistic, to say the least, to get any government (especially that of the present Buffoon) in capitalist Britain to truly alleviate the problems of poorly paid work and the consequent poverty. At best they will apply a sticking plaster when major surgery is required. The Employment Bill is a chance to improve jobs for low-paid workers.

It’s good that some schools are doing so but is it really their job to become advisors to what people are entitled? Could schools hold the key to helping families claim benefits?

The Resolution Foundation has produced a report looking at how the British Social security system has responded to the covid pandemic entitled In need of support – Lessons from the covid-19 crisis for our social security system. On 29th April there was a webinar on this report which filled in some of the gaps and explained some of the consequences. That can be watched here.

As has been stated here (as well as in innumerable discussions about the effect of the pandemic) covid hasn’t caused the extensive poverty that exists in Britain, it has exposed the hidden truths and in many cases the results of the lock downs and other restrictions have exacerbated the level of poverty. On 26th April there was a slot on the Radio 4 programme You and Yours which looked at the problems many families are experiencing with the provision of school uniforms.

The National Housing Federation published a report in April 2021 entitled Universal Credit in a time of crisis (full report) related to how the pandemic had affected tenants of housing associations and their ability to pay rent. For just a summary click here.

‘Collateral damage’

Sharp rise in mental illness among those whose income fell away during the covid pandemic.

What has been the impact of the covid pandemic on older workers in Britain? On 26th April the Resolution Foundation hosted a discussion on this matter.

Collateral ‘benefit’ from covid?

New malaria vaccine proves highly effective – and covid shows how quickly it could be deployed

Lessons from the pandemic – worldwide

What steps must be taken to secure oxygen – for covid-19 patients and into the future. Just to take a few words from this article to indicate the underlying problem that people throughout the world face – multinational corporations and government corruption;

… a low priority has been given to develop and scale up oxygen relative to new drugs, for which a patent can be taken out and big pharmaceutical companies can make a large profit.

2020 was horrendous for health workers – early 2021 was even worse, as told by two doctors in Liverpool.

Or not. Outrage as No 10 rules out urgent inquiry into covid mistakes.

‘Now is the time’: top experts join call for Buffoon to launch covid inquiry.

More on covid pandemic 2020-2?