Will it be Armageddon? Britain returns to school and work

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Will it be Armageddon? Britain returns to school and work

It’s officially the end of summer in Britain – which is normally marked by the return of schools, colleges and universities, the return to work after the summer holidays and some half decent weather after a disappointing July and August. 2020 is no different in that respect. What is different is that the country is now six months into a pandemic.

All those events happening at the beginning of September do not come as a surprise. They are scheduled years in advance and that being the case the population of Britain should have been approaching this milestone with the confidence that everything had been planned to make sure that with an increased movement of people, on a daily basis, everything was in place to mitigate any resurgence of the covid-19 virus.

But that’s forgetting we are in Britain. A country which decided that the best leaders to take us into the third decade of the 21st century should be a bunch on chinless, public school educated, self-centred, capitalist (and imperialist) orientated self-servers. At the head of this gang of no-marks is a Buffoon of the greatest order who’s ‘gift’ is to sound erudite and intelligent but when you examine his words they turn out to be as substantial as the Emperor’s new clothes.

So we enter the autumn without a Plan A – let alone a Plan B which some people are calling for.

If inaction and confusion could be excused when they were faced with an ‘unprecedented and challenging’ (words that should be banned from the English language once the virus is put in its place) event such as the pandemic there is no excuse whatsoever six months down the line.

At this time preparations should be being made for the colder weather when people would be likely to be in closer contact with strangers. Instead various interest groups will be bickering about the how, why and what of the present situation in education and the workplace.

If it doesn’t turn into Armageddon it will be a matter of luck not circumstance.

Covid rules – and our understanding of the virus

When everything that has been decided by the government of the Buffoon since the beginning of the pandemic has been ‘led by the science’ it’s slightly bemusing if the science being used is out of date when it comes to the so-called ‘2 metre rule’.

How long has the virus been in the UK? Since the 21st February it seems. Only important in hindsight but it does indicate that being able to spot something new and also the ability of receiving quick results from any tests will be crucial when the next pandemic hits.

Face coverings

The Buffoon ‘explained’ his most recent U-turn (to date) on 28th August;

‘What you’ve got is the WHO saying the face coverings should be used by over 12’s and what we’re saying is if a school is within a hot spot … then it probably does make sense, in confined areas outside the classroom, to use a face covering in the corridor and also, as they discovered in Scotland, where they have had the kids in for at least a couple of weeks now, was that it was raining outside and people were coming in and they were congregating in the corridors and the move to face coverings, they thought, was. So what we’re doing, following what the WHO have said, then if you’re in a hot spot area where there is risk of, a higher risk of transmission, then face coverings in those types of areas. But not in the classroom, because that’s clearly nonsensical, you can’t teach with face coverings and you can’t expect people to learn with facings and the most important thing is just washes.’

Katharine Birbalsingh, the founder and head mistress of the Michaela Community School in Brent, in North London;

You need to take into account children’s group behavior in a school before you can then say they’re safer with mask. What about the children who turn up to school with uniforms that aren’t washed, but they don’t necessarily wash themselves. They come to school, they’d be wearing reused, dirty masks. They’ll swap them, joke and wear them incorrectly, they’ll lose them.

When half of your children show up to school not wearing masks, what do you do? Do you exclude them? The girls will be in the loos, checking them to make sure they look nice. They’ll be touching their faces all the more. We need to account children’s behavior when considering whether or not masks are safer. I would actually argue that they make them less safe.’

Is the second wave coming?

Not if we follow the WHO’s (World Health Organisation) ‘Disease X’ preparedness advice – even though there are likely to be more outbreaks throughout Europe come the winter.

Sergio Brusin, principle expert at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said the scenario of hospitals being overwhelmed, as they were during March and April, was unlikely to reoccur due to the experience gained in the last six months and the fact that health services throughout Europe were more prepared to face what might develop in coming months.

‘The resurgence in cases will go for quite a few months. [But] it will probably never get to the same level as the first big wave in Spring, … Although we’ve seen hospitalisations going up in some countries it is not anywhere near to the situation in March and April. The ICUs are not clogged and our health services now have much better planning and response times. So, I am optimistic we will not see the big horrible scenes we saw in March and April, but we will see a lot more cases’, he said.

Although the same day the same newspaper (The Daily Telegraph) seemed to contradict itself when reporting on the increase in the number of infections.

The search for a vaccine

The race in the search for a vaccine continues. However it’s difficult to determine if the principal aim is to save lives or the kudos of being the first (and the ability to make a lot of money – just coincidentally – in the process). In supporting the home team the UK government has increased funding for the team at Cambridge University.

What’s also interesting in this article is the use of a new name for the virus that is presently creating chaos throughout the world. The term we’ve been using, covid-19, doesn’t seem to fit in with the concepts of the scientific community and they want a name which more accurately reflects the nature of the virus. So the name to remember is SARS-CoV-2. But that can’t be so easily turned into ‘covidiot’ to blanket condemn anyone who might be critical of the rules and regulations that are being forced upon us by the Buffoon and his crew.

As an aside. As people talk about a new, more caring world after this pandemic passes by will it mean that governments worldwide will be throwing limitless amounts of money at a vaccine or other effective measures to combat malaria? That disease has been killing millions of people in the poorer parts of the planet for decades (if not centuries) but we don’t seem to be that much closer to a resolution of this killer of the poor. But then, so far (but perhaps not for much longer with the climate emergency which is seeing the spread of the malaria mosquitoes into more northerly latitudes) malaria isn’t such a killer in the richer, northern countries.

There may not (yet) exist a vaccine against covid-19 but there is (and has been for a long time now) an effective vaccine to combat flu – or perhaps there isn’t. The Buffoon and his Government have stated a number of times that they want to help mitigate any outbreak of covid by stamping down (as much as is possible) on any possible influenza outbreak. But those vaccinations may not be available until December.

Consequences and vulnerabilities of the virus

The risks to those who are classified as clinically obese has been around for a while. Another report seems to confirm that, increasing the chances of death by 48%.

On the up side women may have a stronger immune response to the virus.

It’s also been known since very soon after the outbreak that children are less likely to die from contracting the disease. Considering the time of year, with schools already re-starting or about to do so in the next few days, that the Government should bring out a report that concludes that no healthy child has died as a result of contracting the disease isn’t surprising. It was released in an effort to boost the confidence of parents to encourage them to send their children back to full time education.

However, what the Buffoon and his government don’t seem to realise is that by upping the fear factor to ‘fever pitch’ earlier in the year in an effort to get the population to abide by their restrictions in movement they have created an element of paranoia that won’t be brushed away with any report. Neither have it’s confusing statements and notorious U-turns helped in creating a situation where the population has any confidence in what the Government says.

More cases are being reported but they are not accompanied by any significant increase in deaths. Why is this?

More funding has been provided for scientists who are looking into the issue of immunity, especially in how long such immunity might last and why there’s such a variety in the severity the virus has on different individuals.

Poverty in Britain

One of the many issues highlighted in the last six months is the extent and depth of poverty in Britain, one of the top ten wealthiest countries in the world. Although not a surprise (after all poverty is a natural consequence of capitalism and will exist as long as capitalism exists) the way that poverty manifests itself has been swept away, forgotten or ignored for years. Now the poor have become more visible – to the extent that some people might be considering that the existence of food banks and homelessness is a national shame and should be addressed in the near future. I have my doubts about that unless more people start to look at the world in which we live in a different manner – and are prepared to change it. In the meantime more than 80% of those who were in a bad shape before March consider they are worse off six months later, having to sell what little they have to keep themselves afloat.

The way that poverty has been approached in Britain, ever since those in positions of power and wealth started to get a guilty conscience on seeing the poor all around them, has been to mitigate the situation without dealing with the root causes. Hence the welfare state and more recently the proliferation of food banks in all parts of the country. The problem with this approach is that it accepts that ‘the poor will always be with us’ and obstructs any activity which seeks to do away with poverty all together.

We need a change in policy from the ‘Can I have some more’ approach of Oliver, of accepting the crumbs that fall from the table to demanding the total control of the bakery.

But as the pandemic has highlighted many other aspects of poverty it is also showing up these amelioration schemes for what they are, mere shams which try to give the impression that something is being done to help some of the most vulnerable in society. In Scotland funds that could have helped many people in the last six months weren’t used because the poor weren’t told that ‘help’ was available.

The return to school is also providing an opportunity of an overpaid footballer to demonstrate he hasn’t forgotten his background, his roots. This sort of help fits in with the argument above but it also asks the question why such non-governmental approach is even needed when billions of pounds have been thrown at the business community is if money was going out of style.

Education – and the return of schools, colleges and universities

Education has dominated matters in the UK for the last month and will continue to do so for at least another month as more schools, colleges and universities attempt to restart after what should have been the summer break but has now been a period of almost six months. Knowing that this was about to happen on set dates it’s totally ‘reprehensible’ (according to various teaching trade unions) that advice on re-opening should be published just days before the majority of primary and secondary schools are due to return (and even after some have returned in a few parts of the country).

In the country with the largest land mass in the world (Russia) and the country with the largest population (China) the schools and colleges all go back at the same time. In Britain it varies not just between the constituent ‘countries’ of the island but also between neighbouring education authorities. Although quite ludicrous in normal circumstances that difference could have been used to the advantage of managing the virus as those parts of the UK with the greatest number of pupils/students could have learnt from those with smaller populations but who had returned three or four weeks ago – as was the case of Scotland.

That opportunity seems to have been wasted but here is what Devi Sridhar, Professor and Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, has to say about the Scottish experience (28th August).

In the days that see the return of children to school in the greater part of the UK a report is released showing that the gap between the rich and the poor children has grown 46% in a year. Why is there this constant reinforcement of the so-called ‘disadvantage’ of many young people from poor families instead of doing away with poverty? There’s no need (and never has been) for a report to let a society know that poverty exists. What is needed is action to end it forever.

Testing

Although lower down the page on this post it is universally accepted that the testing regime will be the lynch pin in any strategy (which still doesn’t exist in the UK) to defeat the virus. Last week Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, became all enthusiastic about mass testing. It will be interesting if a) the government achieves its goal and b) how long it will be able to maintain the numbers.

Not only the numbers tested is important but the speed at which the results are returned. In general the time lag seems to be getting worse not better. But both Scotland and Wales think the answer is in the technology.

Speedy tests are also seen as the answer to ‘unlock travel’ in a new test being trialled at Heathrow (London) airport.

Housing

I don’t even pretend to understand the situation over evictions at the moment – other than that the ban on evictions has been extended for a few more months but without a long term solution even being discussed. A pro-tenant housing lawyer tries to fight through the ‘rules’.

Anyone who is facing eviction (or knows of someone in that situation) should contact Acorn (in England) and Living Rent (in Scotland).

Care Homes

It was in care homes where the majority of deaths occurred during this pandemic so far (that is, in the first wave – if we are to have a second). Many of the problems that were the cause of that death rate have not been resolved and it will be a hard time for both the staff and residents if matters get out of hand later in the year.

But rather than attempt to plan for the future information is being suppressed ‘to protect commercial interests’.

Life in Covid Britain

Although not as a consequence of the pandemic (but the situation wouldn’t have been helped by the cock-up on the releasing of exam results and the confusion and uncertainty about schools, colleges and universities returning at the moment) the Good Childhood report has revealed that British children (15 year-olds) have the lowest happiness levels in Europe – mainly caused by a ‘fear of failure’.

‘Collateral damage’ of the pandemic in the UK

In the background over the last few weeks has been the so-called ‘collateral damage’ caused by the emphasis of the NHS on dealing with the pandemic since March this year. Unfortunately, the more information that comes out the bleaker the situation seems to become. If the matter isn’t addressed the numbers of deaths from other causes will start to compete with the fatalities due to covid-19 – even in the country with the highest death rate per head of population in Europe.

Radio 4’s World at One looked at a case study on 26th August.

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