The day counter on the Daily Mail web site is showing 183 days so that’s half of the year spent living under constantly changing restrictions. From the Spring Equinox to the Autumn one the whole country has been subjected to an unprecedented torrent of instructions about our daily lives from on high. Even the Queen has been severely restricted by advice and laws which supposedly protect us, our economy and our health service from the terrors of Covid-19 infection.
But today’s announcement to parliament by our Prime Minister (and Covid victim), Boris Johnson, set out not just more rules to be followed but also the prospect that they will be in place for a further six months.
Quite what will have improved the infection rate by then is not at all clear. One assumption is that there will be an effective, economic and safe preventative vaccination by them. But that’s a big ask when the common cold corona virus still has no vaccine after decades of attempts. Plus there are reports that natural antibodies to protect us from Covid-19 only have a limited life – so calling into doubt the value of any mass immunisation programme even if a vaccine is found.
The current picture suggests that nothing will actually remove the Covid-19 virus from the planet by then. Government measures can restrict its spread but the virus is like some invisible flood water that will break into anywhere that is unguarded. And even New Zealand’s success cannot guard every one of its citizens all of the time.
But it is also clear that after six more months of restrictions the national economy will be in a terrible state and those bountiful government handouts for everything from overseas aid to winter fuel payments; from high-speed railways to child benefits; from arts funding to state pensions will be facing the axe.
Messers Whitty and Vallance may have been painting an extreme scenario with 49,000 cases per day by 13-Oct-2020 but it seems more likely that by 2021 our high streets will be ghost towns and their civil service pension funds will be facing collapse or at least a major devaluation. Then they may have to concede that Sweden has played the hand dealt to it by fate much better …
As a fan of cycle racing the virus restrictions have meant that so far this year there has been no chance to watch hours of live TV from around a variety of scenic European venues.
But today it was back to normal with Eurosport showing live coverage from Tuscany of races rescheduled from Spring. With a packed programme scheduled for the coming months being trapped at home will be a bit more bearable – despite the threats of infection from second waves and the constant stream of new rules to restrict our behaviour.
So how did Tuscany cope handling a sports event within the pandemic restrictions? No problem – the crowds were just as dense as previous years. No one in the crowds or amongst the officials was seen wearing face coverings. And the competitors were definitely breathing heavily by the finish. True it was outdoors which might help but the sheer numbers packed into the centre of Sienna meant that social distancing was non-existent. However it seems that no one was breaking the rules. Tuscany is functioning pretty close to normal. And based upon this afternoon’s observations the financial impact on this part of Italy will be far less than it will be in the UK.
Back here we have the Chief Medical Officer warning that restrictions cannot be relaxed as we have reached the limit of what can be allowed. The government are reversing the lifting of some restrictions with very little notice – and there are threats that pubs will have to shut in order for schools to reopen after the summer break.
What’s going wrong? Italy was hard hit at the start of the pandemic – so how come it is the UK where the restrictions are much worse and the financial impact greater? Clearly there are serious problems – but whether these are caused by the Goverment, the public servants, the medical professions or simply a stupid, non-compliant public is anyone’s guess …
Back in the day this time in July would be when whole towns went on their annual holidays. And even though the days of mass employment in a regional manufacturing industry are long gone people still feel the need to take a break now.
But this year there are some unique economic clouds to add to those in our summer skies. At the bottom end the over 75’s are facing the cost of a BBC TV licence being deducted from their pensions in August. While at the top end around 9 million furloughed – and government funded – staff are waiting to see what happens when employers are required to start contributing next month. The expectation is that many companies will simply make many of them redundant – with plenty of companies folding to avoid paying their debts.
Trying to get an accurate picture of employment this autumn – based upon realistic projections about thousands of employers – is almost impossible. Instead we have just best guesses. But even the most optimistic observers expect that unemployment will rise – quite possibly by a lot. A view that does not seem to be reflected in the recent story that unemployment could hit 3 million.
Given that there are 9 million on furlough – and that some sectors such as tourism, hospitality and entertainment are predicting up to 90% of them will become redundant – the figure of 3 million unemployed seems too low. For that to be the case a large percentage of the 9 million need to return to work.
Perhaps that is the government plan – but what ever is being calculated behind closed doors it would be much better for Whitehall to give us the unvarnished facts .. just the facts.
After watching Government broadcasts daily for months Grandads have largely been prepared to follow the experts’ advice – no matter how much it lacked in logical consistency.
But the latest round of political micro-management is pushing even the most responsible seniors to the edge of their credibility. And the chief issue today is face coverings.
When the risks were greatest and the case numbers were peaking back in April the sage advice was that face coverings were not required outdoors, in supermarkets or in the few shops that were still open. In fact they were being described as counter-productive because wearers might act as if they were better protected than any non-surgical mask can provide.
But then last week Scotland decreed that they were going to be required in shops from 10-July while the UK-wide government in London did not. Now we are told that the disparity between Scotland and England will end on 24-July when the same rule will apply. But why? If face coverings are required now in Gretna Green why not a few miles south in Carlisle? If they are compulsory in 10 days time in England what is so different over the next 9 days? Why wait until 24-July for them become so important that you will be liable for a fine for not obeying.
Now face coverings are just one of the differences in rules that were and will be applied seemingly at random by various levels of government – often claiming to be based on medical advice. Advice which is itself inconsistent and lacking in hard evidence. The only slight bright spot is that the police have no chance of enforcing the law .. like so many things that politicians pass laws about!
Today the UK press have a series of quotes from Tom Jefferson, a professor at Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine. One was – In 1918 around 30 per cent of the population of Western Samoa died of Spanish Flu, and they hadn’t had any communication with the outside world. He added: The explanation for this could only be that these agents don’t come or go anywhere. They are always here and something ignites them, maybe human density or environmental conditions, and this is what we should be looking for.
His statements should have carried some weight considering his position and the specialisation in evidence-based research. However some very basic fact checking reveals the real source of the outbreak – On 7 November 1918, the New Zealand passenger and cargo ship Talune arrived at Apia from Auckland. On board were people suffering from pneumonic influenza, a highly infectious disease already responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world. Although the Talune had been quarantined in Fiji, no such restrictions were imposed in Samoa. Sick passengers were allowed to disembark. The disease spread rapidly through the islands. [NZ Government]
Now the case of Western Samoa is not some minor incident hidden in the archives. It was the subject of a royal commission and a UN report. It impacted relations with New Zealand for decades. So either the professor is deliberately giving out false statements or is most unsuitable for his academic rank and position …
So much for this expert’s opinion. Now let’s all hope that those experts in the UK Government’s SAGE group live up to their grand title regarding the handling of Covid-19.
The last day of Spring marks the end of a quarter the like of which no one living today has ever seen before.
The virus that escaped from somewhere around Wuhan in China has been devastating. Not in the way that the two world wars were – but in its impact on our economies and way of life. It has become the unseen threat that could be hiding on every person and point of contact. The silent bullet that is not felt until days after it has hit its random target.
The nature of the virus and its infection process has fed two contradicting fears – huge death tolls and – overreacting to a minor health issue. And even though the 38,000 UK deaths to date are a shocking statistic the economic impact of the government measures – such as paying the wages of millions to stay at home – will hold the nation back for decades. So arguments are rife that lock-downs are being lifted too soon or not quickly enough. And that the virus is either a major threat to the nation or nothing worse than seasonal flu. Arguments that have now taken on political dimensions. With Labour supporters generally taking the opposite view to the Conservative ones. Hardly conducive to achieving the best outcome.
But politics, rules and regulations aside Mother Nature seems to taken notice of the lack of emissions from factories, motor vehicles and aviation. With reduced exhaust gases and the absence of con trails clouding the skies Spring has been a new experience for everyone here in middle England. Record sunshine hours, number of dry days and above average temperatures have pushed the time at home to new levels of outdoor activity.
It’s just a pity that most of us have not been able to share the glorious weather with friends and relatives …
Question – what do these world cities have in common; New York, Ahmedabad, San Francisco, Hanoi, Mumbai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Guangzhou, Bahrain, Amman, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Dhaka, Islamabad, Jeddah, Hong Kong, Delhi and Colombo?
Answer – they all still have direct flights into London Heathrow.
And that’s just some of the flights arriving today.
Now the experts sound convinced when they say this daily traffic has no significant effect on the Covid-19 infection rates in the UK. But there are two points that seem worth making.
First there are still thousands of new cases being reported each day (4,406 yesterday) despite 43 days of UK lock-down. They must be coming from somewhere – and places like New York are exceptionally risky locations to have on any flight path.
Second there is a notable absence of any flights from Australia and New Zealand. Places that normally would have lots of flights. And both are countries that have contained the spread of the virus very well. In contrast to the UK’s loss of over 600 more lives yesterday Australia has limited deaths to around 100 – in total – since the start of the pandemic. And popular tourist destinations like Queensland have recorded just 6 deaths in total while the UK is still averaging 6 deaths every 14 minutes – according to yesterday’s official figures.
So no scientific proof of anything – but where would you prefer your family and friends to be living today – London or Brisbane?
As the days of anti-virus lock-down drift into weeks and then months and the number of national fatalities grows by hundreds with every passing day the question Are you OK? becomes the new normal. Luckily our friends and family still are but there is that element of concern that one day our collective luck will run out.
So what are Grandads doing to fill their free time now that going out for leisure is off the agenda?
Judging by the queues at DIY stores there is plenty of catching up on home repairs and improvements in progress. While lots more have been boosting their domestic comms technology to contact everything from school lessons to government support schemes. And if the garden centres re-open (and if the public are allowed to visit) there will be a big boost in garden activity – perhaps with more grow your own fruit and veg efforts.
Additionally long neglected hobbies are being brought out of retirement to help fill the time spent in virtual house arrest. And status that could apply for all of 2020!
But to repeat the answer to that recurring key question – Yes we are still here …
Today the most important date in the Christian calendar seems to be played out in a sort of eerie silence – almost as if the whole population is waiting for some bombs to go off or some races to start.
Certainly in Rome the Easter ceremonies have been devoid of pilgrims and locals alike. A situation that may not have been experienced since before the reign of the Emperor Constantine one thousand seven hundred years ago. Even the Black Death and many plagues of the middle ages could not have such an impact on the attendance of the faithful.
Easter celebrations aside the ongoing restrictions mean that there is very little to report. Most Grandads have been limited to local travel for groceries and medicine – hardly newsworthy highlights. True our Prime Minister did have a brush with death but now seems to be on the road to recovery. And the Westminster Labour Party have appointed a new leader and shadow cabinet. Yet any chance of them being in power – or even a meaningful contributor – is years away at best.
As for that unseen enemy, the Covid-19 virus spread worldwide from Wuhan, it is still claiming a rapidly escalating victim count – and pushing many national economies to breaking point. There is little point in quoting today’s infection figures here as they are already widely published but it is worth wishing that we never experience the doomsday scenarios that some are predicting …
Two months ago at our first posting the Wuhan virus was a distant threat. Now it’s spreading all around the world; with Europe being the first directly impacted once the virus had left Asia.
Trying to keep up with the ever increasing counts of infections and deaths for make depressing reading – but for the record Italy has had at least 13,915 deaths, Spain 10,935 and the UK has now reached a total of 3,605 – officially. Sadly the figures for the USA seem set to dwarf those of Europe – and looking ahead much of Africa lacks the infrastructure to cope; especially if aid from developed countries is diverted into over-stretched health care services back home.
All the points about the financial impact have already been said – but the numbers just keep getting larger and larger. Businesses from the smallest trader to the mega corporation are facing complete collapse has virtually every sector outside of food, power and health care is shut down either by government order or by lack of customers. Everything from tourism to sport – pop concerts to voting – has been stopped. For example the mega-millions normally circulating in the world of TV broadcasting rights has evaporated. The Grand National, Wimbledon, even the Olympic Games will not happen until normality returns. If it ever does.
The year 2020 will be remembered for a long time – by the survivors …