Tag Archives: virus

Viral Threat 2021

Twelve months ago the new Wuhan virus was very much a Chinese problem. One that would not spread worldwide and, like earlier infectious, such as Ebola or SARS,  would be contained before it infected us in the UK. Wrong!

Man1We now have the prospect of UK Covid-related deaths reaching 100,000 before too long. And this is against a backdrop of almost 93 million cases and 2 million deaths world wide. But vaccines have been developed, approved, mass produced and started to be distributed – so deaths and serious infections should start to decline by summer time. If the promises hold true.

Then we, like many countries, will have to assess how our nation gets back to something approaching normal. This is going to be difficult after so much disruption to both the economy and our daily lives. If the Government spends billions to boost business then it could be a catalyst for a new Roaring Twenties. A period where the young and rich party like there’s no tomorrow, the stock markets boom and many old fashions are discarded.

But having already spent billions of borrowed money spending even more restarting damaged businesses might just burst the bubble. And the Roaring Twenties could be followed by an almighty crash … just like the 1920s.

Nightmare On High Streets

It’s Halloween – and as darkness fell the latest political response to the Covid pandemic was being prepared for broadcast to the nation; with suitable scary effect.

BoJo2After repeated delays the announcement came of closures of all non-essential retail venues and we took another step towards our town centres becoming ghost towns. The aim is to improve the situation in time for Christmas – but in practice the four weeks of closure will blast a big hole in the viability of many retailers. It will, after all, fall in the pre-Christmas shopping peak – a time that would normally see them through a quiet February and March.

Restaurants, clubs and pubs will all be closed – despite them spending millions on providing extensive virus security measures. The office Christmas lunch is most likely cancelled. True the furlough scheme will be extended but that will not save many retailers from collapse.

However with schools, colleges and universities still open the virus still has a route out to infect new victims – and may prove to be a big gap in the lock-down plans.

This year has been bad but 2021 will start off worse ….

Going Downhill

At the beginning of the 19th century advances in medicine lead to the establishment of specialist fever or isolation hospitals to treat patients with infectious diseases – such as scarlet fever and smallpox. Early examples in England being the Liverpool Fever Hospital (1801) and the London Fever Hospital (1802). Such hospitals became common in England when laws were enacted requiring the notification of infectious diseases by public health officials.

The Catherine-de-Barnes Isolation Hospital was established in 1907 near Solihull in the West Midlands. It stayed operational into the 1980s – becoming the last in service when the six other remaining NHS isolation hospitals were closed down in 1981. But then in 1987 even this hospital was closed, fumigated and sold for luxury housing. An event that ended almost 200 years of putting patients with highly-contagious diseases in dedicated hospitals.

Back then it was thought that we would never need isolation hospitals again. All the world health challenges were either under control or far away.

NHSNightingaleNWBut in 2020 all the rules changed – to the extent that this year has already seen the Covid worldwide toll reach some 38 million infections and around 1,086,000 known deaths – over 43,000 of them in the UK.

Early in the outbreak the UK government raced to establish seven temporary hospitals for Covid patients – with no expense spared. A move that could have re-established the isolation model that had worked in the past.

But no!

Instead the approach has been to free-up space in existing hospitals so that infectious Covid patients could share resources – and viruses – with those too sick to be included in the bed-freeing-up strategy. The results of which were death sentences for care home residents, a lack of resources for other serious conditions, cancellations of elective surgery and a reluctance within the general population to go anywhere near a hospital.

According to the Daily Telegraph a few weeks ago NHS chiefs had already been urged to assign all Covid patients to isolation hospitals in order to curb the spread of the virus, but the scientists involved were told that the move – though adopted in other countries and used effectively here before – was “too difficult” for the current NHS to achieve!

So we are now facing growing numbers of cases being handled in a repeat of the same approach that caused so many problems before. While we have new, purpose-built hospitals sitting empty and unused since June …

The front line NHS staff have been working very hard – but the ability of their leadership seems to have really gone downhill relative to other countries and those 19th century pioneers.

The phrase lions lead by donkeys comes to mind …

It’ll All End In Tiers?

It’s autumn and already the supermarket shelves are being stacked with Christmas specials while the British media tries to generate the false impression that there are shortages of essentials due to panic buying. For this Grandad mince pies are high on the essentials list – but with the raw materials to make them already stockpiled there are no concerns on that front.

Man38However taking a somewhat broader view there are plenty of things that could go badly wrong for Britain. First the infamous, but non-existent, trade deal with the European Union is needed by both sides – but not at any price. And those that expected the EU to take a pragmatic and fair approach have been rudely shaken out of their dreams. We have to hope that the politicians can stop playing their political games and come to a sensible solution. But it’s not something that has happened very often, or very quickly, in the past – and the EU has a worse than average track record; mainly because there are so many different countries trying to come to a common consensus. What suits Spain does not suit Germany, etc, etc.

With just three months remaining before the end of transition and just a few weeks before the next final deadline any businesses relying on importing or exporting across the Channel must be crying out for definite border policies and procedures. The optimistic view is that exports from the EU to UK will be VAT free and cheaper but the pessimistic view is that something as simple as buying an item on Amazon will involve extra processes that increase the final price significantly. Who knows? Certainly not Joe Public. And most probably not Joe Public’s member of parliament either.

Then a close second comes Covid-19 – or rather the various attempts by our leaders to solve a health pandemic by issuing random rules, laws and slogans. Today’s news that even if a vaccine is found and approved by early 2021 it will take all of next year to treat most people. So we face starting 2021 with both Covid lock-downs and massive hold-ups at all the ports. But our government has things under control, it says, and is looking to make things clearer by putting Covid restrictions into three tiers …

Some distance behind these two we have threats of political rebellions in Scotland and Ireland – plus even within Scotland – and an increasingly unstable situation within British royalty. With the head of state being in a high-risk age group, the heir apparent being past retirement age, the Duke of York being tangled up in US litigation and Harry, formerly known as Prince, having become a minister of the Woke-ist religion there is a minefield of potential disasters not far ahead for the House of Windsor.

Interesting times …

Equinoxe

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.

Man37But 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 then. 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 …

What’s Going Wrong?

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.

CaptainBlogsBut 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 …

Just The Facts Ma’am

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.

JoeFriday1But 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.

Expert Opinion 2

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.

MaskedMan1But 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!

Expert Opinion

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.

Man1902His 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.

Spring Has Really Sprung

The last day of Spring marks the end of a quarter the like of which no one living today has ever seen before.

SunBaby1aThe 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 …