I gather from emails I received over the last few days and from a comment on yesterday’s column (here) that I need to spell out my position on the CV-19 pandemic. Firstly, this column is about taking a long hard look every day at what is reported in the MSM, asking inconvenient questions. Secondly, this column is, surprisingly, about criticising certain aspects of how this pandemic is being handled. That is not = downplaying the danger of the virus!
All who have been following the reports on the outbreak, later epidemic, finally pandemic, in our MSM must have been aware of the increasing hysteria displayed in those reports. Surely this is worthy of critique? Also, since the government keeps telling us they are basing their decisions on advice from scientific experts, we are allowed – or I hope we still are! – to ask if the data on which those scientists have modelled their projections are reliable.
Finally, it is still permitted to criticise ‘Our NHS’ – or is it? Let me repeat what I wrote yesterday: I’m not criticising the frontline staff, the doctors and nurses – Im criticising the backroom staff who for years have mismanaged the NHS. Have we really come to this, that any criticism of the NHS must be suppressed?
On this third day of Lockdown Britain, let’s look at politics first. Parliament is in recess until April 21st. Yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions was therefore allotted a full hour, with twelve rather than the usual six questions given to Jeremy Corbyn. I’m sorry, but when I heard the first of his questions I switched the whole thing off. There’s only so much I can ‘take for the team’! We still don’t know how exactly the Chancellor of the exchequer will support the self-employed, but I’m sure something will be done, won’t it!
In Brexit news I was intrigued by a Government update I received yesterday afternoon, according to which ‘The first meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee will take place on 30 March 2020 by remote means.’ Here’s the link to that brief announcement. Meanwhile, Joe Barnes reported from Brussels that Brussels officialdom still believes there will be an extension, this time because of the CV-19 pandemic. You can read the whole thing here, but for me, nothing shows the Brussels mindset better than this paragraph:
“But one EU ambassador hinted Mr Johnson’s next move could reveal the type of deal with Brussels he was really seeking. They said: “If they don’t want an extension, they really want a hard Brexit on December 31.” (link)
Goodness me – that is mind-boggling, that is! Frame it, keep it for the time after the Lockdown, for the time when the pandemic has run its course and negotiations start again because nothing illustrates better that Brussels has still not accepted that we really mean to leave.
Meanwhile, as other countries are struggling and the number of deaths rise ‘Our MSM’ are now focussing on tests, the availability or unavailability of which being used as another stick with which to beat the government. Yes, we were unprepared – which country actually was, when they relied on WHO statements, declaring this to be a pandemic only on March 11th.
The tests available at the moment only show if someone is currently affected. They are not relevant for therapies because there aren’t any. Yes, there are reports in the MSM and across the blogosphere about treatments used in this or that hospital in this or that country, of supplements you can take which may or may not help.
In the absence of a viable cure and indeed a vaccine, the test kits available surely must be reserved for those who treat the desperately sick in our hospitals. The clamour for the antibody test to be made available for everybody, now, overlooks the simple fact that this is new. The production of that test is being ramped upend will allegedly be made available to everybody – but it surely is not too hard to understand that this can’t be instantaneous!
In the absence of that test kit, researchers have developed an App. You can read all about that here – it’s a report in the DT, but they have now removed their paywall from reports and articles to do with the Pandemic. There is an accompanying article (link) where we read that the NHS ‘symptom checker’:
“ … is too simplistic and may be causing the public to discount mild symptoms and underestimate their risk, say experts. Across the globe governments and private companies have created online tools for their citizens to check whether their symptoms are likely to be coronavirus. In the UK, the NHS online service is solely based on three Covid-19 symptoms: a high temperature, a cough or breathlessness. If a user says they have none of them, the system responds that “you’re unlikely to have coronavirus.” This approach is in marked contrast with other governments. In France, the online tool asks everyone 23 questions – including whether an individual has a sore throat, aches and pains, fatigue or loss of smell and taste.” (link)
What is it with this attitude of competition, first about who has the most cases, now who has been testing the most or whose symptom checker is better? Conditions in other countries are so different that comparisons are surely just click-bait in attempts to denigrate our country! Mind you, playing around with those apps will fill the time we now have to spend indoors.
There’s another ‘battle’ against the pandemic being waged. It’s not about implementing the Lockdown but about racism:
“The third challenge comes from those spreading health misinformation to build on existing conspiracy theories. Research by the Anti-Defamation League, for example, found online cartoons depicting an Asian “Winnie the Flu” […] This contributes to a climate of racism: last month an Asian man was violently assaulted in London and robbed by two teenagers who allegedly shouted “coronavirus” at him.” (link, paywalled)
That’s horrible, just as horrible as the news that a farmer – presumably not Chinese – in the Lake District was attacked by one member of the great public to whom the Lockdown presumably didn’t apply (link). Perhaps our authorities should do as President Erdogan does in Turkey, where over 400 were arrested for ‘spreading provoking news’ (paywalled link, in German). Perhaps our police should make Lockdown Deniers do press-ups as in India, reported in The Times (paywalled link) – although shooting them might be a step too far …
Then there’s ‘food’ … the panic-buying, the empty shelves, the unavailability of online grocery services. I wrote a few days ago that the government seems to have out-sourced rationing to the grocery chains, now supported by the latest report. Lo and behold, here’s the first article claiming that rationing must now be inevitable:
“We remain dependent on imports for the majority of our food. That may be fine in good times. But in the age of corona, when our hitherto European partners are closing their borders to exports, logistics are vulnerable as a result of potentially high levels of Covid-19 sickness among truck drivers, and the practicalities of fuel refining and distribution are unknown, the supermarkets’ “just-in-time” storage policies – in which they often hold as little as 48 hours of stock – begin to look very dangerous indeed. And that’s not to mention the lack of European agricultural workers to pick vegetables following Brexit. Rationing must now be inevitable, and within the next few weeks. It surely cannot be long before the Prime Minister concedes this point in his new-found spirit of compromise and action.” (paywalled link)
Brexit just had to be mentioned, hadn’t it! Perhaps government could ask volunteers to help with the spring harvest? After all – and this is good news – there are now 450,000 Brits who have volunteered to help out the NHS, that’s nearly twice as many as the government called for. That, you will agree, is brilliant. There’s another piece of cautiously ‘good news’:
“The virus death toll could end up being “substantially lower” than 20,000 with most of the fatalities in people who would have died later this year anyway, a government adviser has said. Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College scientist whose research precipitated tougher government measures last week, told MPs: “It [the deaths of those who would have died anyway] might be as much as half or two thirds of the deaths we see, because these are people at the end of their lives or who have underlying conditions.” (link, paywalled).
We can detect a more careful approach to the data used to promote shock-horror graphs published in the MSM. There’s also a hint that the light at the end of the Lockdown tunnel might be closer than we thought. It all hinges on the antibody test which shows if one has acquired immunity and which might be used to release those who are immune from their house arrest.
So while we observe the Lockdown, while we celebrate the volunteers who came forward, while we applaud all those local groups setting up help hotlines we should still be wary of government pronunciations, of ‘reports from the frontline’ in a certain uber-hysterical online paper, and of reports in the broadsheets either trumpeting the latest ‘cure’ or promoting their own ‘scientific model’. Remember: asking questions is still permitted!
Keep safe, enjoy the sunshine in your back garden so you have one, laud the volunteers, keep smiling and ‘always look on the bright side of life’, whistling!