Control means ticking the right boxes …
There is no end to the ongoing drive by ‘Our MSM’ to display their credentials of ‘speaking truth to power’ (they, according to their self-image, don’t have ‘power’ …), with their daily reports on government failure in regard to tests, in regard to ‘saving lives’, in regard to supporting “Our NHS”. Today I’ll not mention case and death numbers, I’ll focus on tests.
It is quite astonishing to observe ‘Our MSM’s’ concerted efforts to avoid blaming ‘Our NHS’ and their offshoot PHE responsible for getting test kits and testing while blaming government and especially the PM for all and every failure. See for example this report in the DT, under the headline “Government unable to explain its coronavirus testing failures and lockdown strategy” (link). Interestingly, the massed reporters at that daily government PR production did notice that:
“There is understood to be frustration within government over Public Health England, which is responsible for testing and is not thought to be rising to the challenge.” (link)
They did however not pursue this line, perhaps because PHE is part of ‘Our NHS’ which cannot be criticised. Then there’s this:
“Health bosses on Wednesday night claimed that the country has the necessary laboratories to carry out 100,000 tests a day – eight times the current stated capacity – but does not have the swabs and reagents needed to detect the virus. Other countries are understood to have ordered the raw materials before the UK.” (link)
Why is that? Were they waiting for a special letter or order from the PM to tell them what to order? Isn’t it becoming more clear day by day that ‘Our NHS’ seems strangely reluctant to acknowledge their own failure? There’s always something which prevents them from doing those tests: no facilities, no kits, no material, now it’s ‘no swabs’:
“Only 2,000 frontline staff have been formally tested for coronavirus, with some NHS labs saying they can carry out only a couple of tests a day because they are short of swabs. Others have had their capacity reduced by 90 per cent through a lack of components, according to the body for hospital chiefs.” (link, paywalled)
Might this ‘lack of components’ have anything to do with bureaucratic rules having to be followed? Perhaps it’s due to their centralised, top-down procedures? Here’s another little piece in this puzzle:
“Matt Hancock’s five-point plan proposes boosting testing capacity, paying private firms to conduct swab testing, rolling out antibody tests, conducting randomised sampling of the population and building up Britain’s long-term diagnostic capacity by working with pharmaceutical firms. However, he will be powerless to bring forward the stated ambition of testing 25,000 people per day, which may not be achieved until the end of this month, and antibody testing […] has still not begun because none of the nine different testing kits ordered by ministers has yet been approved for use.” (link)
Why is Mr Hancock ‘powerless’? No-one asked, so no answer. We can only speculate, but there are hints. I point my finger at PHE. And while it makes sense that the antibody tests which are brand-new need to be approved, we should ask who approves them? PHE, i.e. ‘Our NHS’ who haven’t been able to get their own central testing lab up and running as of yet?
There’s a nice report in The Times, on the private initiative of an entrepreneur, which shows that testing is possible and that a local rather than a centralised approach is working;
“Mike Fischer, 69, the director of a medical research laboratory in Abingdon, has launched a recruitment drive to persuade other laboratories to volunteer their help with testing despite not having formal approval. For the past two weeks, he has put his laboratory to work testing samples taken from local healthcare workers. He said that there was “nothing very special about our lab” or the PCR testing machines it has and that many others could be taking the same approach. […] “[His] initiative, which he says the government is aware of, has not been accredited by Public Health England.” (link, paywalled)
And there’s the problem: PHE. While ‘Our MSM’ pursue “Teh Government”, i.e. blaming the PM at every opportunity, this little report clearly shows whom they ought to blame, whom they ought to pursue. They ought to ask why PHE apparently spurned the help offered by the various labs in top universities:
“Many have volunteered their services to Public Health England. In mid-March it asked universities and companies to hand over testing machines but only requested one particular model made by one manufacturer. Matthew Freeman, the head of Oxford University’s Dunn School of Pathology, said health officials had accepted only one of the 119 PCR machines owned by the department. The machines are to be used at a new national testing centre in Milton Keynes that will [test] samples from NHS workers but which has been slow to get up and running.” (link, paywalled)
Perhaps ‘Our MSM’, instead of reporting the wails coming from ‘Our NHS’ about shortages of everything, should have asked why a businessman can get round this shortage:
“Mr Fischer said […] the tests cost about £10 each in consumables and he hopes to be able to scale up his own lab to handle 800 tests a day. “We just ordered another 15,000 tests,” he said. “I pledged a million pounds towards other people’s costs and I’ll be delighted when that runs out.” […] Mr Fischer said the lab had had some issues with getting hold of specialist chemicals, known as reagents, which are used in the testing process but “we’ve managed to work around them or find solutions”. (link, paywalled)
File the next quote under ‘jaw-hits-desk’:
“The lab is not accredited by Public Health England to test coronavirus samples but the businessman said it was a “national emergency” and he believed the risk of being sued was low.” (link, paywalled)
Does this mean we have to wait until PHE gets their fingers out because no non-PHE ‘accredited’ scientists, no lab technicians can possibly know what they’re doing – and might even be sued, afterwards? That the GPs and health workers who use this local facility ought to wait for the mighty ‘PHE central facility’ which is still not operational? Here’s that problem in a nutshell:
“Coronavirus testing takes place at present at NHS hospitals, a dozen government laboratories and a new national testing centre which is being assembled in Milton Keynes. Hundreds of laboratories equipped with testing machines at universities, large research institutes and biotech companies have not yet been used. In the early stages of the epidemic, testing was only carried out at Public Health England (PHE) laboratories, with positive tests requiring validation at a single PHE facility in Colindale, north London. Last month, however, officials asked lab technicians at NHS trusts to begin handling coronavirus samples and 40 hospital laboratories in England are now processing them. Some labs have reported problems getting hold of chemical agents required for the tests, while others have been operating at below capacity.” (link, paywalled)
Might we cautiously assume that not just Johnson but also ‘Our NHS’ and PHE didn’t take this seriously at the beginning? Might we cautiously ask if, on this evidence, a ‘centrally controlled’ approach is actually failing? Interestingly, the reporters of this article do take note, obliquely, of why this problem, this failure to test like they do in other countries, might have arisen:
“Public Health England has pursued a centralised approach which allows it to keep tight control over the diagnostic kit being used and where testing is carried out.” (link, paywalled)
Well, that’s nice, isn’t it: centralised approach, centralised ordering presumably from centrally accredited sources only, a ‘tight control’, thus expertise outside their centralised precinct isn’t being used:
“There remains consternation that more has not been done to draw on the expertise and offers of help from scientists with access to testing equipment at universities and commercial laboratories. About 40 molecular virology laboratories in the academic sector alone are not being used. Manchester University said it had machines “which are readily available” and could be used to increase testing for the virus, while 100 specialist staff at the Francis Crick Institute in London volunteered their services two weeks ago but are still yet to be deployed. Colin Garner, of the charity Antibiotic Research UK, estimated that if the government harnessed the laboratory facilities and expertise “they could probably without difficulty ramp up their testing to 100,000 tests a day”.” (link, paywalled)
Indeed – so why isn’t this happening? Lack of central PHE control, isn’t it! Why is it Johnson’s fault that PHE only wanted one type of PCR machine for their test centre in Milton Keynes, why they still haven’t made use of all those facilities in university labs? And why do ‘our MSM’ not ask these questions but pursue their narrative that everything is the fault of Johnson?
Worryingly, it would again seem that our Westminster Bubble dwellers prefer the top-down approach of bureaucratic centralism, of ‘tight control’ which must not be queried. Without a proper accreditation from centralist, bureaucratic Whitehall private initiative is suspect. It’s as if “Our NHS”, in concert with ‘Our MSM’, are happy to keep that Lockdown going by not working all out to do the tests they’ve been clamouring for because they must keep everything under their ‘tight control’.
So when you read and hear the wails of “health workers in Our NHS are in peril because they’re not being tested and it’s all the fault of Johnson”, then remember: it’s “Our NHS” and the PHE which have shown themselves incapable of even testing their own health workers because they cannot relinquish that concept of tight, centralised control.