Monday, 30 March 2020

Are We Clear On COVID 19, Boris?

It's difficult to believe that Boris Johnson's first press conference on the COVID 19 pandemic occurred only two weeks ago, on 16 March 2020. Scandalous, in fact, given the need for the government to inspire trust and confidence in its handling of a situation that was already 10 weeks old, so that we all follow public health instructions. Worse, however, is that these briefings are largely used as Johnson's opportunity to lie and misinform. Even Alistair Campbell, the original Spinmeister, finally snapped and provided 20 top-tips for properly keeping the nation informed - advice that's been reported so widely and with such approval that nobody can be in any doubt that Johnson is determined not to be honest at all...

A key feature of this daily 'dog and pony show' is for Johnson, or another Brexidiot minister standing-in, to be flanked by two human shields: either another Brexidiot minister or a senior civil servant to his right; and a senior civil servant to his left. 

When in the middle himself, Johnson largely plays the role of panel chairman, ostentatiously ticking some list of journalists or media outlets, scribbling a note and assigning each question to one of his shields. Though occasionally he fails to resist the temptation to answer with his own waffle or muddle the issue that he's handing off. 

The questions are invited in twos and threes. This also helps shift attention to the 'business' of who will answer each question, rather than the meaning and importance of each question itself. Amidst the confusion it's impracticable for anyone to point out that a question wasn't answered clearly, or at all. 

Questions on the politics get smothered in nonsense or ignored in the usual way, but inevitably it oozes out that a lie has been told or a horrendous error of judgement was made and covered up.

Technical questions - on 'models', the 'science' or health - go to the civil servants, often with a muddle of words from Johnson which the poor unfortunate technocrat has to clear up before getting a chance to answer the actual question.

I pity the civil servants. Understandably, they were not chosen for their jobs based on either their ability to handle a national press conference accompanied by a mendacious narcissist, or to speak in sentences and language that a national audience with a reading age of 11 could understand. So putting them on display like this is Johnson's idea of a practical joke. It would be amusing if this were a televsion show, as one day it might be (Yes Minister with a daily press conference). But now, not so much. 

My personal favourite is the current Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, and I leave you with perhaps the longest single sentence to date, at nearly two full minutes, on how long the current 'suppression measures' might be in place. This is the sort of question that should've been averted by providing the information succintly in the first place, but the poor DCMO is left to deal with it. Bless her, she deserves a medal for fronting BoJo's despicable regime in a time of great crisis. In the meantime, a nation waits patiently for genuinely informative briefings from the British government...

Friday, 27 March 2020

Stocks May Plunge As Well As Fall. But In The Long Run...?

Here's an insight into why investing in the stock market is worthwhile in the long term, and you need to be a professional to pick the highs and lows in any given time frame (with thanks to Google Finance and COVID 19):

1 day chart:

5 day chart:

1 year chart:

5 year chart:

30+ year chart:

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Get Ready For... 18 Months Of On/Off Supression Measures

Source: Imperial College Covid-19 Response Team
This is the Imperial College COVID 19 report that forced the British government to switch from its reliance on 'mitigation' measures and potential "herd immunity" to 'suppression' measures favoured by most other countries on Earth to avoid their healthcare systems being crushed by sheer numbers of victims being admitted to hospital and/or intensive care units (ICU). 

The report was probably adopted by the Tories merely because it carried the word "Imperial" but, hey, at least it had the desired outcome.

The report explains that suppression measures (isolation for those sick or vulnerable; social distancing; a ban on mass gatherings; and closure of schools/universities) will need to last 18 months, but could be switched on and off during that time to prevent the second and third 'waves' that we saw from the 1918-19 influenza pandemic.

Only the major social distancing and school closures would be 'triggered' with the other suppression measures remaining in place.

The two major suppression measures could be switched “off” when only 50 people in a week are admitted to ICU with COVID 19, then switched on again if 100 people in a week are admitted to ICU; “off” again when only 50 people in a week are admitted to ICU; and so on...

It is estimated that social distancing and school closures would apply in 12 of the 18 months (see above chart).

The report considers it is reasonable to assume that after 18 months we should have a vaccine that has been given to enough people for the suppression measures to be switched off completely.

What this will mean in economic and social terms is anyone's guess, but Brexit seems unlikely to be achievable until it's over, since government, businesses and citizens will not be in a position to understand Brexit impact, let alone deal with it. 

Monday, 16 March 2020

The Lyin' King Must Go

Not content with misleading Britain into economic hell, Boris Johnson has now succeeded in misleading great swathes of the British public to their ultimate doom. Yesterday, after spending weeks claiming that the UK is "well prepared" to deal with the COVID 19 strain of coronavirus, his government finally admitted that the UK is, you guessed it... not well prepared. In fact, it desperately needs extra ventilators and staff to care for the critically ill among the 7.9 million who may need to be hospitalised. So desperately are ventilators required, that the government will pay "any price" for them, and even wants manufacturers of diggers and other heavy equipment to have a go at making ventilators instead. So much for Brexit Britain's export hopes. That's enough lies now. Any basis for trusting this lot has disappeared - and trust is absolutely critical if the public is to follow government advice. It really is time for Johnson and his Brexiteers to take a well earned rest from government.

Aside from the catalogue of lies before Christmas, consider the following timeline on coronavirus:

In 2016, the NHS ran a pandemic drill called "Exercise Cygnus" after which the Chief Medical Officer warned that the UK faced "inadequate ventilation". Here's the NHS England influenza pandemic response plan for 2017, which does not mention of ventilator/ventilation but refers to 'stockpiles' of peronal protective equipment and other 'measures'.

At the end of December and on 6 and 9 January 2020, warnings were issued of a 'flu-like outbreak' in China by Canadian and US monitoring systems and the World Health Organisation.

On Thursday 23 January 2020, the British Health Secretary, Matt "Mattymatics" Hancock insisted the NHS was "well prepared" for any outbreak of coronavirus in the UK, and told Parliament that the UK was "well equipped" to deal with any cases.

On 26 January 2020, Labour's shadow health secretary warned the government that "The NHS is currently under immense strain this winter with staff already working flat out and hospitals overcrowded."

On 31 January 2020, the lying continued:
Authorities have said the NHS is ‘extremely well-prepared’ for cases of the Wuhan novel coronavirus.
Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said: ‘We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately.
On the same day, a British official attended EU health security meeting to discuss buying ventilators and protective equipment [updated 1.04.20].

On 3 February 2020, Hancock said again, "Our world-class NHS is well prepared and we are doing everything we can to protect the public."

That same day, Johnson gave a speech at Greenwich promoting Brexit.
And in that context, we are starting to hear some bizarre autarkic rhetoric, when barriers are going up, and when there is a risk that new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation that go beyond what is medically rational to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage, then at that moment humanity needs some government somewhere that is willing at least to make the case powerfully for freedom of exchange, some country ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and leap into the phone booth and emerge with its cloak flowing as the supercharged champion, of the right of the populations of the earth to buy and sell freely among each other.

On 4 February 2020, Britain was again represented at an EU health security meeting where procuring kit was discussed [updated 1.04.20].

On 11 and 12 February 2020, the World Health Organisation hosted a summit of 400 international to coordinate a global response to COVID 19, at which the Director General said:
As of 6am Geneva time this morning, there were 42,708 confirmed cases reported in China, and tragically we have now surpassed 1000 deaths - 1017 people in China have lost their lives to this virus. Most of the cases and most of the deaths are in Hubei province, Wuhan.
Outside China, there are 393 cases in 24 countries, and 1 death.
Johnson was then missing for 12 days in February, returning on 26 February, when Hancock told Parliament:
“We are taking all necessary measures to minimise the risk to the public... we are still in the phase of the plan which is contain – where we aim to contain the virus, both abroad and here at home, to prevent it becoming a pandemic whilst of course ensuring plans are in place should that happen.”
On 29 February 2020, NHS doctors were warning that the government has "no idea" on coronavirus.

On 2 March 2020, Britain was again represented at an EU health security meeting where procuring kit was discussed [updated 1.04.20]

On 3 March 2020, a survey of 1,618 NHS doctors found that 99% "were not in agreement with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s assurances that the health service could cope with a major coronavirus outbreak in the UK".

On 6 March 2020, Johnson said, "We are ensuring the country is prepared for the current outbreak, guided by the science at every stage."

On 12 March 2020, the WHO announced that COVID 19 could formally be described as a "pandemic", with 20,000 confirmed cases and almost 1000 deaths in Europe. The WHO's director for the region said:
More and more countries are now experiencing clusters of cases or community transmission. We expect that in the days and weeks ahead, the number of cases and the number of deaths will continue to rise rapidly, and we must escalate our response in such a way as to take pre-emptive action wherever possible. Such actions may help to delay the pandemic, giving health-care systems time to prepare and assimilate the impact.
On 12 March 2020, Johnson began to change tune, saying, "unfortunately, more families are going to lose loved ones before their time."

On 13 March 2020, Britain was again represented at an EU health security meeting where procuring kit was discussed [updated 1.04.20].

On 15 March 2020 - over seven weeks after assuring the public that the NHS is "well prepared" - Hancock "admitted to the UK being unprepared for the toll this pandemic will take. Particularly he spoke of a shortage of ventilators and the trained staff needed to operate them."

On 16 March 2020, Johnson also began begging for ventilators, with the reality being:
"Ventilators are vital as medical experts estimate that between 10% and 20% of those who succumb to the virus will need critical care. Many of those will need help breathing.
Although firms stand ready and able to produce more ventilators, a lack of clarity on design specifications and component sourcing mean that production remains many weeks away."

Updated: 21.04.20

But, on 26 March 2020, Johnson announced that the UK would not participate in the EU procurement bid because he had decided Brexit Britain should get its own ventilators... presumably unaware of Hancock's commitment to participate on 19 March. Within hours he tried to claim instead that the UK had not received the 'email' in time to participate (despite a British official attending four EU health security meetings where procurement was being planned).

Ironically, Johnson himself began showing symptoms of having caught COVID19 on 27 March, and found himself in hospital on 5 April 2020 and intensive care on the 6th. He left hospital on 12 April to rest at Chartwell House for 2 weeks...

Meanwhile, on 21 April 2020, Sir Simon McDonald, chief civil servant in the Foreign Office confirms to a Foreign Affairs Select Committee that the UK not participating in the EU procurement exercise was "a political decision". "Ministers were briefed on what was available, what was on offer by the mission in Brussels and the decision is known." Yet the same day, Hancock tells the daily press briefing that he decided the UK was in the EU procurement scheme and it remains in, but the scheme has not yet delivered...

All this from someone who keeps promising to "do whatever it takes".

How many more such phrases must be rendered meaningless by this snake oil salesman?

Time to run these con men out of office.

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