The idiocies of politicians and businesses, John Prine, greed and kindness

5 April 2020

Our leaders seem to be competing to show who can be the biggest idiot, and it’s a close-run thing.

Evidence from China and Singapore gave clear signs in late January that coronavirus would spark a pandemic and, shortly afterwards, the World Health Organisation started advocating programmes of mass testing for live Covid-19.  The British response to testing has been less than impressive:

  • Mar 11 – we’ll increase tests to 10k a day (Government statement)
  • Mar 19 – we’ll increase tests to 25k a day (Boris Johnson)
  • Mar 29 – we’ve reached 10k tests a day (Michael Gove)
  • Mar 30 – we’re actually doing about 7k tests a day (Helen Whately)
  • Mar 31 – we’ll be doing 25k tests a day by the mid-April (Gove) or the end of April (Government statement)
  • Apr 2 – the government made mistakes – “There will be criticisms made, and some of them will be justified” (Matt Hancock)
  • Apr 2 – we’re “catching up” and we’ll doing 100k tests a day by the end of April (Hancock)
  • Apr 2 – 5k NHS staff have been tested so far (Hancock); this leaves only 1,295,000 still to be tested (me)
  • Apr 2 – it is extremely unlikely that the UK will be able to test for live cases in the general public (Government statement)

The numbers of daily new cases of Covid-19 in the UK dropped from 4,450 on Friday to a total of 3,735 yesterday.  Optimists believe the spread of the disease could be levelling off;  cynics believe this could be because not enough tests are being done.

The new Nightingale Hospital in London was opened this week and the Royal Engineers are in the process of building more of them over the country so at least somebody is anticipating a huge increase in the need for them.  I’m sure somebody’s realised they’ll need to be staffed.

However, the increasing rate of deaths in the UK does seem to be slowing though it takes time for the statistics to catch up with the facts because of the way they’re reported.  For example, Wednesday’s deaths were originally reported to be 159 while the actual number is now known to be at least 463. only 200% more.  Any chance the police will accept a 200% margin of error when stopping people for speeding – well, officer, I know the limit’s 30 but I was only doing 90 so that’s within my 200% margin of error innit?

For a helpful guide (approved by a friend of the family who’s an epidemiologist specialising the worldwide spread of diseases) on how to remain as sterile as possible when unpacking shopping, see:  https://youtu.be/sjDuwc9KBps.

After doing nothing for six weeks as the pandemic started, Trump did another of his U-turns on Sunday by saying his promise to re-open America by Easter had been “aspirational” and he hoped it would all be over by 1 June.  He added that he would have done “a very good job” if only 100,000 people died of it.  ‘Only’ 100,000 Americans dying as a result of the President’s incompetence is a “good job”?  I’d hate to experience what he’d describe as a bad job.

What I tend to forget about America is how little is governed by federal law – many laws are still set at state level so what is legal here may be illegal three paces to the south.  The two most shocking laws that are set by individual states and not nationally are gun control and abortions but a lovely tweet went viral this week advising pregnant women to file for financial support for their foetuses on the grounds that the Republicans would either have to grant it or admit that a foetus isn’t a child, which would undermine their opposition to abortion.

When the possibility of voting reforms that would make voting easier during the pandemic, was being discussed, Trump said, if it were easier for people to vote, “You’d never have a Republican elected in this country again”.  He didn’t think that one through did he?

Still, after four months in the shadows doing Sweet Fair Angela, the Labour party now has a new leader who may now leap into action.  At least, whatever you think of his politics, Keir Starmer has the ability to take things seriously, unlike Bumbling Boris.  He’s agreed to work with the Conservatives for the common good on coronavirus and some of us hope he’s preparing to respond to a sadly inevitable  increase in domestic abuse cases and a birth-rate bulge around the end of the year.

Less impressive was the Bank of England having to ‘ask’ the UK’s largest banks, after they’d already paid millions in bonuses to their executives, to scrap nearly £8bn of dividends and cancel plans for further cash bonuses;  private health firms have sold thousands of test kits at £295 each (twice what they used to cost);  Tim Martin, founder and CEO of the Wetherspoons pub chain, who is ‘worth’ about £280m is claiming the company can’t afford to pay its staff during the shut-down and will need government support;  and Pets at Home is claiming that its dog-grooming service staff are essential workers.

(Another sad effect of the pandemic is that John Prine is critically ill after contracting coronavirus.  Anybody who doesn’t know his work and likes country / folk music, have a listen to ‘In Spite of Ourselves’ which he recorded with Iris Dement.)

But some corporates are showing kindness rather than greed.  In the UK, Ocado ordered 100,000 Covid-19 testing kits for staff but has promised them to the NHS if required, and Morrisons are donating large amounts of produce to foodbanks.

Remember what Terry Pratchett said:  “Kindness is love in disguise”.

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