Current Affairs Politics

Through Brexit And Covid-19 Britain Has Become The Sick Man Of Europe

What on earth has happened to the United Kingdom? How did one of the more prosperous nation-states in the world, a country with a long and storied history, turn into the Sick Man of Europe? Can we blame the successive blows of Brexit and Covid-19 on the national psyche coupled with the failure of UK governments and parliaments, of the institutions of the state itself, to deal with these events in anything approaching a responsible or half-way adequate manner? Or is it the refusal among people of influence in politics and the media, those who gave birth to Brexitism, to see Britain as a perfectly respectable, perfectly ordinary country of middling political and economic standing in a global community instead of some quasi-imperial colossus impervious to the concerns of ordinary nations?

Looking at the reaction of much of the British press to the coronavirus pandemic as they now rally around some imaginary flag, the recent criticisms of government policy and inaction forgotten, and the almost mystical evocations of a military past, of the First and Second World Wars, of the Blitz, of D-Day, of the Falkland Islands’ Conflict and the so-called Troubles, one is struck by the domestic denialism that has come to characterise the news media in Britain. Facts are secondary to myth. Whether they are myths about the glory of Brexit, or the supposed antisemitism and racism of Jeremy Corbyn, or the triumph of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” spirit of the British – a phrase that is itself more fiction than fact – in the face of catastrophe.

While the UK has now recorded in excess of 10,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus most experts agree that this figure is a gross underestimate due to the flawed and restricted methods of data gathering by the UK authorities who are almost wholly focused upon charting hospital-related fatalities. In truth the dreadful 10k death toll was likely reached some time ago and the real number now stands well above 15,000. Something a few more inquisitive British journalists are slowly beginning to realise.

Meanwhile though, in much of the homegrown right-wing press the order of the day is jingoism and almost messianic descriptions of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and his Conservative Party colleagues. Take this example from the serial reactionary Allison Pearson in The Telegraph:

How is Boris? For millions of people, that was our first thought upon waking yesterday. And our last thought before we fell asleep the night before. The prospect of losing our Prime Minister was profoundly shocking. “He won’t die, will he?” a friend texted at 11.18pm. “My heart will break.”

It’s rare for a politician to inspire such emotion, but Boris is loved – really loved – in a way that the metropolitan media class has never begun to understand.

This kind of quasi-mystical “Great Leader” nonsense has proliferated in the British press over the last two weeks and the best that can be said about Pearson’s contribution is that it is probably the least offensive example of it. While in Ireland we wonder what kind of society and country will emerge from this current and near-overwhelming crisis in the months and years ahead, one might well ask the same of our nearest neighbour. And at the moment things are looking far from good.

100 comments on “Through Brexit And Covid-19 Britain Has Become The Sick Man Of Europe

  1. I believe it’s a combination of a lot of things, some of which you’ve touched upon. Let’s not kid ourselves, though. Britain/the UK/ England isn’t alone in having a strong sense of exceptionalism, nor in having an often airbrushed or exaggerated historical narrative (whichever suits the mythology). In fact, we’re quite good at it on this island. There probably isn’t a nation on Earth without the same tendencies, and sometimes much worse.
    My major concern regarding the UK and the US in particular is that, more than ever, government is being run by what amounts to bought-and-paid-for proxies for multinational corporations, and it isn’t that people/voters don’t see this, they just couldn’t care less.

    • Agree! As others have pointed out, the Dutch are having a “bad pandemic” for very similar reasons to the British. Exceptionalism is not uniquely British. But the British are next door. And particularly taken with the notion.

      My biggest concern here is the fawning on the Government and the insistence that no criticism is good criticism by some FG TDs and friendly journos. That is slippery slope thinking.

    • Absolutely right. And I would emphasise the destruction of public education standards and the stupefying effect of media and entertainment. You’re also dead right in saying that people do have a sense of what is going on in general, but there is the predictable effects of 40years policy.

      • Agree with both of you. As though to criticise or even question a government in a time of emergency is somehow unpatriotic, whereas the complete opposite is the case. To not ask questions, and not criticise if it’s warranted, is deeply unpatriotic.
        And this is so true on both counts from rossioncoyle: “And I would emphasise the destruction of public education standards and the stupefying effect of media and entertainment.”

        • If I were a British Republic it would be mostly the health and speedy recovery of Prince Charles I’d be praying for!!!!!

  2. Brenda Steele

    I can assure you that there is very little love for Boris of the kind described by Allison Pearson up here in Scotland. It doesn’t show in the Billionaire owned MSM or the fawning BBC. Perhaps looking at the circulation figures or the TV viewing stats might give a clearer picture.

  3. At this stage of the game, I’m not sure there are any good answers to this virus. I don’t like Boris Johnson and Company, but does anybody have a “magic formula”? Some countries have managed to test very, very large portions of their population early and repeatedly, but so far the largest country to pull that one off is South Korea.

    Why in the world is poor Italy taking it so hard? There are hypotheses up the wazoo, but when some scientists think even Italy may be under-counting its dead by a margin of up to 4x…..Has Italy’s government has been just so egregious that Italy’s suffering was just this predictable avoidable consequence? Does looking at Italian history seem like the Northern part of that country always “buys it” during European plagues and epidemics (including the Bubonic Plague), and South Italy always ends up on the brink of starvation (partly because when corn went to Europe, Asia, and Africa they didn’t know how to Nixtamalize it)?

    Why has Portugal gotten off rather lightly compared to Spain? Is there any truth to the theory that the BCG vaccine can confer higher immunity to respiratory infections despite its middling effects on TB itself? It seems likely that there are more unknowns to this virus and pandemic than are being acknowledged.

    Also whatever the case now, it seems fair to acknowledge that social distancing is a bit cruel in its own right. I suspect most people would prefer to spend a comparable amount of time doing labor Stalin himself would consider to harsh for his gulag prisoners, than spend more than a few weeks of extreme social distancing-unless they have some sort of disability or condition that would be exacerbated by hard labor.

    I’ve already seen some people in the US compare the GOP’s handling of mass COVID-19 testing and medical PPE (personal protective equipment) to Trevelyan’s handling of The Great Famine-much if not most of this comparison is coming form people who aren’t of Irish origins themselves. Honestly, I think the comparison to how the USSR (mis)handled to the Chernobyl crisis is much, much closer to the mark. Partly that’s because most of it actually is driven by ideological dogma (just a different kind) rather than any plausible financial motive. The same thing is probably more or less true of the Chinese Government.

  4. Oh dear! The British particularly of course the English are facing destruction, again. All this means is the Irish are indulging their ever lasting wet dream, again. The Irish couldn’t beat them, nor could the Spanish, French of Germans and the Germans tried twice! But not to worry the latest bug will definitely be their downfall.

    All I can say is thank goodness for Brexit Lets see how the corrupt undemocratic EU pay for Italy Spain and Portugal, at last count, without British cash

    • If that’s what you take from that post, Pippakin, then I’m afraid that the problem lies more in thee than in me. But carry on! 😉

      • Of course its me, the Irish even with their corrupt, thieving history couldn’t possibly stoop to envy. How are Bertie and Brian not to mention every Irish prime minister since Dev. Don’t bother to answer that In spite of everything Irish historians write Irish history shines thru the bog. Name one other European nation or in fact almost any other country that deliberately used emigration as the preferred way of dealing with unemployment.

        • Poland, Lithuania, Albania, Bulgaria, etc. Do keep up!

          • I knew you would say that you left Romania and Serbia off your list but even so not one of those countries or even all of them combined get close to the number of Irish people who emigrated to every part of the once British empire and most if not all of those countries did not and have not taken a political unmentionable decision to rely on emigration as a means of keeping public expenditure low to the point of non existent

            • Do you honestly think England/Britain has never gotten rid of poor/inconvenient English people via emigration?

              What exactly do you think was going on with Virginia Company? The Virginia Colony sought to get rid of the poor landless English who had been growing in number since at least Henry VIII’s reign by sending them to the Ol’ Virginy. Some they sweet-talked into going with promises of land that may or may not have materialized if/when their contract as indentured as servants was up. Some got knocked over the head and woke up on a boat. Maryland was set up by Charles I, as a place to send English Catholics. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was originally supposed to be another dumping ground for landless English poor people until the Quakers were able to exercise some local control by luck and could make some of the decisions.

              Then of course Georgia was set up as a prison colony. Once it decided that the British Empire sucked joined a certain Revolution, Britain found a bigger prison colony in Australia. With Georgia and later Australia, the vast majority of of these criminals were basically engaging in “survival crime”. A few were hardened violent criminals but let’s be honest most, especially the children were in for stealing food. In fact, you didn’t always need to commit any crimes to be sent to Australia or Canada. I believe the “Child Migrant Programme” where up to 130,000 most English kids were sent to Australia or to a lesser extent Canada for simply being orphans or from deprived families. This was mostly in the 1920-1950’s but went into the 1970’s. Most of them ended up as slave labor in their new homes.

              If anything I’d see England and Britain as good contenders for a country that encouraged emigration to keep spending down!!

          • If we’re stretching the point as regards the term ‘deliberate’ to incorporate an impoverished state in the 1920s onwards that had been riven by conflict and British misrule across the years then let’s not forget the actually more plausible instance of Britain itself too in the period from the 1840s onwards. All those Irish in America didn’t come from nowhere.

            • I presume the correspondent is NI unionist, so for s/he the irony is that the first wave of Irish to flee to America were the Scots-Irish (Presbyterians and non-Conformists) who fled after the failure of the 1798 rebellion in Ireland.

    • You do realize that without the USSR/Russia, and the US Britain could probably not have held them off much longer than France.

      It’s unlikely any of the allies could have defeated The Third Reich on its-except maybe, maybe, maybe an outside chance Russia/USSR could have eventually beaten them alone-but they would have lost even more of their people.

      Of course Britain has been defeated. By most of her former colonies. Mr Gandhi managed to do so without firing a shot in anger!!

      • Yes I fully realise it its why WW2 is always referred to as an Allied victory The Russians lost 30 million people in WW2 and all while Ireland was as Nazi as Germany What do you mean by defeated? The UK has remained on good terms and are allies with its former ‘colonies’ many if not all of whom also fought in WW2 and has it ever occurred to you that Gandhi was almost certainly chosen as the most suitable leader of India because of his strongly held and well known views on always finding peaceful solutions.All empires come and go the main reason is that empires are expensive Its all very well dashing in and doing a smash and grab but empires require much more than that

        • “Ireland was as Nazi as Germany” Really? Still at this sort of stuff. Ridiculous statement.

          • Ridiculous doesn’t mean not true. Ireland was Nazi during WW2 as usual they were too busy praying for the British to be defeated to get off their knees and see what the Nazis were

            • Asinine. Ireland wasn’t Nazi during World War Two. In fact it was in a close if unheralded security alliance with the UK. It allowed air corridors for British and US aircraft across its territory, downed UK crews were usually shipped complete with wrecked aircraft across the border after a diplomatically convenient period. Intelligence was shared at the highest level between the two states. Irish people were allowed to serve in British forces with no ramifications (bar those who had deserted the Irish defence forces). It was Irish workers male and female who worked in Britain in agriculture, manufacturing and so on and who crossed back and forth during the war years to Éire as was (despite the UK being a belligerent power in the context of Irish neutrality). Radio Éireann frequencies were adjusted at the request of London to prevent them being used as wayfinders by the Nazis. There was a defence agreement between the two states in the event of a German invasion. There’s considerably more and all of this is easily accessible information that completely disproves what you say.It was certainly a world away from Spanish, or even Swedish neutrality.

              And given that there had been a conflict between the two barely 20 years previously and that partition existed all of this suggests actually that the Irish were vastly more amicable than other states might have been given the history. Of course there was self-interest, on all sides.

              The British and US invaded and occupied neutral Iceland during the war. Ireland was aware of this. But credit where credit is due they acquiesced to Irish neutrality, albeit a neutrality sharply tilted in favour of them.

        • It’s true Ireland was unofficially aligned with the US and UK, much like Switzerland was unofficially in cahoots with the Nazis.

          Britain has been defeated a number of times:Boer War was one. Afghan Wars. I think Napoleonic and Battle of Hastings were the only conflicts with France Britain actually won. I believe the UK lost the Mysore Wars and a few conflicts with Turkey.

          Gandhi never was a “leader” of India and never intended to be. He never sought to be PM or President of an Independent India, and his preference for India’s first PM would have been Muhammad Ali Jinnah, however Jinnah ended up with Pakistan.

          If Nehru, Gandhi, or any of them was “chosen” it certainly wasn’t by British government. Some British people admired the man true, however Churchill was fond of calling him a “half-naked Fakir” and didn’t really have nicer things to say about Nehru or Jinnah either. It’s true that whatever public opinion may have been at the time in England (and it varied quite a bit) no Revolution against the British Empire not even the nonviolent one, has ever been welcomed readily by the British establishment-even if a lot of ordinary people were sympathizers.

          As for former colonies as Britain’s allies? Well you couldn’t afford to be a pariah to the half the world forever. For some of the former colonies alliance didn’t happen right away. It’s been known to take over 100 years after Independence for some countries that parted with Britain to be on good terms.

          • Very unlikely the UK ordered emigration to ease the welfare burden the welfare state didn’t begin until 1948. Its far more likely British govts used a form of emigration to increase the British population in countries they either conquered or had strong business relations.

            Gandhi was odd but his leadership was crucial to a peaceful British exit from India True he was probably no more than useful camouflage but the success of that is seen in the continued respect he is held in. Churchill may not have liked or respected him so what Gandhi was useful

            Of course the UK has been defeated before and possibly hundreds of times. The important thing is they were as much adventurers and explorers as they were warriors and they never gave up.

            Its true some former colonies probably did/do hold grudges irrelevant since most joined the Commonwealth

            • The Child Migrant Programme lasted into the 1970’s. Before that many of the kids were from orphanages or otherwise dependent on charity.

              Even before Victorian Charity, England clearly did have an agenda to “get rid” of landless poor and later urban poor because they were inconvenient, even if there wasn’t a modern welfare state. So many English were sent to North American colonies, Australia, Canada, South Africa and more.

              You can even argue that English geneology of dumping people goes back to Henry VIII’s policy of deciding that people who used to grow food on Church Land could no longer do so, as all the land became property of The Gentry. Why a Protestant Church could not have continued to grow food on a reformed Protestant/Anglican Church Lands was never made clear, as far as I can tell.

              As for Gandhi? Sigh!!! You don’t really get the dynamics of Independence movements including the non-violent ones do you? Look a bit at the history without trying to paint even Independence leaders as puppets of The Crown all along, and maybe you’ll see the pattern. The most Provocative of the Revolutionaries rarely if ever gets the political career.

              You also don’t quite get the *deal* with many former British colonies not just Ireland.

              • Yes the British did send people abroad but it had little to do with welfare even in the 70’s nor was it intentionally cruel

                The dynamics of independence movements are fairly clear but if one group is peaceful and another peaceful its also clear which side will gain the support of whichever govt they are opposing particularly if the govt want to get out.

                Its as though you want to believe that everything the British did was deliberately aimed at hurting the main population and the only case I can think of which I would agree with is the opium trade which the British legalized in China

            • It’s pretty much an objective face that being ruled by Britain hurt the vast majority of Colonial Subjects. In many cases the harm included severe Famines and total destruction of existing economies. If in fact, there was no malice or intent behind it, then an ethical government would have at times re-evaluated what it was doing and been prepared for a course correction.

              Such a move rarely came from the British government voluntarily. A great deal of sympathy for these causes by ordinary people was quite common, but it was rare for the British government to voluntarily do a course correction with the Colonies.

              Generally speaking you needed an English majority to get full Independence without staying in the Commonwealth Realms without having a lot of pushback from the British government. Full independence with no Commonwealth Realm membership, was for some reason a taller order.

              • Speaking of people being forced abroad. My great great great grandfather from Birmingham was transported to Australia in 1851. His crime? He’d stolen a chicken (by the way FYI pippakin, he was English as the day is long, not a hint of Irishness in him). He was sentenced to 7 years, arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in May 1852 (all the records are online, it makes for fascinating reading). He was also unfortunate, or perhaps not, in that transportation to VDL/Tasmania ended two years later. He never returned home. Without question transportation was used to send working class people away from Britain both as punishment and as a means of getting them out of the hair of the motherland. But talking of intentional cruelty I think anyone sent halfway across the world for the crime of stealing a chicken kind of fits that definition quite precisely.

                Just for the record, 160,000 ‘criminals’ were sent to Australia between the 18th and 19th centuries. Prior to 1782 about 50,000 were transported to America. And also the West Indies. From India people were transported too to penal colonies in the Andaman Islands.

              • To be fair, the situation in the American Colonies (now the United States) can hardly be compared with that of other former British colonies. It was a totally different dynamic there, in that, rather than it being a case of an oppressed native people rising up, it was a case of colonisers and their off-spring outgrowing the motherland (almost without exception, the leaders of the American Revolution referred to themselves as “Englishmen” right up until it became clear that some form of devolved power from London was impossible to achieve).
                Different story for Native Americans and black Americans, of course. As Malcolm X succinctly put it: “WE didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.” His people are still trying to get out from under it.

              • You’d think it all happened yesterday not as in most cases it did almost a century ago at the latest. No matter how Irish you are you really cant impose 20th or 21st century values and equality on ancient norms. You certainly cant deliberately impose fiction except for some Irish people of course who never do anything else.

                I have nothing to say to such blatant hypocrisy but I thought I’d just mention that England lost the battle of Hastings William had engaged most of the scaff and raff of Europe to bolster his army and as winning armies so often, even today do, they looted and plundered their way over England. I cant imagine why the English dont take a ton of Semtex to Normandy and bomb the place for a few decades

          • Very fair point. Though the use of transportation still holds (ie involuntary exile).

            • Apologies WorldbyStorm, Don’t know how I managed to park that under your transportation comment. It was meant as just a random stand-alone point I thought should be made. Very touching re your Great, Great, Great Grandfather, by the way. That sort of thing tends to humanise the stats.

              • Touching? Possibly to those with tunnel vision. The great, great etc grandfather appears to have settled and lived well and happily enough to marry and produce children, hardly a man in need of sympathy. His punishment was typical of its time It also confirms the British sent their own people there to increase the strength and support of the UK govt

              • One valid point in that family story of WorldByStorm is that the British government for all its Colonial racism was often not above oppressing English people, given the right circumstances. Peterloo wasn’t all that different from lot of massacres in the Colonies ( Amritsar, Blood Sunday etc), although it involved mostly Northern English people who wanted expanded Suffrage and Representation in Parliament. Britain during the 19th century was not kind to most English people. The vast majority of English people during The Civil War between The Roundheads and Cavalier were essentially victims trapped between two fairly horrible factions-somewhat like the Russian people in much of the 1920s

            • The American Revolution was really one of the post-Colonial movements of The Enlightenment era much like many other countries in North and South America.

              While most of the leaders (like most of the population) were ethnically and culturally English, there were many who were German, Dutch, French, Irish, Black and more. If you look at the Revolutions of North and South America around that same time, most of them were fighting against Spain, but they often were multi-ethnic, had similar Enlightenment era ideals, and became Presidential Republics. English Americans of the American Revolution era were not as likely to have been pushed out of England or transported or have ancestors who were, as English Australians. However The English Americans of the late 18th century were wildly more likely to have that sort of thing in their family background, than were people of Spanish, French, or even Irish heritage who participated in the Wars of Independence that gave the world Mexico, Haiti, Bolivia, Venezuala, Columbia and many of the world’s Presidential Republics.

              Realistically ALL the Wars of Independence in The New World involved a large chunk of the world’s human chattel being transferred from European Empires to Young Republics. All of the latter struggled in their own with with squaring the pre-existing and notoriously hard-to-kill practice with their Enlightenment Revolutions. The US actually paid one of the higher prices for ending slavery in that club.

              Before the American Revolution slavery was just fine in ALL Britain’s North American colonies, and was only questioned by a fringe minority. By The Constitutional Convention almost all of the existing states that abolished slavery before1863 had either already done so, or had begun phase-outs. If Washington, Samuel Adams, Ethan Allen, et all, had all just decided to remain Loyal Subjects to the Crown, Wilberforce and Company would have been up against a significantly more powerful pro-slavery lobby and the cost of compensating slave owners could have easily been 4x as expensive or more.

              If Britain hadn’t managed to abolish slavery when it did or very, very soon after it could have become much more entrenched in The British Empire, into a time when colonization of India was more complete and more of Africa was pink-Not a pretty alternative history at all!!!

              Also since by the American Revolution there were large Dutch and German populations in The American Colonies, is it safe to assume that Britain never would have treated Dutch or German Americans as they did Afrikaaners? Since the US arguably came close to regional famine at least once (1930’s), is it safe to assume that English blood was guaranteed protection against how the British Empire was known for handling famines in the colonies?

              While we can never know how history would have turned out by changing events over 200 years ago, I disagree that The American Revolution can be dismissed simply because many of the Revolutionaries had English origins.

              • I’m not a fan of judging historical events by today’s standards – in fact any reputable historian will warn against it. History is there to learn from, and we’re Making a complete mess of that. We are in very dangerous times, regardless of coronavirus. Extreme nationalism and populist dictatorship is on the march again. Politics and leadership is now far too much about playing to people’s base emotions, no matter how absurd they are. As the cliche warns against, too much telling people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.
                It’ll be interesting to see if the US is able to remove King Trump from office if he loses the election this year. Or if an election is even allowed go ahead.
                It seems a bit unfair that the rest of us constantly hold the US up to forensic examination but, like it or not, it sets the standard in the lib-dem world. Where it goes, others follow or mimic.
                Back to the past, for a second. My last on this: roughly speaking, in the periods we’re talking about, if a country/nation was strong enough it colonised others near and far. If it wasn’t strong enough to colonise others, it ran a real risk of being colonised itself. As for slavery in the Americas, a few of the “Founding Fathers” were dead set against it on religious grounds – not including Jefferson, obviously – but wouldn’t have stood a chance of uniting the colonies if they’d been vocal in their opposition.

              • you’re grand Tamam, no worries.

                Pippakin, I’m all for not judging historical events by the standards of today, but… transportation wasn’t regarded uncritically at the time. Anything but. There was strong criticism on moral grounds from the early 1800s on a range of fronts, one that it unethical, others that convicts provided unfair competition to settlers, etc. The ahistorical view is to believe that at a time of activism against slavery and other ills that people weren’t aware of and critical of approaches like transportation – and indeed broader campaigning against a brutal and brutalised penal system both domestically in the UK and more widely.

                I’m fascinated at your insight into my relative’s life. You must tell me more. I do not think that being transported away from his family, wife and children in England was a happy event in his life. But clearly your insight into him is considerably greater than my own.

    • IRA got the Brits out of 83% of Ireland , 65,000 solders and 12,000 RIC, 3,800 Black and Tans and Auxiliaries defeated only the second colony to get freedom by force , America 1784 the first, A levels only have a paragraph mention of Irish history, so your ignorance due to lack of your education system

      • Its not lack of education its lack of interest and the obvious lack of wealth and business opportunity in Ireland both of which are still the same today, there was and is no point in fighting to keep a country or colony if that country/colony has nothing the UK needs or wants. Its rather sad that so many Irish people cant seem to understand that the reason the UK didn’t think Ireland was worth fighting for is the same reason so many Irish people escape from Ireland as soon as they leave school.

        • Yes, the UK or some version of the UK didn’t spend the last 800 years fighting to keep hold of Ireland, in whole or in part. Never happened. History is an illusion. Facts are fiction. Insanity is the new norm. Wake up sheeples!

          😳

          • Amazing how easy it is for some to read and write history as fiction and completely ignore the reality of the times which history is or should be about. By the time Ireland became independent the world was changing the UK had a multitude of countries to choose from to get meat, fruit and vegetables and of course whisky is Scottish not Irish.

            The UK didn’t want or need Ireland its strategic value was increasingly useless and the politics was changing in 1923 most of Ireland became independent in 1948 the UK founded the National Health Service and the welfare state. It would be cruel to say the south with its multitude of ‘unemployed’ farmers and yearly child birth explosion would have been an unwanted drain on UK cash and resources but eggs is eggs…The UK is an island which is finally learning to look after its own and recent opinion polls have shown what the UK thinks of Ireland and it aint much

  5. gendjinn

    A sick man of Europe with a 40 seat majority, a recessed parliament and an unwritten constitution. The UK must also soon choose between extending the transition and therefore dealing with the EU budget or a hard cliff edge Brexit. That should be an easy one. By teleconference.

    The last 40 years of governmental polices have rendered half the UK and half the US broke, unable to afford the type of emergency we are now facing. 10 million already laid off in the US, climbing every day. With a minimum two month quarantine required to choke off the spread of the virus, the economic systems of both countries are going to grind to a halt and collapse. See the involuntary rent strikes that have already popped up in major US metropolitan areas once April 5th hit. The pressure to get back to work is going to become overwhelming, otherwise the social movement for change coming out of this crisis will topple the status quo. The most poorly paid and lowest caste workers are now finding the true power they have, look up what’s been happening with Trader Joe’s the past week around unions and talk of strikes.

    Fortunately the UK’s nuclear arsenal is overseen by the stable guiding hand of the USA. So nothing to worry about there.

    • This is sarcasm, I presume: “Fortunately the UK’s nuclear arsenal is overseen by the stable guiding hand of the USA. So nothing to worry about there.” 🙂

      • gendjinn

        You know, today it is. But in about 3 years it might be the grim, hard, unyielding reality.

        • A lot will depend on whether or not the US can get King Trump out of office. He will not go quietly into the night.

          • gendjinn

            Trump is a loudmouth, he doesn’t do anything quietly. So it’s a pretty safe bet that when his time in office ends, he will moan, whine, bellow and pout on the way out and hopefully during the inauguration ceremony. But he will leave. There is not going to be a coup, a suspension of elections or Gilead in the next four years.

            I wouldn’t get my hopes up about Trump leaving in the near term. Biden is a flawed candidate, with vulnerabilities Trump is already exploiting. While it’s too early to say for certain, if I were to place a bet today I’d put money on Trump winning both the EC and popular vote. Let’s see who the nominee is, if we get a vaccine, 100% vote by mail or another Great Depression. 20 million unemployed now. Any health insurance they had is now gone and so is the candidate that was fighting for universal healthcare.

            • “But he will leave. There is not going to be a coup, a suspension of elections or Gilead in the next four years.”

              I hope you’re right, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

              • gendjinn

                You believe there is a significant risk that the US will suspend the constitution and/or elections so Donald Trump can remain in office for a third term?

              • If, even less that 5 years ago, a person had claimed that a US president could behave even half as badly as Trump has and be allowed remain in office, they’d have been laughed out of town. All I know for certain is that I will not relax or take anything for granted until he is out of office.

              • gendjinn

                I think that speaks to the more to the vast depths of your ignorance about US politics than any insight you may have on Trump.

                They are all as awful as Trump, Obama, GWB, Clinton and Reagan all have a far higher butcher’s bill than Trump has. I mean if Trump gets to work, gets stuck in and really applies himself in his second term he could maybe catch up to them, but I doubt he has the work ethic or attention span to do so.

              • Okay, hon. Whatever you say. 😘

  6. The deaths from COVID 19 are without doubt understated.

    One only need consider the reports of deaths in care homes where a dozen at a time can depart in a matter of days but go unreported. I personally know of three care homes near me where they have in a week lost nearly 15% of their residents. Yet care Home deaths, indeed any COVID 19 deaths outside hospital in zengland do not get reported in the overall death figures.

    So yes, the UK is almost certainly the country with the highest death rate in Europe.

    The old Wilfred Owen war poem about beggars bent double under sacks with pus filled lungs is as true today as it was then. Dulce et decorum est in pro patria mori.

    And all to the glorious background as the article says of the World Wars, the Falklands and Britannia’s majesty. It was in truth never all that different. Fodder for the butchers apron. Sheep led by donkeys. But death, physical death is only one part of this. The economic death that will follow from the UK’s brutal, callous and flawed initial decision to spread the virus To protect the economy through herd immunity will bring the country in the forthcoming years to its economic knees.

    At least in their poverty and social division they will have their Britannic songs to sing remembering their once great nation, their empire, their place at the centre of the world stage.

  7. This is very interesting (and not just because it’s a change from the my-dad-is-bigger-than-your-dad rabbit hole discussion above): https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/13/experts-divided-comparison-uk-ireland-coronavirus-record

  8. As of this morning, the UK had tested just short of 303,000 people out of its population of 67,000,000. I make that to be less than 0.05% of the population has been tested.
    Herd immunity, anyone!

    • At this point the top unknown in almost every country that has been affected would be how many asymptomatic spreaders are out there. Is the early herd immunity policy partly to blame? Yes. However, I don’t see any country getting off easily over this one.

      • It isn’t even as if there is any evidence that the “herd immunity” theory works – that is, contracting the virus and surviving will give immunity. In fact evidence of the exact opposite is starting to emerge, with some survivors contracting the virus a second time. The idea that governments would do down this route without any evidence to support it, is scary.

        • Herd immunity is a well established phenomena, not a theory. If what you differ with is Britain’s policy of encouraging young people to get national herd immunity, that should not be confused with herd immunity as a phenomena.

          The reality is that if the COVID-19 can’t be contained by quarantine, antiviral drugs and/or passive immunity (synthetic, equine, and/or human antibodies) that some form of herd immunity will be the one way to stop it. Herd immunity can be obtained by vaccination, by enough people having been infected, or perhaps artificially (there are some ideas on how the last could theoretically happen, but nothing like that has ever been done before).

          As for the evidence that some survivors got it a second time? There are a lot of possibilities there. Some people who tested positive a second time might have got a false negative and never cleared the virus. Also it’s possible that immunity to the virus after infections varies among people. It’s possible that being infected provides partial immunity-and in fact that’s common with a lot of coronaviruses that operate as common colds. You get a partial immunity that’s fairly temporary, but if you catch the virus again it tends to be milder.

          • I’m not confusing anything, Grace. Of course I was talking specifically about coronavirus as that’s what we’re discussing here. For you to wander off into a lecture about general immunity to infections is pure deflection, to be brutally frank. In the case of coronavirus, herd immunity is precisely that: a THEORY. There is no evidence at all that people will become immune if they contract the virus and survive. Moreover, the scientists and epidemiologists, might eventually come up with a vaccination or some other form of control, but even that is by no means a certainty. How are we coming along with the common cold and flu, re vaccinations and/or herd immunity?
            And your conjectures about why some people might have contracted the virus again is just that, pure conjecture.
            As for this: “The reality is that if the COVID-19 can’t be contained by quarantine, antiviral drugs and/or passive immunity (synthetic, equine, and/or human antibodies) that some form of herd immunity will be the one way to stop it.” There is no “reality” regarding coronavirus – no one is sure about anything where this virus is concerned. There might be no immunity to be had, herd or otherwise.

            • No doubt you’ll dismiss this guy, writing in The Guardian today, as confused, Grace. But then again, maybe not. He’s an American:

              “As I write the UK is reporting more than 10,000 deaths from Covid-19. Due to the realities of collecting data during an infectious disease emergency like this, that is likely to be an underestimate. Again, if we assume this is the peak and there is the same number on the way down that’s 20,000 total from the initial surge. And to get to population immunity you have to multiply that by at least 30: based on the current data, that’s about 600,000 deaths to get there, minimum.

              Finding a vaccine to offer a complete solution to this pandemic is, even in the best scenarios, still a long way off.

              … This crisis is not close to over, quite the reverse. The pandemic is only just getting started.”

              • Dr William Hanage is a professor of the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease at Harvard

              • +1 Tamam. There’s a huge question mark indeed about a vaccine and whether one will ever be developed. Agree the crisis is nowhere near over. And I’d be very leery about approaches that take as read that catching the virus confers immunity. It might, it may well not. And even if it does confer immunity that might be short term. I know a fair number of people inn their 30s and 40s who caught it and recovered and some were left with significant new conditions relating to heart and blood pressure. the idea they’d have to go through this again and again would fill me with deep concern. In other words restriction seems to be the best or at least most plausible path forward. That said there I do agree with Grace, none of this is going to be easy.

              • I’ve heard very similar anecdotes WbS. The health implications of catching and surviving Covid-19 seems to be a matter of growing concern among doctors. While many people may emerge unscathed from the virus those who suffer the worse may be left with long term health problems. That can occasionally happen with ordinary flus and colds, of course, but very healthy people are now developing post-recovery ailments.

              • The guy’s nationality is relevant how?

                The thing about “flatten the curve” is really this. It relies on the idea of herd immunity as well. The big difference is that X percent of the population gets infected over a longer period of time so the hospitals don’t overwhelm. So if there is no immunity from catching it at all? The Flatten the Curve strategy is fucked as well.

            • It’s not deflection. It’s recognition that there may be no “good” answers when it comes to this virus. Not the UK’s policy. Not the alternatives. Italy went for whole hog social distancing and they haven’t exactly done well. I’m not a fan of Bojo and company, however, at this point it doesn’t seem like anyone’s answers to this are exactly wonderful. A number of countries including Italy and Germany have suggested immunity passports, so the idea that some kind of immunity will be part of the picture is not unique to Britain or other countries who advocate having the young catch it.

              The reason catching the flu isn’t permanent immunity is because the flu seems to mutate so darned fast and the antibodies to it tend to wane after some months. The fact flu vaccines are possible shows that immunity does exist. If in fact, there was no immunity to Covid-19 at all, (pretty unusual for respiratory virus) the only option would be extreme quarantine of every community that was even suspected of having cases.

              While the virus is new, Dr. Faucci (epidemiologist NIH) believes people who have had it will get some partial immunity at least until fall. The real question is how much. As for how many people have been infected with COVID-19? There’s a good chance that a lot of infections in many to most countries were never counted. The question is how many.

              • “The guy’s nationality is relevant how?”
                Not to me, it isn’t. (-;

  9. “I do not think that being transported away from his family, wife and children in England was a happy event in his life. But clearly your insight into him is considerably greater than my own.”

    Must say when I read the line about him settling because he must have liked it etc, my immediate thought was: “He hadn’t much option but settle. It’s not as if they handed out return tickets.”

    • Not at all I’m simply attempting to think of it in the manner of the time and of course there would have been dissent and debate that’s how change happens in the UK. The things that were done back then were done in the thinking of the time if anyone’s great, great etc grandfather had wanted to return to the UK he would have found a way but arguably and quite possibly to be poor and hard working somewhere like Australia was a lot better than to be poor and hard working in the UK which had no welfare system worth mentioning and which sent children down mines and sweeping chimneys Its as if you believe the way of life for poor people in the UK was somehow easier than anywhere else it was not

      • I don’t usually feed trolls, but never the less.
        You cited his staying in Australia as being, somehow, evidence of how “It couldn’t have been all that bad” or he’d have left. As I pointed out earlier, they didn’t hand out return tickets to transported felons. Now you say: “… if anyone’s great, great etc grandfather had wanted to return to the UK he would have found a way“. Ha, ha, ha, and how would he have done that, hitched a lift? You do realise it’s Australia we’re talking about here, not Bangor or Newcastle. And you tell me “the UK had no welfare system worth mentioning” in those days. Wow! You don’t say?

        • You are the troll or the blogger on this site as on so many wordpress sites its hard to tell or bother to tell the difference Dont bother me again Historical mistakes are one thing lies are another

          • Okay. 😂

            • Pippakin I can’t think of anything closer to trolling in either the sense used on the internet or indeed in terms of any communication between individuals than saying to someone else who has mentioned a relative who was transported half a world away (for a crime so minor that even at the time this punishment was considered a disgrace by large numbers of people) how that person felt, how that person could have returned if they wanted to (really, with a criminal conviction – from a penal colony, do you understand what these terms mean?). And as to England being as tough, well sure but ripping a person away from their wife and children, ensuring that the vast and overwhelming likelihood was that they’d never return (which of course was precisely one aspect of transportation) is a nothing or has no consequences or can be erased by them perhaps, you have no information on this so I don’t know why you think you can state with certainty the man rebuilt a life elsewhere (quite apart from which it would be bigamy for him to remarry etc).

              And you claim Tamam is trolling.

              • Stop being so melodramatic he/she/it wasn’t writing about his Mum, Dad brother, or sister. It might have been bigamy if his great, great, etc granddad had remarried but you’re ignoring that A) Having sex didn’t require marriage and nor did having a long term relationship and more children

                This blog including its commenters are classic examples of why the Irish no sooner shake the dust and holy water off themselves in a civilised country than they start romanticizing good oul Ireland the country they couldn’t wait to get away from

                And, obviously the pain of Brexit is still fresh and getting worse not better. Its typical that however independent some Irish people say they want to be they have no problem groveling to the EU and still want full access to the UK.

          • But I’m the one writing about my great great great grandfather though. So it’s not abstract to me Pippakin. He married by the way in England before transportation and had a child very much in wedlock, hence I guess indirectly that’s why I’m here too, not in Australia. He certainly did not and could not return from Australia due to his conviction. His family was ripped apart by the transportation – that’s not melodrama, it’s a human tragedy. And yes if he had remarried it would be bigamy – after all you’re the one who suggested with zero evidence that he’d married in Australia). Some of us have some pride in our families history, I’m fortunate to be able to trace mine back – Irish and English quite some way. And in doing so seeing photographs and reading histories it gives a sense of the times and what those people had to go through. My mother’s grandfather she was telling me only the other day who again was from Birmingham lived in mortal fear of getting a flu at a time long before antibiotics had arrived on the scene. That’s the small detail that brings that person to life for me.

            Amazing how you seek to diminish all this and express disdain for people in all this.

            That’s just you I guess.

            • If he remarried in Australia it might technically be bigamy. However, if somebody has no hope of seeing his original wife and doesn’t even know if she’s alive? That’s hardly the same thing as the sailor, truck driver, or even commercial pilot who has several wives in different cities or ports. Cases where people who were presumed and showed up later very much alive to a remarried spouse? It’s happened in human history.

      • You are just missing the point by a country mile, aren’t you?

        You criticized Ireland for “encouraging emigration”, to get rid of the poor. Well England has been doing precisely that since at least the 1600’s, arguably earlier. First by by pushing, dumping, and even transporting the English poor people to American colonies and later to Australia.

        As for whether transported people had it easier or harder in England versus being sent abroad to a colony. For one thing there is a radical concept first found in the English Bill of Rights 1689 known as “cruel and unusual punishment”. Sending somebody across the world for minor crimes is definitely cruel and unusual no matter what their conditions. Maybe I’ve totally misunderstood the economy of Victorian England but stealing a chicken wasn’t the sort of thing where you could just hawk the bird on the black market and earn a small fortune. No, a man who stole a chicken was likely a English Jean Valjean who stole because he was hungry. Stories about transportation to Australia include up to 1/3 dying en route, and even children sentenced to hard labor.

        It was considered a punishment for a reason.

          • To me the fact your Great Great Great Grandfather’s family went back to Birmingham is the amazing part-even though Australia is a fine country in its own right. (Loved traveling there!!!!). Of course, it’s still a shocking sentence to receive for stealing poultry. Another part that amazes me was the date. I would have assumed that 1851 was a little late in the game to talk of transporting an Englishman for a survival crime!! Then I realized that the Child Migrant Programme (which I hadn’t known until recently sent kids to Canada as well as Australia!!) lasted into the 1970’s!!

            • Apologies Grace just to be clear he left wife and child in Birmingham and they stayed there and their descendants lived there to the present day, including my mother (she was born there and lived there until her twenties). He never returned to England. Agree completely – when I first found the docs I was astounded he was transported for such a trivial crime and then I thought about it further and it made a brutal sort of sense. In a way the surprise is the systems changed for the better after centuries of that sort of approach. But as a sort of afterword – all this was a source of deep shame and wasn’t mentioned in the family – presumably the crime itself, transportation and then the wife being left to bring up the child. It only came to light in the last five years with some digging through records. Also a generation later one great great grandfather can’t off the top of my head recall which confiunded a Methodist chapel iirc in the city – they’d started out as iron workers but transitioned to printers at some point. So perhaps becoming increasingly ‘respectable’ with all that brings. So no wonder this episode was forgotten.

              • It is a bit shocking. Truly.

                I realized that my own teachers, though pretty darn frank about slavery, Civil War, and immigrant persecution among other things, were extremely misleading over the transportation of English people for survival crimes. With regards to Australia they taught us, that except for a miniscule number of Irishmen transported during The Potato Famine (forgive me, as that’s the term they used)-whose numbers had been wildly exaggerated by The Irish of course- nearly everyone transported to Australia were hardened violent criminals, serial rapists, murderers and gangsters. And that in Australia transportation had mostly given way to voluntary settlers by 1840.

                As for the issue of transportation to North America? My teachers sort of played it down. There was a vague admission that Georgia was set up as George II was a penal colony-but it was strongly implied that the practice was short lived and never involved more than a 2,000 people at most. We were taught that nearly all the poor English laborers in Virginia of the 1600’s were voluntary indentured servants that while they had rough lives and upon freedom didn’t always get what they were promised-turns out a large chunk of them were transported from England. One listed crime for an Englishwoman transported to Pennsylvania in the very early 1700’s was transported for “Walking the Streets after 10 at night”. Was that curfew violation or suspicion of prostitution? If the latter prostitution was almost always a survival crime (think Fantine in “Les Miserables” ) in those days. I was pretty shocked as Pennsylvania was literally the last place in the ever-British Empire where I would have expected such things were going on!!

                I believe in the past the reason for playing this stuff down was wanting more “glorious” narratives. Nowadays, it’s probably more fear that people will use such stories to argue “slavery wasn’t so bad”. (Like the people who defend Hitler by pointing out Stalin’s gulags!)

                Talk about stories nobody wants to admit to! A couple generations of my relatives took a lot of pride in the members of the family who “Fought for Mr. Lincoln”. It was acknowledged that all of these individuals were born in Ireland, but it was absolute silence on why exactly they crossed the Atlantic. Of course, the timing alone is a massive clue, and any Civil War buff could place an educated guess. Once when I was about 11, I said it was a coincide that I have multiple relatives who came from Ireland soon before The Civil War. (At that age I was proud of knowing the word “coincidence” and coming from immigrant Union Veterans implied you were “cleared” of being a descendant of you-know-what. ) The older tweedy, Midwestern substitute teacher with a German surname looked over his reading glasses and suggested I ask my parents if it was just a coincide. No familial narratives gave an answer, buy my mother could guess. It was never a secret why there were so many Irish born Civil War vets.

              • Wow, Grace, you must be very proud. Your antecedents seem to have been on the “good” side throughout history. Native Americans? Well, it wasn’t your family’s fault that their land was taken and they suffered genocide, your people didn’t choose to come to America, they were forced to. African Americans? Nothing to do with your antecedents, they fought with Lincoln to end slavery?
                As a matter of record, over a 57-year period (between 1718 and 1775) close to 52,000 “convicts” were transported from the British Isles to America, mainly to Maryland and Virginia. The population of the American Colonies was about 2.5 million during that time (up to the start of the War of Independence in 1775) so transportees would have made up around 2.8% of the population. It’s anybody’s guess how many of the transportees were Irish, but no doubt it was a tiny minority (if you subtract the English, Scottish, and Welsh transportees from the total). So for you to be descended from such a tiny, outstandingly good, minority is almost miraculous. As I say, you must be so proud. 😉

  10. This from the always-brilliant Marina Hyde in The Guardian: “Having actively contributed to the loss of lives, Trump is going to have to get very creative in citing any that he’s saved. That said, last month was the first March without a school shooting since 2002, so maybe he could credit himself with the new approach to the US school shootings problem currently being trialled. Which is to say: no schools. All that time parent activists have spent trying to limit guns, it turned out that the smart way to do it was just to shut schools. Really makes you think. Do expect to see the National Rifle Association unveil a new slogan in the coming months: Guns don’t kill people; schools do.”

  11. Editor,

    At the expense of copy and paste I post a piece from yesterday’s ( London ) Times.

    If accurate, and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise, the piece brings into sharp focus the death and economic devastation that this callous, brutal, negligent and frankly murderous Tory elite government has visited on us

    Events could have been quite different. Turning an emergency into a disaster did not have to happen. And now the people will pay. History repeats, the British elites have not learned anything in the last centuries – and of course cousin Trump and his administration are a concomitant image cut from the similar cloth.

    Anyway, very worth a read: –

    The Times.
    18 Apr 2020 18:20:37 UTC

    Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster

    Boris Johnson skipped five Cobra meetings on the virus, calls to order protective gear were ignored and scientists’ warnings fell on deaf ears. Failings in February may have cost thousands of lives’

    On the third Friday of January a silent and stealthy killer was creeping across the world. Passing from person to person and borne on ships and planes, the coronavirus was already leaving a trail of bodies.

    The virus had spread from China to six countries and was almost certainly in many others. Sensing the coming danger, the British government briefly went into wartime mode that day, holding a meeting of Cobra, its national crisis committee.

    But it took just an hour that January 24 lunchtime to brush aside the coronavirus threat. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, bounced out of Whitehall after chairing the meeting and breezily told reporters the risk to the UK public was “low”.

    This was despite the publication that day of an alarming study by Chinese doctors in the medical journal, The Lancet. It assessed the lethal potential of the virus, for the first time suggesting it was comparable to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed up to 50 million people.

    Unusually, Boris Johnson had been absent from Cobra. The committee — which includes ministers, intelligence chiefs and military generals — gathers at moments of great peril such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other threats to the nation and is normally chaired by the prime minister.

    Johnson had found time that day, however, to join in a lunar new year dragon eyes ritual as part of Downing Street’s reception for the Chinese community, led by the country’s ambassador.

    It was a big day for Johnson and there was a triumphal mood in Downing Street because the withdrawal treaty from the European Union was being signed in the late afternoon. It could have been the defining moment of his premiership — but that was before the world changed.

    Rising risk

    That afternoon his spokesman played down the looming threat from the east and reassured the nation that we were “well prepared for any new diseases”. The confident, almost nonchalant, attitude displayed that day in January would continue for more than a month.
    Johnson went on to miss four further Cobra meetings on the virus. As Britain was hit by unprecedented flooding, he completed the EU withdrawal, reshuffled his cabinet and then went away to the grace-and-favour country retreat at Chevening where he spent most of the two weeks over half-term with his pregnant fiancée, Carrie Symonds.

    It would not be until March 2 — another five weeks — that Johnson would attend a Cobra meeting about the coronavirus. But by then it was almost certainly too late. The virus had sneaked into our airports, our trains, our workplaces and our homes. Britain was on course for one of the worst infections of the most deadly virus to have hit the world in more than a century.

    Last week, a senior adviser to Downing Street broke ranks and blamed the weeks of complacency on a failure of leadership in cabinet. In particular, the prime minister was singled out.

    “There’s no way you’re at war if your PM isn’t there,” the adviser said. “And what you learn about Boris was he didn’t chair any meetings. He liked his country breaks. He didn’t work weekends. It was like working for an old-fashioned chief executive in a local authority 20 years ago. There was a real sense that he didn’t do urgent crisis planning. It was exactly like people feared he would be.”
    Inquiry ’inevitable’

    One day there will inevitably be an inquiry into the lack of preparations during those “lost” five weeks from January 24. There will be questions about when politicians understood the severity of the threat, what the scientists told them and why so little was done to equip the National Health Service for the coming crisis. It will be the politicians who will face the most intense scrutiny.

    Among the key points likely to be explored will be why it took so long to recognise an urgent need for a massive boost in supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers; ventilators to treat acute respiratory symptoms; and tests to detect the infection.
    Any inquiry may also ask whether the government’s failure to get to grips with the scale of the crisis in those early days had the knock-on effect of the national lockdown being introduced days or even weeks too late, causing many thousands more unnecessary deaths.
    An investigation has talked to scientists, academics, doctors, emergency planners, public officials and politicians about the root of the crisis and whether the government should have known sooner and acted more swiftly to kick-start the Whitehall machine and put the NHS onto a war footing.

    They told us that, contrary to the official line, Britain was in a poor state of readiness for a pandemic. Emergency stockpiles of PPE had severely dwindled and gone out of date after becoming a low priority in the years of austerity cuts. The training to prepare key workers for a pandemic had been put on hold for two years while contingency planning was diverted to deal with a possible no-deal Brexit.

    This made it doubly important that the government hit the ground running in late January and early February. Scientists said the threat from the coming storm was clear. Indeed, one of the government’s key advisory committees was given a dire warning a month earlier than has previously been admitted about the prospect of having to deal with mass casualties.
    It was a message repeated throughout February but the warnings appear to have fallen on deaf ears. The need, for example, to boost emergency supplies of protective masks and gowns for health workers was pressing, but little progress was made in obtaining the items from the manufacturers, mainly in China.

    Instead, the government sent supplies the other way — shipping 279,000 items of its depleted stockpile of protective equipment to China during this period, following a request for help from the authorities there.

    Impending danger

    The prime minister had been sunning himself with his girlfriend in the millionaires’ Caribbean resort of Mustique when China first alerted the World Health Organisation (WHO) on December 31 that several cases of an unusual pneumonia had been recorded in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in Hubei province.

    In the days that followed China initially claimed the virus could not be transmitted from human to human, which should have been reassuring. But this did not ring true to Britain’s public health academics and epidemiologists who were texting each other, eager for more information, in early January.

    Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at Edinburgh University, had predicted in a talk two years earlier that a virus might jump species from an animal in China and spread quickly to become a human pandemic. So the news from Wuhan set her on high alert.

    “In early January a lot of my global health colleagues and I were kind of discussing ‘What’s going on?’” she recalled. “China still hadn’t confirmed the virus was human-to-human. A lot of us were suspecting it was because it was a respiratory pathogen and you wouldn’t see the numbers of cases that we were seeing out of China if it was not human-to-human. So that was disturbing.”

    By as early as January 16 the professor was on Twitter calling for swift action to prepare for the virus. “Been asked by journalists how serious #WuhanPneumonia outbreak is,” she wrote. “My answer: take it seriously because of cross-border spread (planes means bugs travel far & fast), likely human-to-human transmission and previous outbreaks have taught overresponding is better than delaying action.”

    Events were now moving fast. Four hundred miles away in London, from its campus next to the Royal Albert Hall, a team at Imperial College’s School of Public Health led by Professor Neil Ferguson produced its first modelling assessment of the likely impact of the virus. On Friday, January 17, its report noted the “worrying” news that three cases of the virus had been discovered outside China — two in Thailand and one in Japan. While acknowledging many unknowns, researchers calculated that there could already be as many as 4,000 cases. The report warned: “The magnitude of these numbers suggests substantial human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out. Heightened surveillance, prompt information-sharing and enhanced preparedness are recommended.”

    By now the mystery bug had been identified as a type of coronavirus — a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars). There had been two reported deaths from the virus and 41 patients had been taken ill.

    The following Wednesday, January 22, the government convened its first meeting of its scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) to discuss the virus. Its membership is secret but it is usually chaired by the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty. Downing Street advisers are also present.

    There were new findings that day with Chinese scientists warning that the virus had an unusually high infectivity rate of up to 3.0, which meant each person with the virus would typically infect up to three more people.

    One of those present was Imperial’s Ferguson, who was already working on his own estimate — putting infectivity at 2.6 and possibly as high as 3.5 — which he sent to ministers and officials in a report on the day of the Cobra meeting on January 24. The Spanish flu had an estimated infectivity rate of between 2.0 and 3.0, so Ferguson’s finding was shocking.

    The professor’s other bombshell in the same report was that there needed to be a 60% cut in the transmission rate — which meant stopping contact between people. In layman’s terms it meant a lockdown, a move that would paralyse an economy already facing a battering from Brexit. At the time such a suggestion was unthinkable in the government and belonged to the world of post-apocalypse movies.

    The growing alarm among scientists appears not to have been heard or heeded by policy-makers. After the January 25 Cobra meeting, the chorus of reassurance was not just from Hancock and the prime minister’s spokesman: Whitty was confident too.
    In early February Hancock proudly told the Commons the UK was one of the first countries to develop a new test for the virus.

    In early February Hancock proudly told the Commons the UK was one of the first countries to develop a new test for the virus

    “Cobra met today to discuss the situation in Wuhan, China,” said Whitty. “We have global experts monitoring the situation around the clock and have a strong track record of managing new forms of infectious disease . . . there are no confirmed cases in the UK to date.”

    However, by then there had been 1,000 cases worldwide and 41 deaths, mostly in Wuhan. A Lancet report that day presented a study of 41 coronavirus patients admitted to hospital in Wuhan which found that more than half had severe breathing problems, a third required intensive care and six had died.

    And there was now little doubt that the UK would be hit by the virus. A study by Southampton University has shown that 190,000 people flew into the UK from Wuhan and other high-risk Chinese cities between January and March. The researchers estimated that up to 1,900 of these passengers would have been infected with the coronavirus — almost guaranteeing the UK would become a centre of the subsequent pandemic.

    Sure enough, five days later on Wednesday, January 29, the first coronavirus cases on British soil were found when two Chinese nationals from the same family fell ill at a hotel in York. The next day, the government raised the threat level from low to moderate.
    The pandemic plan

    On January 31 — or Brexit day as it had become known — there was a rousing 11pm speech by the prime minister promising that the withdrawal from the European Union would be the dawn of a new era unleashing the British people who would “grow in confidence” month by month.

    By this time, there was good reason for the government’s top scientific advisers to feel creeping unease about the virus. The WHO had declared the coronavirus a global emergency just the day before and scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine had confirmed to Whitty in a private meeting of the Nervtag advisory committee on respiratory illness that the virus’s infectivity could be as bad as Ferguson’s worst estimate several days earlier.

    The official scientific advisers were willing to concede in public that there might be several cases of the coronavirus in the UK. But they had faith that the country’s plans for a pandemic would prove robust.

    This was probably a big mistake. An adviser to Downing Street with extensive knowledge of Britain’s emergency preparations — speaking off the record — says their confidence in “the plan” was misplaced. While a possible pandemic had been listed as the No 1 threat to the nation for many years, the source says that in reality it had long since stopped being treated as such.

    Several emergency planners and scientists said that the plans to protect the UK in a pandemic had once been a top priority and had been well-funded for a decade following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. But then austerity cuts struck. “We were the envy of the world,” the source said, “but pandemic planning became a casualty of the austerity years when there were more pressing needs.”

    The last rehearsal for a pandemic was a 2016 exercise codenamed Cygnus which predicted the health service would collapse and highlighted a long list of shortcomings — including, presciently, a lack of PPE and intensive care ventilators.

    But an equally lengthy list of recommendations to address the deficiencies was never implemented. The source said preparations for a no-deal Brexit “sucked all the blood out of pandemic planning” in the following years.

    In the year leading up to the coronavirus outbreak key government committee meetings on pandemic planning were repeatedly “bumped” off the diary to make way for discussions about more pressing issues such as the beds crisis in the NHS. Training for NHS staff with protective equipment and respirators was also neglected, the source alleges.

    Members of the government advisory group on pandemics are said to have felt powerless. “They would joke between themselves, ‘Haha let’s hope we don’t get a pandemic,’ because there wasn’t a single area of practice that was being nurtured in order for us to meet basic requirements for pandemic, never mind do it well,” said the source.
    “If you were with senior NHS managers at all during the last two years, you were aware that their biggest fear, their sweatiest nightmare, was a pandemic because they weren’t prepared for it.”

    It meant that the government had much catching up to do when it was becoming clear that this “nightmare” was becoming a distinct possibility in February. But the source says there was little urgency. “Almost every plan we had was not activated in February. Almost every government department has failed to properly implement their own pandemic plans,” the source said.

    One deviation from the plan, for example, was a failure to give an early warning to firms that there might be a lockdown so they could start contingency planning. “There was a duty to get them to start thinking about their cashflow and their business continuity arrangements,” the source said.

    Superspreader

    A central part of any pandemic plan is to identify anyone who becomes ill, vigorously pursue all their recent contacts and put them into quarantine. That involves testing and the UK initially seemed to be ahead of the game. In early February Hancock proudly told the Commons the UK was one of the first countries to develop a new test for the coronavirus. “Testing worldwide is being done on equipment designed in Oxford,” he said.

    So when Steve Walsh, a 53-year-old businessman from Hove, East Sussex, was identified as the source of the second UK outbreak on February 6 all his contacts were followed up with tests. Walsh’s case was a warning of the rampant infectivity of the virus as he is believed to have passed it to five people in the UK after returning from a conference in Singapore as well as six overseas.

    But Public Health England failed to take advantage of our early breakthroughs with tests and lost early opportunities to step up production to the levels that would later be needed.
    This was in part because the government was planning for the virus using its blueprint for fighting the flu. Once a flu pandemic has found its way into the population and there is no vaccine, then the virus is allowed to take its course until “herd immunity” is acquired. Such a plan does not require mass testing.

    A senior politician told this newspaper: “I had conversations with Chris Whitty at the end of January and they were absolutely focused on herd immunity. The reason is that with flu, herd immunity is the right response if you haven’t got a vaccine.

    “All of our planning was for pandemic flu. There has basically been a divide between scientists in Asia who saw this as a horrible, deadly disease on the lines of Sars, which requires immediate lockdown, and those in the West, particularly in the US and UK, who saw this as flu.”

    The prime minister’s special adviser Dominic Cummings is said to have had initial enthusiasm for the herd immunity concept, which may have played a part in the government’s early approach to managing the virus. The Department of Health firmly denies that “herd immunity” was ever its aim and rejects suggestions that Whitty supported it. Cummings also denies backing the concept.

    The failure to obtain large amounts of testing equipment was another big error of judgment, according to the Downing Street source. It would later be one of the big scandals of the coronavirus crisis that the considerable capacity of Britain’s private laboratories to mass-produce tests was not harnessed during those crucial weeks of February.

    CORONAVIRUS
    Below target

    “We should have communicated with every commercial testing laboratory that might volunteer to become part of the government’s testing regime but that didn’t happen,” said the source.

    The lack of action was confirmed by Doris-Ann Williams, chief executive of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association, which represents 110 companies that make up most of the UK’s testing sector. Amazingly, she says her organisation did not receive a meaningful approach from the government asking for help until April 1 — the night before Hancock bowed to pressure and announced a belated and ambitious target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of this month.

    There was also a failure to replenish supplies of gowns and masks for health and care workers in the early weeks of February — despite NHS England declaring the virus its first “level four critical incident” at the end of January.

    It was a key part of the pandemic plan — the NHS’s Operating Framework for Managing the Response to Pandemic Influenza dated December 2017 — that the NHS would be able to draw on “just in case” stockpiles of PPE.

    But many of the “just in case” stockpiles had dwindled, and equipment was out of date. As not enough money was being spent on replenishing stockpiles, this shortfall was supposed to be filled by activating “just in time” contracts which had been arranged with equipment suppliers in recent years to deal with an emergency. The first order for equipment under the “just in time” protocol was made on January 30.

    However, the source said that attempts to call in these “just in time” contracts immediately ran into difficulties in February because they were mostly with Chinese manufacturers who were facing unprecedented demand from the country’s own health service and elsewhere.
    This was another nail in the coffin for the pandemic plan. “It was a massive spider’s web of failing, every domino has fallen,” said the source.

    The NHS could have contacted UK-based suppliers. The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) was ready to help supply PPE in February — and throughout March — but it was only on April 1 that its offer of help was accepted. Dr Simon Festing, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “Orders undoubtedly went overseas instead of to the NHS because of the missed opportunities in the procurement process.”

    Downing Street admitted on February 24 — just five days before NHS chiefs warned a lack of PPE left the health service facing a “nightmare” — that the UK government had supplied 1,800 pairs of goggles and 43,000 disposable gloves, 194,000 sanitising wipes, 37,500 medical gowns and 2,500 face masks to China.

    A senior department of health insider described the sense of drift witnessed during those crucial weeks in February: “We missed the boat on testing and PPE . . . I remember being called into some of the meetings about this in February and thinking, ‘Well it’s a good thing this isn’t the big one.’

    “I had watched Wuhan but I assumed we must have not been worried because we did nothing. We just watched. A pandemic was always at the top of our national risk register — always — but when it came we just slowly watched. We could have been Germany but instead we were doomed by our incompetence, our hubris and our austerity.”

    In the Far East the threat was being treated more seriously in the early weeks of February. Martin Hibberd, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was in a unique position to compare the UK’s response with Singapore, where he had advised in the past.

    “Singapore realised, as soon as Wuhan reported it, that cases were going to turn up in Singapore. And so they prepared for that. I looked at the UK and I can see a different strategy and approach.

    “The interesting thing for me is, I’ve worked with Singapore in 2003 and 2009 and basically they copied the UK pandemic preparedness plan. But the difference is they actually implemented it.”

    Working holiday

    Towards the end of the second week of February, the prime minister was demob happy. After sacking five cabinet ministers and saying everyone “should be confident and calm” about Britain’s response to the virus, Johnson vacated Downing Street after the half-term recess began on February 13.

    He headed to the country for a “working” holiday at Chevening with Symonds and would be out of the public eye for 12 days. His aides were thankful for the rest, as they had been working flat out since the summer as the Brexit power struggle had played out.

    The Sunday newspapers that weekend would not have made comfortable reading. The Sunday Times reported on a briefing from a risk specialist which said that Public Health England would be overrun during a pandemic as it could test only 1,000 people a day.
    Johnson may well have been distracted by matters in his personal life during his stay in the countryside. Aides were told to keep their briefing papers short and cut the number of memos in his red box if they wanted them to be read.

    His family needed to be prepared for the announcement that Symonds, who turned 32 in March, was pregnant and that they had been secretly engaged for some time. Relations with his children had been fraught since his separation from his estranged wife Marina Wheeler and the rift deepened when she had been diagnosed with cancer last year.

    The divorce also had to be finalised. Midway through the break it was announced in the High Court that the couple had reached a settlement, leaving Wheeler free to apply for divorce.
    There were murmurings of frustration from some ministers and their aides at the time that Johnson was not taking more of a lead. But Johnson’s aides are understood to have felt relaxed: he was getting updates and they claim the scientists were saying everything was under control.

    400,000 deaths

    By the time Johnson departed for the countryside, however, there was mounting unease among scientists about the exceptional nature of the threat. Sir Jeremy Farrar, an infectious disease specialist who is a key government adviser, made this clear in a recent BBC interview.

    “I think from the early days in February, if not in late January, it was obvious this infection was going to be very serious and it was going to affect more than just the region of Asia ,” he said. “I think it was very clear that this was going to be an unprecedented event.”

    By February 21, the virus had already infected 76,000 people, had caused 2,300 deaths in China and was taking a foothold in Europe with Italy recording 51 cases and two deaths the following day. Nonetheless Nervtag, one of the key government advisory committees, decided to keep the threat level at “moderate”.

    Its members may well regret that decision with hindsight and it was certainly not unanimous. John Edmunds, one of the country’s top infectious disease modellers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was participating in the meeting by video link but his technology failed him at the crucial moment.

    Edmunds wanted the threat level to be increased to high but could not make his view known as the link was glitchy. He sent an email later making his view clear. “JE believes that the risk to the UK population [in the PHE risk assessment] should be high, as there is evidence of ongoing transmission in Korea, Japan and Singapore, as well as in China,” the meeting’s minutes state. But the decision had already been taken.

    Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College, was in America at the time of the meeting but would also have recommended increasing the threat to high. Three days earlier he had given an address to a seminar in which he estimated that 60% of the world’s population would probably become infected if no action was taken and 400,000 people would die in the UK.

    By February 26, there were 13 known cases in the UK. That day — almost four weeks before a full lockdown would be announced — ministers were warned through another advisory committee that the country was facing a catastrophic loss of life unless drastic action was taken. Having been thwarted from sounding the alarm, Edmunds and his team presented their latest “worst scenario” predictions to the scientific pandemic influenza group on modelling (SPI-M) which directly advises the country’s scientific decision-makers on Sage.
    It warned that 27 million people could be infected and 220,000 intensive care beds would be needed if no action were taken to reduce infection rates.

    The predicted death toll was 380,000. Edmunds’s colleague Nick Davies, who led the research, says the report emphasised the urgent need for a lockdown almost four weeks before it was imposed.
    The team modelled the effects of a 12-week lockdown involving school and work closures, shielding the elderly, social distancing and self-isolation. It estimated this would delay the impact of the pandemic but there still might be 280,000 deaths over the year.

    Johnson returns

    The previous night Johnson had returned to London for the Conservatives’ big fundraising ball, the Winter Party, at which one donor pledged £60,000 for the privilege of playing a game of tennis with him.

    By this time the prime minister had missed five Cobra meetings on the preparations to combat the looming pandemic, which he left to be chaired by Hancock. Johnson was an easy target for the opposition when he returned to the Commons the following day with the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, labelling him a “part-time” prime minister for his failure to lead on the virus crisis or visit the areas of the UK badly hit by floods.

    By Friday, February 28, the virus had taken root in the UK with reported cases rising to 19 and the stock markets were plunging. It was finally time for Johnson to act. He summoned a TV reporter into Downing Street to say he was on top of the coronavirus crisis.

    “The issue of coronavirus is something that is now the government’s top priority,” he said. “I have just had a meeting with the chief medical officer and secretary of state for health talking about the preparations that we need to make.”

    It was finally announced that he would be attending a meeting of Cobra — after a weekend at Chequers with Symonds where the couple would publicly release news of the engagement and their baby.

    On the Sunday, there was a meeting between Sage committee members and officials from the Department of Health and NHS which was a game changer, according to a Whitehall source. The meeting was shown fresh modelling based on figures from Italy suggesting that 8% of infected people might need hospital treatment in a worst-case scenario. The previous estimate had been 4%-5%.

    “The risk to the NHS had effectively doubled in an instant. It set alarm bells ringing across government,” said the Whitehall source. “I think that meeting focused minds. You realise it’s time to pull the trigger on the starting gun.”

    Many NHS workers have been left without proper protection

    At the Cobra meeting the next day with Johnson in the chair a full “battle plan” was finally signed off to contain, delay and mitigate the spread of the virus. This was on March 2 — five weeks after the first Cobra meeting on the virus.

    The new push would have some positive benefits such as the creation of new Nightingale hospitals, which greatly increased the number of intensive care beds. But there was a further delay that month of nine days in introducing the lockdown as Johnson and his senior advisers debated what measures were required. Later the government would be left rudderless again after Johnson himself contracted the virus.

    As the number of infections grew daily, some things were impossible to retrieve. There was a worldwide shortage of PPE and the prime minister would have to personally ring manufacturers of ventilators and testing kits in a desperate effort to boost supplies.

    The result was that the NHS and care home workers would be left without proper protection and insufficient numbers of tests to find out whether they had been infected. To date 50 doctors, nurses and NHS workers have died. More than 100,000 people have been confirmed as infected in Britain and 15,000 have died.

    A Downing Street spokesman said: “Our response has ensured that the NHS has been given all the support it needs to ensure everyone requiring treatment has received it, as well as providing protection to businesses and reassurance to workers. The prime minister has been at the helm of the response to this, providing leadership during this hugely challenging period for the whole nation.”

    • At this stage, the only country who seems to have done well would be South Korea. SK had a unique level of per capita resources for testing and other things. For everyone else, there don’t seem to be good answers.

      What exactly has Italy bungled so horrible to get what has happened to it? I don’t look at Italy and see some horrible error they made to bring such terrible destruction on their country.

      • Germany is coping by far the best.
        In Germany, just 0.6% of confirmed coronavirus cases have ended up being fatal – the lowest figure amongst any of the most affected countries. The fatality rate for South Korea is 1.4%, the same as Switzerland and Portugal.

        • Germany has done better than most of Europe-so far.

          However some countries that have done very, very badly such as Italy and Spain, in particular haven’t really fucked-up in some epic way. Sure Italy may have had some intrinsic risk factors such as a high elderly population and a lot of multi-generational households, but all the same it’s incredible just how badly that county has been affected!!

          To some degree every country is flying blind with this. The last time the world had a pandemic like this was just over 100 years ago. If South Korea and Germany did better than Italy or Spain, I believe that luck or possibly variables that had nothing to do with handling of Covid-19 could be at play. It’s true that South Korea and Taiwan’s proximity to China (as Democratic countries) means they both have some experience and preparation via the SARS outbreak. Also I have long been an admirer of the German Health System (despite the fact that most progressives where I am want a more Canadian model), so there’s no disrespect there.

          I just don’t believe there is some well mapped out road to getting through this one. There could easily be factors we just don’t know much about yet. Just because a lot of bad choices have been made, doesn’t mean there are well established good ones yet.

          • I agree, Grace. Without employing anything approaching a scientific analysis, my sense of it is that those countries which didn’t implement strict measures/take the virus seriously enough from the start, are faring worst. I too have long admired Germany’s health system and, without playing to a stereotype, Germany is a model of efficiency. When they set out to do something, they do it wholeheartedly and with thought and efficiency.

            • Well, this is an Irish blog so obviously the Nazis would be on it

              • “Dont bother me again”.
                Aaaah, I knew you didn’t mean it, hon. Luv u 2. 😘

              • Admiring the German Health System is NOTHING to do with Nazism you troll. Germany since the End of The Third Reich has done more to reform itself than more than a handful of nations in their world ever truly did.

              • Grace your opinion for want of a better word is regularly spurted all over post after post of this blog and for the record West Germany with American money may have cleaned up its act East Germany did not and Germany is led by an E German Merkel was born in W Germany but while everyone else was trying to get out of E Germany her father took his family to E Germany where his daughter was very successful and no one in E Germany became successful unless they obeyed and were members of the E German secret police. She became chancellor of Germany in 2005 and has ruled both Germany and the EU with the traditional iron fist since

              • So is Merkel a Nazi or a Communist? I’m confused…

              • Is there a difference I don’t think so. The full name of the Nazis is National Socialist Party. Its amazing really that the west has been so successful in labeling Nazis as right wing they were not

              • Oh good god. You’re one of THOSE…

            • My sense of it is that there are variables out that haven’t been confirmed, or many haven’t even been thought of. One HYPOTHESIS, to give an example, is a paper from MIT saying that countries with mandatory BCG vaccines and who started that earlier have had much lower death rates, than those who had mandatory BCG for a shorter period of time, and of course those who never made it a routine shot. The thinking in this hypothesis rans that despite its lowish/mixed effectiveness with -especially adult- TB, it has more “generalized” effects on the immune system and particularly the innate immune system. Most vaccines rely primarily on the acquired immunity. The researchers who ran the correlations pointed to studies of children in West Africa and elderly people who (recently) got the BCG and saw lower GI and upper respiratory infections.

              Now, at this point nobody knows if the studies in Australia and Netherlands among other places to see if giving people BCG protects from COVID-19 are going to bear fruit or not. Say it does? Then whatever you think about various countries’ BCG related policies, that was a decision made when nobody could have reasonably predicted it could affect the outcomes of a serious viral pandemic.

              My bias besides hoping there will be SOMETHING (another is that OPV can be a few months of partial protection) to serve as a stop-gap to a vaccine for this, is that I’ve always had a fascination with the sort of Russian science that produces these sorts of ideas.

              • Angela Merkel is the daughter of a Pastor, and religious adherence and communism don’t mix too well.
                As for the notion that National Socialism was a form of communism or even of socialism because of the name, that’s like trying to link northern unionism to the TUC because of the similarity in titles.

              • Religion is a major cause of obsessive destructive behaviour As for Nazis not being socialist read some history communism/socialism were and still are the cause of dictatorships, wars and too many deaths to count..The National Socialist party is identical to communist China and Russia Hitler didn’t start a civil war he no sooner won an election than he banned all elections He didn’t call the prisons gulags he called them concentration camps.

          • “The National Socialist party is identical to communist China and Russia”

            “. Its amazing really that the west has been so successful in labeling Nazis as right wing they were not”

            What’s amazing really is you offer up this stuff.

            There’s just no comparison on the economic or political level between the Nazi’s and the USSR or the PRC. The thing with the Nazi’s and indeed fascist Italy (and to a large extent Franco’s Spain) is that the party took the leading political role as the single political entity allowed. There was a lot of rhetorical focus on the state and there was an allocation of resources to state-wide projects of various sorts (holidays for workers, research etc). But private companies and private enterprise continued much as they did (in fact many prospered because they allied with one faction or another within the state/party apparatus) albeit as the conflict started there was a greater pressure from the state say in technological and military areas for companies to work towards specific goals.

            This is completely different to the PRC or USSR where there was next to no private enterprise (except at the most vernacular level between individuals) and all economic activity was state directed and state led and state owned. There was no comparison with the great privately owned industrial combines that survived in Nazi Germany, or the smaller businesses or whatever.

            And this is no surprise because Nazism and Fascism and Falangism didn’t believe that one could do without private enterprise. From the off in the Freikorps which led to the NSDAP the primary enemy was Communism. They thought class conflict was wrong (and left-wing and/or Marxist) and they thought that the nation and shared nationality (and shared racial characteristics) were more important. So they sought through the corporate state (more clearly defined in Italy and Spain than Nazi Germany, but still a part of the thinking in Germany) to bring together classes under the common nationality of German, Spanish, Italian (with again a racial component of varying degrees).

            Nazism and Fascism almost from the off made accommodations with business and conservatives. They were regarded by the latter as a barrier against Communism (and even social democracy) and rather stupidly conservatives thought they could control them. There was a sort fo pseudo left within the NSDAP around Rohm and others (in particular the Strassers) who were ‘anti-capitalist’ but you may have heard of the Night of the Long Knives and what happened to that particular strand within fascism which the vast majority of the Nazi leadership was in strong opposition to.

            And believing because the Nazi’s used the term ‘socialist’ that they were socialist is like believing that the GDR (East Germany) post war was ‘democratic’ because it had the word in its name.

  12. Further to Willie’s piece above, there’s this from the BBC:
    “New data has added to growing evidence that the number of deaths linked to coronavirus in UK care homes may be far higher than those recorded so far. The National Care Forum (NCF) estimates that more than 4,000 elderly and disabled people have died across all residential and nursing homes.
    Its report comes amid calls for accurate data on virus-linked deaths.”

    • The estimates I’m seeing by those who are experts in these things is 20,000 Coronavirus-linked deaths in the UK as of last week. Which is an awful figure given the anguish it must be inflicting on families who are in multiples of that number. If we say each fatality averaged an extended group of relatives of 10 people including in-laws that’s 200,000 touched by loss through the virus. That must be filtering out into the wider community in terms of news, stories and even just plain gossip.

      • Yes ASF. Where I am in Scotland the deaths of elderly is going through care homes like a hot knife through butter.

        Eleven deaths in one home in ten days a fortnight ago, eight in another last week, two in an other and five in another – all in one local authority area of about 80,000 souls. But it’s the same elsewhere across the country and worse again in England.And with no confirmation of when the peak will hit, or when the lockdown will end, we are at the mercy of the good lord.

        This was avoidable. It didn’t need to be as bad as this. And everything now is just catch up. Especially as Health England and Westminster seek to restrict PPE to the home nation.

        But at least the Scottish Government, through its own efforts, flew a commercial air bridge cargo jumbo into Prestwick yesterday from China with 10,000,000 pieces of PPE equipments.

        Quite what the UK will look like in six months or a year. Hatred against the elite masters is rising. Yes they have the troops, the surveillance, but death, loss land heavy handed ness breeds an unsustainable society. Quite how the UK will suppress the independence movement now remains to be seen. Yes the establishment and the dark arts brigades have been plying their dark trades in the background, but independence support is now well past 50% despite their and the MSMs efforts.

        Hatred and an iron resolve for change is what is coming ASF and the Brit machine will not stop it. Northern Ireland is i think is gone. Folks, ordinary folks will see the sense in becoming one country. And as the Coronavirus bites in Ireland as it inevitably will, albeit not to the same extent, and as the impacts of a damaged economy both through the virus in Ireland but also because of a belligerent Brexit Britain on its knees, change will also be demanded in the republic.

        But first we have to get through the horror of these ever escalating deaths.

        Time for sensible heads to plan for the future. Things must change, and they will. That is for sure. A better future is possible.

      • Yes, and 20,000 is itself probably a conservative estimate. Good point re the natural spreading of news and anecdotes through relatives, friends, colleagues etc. Hopefully it will help ensure a tipping point is reached.

  13. For those who didn’t watch the BBC1 Panorama programme last night, I would highly recommend that you do, if possible. It was on the UK government’s lack of PPE, despite repeated early warnings from WHO, which outlined what and how much PPE was needed, even down to the numbers of separate items required; its downgrading of coronavirus from a HCID (high consequence infectious disease) to avoid its legal obligations to provide NHS staff with adequate PPE; and it’s fiddling of the figures on the PPE it has provided (e.g. counting gloves in the singular as opposed to in pairs).

    I was particularly struck by a quote from a (unnamed) nurse who appreciates the public applause etc for NHS staff and carers, but is highly sceptical of the government’s motivation in encouraging it: “They [the government] call us heroes to justify us losing our lives. When what they should be doing is providing us with the proper equipment to safely do our job.”

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