09 April 2020

SITUATION

Statistics - as of yesterday, the figures for the UK were 60,733 reported confirmed cases of the virus and 7,097 deaths. This gives an apparent death rate of 12% of reported cases. These are registered cases entering a hospital and the ensuing deaths of these people. In fact, there are many more undetected cases in the community at large and, at present, there is no reliable way of testing the general community as the relatively few tests are being confined to NHS personnel.

 It is expected that the peak of the infection will be reached in a week or so’s time and the original estimate of between seven and twenty deaths still seems to be valid

Current Activity - the present slogan being used by the government is

Stay at home – protect the NHS – save lives

 The weather today is beautiful, and tomorrow is the first day of Easter – there is a fear that people will ignore the lockdown and go out in large crowds to enjoy the sunshine – all the government energy is going into persuading people to stay put and avoid spreading the virus.

 There is much interest in testing – it seems that there is still only a limited amount of reliable test equipment and this is being largely confined to the NHS – long-term testing in the community will be one of the ways of controlling the virus.

NHS - The present indication is that the successful expansion of NHS capacity - particularly intensive care beds, oxygen and breathing apparatus, is sufficient to cope with the likely peaking of the virus.

Strategy - more questions are being asked about the government’s strategy for winding down the present strong restriction on movement. No positive indication is given, and the policy is said to be to keep going with the present restrictions until the virus is seen to have reached its peak and be starting to decline.  It needs to be said that this will be reaching the first peak - as almost inevitably there will be a re-surge in infection once restrictions are lifted.

Economy the restriction of movement, including the closing of shops, cafés, cinemas and all outside events such as football matches, is leading to a major decline in economic activity. The government is offering substantial financial support to businesses, and now charities, but many people, particularly the self-employed, will not be fully covered. The longer the shutdown lasts, of the more serious the damage to the economy.

Conundrum the vexed question of the conflicts and interests of various aspects of the community is now being egg expressed as:

Lives or livelihood

Arguments on both sides but no consensus of opinion.

Political - Boris Johnson – the Prime Minister has the virus and last night was his third night in intensive care - at present it is thought that he is making a good recovery.  There is a certain lack of clarity about who is in charge in his absence – in the English constitution the Prime Minister remains in charge unless he either resigns or dies.

The Labour Party has elected a new leader – Sir Keir Starmer – he seems to be a sensible person and capable of helping the Labour Party to do a useful job in opposition.

 Other Questions – many questions are being asked as a result of the virus.  The questioners fall into two broad categories:

  • Those who want to return to the previous status quo as quickly as possible
  • Those who see the virus as a ‘wake-up call’ leading to the possibility of taking a completely new direction in the way humanity lives.

Amongst the question being asked by the latter group are:

  • Future Air travel
  • Death and the ‘Health and Safety Fetish’
  • Education
  • Health
  • Poverty
  • Valuation of so called ‘unskilled’ workers
  • The Global Economy

We will have a look at some of these questions in later papers