Good news, goat news, and some dry stuff: it’s the pandemic update from Britain

The goats

With more and more people using Zoom to stay in touch or to hold work meetings, a goat farm, Cronkshaw Fold Farm in Lancashire, has figured out a way to make some money during the lockdown. They’re offering a book-a-goat service for Zoom meetings. 

Dot McCarthy, who runs the farm, said, “People are just in hysterics because they’ve sneaked a goat into a business meeting and the boss hasn’t noticed.”

You can even choose your goat. Let’s meet three.

What to expect from Mary: ambivalence, limited attention span, totally fine peeing in front of you.

“What to expect from Lisa: passive aggressive bleating, ferocious hunger, lack of any form of patience or tolerance of anything.”

To be fair, Lisa was pregnant when they wrote that. She has since had two kids and mellowed out a bit.

Sorry, I should have a picture of a goat here. Will a cat do? This is Fast Eddie, in his most typical pose.

“What to expect from Bret: all the energy, all the opinions, none of the substance.”

That’s not pure sex-role stereotyping, even if it sounds like it is. Some of the males are described as lovely, with velvety ears, although the ears may not be a big draw on Zoom.

The cost’s £5.99 for a ten-minute cameo. 

Other farms offer Zoom alpaca visits. 

You’re welcome.

Containment and testing in poor countries

You’ll forgive me for a couple of hopeful stories about the pandemic, right? Even if they’re not funny? 

Senegal’s working on a testing kit that will cost $1 per patient, doesn’t need a lab, and gives a result in less than ten minutes. Using saliva it will detect current infections and using blood, antibodies from past ones. If the trials go well, it should be in use next month. 

The country started planning its response to the pandemic in January, closing its borders and doing intensive contact tracing. Because people tend not to live alone, it organized a bed for every Covid-19 patient, either in a hospital or a community clinic. It’s had 30 deaths out of a population of 16 million. That’s in a country whose gross domestic product was $1,546 per capita in 2018. By way of contrast, the UK’s was $46,827 in 2019. The US’s was $62,794.59 in 2018.


Ghana has used community health workers and volunteers to do contact tracing and tests by combining multiple blood samples and only doing individual tests if the pool tests positive. It’s had 31 deaths in a population of 30 million. It’s gross domestic product is $1,807 per capita.


In various parts of Africa, traditional herbal remedies are being investigated, and one, sweet wormwood, has drawn some attention. The Max Planck Institute in Germany is interested in a different variety of the plant and is doing trials on it.


The Indian state of Kerala has 690 cases and 4 deaths. It has a gross domestic product of £2,200 per capita in–oh, hell, some recent year. Their rapid response team met in January. By the time the first case came in on a plane from Wuhan, they met the plane, sending anyone without a fever home to quarantine themselves, hospitalizing the one who was feverish. 

A bit later, the virus did spread (somebody had been in Italy and dodged the checks), and they traced hundreds of contacts and before they contained it. 

Repeat the story as workers returned home from the Gulf states and as the country went into lockdown and jobless migrant workers began walking home. They found housing and food for 150,000 migrant workers, and when the lockdown lifted they chartered trains to send them home. They’ve supervised the quarantine of 170,000 people and improvised isolation units for people whose homes don’t have inside toilets. 

Shreds of hope

People in the U.K. is also working on a ten-minute test, along with a two-minute test, both using saliva to check for current infections. The test that’s in use right now not only has to be processed in a lab but (if you send for one to use at home) asks you to swab your nostrils and, according to someone who used one, tonsils. Or the place where your tonsils used to be. 

I do have tonsils but have no idea where they are. I haven’t heard from them in years. They could be living in Argentina for all I know. 

Because so many people are as out of touch with their tonsils as I am (sorry–it’s a sad tale but it has to be told), the test may come back with false negatives as much as 30% of the time. And that’s not just the tests people use at home. Some of the official testing centers are handing people a nine-page booklet and telling them to do the swab themselves. So a test that relies on saliva would be a big step forward. Even I know where my saliva is. 

A twenty-minute antibody test is also being worked on. 

If you get the sense that everything’s being tried simultaneously, you’re probably right. There has to be a way out of this mess. 


A new treatment for the most seriously ill patients is also being tested. It’s based on the observation that the people who get sickest are seriously low on an immune system component called T-cells. The idea is to use interleukin 7 to boost T-cell production. 

The observation could also lead to a test predicting who will go on to have the most serious reactions to the virus.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been good about staying in touch with my T-cells. I’m doing what I can to patch up our relationship, though, starting with a card and a heartfelt apology. The tonsil thing, that can happen to anyone and they were at fault as much as I was. But the T-cells, that was me. All I can do is hope they accept the apology.

My card end with, “Multiply like hell, you little bastards.”

Who could resist?

Other news, good and bad and goatless

During the potato famine, the Choctaw Nation heard that people were starving in Ireland and sent $170 to the Society of Friends in Dublin, which was distributing food. That would be about $5,000 in today’s money. Sixteen years before, the Choctaw had been forced off their land and relocated to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears and they’d barely begun to rebuild their lives. But they knew starvation and disease and they sent what they could.

Now Ireland is returning their generosity, even if it’s to a different tribe. Some 24,000 Irish donors have given $820,000 to an online fundraiser to buy food and supplies for the Navajo and Hopi reservations, which have been hit hard by the virus. It will go to people who are raising grandkids, have underlying health conditions, or are positive for the virus.

Thanks to Electrica in the Desert for tweeting this one.


A study of 15,000 patients given hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, or one of those drugs combined with an antibiotic found that with any of those four treatments patients were more likely to die in the hospital (1 in 11 compared to 1 in 6 1 in 5, and 1 in 4). 

No comment. 


In the face of a rebellion not just from the opposition (which is to be expected) but from its own MPs, the British government has backed away from charging foreign NHS and care workers a yearly fee to use the National Health Service–£400 per family member per year. 

The government spent a day or two arguing that of course it was right to charge them, the money goes into the NHS and the NHS needs it, but at a certain point it was just too embarrassing a position to defend. Government officials must be seen to clap for NHS and care every Thursday at 8 pm. Any politician who skips the 8 pm roll call or  shows up but looking less than appreciative is liable to be chopped up and added to Larry the 10 Downing Street Cat’s food bowl.

And if that isn’t enough, NHS and care workers already pay taxes, which are what fund the NHS. Many of them are low paid. They’re risking their lives in the pandemic and are holding the NHS and the care system together. 

Enough. That’s ended. 

Not the roll call and not their role; the surcharge. 

53 thoughts on “Good news, goat news, and some dry stuff: it’s the pandemic update from Britain

  1. The country comparisons are shameful and just point up the differences in the length of greed chains in ‘economies’… None of which is about economy with money, in the sense of doing the most, for as many people with least, but with how much ‘business’ can be generated and how many people can take a profit along the way.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Your notes about the relative wealth of the countries discussed underline the fact that the success of a response to the pandemic is less dependent on the economics of any response and is more on how robust the processes are. Both the US and the UK have been woeful in how they responded to the crisis. Neither had a decent plan in place in the first place, both took far too long to recognise that action was required, and that set the standard for everything else being a shambles.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved the informative part of the “serious,” but sad how much it shows what more “developed” countries like here in U.S. have failed to achieve. I guess that’s where a capacity for compassion & care for our fellow man does or doesn’t come in. And, of course, your funniness is always very welcome. Yes, getting reacquainted with your T cells sounds more important then your tonsils. And thanks for the information about the goats just in case I want to hire one. Love to you and Ida.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The goats brought to mind ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’ (book and film), which discusses an actual US Army program to see if men could kill goats just by staring at them (and of course they can’t). So I think the Zoom goats are safe, especially given that they’re not actually in the room. Then again no-one is. I’ll get out of your road now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I try never to stare animals in the eye. Especially goats and human animals. Never know what reactions will be.

    Had my tonsils taken out at age six. Was not really my idea. The used a mask to give me either. Was not real happy about the process. Also not sure where they were located. Somewhere back of my tongue I suppose. I would have trouble finding the spot.

    We are trying to be patient here. Patience in some spots seems to be running out. Don’t think anyone knows how high the death toll will be. Following the guidelines will help.

    All the research universities seem to be working on the virus from different directions. Either on prevention, vaccines, recovery, or treatments. Some look promising.

    And in the middle of all thus we are having elections. Lot going on.

    Stay safe .

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good news about the NHS workers being saved from paying – dues ? user fees ? Especially after Col . Moore. in a nursing home, raised such an enormous amount of money for them. Now, over here, that fund raising bonanza would suggest charging them .MORE

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t remember, off the top of my head, what they were calling it. A surcharge? Something along those lines. The mean spiritedness is just–

      Sorry, words don’t begin to stretch far enough for that.


      • The idea was that (according to those who inspire most fear in the Tory leadership, i.e., the Daily Mail and the Sun) the NHS was (or that it was commonly supposed that it was) swamped with foreigners who only wanted to come here just to have their heart attacks, boils, scrofula, whatever, and that was why any problems were happening in the NHS. Nothing to do with being starved of funds for years, of course not. So they came up with the idea that anyone accepted to live here should have to pay an upfront charge for the NHS.

        The thought that such people would, by definition, be paying taxes and National Insurance while working seems to have passed them by, though you would have thought someone with a bit of common sense might have suggested it be treated as an advance payment of future tax/NI liabilities.

        The thought that it might look incongruous for people who were actually coming to work for the NHS (in many cases on not spectacular income levels, to put it mildly) to be asked to pay additionally and upfront for the privilege seems not to have impinged on what passes for their minds.

        The thought that it would be grotesque to up the charge by the best part of 50% even while those working for the NHS were risking their lives because of the government’s feckless inertia in the early phases of the pandemic seems to have been a leap too far.

        Moral imagination? Emotional intelligence? Clearly namby-pamby pinko PC waffle.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You’ve hit the nail so neatly on the head there (only leaving out that it’s a yearly charge, not a one-time thing) that I may need to go outside and throw things. The neighbors won’t mind a bit. They’re used to me, although they do get upset when I scream.


  7. I would like to book a goat, please. Can it be delivered at 10 Downing st? Oh? One is already reported there? Too bloody late…
    On another note, daughter 1, the MD has launched a volunteer call on social networks directed at ex-covid patients. Cured and supposedly immune. “Would they like to come to the hospital and spend a few hours (fully garbed of course) with current hospitalized patients?” She seems to be getting some response. More on that later.
    Stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nice to hear some good news. I think the US has spent the last 40 years dismantling its public health system, complacently thinking we had eliminated diseases here. Look at the outbreaks of diseases for which there are vaccines, and the misguided parents who seek exemption from vaccinating their children because of misinformation. Now we have people who don’t think they need to stay home and there isn’t a good public health system to explain why they should. But maybe people are beyond listening to anyone now, except in countries where people can still accept someone else might know more than they do, or might have a more community oriented ethos. Wow, for liking the good news, I sure got grim fast…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: #74 Senior Salon ~ Esme Salon

    • I wouldn’t want to be in charge of Larry’s diet. I have a hunch he can get around anyone’s limits. I know I’d offer him a treat–and I wouldn’t say that about anyone else who works in his office.

      Liked by 1 person

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