Volunteers, the virus, and the Wayback Machine: it’s the pandemic update from Britain

Our prime minister’s brain, Dominic Cummings, held a press conference on Monday to explain that he hadn’t broken any of the lockdown rules he helped write and why he had no plans to resign, and I was going to shut up about him for a while, but the absurdities keep piling up, and I’m a sucker for absurdity.

Among other things, he said, “For years, I have been warning about the dangers of pandemics. Last year, I wrote about the possible threat of coronaviruses and the urgent need for planning.”

He did indeed write about the threat of coronaviruses in a 2019 blog post, but he wrote the coronavirus part of it in April of 2020–that was last month, in case you’ve gone adrift–and edited the reference in as if it had been there the whole time. 

Hands up anyone who knew about the internet archiving service called the Wayback Machine. I didn’t. It doesn’t look like Cummings did either.

The government has confirmed that the blog post was indeed edited.

Irrelevant photo: Sunset from the cliffs near St. Materiana.

Cummings also said in the press conference that after he left his job in Downing Street and went home because his wife had Covid-19 symptoms, he returned to Downing Street–another breach of the rules he helped write, which  no one seems to have known about it until he brought it up in his own defense. 

He also explained that he drove thirty miles from his parents’ home, with his wife and kid in the car, to make sure his eyesight was good enough to drive back to London.

And in case you care, he was half an hour late to his own press conference. 


How’d it go down? Not that well. In a YouGov poll, 59% of the people surveyed thought Cummings should resign (7% more than thought that three days before) and 71% thought he had broken the lockdown rules.

Since Cummings has said he won’t resign, will Johnson dump him? I doubt it. I don’t think he has an alternative source of ideas. 


A study from Japan, combined with anecdotal evidence and a study from Hong Kong (which hasn’t been peer reviewed yet, meaning we can take it seriously but shouldn’t turn it into a bronze plaque) indicates that Covid-19 doesn’t spread easily out of doors but that it just loves enclosed spaces.

Okay, the wording there is mine. Don’t put that on a bronze plaque either. The information, though, comes from an article in the Atlantic, which also says, “Our understanding of this disease is dynamic. Today’s conventional wisdom could be tomorrow’s busted myth. Think of these studies not as gospels, but as clues in a gradually unraveling mystery.”

The risk of infection is (or seems to be) nineteen times higher indoors than out. The virus doesn’t seem (emphasis on seem, remember) to spread easily on objects–elevator buttons, door knobs, bottles of bleach on the supermarket shelves. It seems to travel most happily directly from one person to the next on the tiny droplets that we breathe out (and of course, in), and it just loves it when we get into enclosed areas and talk, shout, sing, and breathe. 

A while back, I linked to a study that said the droplets singers breathe out don’t travel any further than half a meter. I don’t know which of these contradictory reports is yesterday’s busted myth, but I thought I’d better follow up the first study with this yeah-but.

If the studies are right about the virus not spreading well out of doors, we can expect a dip this summer (in the northern hemisphere, at least, where summer currently resides, or soon will). People will spend more time outside. Then we can expect to see a spike in the fall. 


Need a morale boost after that? In Britain, ten million people have been volunteering during the pandemic–helping out with grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions, phoning people who are alone, working at food banks. They were counted by an insurance company, called (confusingly enough) Legal and General, along with the Centre for Economic and Business Research. That (and I’m going to have to take their word on this; if it doesn’t add up, blame someone else) is almost one in five adults, putting in an average of three hours. Presumably per week, but possibly per lifetime. Sorry. 

And since if something isn’t worth  money, it didn’t really happen, their work is worth more than £350 million per week. It’s measured by a magical system that I can’t explain. Let’s call it a money-o-meter. 

“Many” people, the study said, are continuing to pay gardeners, cleaners, and other people who provide services, and to support local businesses, although they didn’t offer numbers on that. 

And since we’re playing with numbers, 65% of the British public (and 68% of Conservatives) support raising income tax to pay care workers more. 

The average annual pay for a care worker is £16,400 per year.


What’s happening around the world

New Zealand’s gone 5 days with no new Covid-19 cases.

South Korea reported 40 new cases in one day–its biggest spike in 50 days–just as kids are going back to school. Most of them are concentrated around Seoul and linked to nightclubs, a warehouse, and karaoke–um, whatever you call the places where people karaok.

Spain has declared ten days of mourning. 

And the Japanese football league (if you’re American, that means soccer) has introduced a remote cheering app for games played in empty stadiums. Loudspeakers will play fans’ voices in real time. It’ll be exactly like the real thing.

43 thoughts on “Volunteers, the virus, and the Wayback Machine: it’s the pandemic update from Britain

  1. Good to know the Way Back machine is still gobbling up the internet. It means my every typo and grammatical goof will be preserved for all time. Good job I never edited my blog to make it look like I predicted stuff when I didn’t. I mean nobody would be that daft or dishonest, right?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My brain does mot like numbers. I’ll come back when you write a post about North Cornwall sunsets.Or maybe the resurgence of shove ha’p’ny, shoreside now that sea cruises seem to be off the menu.
    (But thabkyou for this one. -)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have an allergy to numbers myself, which is why I made no effort to see if the number of volunteers came out as the right percent of whateverthehellitwas. But don’t all those numerals sound impressive?

      Did you know that 98% of all statistics are made up on the spot? I didn’t make that up. I stole it from someone else–who used a different percentage.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Michael Gove has also said he sometimes drives to check his eyesight.

    I suspect he is lying…

    If he isn’t, people need to stop driving to check they can see…it is not a good way to check!

    If he is lying, he needs to stop doing that. I am not going to hold my breath though…

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Someday in the future, children will ask their parents why the sound systems plays the voices of people while men and women play soccer. Their parents will tell them of the old days when games were played in stadiums that had tens of thousands of seats and people would sit and watch. “The whole game? From a single vantage point? in real time? Without replay? The children will ask and then leave as their parents sit and mumble “but those were good times.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Yes, great stuff, indeed.
    According to a recent poll of your followers in cyberspace approximately 95.5% of those polled say they trust your statistics. Congratulations on this level of confidence from those of us who faithfully rely on your posts for news.
    Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The numbers if deaths, new cases and hospitalizations are slowly trending down over here. But slowly, and some days ste up days. Numbers every day are not lower than the day before.

    The reading I have done on virus in general show that virus accumulate snd spread in crowded, poorly ventilated, stuffy rooms. Outdoors in sunshine not as much. That is consistent with what you saw.

    I have seen those contradictory reports on dinging. Hard to know who to believe these days. Maybe they should sing outside just in case.

    When my grandkids come over we set up chais on the driveway well spaced and talk. A lot of laughter but no singing

    We visit with FaceTime and zoom a lot also.
    Stay safe and follow the guidelines

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s the spike in the fall that worries me. I can be all la-de-dah about how swell summer is, but it is autumn, my favorite season, that has be concerned. Not that the virus cares how I feel about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: The pandemic update from Britain: lockdown, lunacy, and a mention of Minneapolis | Notes from the U.K.

  9. I think the Way Back machine is my absolute favourite thing about 2020. I don’t even care if it tells tales on me & my goofs :) Excellent round-up, as always. Your posts save me from weeping about the current situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m grateful I can do that, although I’ll admit I’m having a hard time keeping it light these last few days with what’s happening across the US. I don’t know whether to weep, throw things, or hide under a chair.

      A friend of ours keeps posting on Twitter, “Is 2020 over yet?”


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