The pandemic update from Britain: lockdown, lunacy, and a mention of Minneapolis

A pilot flew a private plane from Surrey to an airfield belonging to the Royal Air Force. That set off an emergency response involving the Ministry of Defence and fire crews, who (I’m reading between the lines here) wanted to know what the hell he thought he was doing.

He wanted to go to the beach, he said. 

Since the airfield is in Wales, that was a breach of the lockdown rules, which are different in Wales than in England. Or it’s believed to be a breach, since the rules don’t specifically mention landing your private plane on an airforce base so you can go to the beach. 

I think I can safely say that he’ll be in trouble with multiple agencies. I’m reasonably sure that lockdown will be the least of his troubles.

To put the situation into bureaucro-speak, the police are ‘considering’ whether there were ‘potential breaches’ of coronavirus legislation. And the Civil Aviation Authority has been alerted. It will be demanding a note from his parents.

So far, I haven’t seen any evidence that Dominic Cummings was on board. And if you haven’t followed who Dominic Cummings is, just follow the handy link, which will take you to a post by that noted expert, me, which will explain all. Or enough, anyway.


England’s contact tracing campaign continues to be a mess, with many tracers not able to log on. Some recruits have set up support groups on Facebook and WhatsApp, pooling their knowledge about what the hell they’re supposed to do, and how. One contact tracer reported (anonymously) that the app wouldn’t work with his or her microphone. Another had been working for three weeks and been asked to do nothing more than join an online training session. A third says he or she has learned to juggle with three balls. 


Some of England and Scotland’s coronavirus testing centers aren’t matching test results to either people’s National Health Service numbers or their addresses, which means their doctors aren’t told about coronavirus patients on their caseloads and local authorities can’t track outbreaks in their areas.

Back in March, the devolved governments–that translates to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland–told Matt Hancock, Britain’s health secretary, that the system he was setting up had problems, and Northern Irland and Wales insisted on changes. Scotland and England went ahead. 

Wales and Northern Ireland get to play a satisfying round of I-told-you-so. 


An NHS trial is giving Covid-19 patients blood plasma transfusions from patients who’ve recovered, and the trial’s set to expand. The hope is that the antibodies will help them fight off the disease. 

To date, it’s only been tried on patients in intensive care, but it may be more effective if it’s used earlier. Stay tuned.


Back in April, the British government’s science advisory group noted that only half the people who came down with Covid-19 symptoms followed the government’s advice to self-isolate for fourteen days. It recommended doing some quick research to figure out what it would take to get people to follow the guidelines. 

As the lockdown eases and the government’s betting its rapidly diminishing stack of chips on testing people, tracing the contacts of anyone who tests positive, and isolating the cases they find, people actually isolating themselves becomes crucial.

Not going into isolation when you should is apparently now known as doing a Cummings. 

Some members of the science advisory group are now warning that easing the lockdown now will lead to a second wave of cases. In England, 8,000 people a day are still becoming infected, and that doesn’t count people in care homes or hospitals. That data’s collected separately and the two data sets aren’t speaking. You know how it is in some families. 

It also doesn’t count cases in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.

One advisor, John Edmunds, said, “If you look at it internationally, it’s a very high level of incidence.”

The current R rate–the rate at which the virus spreads–is between 0.7 and 0.9. At anything above 1, the pandemic grows. At 1, it stays the same, which at a rough guess means 80 deaths a day.

John Edmunds’ colleague Jeremy Farrar tweeted, “Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England. Agree with John & clear science advice. TTI [test, trace and isolate] has to be in place, fully working, capable [of dealing with] any surge immediately.”



England’s chief medical officer said, in a carefully worded statement, that the country’s at a very dangerous moment. It wasn’t a clear criticism of the government, but a listener could be forgiven for thinking it was.

He also said, mentioning no names, that England’s lockdown rules applied to all.


MPs’ inboxes have been swamped by messages about Dominic Cummings, most of them critical. So what does an overwhelmed MP do? Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall gave his responses the personal touch by hitting Send before he remembered to delete the part that said, “insert if there has been a bereavement.” 

He is, he said, incredibly sorry. He remembered to delete the part of the script that said, “Don’t get caught again.”


I don’t write much about American politics. Even though I’m American, I live in Britain. It’s not the best seat to watch the show from. But I have to go off topic and say something about what’s happening there, even though it’s happening in the wrong country and it’s not pandemic related.

I lived in Minneapolis for years, and a lot of you will know what’s happening: A few days ago, a white police officer killed an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by kneeling on his neck for seven minutes. On camera. While Floyd said, “I can’t breathe.”

What had Floyd done? Tried to buy something at a local food store. The clerk thought he’d paid with a counterfeit bill and called the police, because that was store policy. No one claims that Floyd knew it was counterfeit. At this point I don’t know if anyone cares whether it actually was.

First there were protests. Then there were riots. A CNN reporter was arrested while covering them, even after he showed  his i.d. He’s black. Yes, that’s relevant. 

Rumors are flying every which way. I can’t confirm them, so I’ll stick to what’s in the papers.

My old neighborhood’s been on fire. The post office, the library, and a whole lot stores have burned down, along with the police station where the officers involved in the killing were based.  

At a gym in another part of the city, a white man threatened to call the police on some black men because the gym was restricted to the tenants of the building and they couldn’t possibly have a right to use the same gym as he did. That was after demanding that they prove they had a right to be there. 

In Kentucky, police targeted a news crew covering a protest about a black woman who was killed by police in her own home. “Targeted” means they shot the reporter with pepper bullets. 

In Detroit, someone shot into a group of protestors from a car, killing a 19-year-old. 

In several cities, cars have driven into crowds of protestors.

I’m not using the word protestor to mean rioter.

Sorry–I’m supposed to be funny here, or to at least try. That’s the agreement we sort of made.  So to those of you who are in the U.S.: Guys, I know racism runs deep in our national DNA. If there’s such a thing as national original sin, that’s ours. But I also know that racism’s not the whole story, that there’s more to us than that. So I’m looking for you to sort this out, okay?

Don’t make me come over there. 

64 thoughts on “The pandemic update from Britain: lockdown, lunacy, and a mention of Minneapolis

  1. There was a time, up until fairly recently in fact, when I would say that I’d like to visit fourteenth-century England, but only for a day. It increasingly looks like a safer and saner society than our own, so I’d quite like to live there now.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The private plane landing in Surrey is pretty funny. After which it’s funny-going-downhill. The testing confusion in the UK is so surprising, specially read from Italy, where we seem to have a better grip on coronavirus… But the news from the USA is tragic, I don”t even know how to comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know the feeling. I wasn’t sure what to say about what’s happening in the US other than to post a full-fledged rant. As for the testing, that’s rant-worthy as well, because it could be done sensibly but we’re in the hands of incompetents and privatizers, so it can’t be.

      And none of that was funny either. It’s getting harder…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Regarding our predicament here in the U.S. in the middle of a pandemic, things were bound to erupt at some point. First, Trump the Enabler has got to go. He fans the flames. I don’t like to rush my life, but November can’t come soon enough. Secondly, for your American readers who are white, I recommend the book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.” It’s written by Robin DiAngelo, a white woman. And it’s written for white people. She explains why this is work white people have to do, not people of color. This has been a horrendous week for the 100,000 COVID-19 death milestone, the Central Park “Karen” episode starring two Coopers, George Floyd, and multiple protests. And, last, regarding the protests … there’s a startling contrast in the heavily armed Michigan State Capitol protesters, who were upset at the inconvenience of pandemic emergency protective measures vs. unarmed black and white protesters confronting a city on police brutality toward black residents. Honest to God…. this is why when I vacation, I must leave the U.S.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry to be so slow to get this onto the blog. It got lost in the spam folder and I just dug it out.

      The difference between the response to white armed protesters and unarmed Black Lives Matter demonstrators–words fail me. I’d love to say it’s shocking, but it’s not. Same old picture, but more and more extreme. I’m hopeful about what’s happening, and I’m also afraid. And I understand what you’re saying about vacationing outside the US. As for living outside of it, it’s a very strange time for it. I’m grateful not to be there. I wish I was with you all.

      Tomorrow–Saturday–there’s a Black Lives Matter demonstration in a very (very) small town near where I live. The area’s overwhelmingly white, very rural. I’ll be interesting. I’m impressed that someone’s organized one at all, but there’ve been five or more throughout the overwhelmingly white, rural county.


  4. I have felt very impotent this past week but I want to do something with my heartache and rage and privilege. I was already undertaking several actions but I am determined to do more. We cannot go on like this and we have to find a better way. Maybe by burning the whole place down, we can rebuild a more equitable world from the ashes. Anyway, I have been sharing this list of accessible actions with people who feel as I do. Maybe some of your readers will also find it of interest:

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Laura. There are a lot of good ideas in there, working on many different levels.

      I do understand the impulse to burn things down and start over, but I’ve seen that happen since the Harlem riots of 1964. The buildings burn. The system doesn’t. It will happen–you can’t make people that powerless and that angry for that long and not have it happen–but it’s not the most effective strategy. It’s the one anger flows into because all the others are blocked.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My rage doesn’t manifest itself in an impulse to destroy things but I am a white woman raising white sons so I certainly don’t judge people whose heritage of oppression and the pain and trauma associated with that does result in that form of rioting. Like you, I am too cynical to believe that anything will change but I hope that enough people bearing witness to these events that they cannot avert their eyes from will decide to engage with the issue and make small changes that contribute to bigger change.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I will remember that line, “I just wanted to go to the beach.” It could become a classic, at least s family classic. Reminds me of the line Girls just want to have fun. and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I could go on.

    I don’t believe in sin, or original sin much less original nation sin. That to me is a line someone used snd it caught on, and people use it over and over to prove they are up to date. I don’t see any short term solution. Most countries in the world have formed along cultural boundaries. We still see the problems in the middle east where boundaries were drawn at the end of WWI without regard to cultural differences. It has not worked out so well.

    The US has tried to be a melting pot mixing all peoples together to form a country. Results have been mixed so far and continue to be.

    My generation has reached its time to die out. We were not able to solve all the problems. Maybe the next ones will do better. If there are any future generations to speak of. I have my doubts.

    Good luck with the tracing apps. But does not sound like luck will be enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I don’t think luck’s going to get us out of the pandemic mess either. It’s going to take decent leadership, and we’re short of that just now.

      These long-term divides can become background for long stretches of time, and in the right circumstances cultures can and do blend and have been since as long as humans have been moving around the planet. Since I’ve been reading entirely too much British history lately, the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons. The divide hasn’t been erased entirely, although I’m not sure how many people know that. It’s not the country’s central division anymore. So I’m not ready to give up hope that history is more than an endless return to the same old conflicts and enforcement of the same old oppressions.


    • I read about them locking the White House down briefly–and from the sound of it, hysterically–with the press inside. I’m surprised no one’s writing that up as the satire it sounds like.

      Or maybe they are and I just haven’t seen it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. When all the avenues are blocked the answer is to go for those wielding power, not your neighbours and public buildings which could benefit you and your kids. Marching gets you beaten up, better to target your oppressors, those now wielding power, individually, in their homes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ok, first of all, I find it most interesting that you lived in Minneapolis at some point in your life. I must do further research on this to find answers to the many questions that information raises.
    Regardless, I do think that racism is our original sin and if you can trust Wanda Sykes in her This Shit Isn’t Normal Netflix special, racism will be the downfall of our democracy if we can’t correct our trajectory with the same precision our shuttle hooks up in space with a station. To quote Bette Midler, from a distance we all look the same. Hopefully, the astronauts can deliver that message from their distance now. Hey people on earth, you all look the same from here.
    Pretty marched in a local Black Lives Matter protest here in Columbia yesterday afternoon. She said the group gathered was quite diverse – which is, after all, the goal, right?
    Hundreds marched to the Capitol building with encouraging words from activists in our area.
    Unfortunately, after Pretty and most of the marchers left downtown, the peaceful protests turned not peaceful with burning police cars, vandalism of local businesses, and 15 police officers were injured during last night.
    Rage and anger are the feelings of most Americans who witnessed the nonchalant execution of George Floyd (a native Texan) according to my unofficial polling.
    But George Floyd was the tipping point in a country seething with the underbelly of income inequality, playing fields that are not level for the children of people of color to begin with – and oh yeah, black people dying at a statistically faster rate than whites in the Covid-19 pandemic.
    Somebody stop me.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. ’tis all a middle – for something that we are all meant to be in together, this site has highlighted elitism, exceptionalism, racism – too many nasty isms,. The tinder was dry, a touch paper lit.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mr Barr- the Attorney General of the US- has agreed that the rioters are being infiltrated by outside elements of agitators bent only on destruction. But not the KKK or White Supremacists – no, no, these are the Leftiist Anti-Fascists. Dear Leader has declared that “MAGA loves black people.” It is all reminiscent of the Twilight Zone episode where benevolent aliens carry off willing people who did not realize that their doctrine of “How to Serve Man” is a cookbook.

    I signed up again and still get no email alerts. Apparently the AG is onto me. But they can’t deport me – they will have to send me back to the Rez.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I can’t even wrap my head around the ‘want beach, now’ guy’s thought process. I wouldn’t mind punching his lights out however.
    The protests have happened here too … will they (the protests, and the riots) change anything except to drive the divide even further into extremism? It hasn’t in the past, I have my doubts it will this time either. :( … what is inevitable however, is that Covid-19 is going to be spread around a whole lot faster and further now. :(

    Liked by 1 person

    • On the other hand, when societies create powder kegs, sooner or later, they’ll blow up. We’re beyond talking about what’s the best strategy. Peaceful protest hasn’t stopped this, so it’s hard to stand in front of people and say, “Guys, there’s another way.” When they say, “Oh, yeah, what is it?” the answer may or may not be right–I don’t know and no one else is very good at predicting the future either–but it’s not convincing.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Well, I did get a chuckle at the last sentence, so you’re still funny. Heard from a friend today, who’s daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren were driving out of south Minneapolis to visit some inlays for a while. To much gunfire, too many explosions, and too many sirens and fires what with the kids and everyone’s nerves. I hope tonight is better.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. If I thought you could smack some sense into all the right people (without getting shot, pepper-sprayed or arrested) I’d buy you a ticket. I’ve had some humorous thoughts about all of this, and even though inappropriate humor is how Americans (at least this American) deals with bad times, I just can’t – this is too sad.

    I’ll laugh at your politicians for a while. I’m sure ours will give me reason to laugh soon enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. gosh im so saddened by what I see and hear about the protests. I just dont ever think violence is the answer. A friend today had to remove someone from her facebook page as she was being downright rude to everyone. We know this lady through having the same rare condition Tuberous Sclerosis. My friend is part native american indian, she has a child with a disability she knows racism but chooses to be a peacekeeper. This person was inciting people to argue and fight. #SeniSal

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think, from this distance, it’s about approving or disapproving, it’s about understanding why it happens. When a group of people is targeted by an armed force that’s supposed to be keeping the peace–and across the US, black people are–and locked out of any peaceful way to resolve the problem, violence will break out periodically. Those of us who aren’t there can approve or disapprove, but we need to keep our focus on why it happens and do whatever we can to address that.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Ellen, it must’ve been especially upsetting to see what’s been going on in your old neighbourhood. I am neither violent nor is it something I condone, but I cannot help understanding the long-held frustrations which cause such events to break out, generation after generation. You’ll be aware that we’re not in any way squeaky clean on that subject here in the UK, but it does seem to be especially dire in the US.

    Thank you for the plane story – we’re very much needing if not a laugh, then certainly a story to raise a smile :)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Detroit’s actually doing pretty well with the protesting. They haven’t even needed a curfew. It may have something to do with the large number of non-white police officers. (Or the police chief saying the officers should be charged within 24 hours of it happening). Hopefully change is finally coming

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Stats tend to show that forty per cent youth unemployment = riots. Our govts gave us one hundred percent. Looks to me like a riot looking for a cause, courtesy of govt. I wonder why. Does anyone believe they care?

    Liked by 1 person

        • I can only speculate. I’m not there, I’m a thousand years old, and I’m white, the last bit of info being only partially relevant, because all hell’s broken out among a couple of white crowds as well lately. My guess is that it may be partially a proxy for the government, or at least for the conditions of life that government has helped create, but a lot of it is probably a reaction to the police themselves, especially in black communities.

          Liked by 1 person

          • From the pictures of the crowds and bearing in mind the demographic of the UK, it appears most of the demonstrators were white, therefore not likely to have personally experienced racism from the police – but under lockdown many white people were stopped by the police just out walking, which would certainly fuel resentment against the police – and the govt – for the misery they were experiencing. Some studies have suggested that apart from the really frail the youngest age group has been most distressed by lockdown. Besides the kids have nothing to do and are boiling over – not surprising that they jumped on the bandwagon of a worthy cause, and out in such large numbers the police couldn’t touch them.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I just realized that I’ve lost track of which events we’re talking about. The Black Lives Matter demonstrations–I’ve assumed they were politically motivated and that the police have done plenty to make themselves a target all on their own but that there’s an awareness that the issue of racism is much larger, so we’re talking about the government, the schools, the economy, pretty much everything.

              That certainly applies to the people I know who went. But there’ve also been primarily or entirely white (I’m not sure which) gatherings–apolitical, angry, partially celebratory, ready to fight the police or anyone available. They’ve happened since the post where we’re exchanging comments, and honestly I forgot what time period or frame of reference we were working with. Apologies. I’m making this murkier than it needs to be.

              Liked by 1 person

Talk to me

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.