The pandemic update from Britain: numbers, alcohol, and ice cream

Somebody enjoyed Britain’s lockdown: Looking at all those empty roads, a handful of drivers said, “Wheee,” or whatever the British equivalent is if that’s an Americanism. I can’t remember hearing anyone British say it, but at 107 years old I don’t find myself in as many whee-like situations as I used to. 

No, I can’t explain it either.

Around the country, a few drivers dedicated themselves to finding out if the high numbers on their speedometers were only there for decoration or if their cars would really go that fast. On mine, anything over 70 is decorative unless we’re going downhill, but that’s okay because they do look very nice. 

The record was set by someone driving 163 miles an hour on a London motorway, which in American is a highway. That’s a meer 93 miles an hour over the speed limit. But the winner (and I can’t be entirely objective in how I award the prizes here) was someone driving 134 miles an hour in a 40 mile an hour zone. 




Screamingly irrelevant photo: a geranium.

As lockdown eases, we’re all being profoundly sensible. In Accrington (wherever that may be), a birthday party turned into a fight and three people were arrested after an enthusiastic exchange of germs. I’m not sure how many people were at the party, but that’s okay because by now I’ve forgotten how many people are allowed to meet up. I do remember that they’re supposed to be out of doors, which (in a startling break with protocol) makes sense, but the number is arbitrary, so why remember it? However many it’s supposed to be, let’s assume they had more.

The evening news showed photos of mobbed beaches here in the southwest, with people packed especially tightly on a path leading to a beach. And to celebrate the chance to enjoy nature at its best, people left their litter when they went home, knowing that it would go on celebrating without them.


And from the department of non-snarky reporting, a bakery in Liverpool was offering a free coffee or ice cream to anyone people who’d helped clean up the local parks. All they had to do was dump their bag of litter in the bin outside the shop.

Liverpool’s too far from Cornwall for a free ice cream to be worth the trip, but I did give it some thought.


We’re getting details of Britain’s proposed quarantine for international visitors and it’s a masterstroke of pointlessness. It puts travelers in quarantine for two weeks, but it’s an imaginary quarantine. They’ll be asked to self-isolate, and about a fifth of them will be spot checked. But they can go out to shop for food and medicine. They can move from one residence to another. And they can take public transportation to get to wherever the hell they’re staying. And they can breathe both in and out while they do all of the above.

Oh, and they’ll be advised to download the contact tracing app when it’s available. If it ever is available. 

Predictably, no one’s happy with the plan. People who want travelers and business, not to mention the money they bring, want no quarantine.  And people who do want a quarantine want the kind of quarantine that quarantines people. 


A report published in the Lancet reports that–

Well, what it reports depends on what newspaper you read. According to the Guardian, the Independent, and the Irish Times, if instead of keeping 2 meters from other people we keep 1 meter away, we’ll double the risk of Covid-19 infection. 

According to the Mail, however, keeping 1 meter apart “slashes” the risk of infection by  80 percent. “Researchers found there was roughly a 1.3 per cent chance of contracting the virus when two metres from an infected patient. But halving this gap raised the risk to only 2.6 per cent.” 

According to the Sun, “Keeping 1 metre apart IS enough to cut risk of virus.” But only if you put your VERBS in ALL CAPS. 

All three are technically accurate, they just use the numbers differently and make the report’s information sound very different. 


In the meantime, almost half of all drinkers in Britain are starting to drink earlier in the day during the pandemic. We’ll use a Guardian link for that, because if we go to the Mail, we learn that  “Nearly HALF of Britons” end up in all caps. 

And with that we end our comparative survey of the British press.


British hospitals will run five drug trials to see if they work against Covid-19. They range from heparin (already in use as a blood thinner but will be tried in nebulized form to see if it works as an anti-inflammatory and protects cells against the virus) to Bemcentinib (used to treat blood disorders but carrying an antiviral effect). 

Okay, I kind of lied about ending our survey of the British press, because it seems worth noticing that the Guardian, the Mail, and the Sun all pretty much agree on that. So to keep myself kind of honest, I’ll  give you a link from the Post Courier, from Papua New Guinea.


A study from McMaster University shows that cloth masks do keep the droplets and aerosols that we breathe out from spraying into the world around us. And that may reduced the odds of spreading the virus.

For droplets and aerosols,  if you want, you can substitute the words spit and micro-spit.

“The point is not that some particles can penetrate the mask, but that some particles are stopped, particularly outwardly, from the wearer,” said Catherine Clase, the paper’s first author.

First author? That’s the big name on the paper. The one who’d get ALL CAPS if she were a Sun or Mail headline.

The mask’s effectiveness, predictably enough, depends on what it’s made of. A commercial mask made with four layers of cotton muslin reduces particles by 99%. A scarf, sweatshirt, or T-shirt could reduce them by 10% to 40%. 

I’ve seen a pattern for a crocheted mask that would reduce transmission by 0%, because the nature of crocheting is that it’s full of holes. It was on someone’s blog. I was too floored to leave a comment. Someone’s probably out there somewhere, wearing one. 

57 thoughts on “The pandemic update from Britain: numbers, alcohol, and ice cream

    • I know how you feel. For all that I’m writing about Britain, it’s an odd feeling to be sitting on this side of the Atlantic watching racists running wild all over my country. One of the godkids writes that she’s helping distribute food to people in her neighborhood who can’t get any, so there’s another bit to cling onto.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. VERY GOOD. The people in the UK make about as much as sense as the people in the US.
    The only difference is that we are marching in very close quarters by the thousands all across the country – damn the Covid torpedoes. Full speed ahead.
    No disrespect intended for the marchers, however. Just a coronavirus observation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, it’s been fun driving lately. Just traffic reduction. But on I 395 near here, there have been some fiery crashes because of speeding beyond any proportion one might think acceptable (well, that would be triple digits, in my mind; I’ve often looked at the speedometer when I was in a rental car and found it at 85 when I seemed to have people passing me, and I admit to lead foot, but boy did I remove the foot from the pedal fast). Honestly, if I was on 395 without traffic, I’d just enjoy actually being able to drive the speed limit. Most of the time the speed limit signs seem to be mocking the drivers, who have no hope of going 65 and get yeeha! moments at 45.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. AARP’s newsletter had an article on making masks out of socks, without sewing. I’m not sure the material used in socks would stop much – incoming or outgoing – but it was an interesting exercise in geometry.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I saw the crocheted mask too but I figured I knew nothing about crocheting. But apparently I do. I have hand knit sweaters that would be pretty porous too.
    I have found that smoking a cheap cigar results in suitable social distancing too. Especially at the beach, I ‘ll bet.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Next they’ll re-allow weddings, with masks made from veil-netting. That’ll help catch all the viruses that have had too much to eat and can’t get through the gaps… (gives new meaning to ‘mind the gap’, doesn’t it?)

    How can the bakery be sure that the rubbish dumped in their bin came from local parks? Do they go through it? And I dunno about going to Liverpool for free ice-cream, but I might go downstairs to the freezer for some. (Are you surviving this recent heat in the tropic of cornwall?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • The wedding-themed masks are inspired. And of course they’ll allow weddings again. Because nothing says love and continuation like sharing virii. (One of these days I’ll look up the plural of virus and see if there really is one. It could, for all I know, be a collective noun, like milk, which is plural and singular all in one, and infectious on top of it.)

      I expect the bakery decided to trust people on that. And I expect they weren’t looking for a huge take-up, because how big a rubbish bin can they have out in front of the store?

      The heat hasn’t been that bad here, although the dogs think it has. But what do they know? They’re dogs. I’d call it warm rather than hot. Decent ice cream weather, but not so hot that it melts before you get to the bottom of it. Today looks like a cooler one. How’s it been where you are?


      • >>One of these days I’ll look up the plural of virus and see if there really is one.<<

        In classical Latin (possibly the only thing where you could trust Boris Johnson to give you the right answer, not that I would ask him), it would depend if you consider it masculine (plural = "viri") or neuter (plural "vira") – a quick glance online turns up different people saying different things. But since in English the word was not adopted for today's meaning (rather than the Latin meaning of a poison or venom) until (according to my OED) only about 300 years old or so, we might as well stick to an English plural – viruses.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s complicated enough for me to fall completely in love with it. Especially that part about various people arguing knowledgeably about whether it’s masculine or neuter. I’ve been using virii, not because I know any Latin or because I necessarily think it’s right but because it strikes me as absurd. I stole the double I from the endings that keep popping up on plant labels–funicula multifascaii, or something along those lines. What does the double I mean?

          I never took Latin, or for that matter had a chance to turn up my nose at taking it. If my school had offered it, I would have turned my nose up. I grew up hearing my mother say, with a mixture of disgust and pride, that she’d take four years of Latin and couldn’t even read an inscription on a building, so I was convinced of its uselessness.


      • Surely cream on top of milk, not infection? (Well, hopfully not anyway.) I’d also like to know the plural of virus. Sheep is/are also singular and plural but I call them sheeps, because – well, hey, none of them have complained or corrected me yet. And I’m in sheep country, also known as Wales. It’s okay here today – cool, and my feet keep saying ‘socks’, but so far they haven’t got their way.

        Yeah, I did wonder about the size of their rubbish bin.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Damn! There goes my plan for world domination by selling crocheted masks … mind you, if I marketed it to the ‘right’ people, I could still end up making a fortune.
    Cheers to the Liverpool bakery! :D

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Maybe those drivers were shouting ‘weeee’ and were desperatly seeking a toilet. I’m suprised the speeding drivers in North Wales haven’t yet used that excuse – with everything still closed :-D

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was feeling rather CROSS about people in my street BREAKING lockdown, people going in and out their houses (like the rest of us can’t see this) as well as some people driving from ENGLAND to pick up their student son too! I feel better NOW!

    Liked by 1 person

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