The pandemic update from Britain, with half-dressed politicians and questionable databases

The European Parliament–unlike the British one–is meeting virtually, and an Irish member, Luke Flanagan (called Ming, after a character out of Flash Gordon) discussed agricultural policy, live and beamed to an unwilling world, while wearing a dark shirt and possibly underwear but nothing more than that. 

We know this because he set his iPad to portrait instead of landscape. And I understand that tastes differ, but I’m reasonably sure this isn’t the portrait you want hanging over your mantle. 

The EU’s translators could be heard fighting not to laugh as they (heroically) went on translating what he said into all the EU’s many languages. 

He now calls himself Ming the Trouserless. 

Irrelevant photo to give you some relief from the pandemic: a field with corn marigolds.

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Possibly for fear of an online dress-code rebellion, Boris Johnson backed down and will now allow Britain’s members of parliament to vote remotely if they have medical conditions that would make attending in person dangerous or if they have family members who etc. and so on and so on. 

As far as I can tell, that doesn’t include MPs who in spite of the virus have to travel from way to hell and gone to get to Westminster, and it’s anyone guess whether it includes black, Asian, or minority ethnic MPS, who are at higher risk from the virus than whites, for reasons that haven’t been figured out yet. 

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Since the MPs have come home to roost, chickenlike, in Westminster, the union that represent parliament’s staff is threatening to strike over conditions they consider unsafe. They haven’t been able to keep a safe distance from the MPs, they say. But (they didn’t say) they’re all dressed very nicely–not to mention from top to (and this is very important) bottom.

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Starting in mid-June, all hospital visitors and outpatients will have to wear masks, and all staff will have to wear surgical masks, the government announced. To which the National Health Service said, “Gee, it would’ve been nice if you’d talked to us about this beforehand, because it’s going to take a little planning.”

“Planning?” the Department of Impulsive Thinking said. “What’s that?”

The government also announced that a limited number of visitors will be allowed into hospitals, and I haven’t a clue if the hospitals were told about that in advance. Possibly, since they haven’t been heard to scream, “You want what?” in public. 

*

A leaked email from the Department of Grinding Slowly has announced that Britain’s world-beating system of testing people for the coronavirus and tracing their contacts won’t be fully operational until September. Or possibly October.

It hasn’t ruled out the possibility of postponing September and October for up to 90 days so that it can make its target. 

But don’t worry, we’ll all be fine. Car showrooms are reopening. In no time at all, we’ll be able to get haircuts. (I’ve cut my partner’s hair twice now and we’re still together. She wanted to cut mine, but after what she did to the dog I thought maybe I’d let it grow.) You can meet people who are over 5’6” on Thursdays as long as you’re out of doors and the wind’s from the west. If they stand on your left. Children with birthmarks have returned to school. Children without birthmarks will have to wait until next month. 

That report is from the Department of You’ll Never Keep Track of It Anyway. 

Those of us who were born with a sunny disposition, along with any number of scientists, are waiting for a second spike in coronavirus cases. In fact, a group of scientists and medics have called for a public inquiry to prepare for it. 

Anyone want to place bets on whether they’ll be listened to?

*

You might want to sit down before you read this next piece. Not because it’s shocking but because it made me dizzy, and I do have a habit of mixing me up with you, so I just assume you’ll have the same problem.

First we (and by we, of course, I mean I) learned from the Guardian that a small US company, Surgisphere, provided the data behind a couple of articles published in reputable medical journals that claimed Covid-19 patients taking hydroxychloroquine (I hate typing that word) were dying at higher rates than people who weren’t taking it. 

That led to tests of the drug ending early. It was too dangerous.  

But Surgisphere’s extensive database, from which the data was drawn, looked–

Is shaky a polite enough word? Questionable. Let’s settle for questionable. And possibly imaginary.

And Surgisphere, which had listed six employees before the story broke, suddenly listed only three. Some of them have no visible medical, scientific, or data background. The science editor seems to be a science fiction writer and fantasy artist. The marketing executive is an adult model and events hostess. 

An adult model? I’m not sure. It probably just means she’s over eighteen, although maybe she makes a living as a role model for adults. Or appears by video link in front of the European Parliament in her not-quite-altogether. 

Next we learned that the respectable medical publications withdrew the articles because the authors were no longer sure of their data. There were plans to resume the canceled trials of that drug whose name I hate to type. 

But wait: Before anyone had time to check my spelling, we learned that a randomized trial reported that the stuff is useless against Covid-19 and we can all forget about it.

May I never have to type its name again.

*

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve earned the right to whatever good news I can scrape together, and I did find some. Astra-Zeneca is going into high gear producing a vaccine before its effectiveness has been proven. It’s a gamble. If it works, they’ll have 300 million doses ready to go before the end of the year. If it doesn’t, they’ll have set fire to a significant amount of money. 

This involves partnerships with a range of groups that I won’t list, and it also involves a commitment to make 1 billion doses available to low- and middle-income countries.

*

And finally, a Dutch study raises the hope that vitamin K might protect people against the worst forms of Covid-19. So eat your spinach, kids, along with eggs, blue cheese, and hard cheeses. You can put them together into a very nice omelette, and if you’ve been here for a while you know better than to ask me for a recipe.

93 thoughts on “The pandemic update from Britain, with half-dressed politicians and questionable databases

  1. Oh no, eggs are hard enough to get hold of as it is.

    I don’t have a sunny disposition, so listening to podcasts about the Spanish flu didn’t make me more worried about a second spike than I already was. Why doesn’t anyone seem to want to learn from history? Suffice it to say that the second spike 100 years ago was deadlier than the first.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I think it will be a while before my car needs to be replaced. I’ve probably driven about twenty miles in the last three months.

        I forgot to say, you could always try cutting your own hair. I did. It’s not too bad from the front. I took a photo of the back and it’s not too dreadful.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I did that for a while when I was in my teens. It was curly enough to cover a multitude of impulsive decisions. When it went gray, though, it straightened out a lot and–oh, what the hell, it’s looking a little wild but it keeps me amused.

          Liked by 1 person

              • Reminds me of the old put-down used against the odd heckler (in the days when I went to raucous pubs that put on a comic or drag queen) – “Who did your hair? The Council?”

                Liked by 1 person

              • My go-to insult (applied only to myself or the dogs) is that it looks like it’s been attacked with a lawnmower. And one of our dogs genuinely does. My partner was struggling with a newly bought and very impressive kit involving clippers, combs, and things I can’t identify, but piece A didn’t slot neatly into slot B, so she gave up on it and just used the bare clippers, cutting a few tracks, almost to the skin, along the beast’s side before deciding it was a bad idea and putting the whole thing away. We used to have a brain-damaged neighbor who shoveled snow that way. He’d get out there, follow some inexplicable path around the back yard, then go back inside. The track never did reach from the door to the alley. He didn’t, fortunately, take up dog grooming, but we’ve honored his spirit.

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    • I think I could only find that in the Press Reader, which is a mess and hard to find anything in–and clearly hard to go back to the article I was working from. Apologies. I have yet to figure out why that happens with some articles. I hate the press reader.

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        • It is–especially since this ended up in spam too. Maybe it’s the photo which seems to be at the end–although it’s so small that I@m more or less guessing that it’s a photo. Maybe it’s a video. Maybe a bee landed on my screen.

          ___________________

          I assumed this was about comments landing in spam, but it’s attached to the earlier comments. Just ignore me. Some days that’s the best thing to do.

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            • Yup, right into the spam folder. Next to–I’m sorry to say–an offer of dog-in-the-bathtub porn. You learn something every day, although I’m not at all sure what I learned from that.

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              • I don’t know what I can tell you. It’s something I probably don’t want to know too much about, but as long as I don’t it’s hysterical. It does prove that there’s nothing in the universe that doesn’t turn someone on, for reasons that baffle everybody else.

                Liked by 1 person

    • No idea whether this was rushed into print out of a sense of crisis; whether peer review would normally be suspicious of a database. I expect that if it wouldn’t, it will in the future.

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      • It seems to me that if anything is regarded as damaging to Trump, it will be published willy nilly. Difficult to hold the moral high ground in these circumstances, let alone uphold respect for the journals/newspapers/broadcast media/ Just makes one think that when one side goes low, the other side goes lower.
        There are lives at risk here…but lives don’t seem to matter to anyone with a modicum of power and a message to push.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Somebody in the (small) newspaper biz said, “Freedom of the press belongs to the person who owns one.”

          Okay, I think he probably said “man.”

          So power and money definitely need to be taken into account. Nonetheless, a few papers have been doing a good job of reporting. Without them, we’d be a poorer society.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw that guy, sitting on his bed. Yeesh. Like he just rolled out of it. I have to do a lot of video meetings now and I always get dressed before I do them (unless it’s on Saturday with friends, rather than colleagues–there IS a difference). Anyhow, we’re still demonstrating here and second wave could be coming fast, given 800,000 expected this weekend in DC alone. But since hotspots didn’t occur from the first wave of people demonstrating because they wanted to get haircuts, maybe it won’t happen this time either. I do have a sunny disposition, so I’m hoping that will be the case….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well this is timely with regards to what I just posted. I am actually rather pleased that the US is not the only place that has no clue. I am, at the same time also not surprised in the least.
    In other news, hair trimming can be an adventure and helps to pass the hours. It may not always be successful, but if you’re not going out much, no one will care anyway I suspect. I have found surgical caps at work cover most problems when I do have to be around others. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Department of Impulsive Thinking like to make annoucement on Friday afternoons, I have noticed. I looked up Ming the Trouserless and was rather disappointed (shame on me, I know) I was hoping for someone younger and more attractive! Thanks for making me laugh yet again.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. At the top of your form with this missive, Ellen. Looking forward to your update from the Department of Grinding Slowly on how to protect ourselves from 5G and Bill Gates of Hell.

    PS – What is it with politicians and their obsession with Ming? According to Wonkypedia, a late PM of our fair land of Oz, Bob Menzies, was proud of his Scottish heritage, and preferred his surname to be pronounced in the traditional Scottish manner (MING-iss) rather than as it is spelled (MEN-zeez). This gave rise to his nickname “Ming”, which was later expanded to “Ming the Merciless” after the comic strip character.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As far as I understand it–which is none too far, since we’re dealing with a collision of pronunciation and the English language and the accent of a place where I haven’t spent much time–in Scotland Menzies is pronounced just Ming. No -iss trailing after. No, don’t ask me. I have no influence and less understanding.

      As for 5G, the Department of Grinding Slowly recommends waiting until they come along with 6G and the conspiracy theorists really go nuts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Real nitpick here, but AFAIK the full name is pronounced Ming-iss in Scotland. The Liberal Democrats’ leader for a time was Menzies (pronounced that way) Campbell, but the first name was commonly shortened to Ming (I suspect it had been given to him as a nickname back in the days of Ming the Merciless, when he was for an even shorter time an international athlete).

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Speaking of setting fire to a significant amount of money, on Friday Dear Leader went Down East to Maine where he visited a facility that manufactures swabs for corona-virus testing. Of course he did not wear a mask, The report also said he put a swab near his nose, though the accompanying photo looks more like he is using it as a toothpick. As a result, after Dear Leader left, the plant had to destroy the entire day’s production run due to VERY possible contamination. Of course, there aren’t enough swabs to go around in the first place, so this development is especially helpful.

    Research also seems to indicate that some law officers are doing all they can to insure the protesters get Covid – such as tear gas, pepper spray and other respiratory irritants, which cause coughing, sneezing, runny eyes and noses. (There is a video of one ossifer pulling down a protester’s mask and spraying him full on with pepper spray,) Also,some of the “secret police” (armed, armored men with all insignias or labels removed from their uniforms) were imported by William Barr, our “AG in charge” from a couple prisons in Texas where Covid has been running wild.(My source here is footage and reporting seen on MSNBC, which gave us impressive footage of he Australian reporter and her crew being beaten, gassed and generally shoved around. while
    they were on air with the Australian anchor desk, who ended up screaming “Are you all right? Are you all right ?”

    Fun times.
    Or, as Scarlett O’Hara pointed out :Fiddle-de-dee ! Fun for the men you mean !

    Liked by 2 people

    • …also kettling, I’ve heard: herding people close together in a small area and keeping them there. I hadn’t heard about the Texas imports, though. I can only hope Trump decides to appear in person to give them a medal.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I would comment on Ming the Trouserless but he’s probably been the butt of enough jokes already.

    You probably went to press before the news broke of the £2m contract for PPE that was awarded to a company worth £20k, that didn’t actually make anything like PPE. It raises the bar for anyone wanting to invent news stories, I think!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Watch it anyway, Dan. Or read the paper. (Don’t do both–it’s more strain than the human system can stand.) Then throw things. Not at the TV–it’s too expensive. At some of the self-serving s.o.b.s involved. It’s a service that we all owe to the public good.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m waiting for the second spike in cases. I’m no scientist, but I’m a good observer of human beings. And many of them aren’t doing the first thing to keep safe, charming souls that they are not. Meanwhile we live keeping our distance from people, enjoying our hippie hair– the emphasis here is on the word “live.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. First, let me say I believe the irrelevant photo today is one of your best and makes me yearn to see a field with corn marigolds set against an amazing azure sea. Bravo. I was mesmerized by that – or maybe I was mesmerized by the discussion of the study involving a drug I have no interest in spelling. I always feel smarter after reading your commentary.
    Finally, allow me to thank the British people who protested in the streets of London and elsewhere in the hope that some day black lives wil truly matter everywhere.
    Stay safe, my friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And let me confess that for the pandemic updates I’ve been freely stealing my own photos from past posts, so that was a second showing. I suspect it’s the restrictions on our lives right now that make it look so appealing. Look! World. Sea! Life! I’d forgotten!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I suspect the NHS has run out of any response other than the unprintable about government pronouncements. I imagine they’ve run out of their usual levels of DefCon already.

    I always cut Himself’s hair – with clippers – it doesn’t involve any skill or talent. He’s tried to persuade me to allow him to return the favour for a while. I finally gave in a week ago, and have to admit that he did a pretty decent job. Mind you, it is very pixie-like indeed …

    Finally, thank you for Ming the Trouserless. I shall be investigating YouTube to see if I can find a clip :D

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was tempted to say, “Poor ol’ Ming,” but I get the sense that he’s enjoying the attention. Some people can’t be embarrassed, or not by the usual things anyway.

      Don’t be so sure using a clipper takes no skill. I offer Dog Number Two as evidence, although it’s grown out enough by now that I a photo won’t prove my point.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Apparently we are getting spikelets in the states that reopened too quickly. They are spikelets (my word) because the real second spike hasn’t arrived yet. It makes it sound like the virus has made a reservation

    Liked by 1 person

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