Let’s start in France instead of Britain:
Because of the coronavirus and the lockdown, wine sales have been down. Bar and restaurant closures hit the industry hard, and if that wasn’t enough, Donald Trump got mad at the whole damn country and slapped a 25% tariff on French wine.
What’s a wine-producing country to do?
Make hand sanitizer. Some 200 million liters of unsold wine will be–or possibly already has been; it’s hard to know how to read this–made into hand sanitizing gel. That will free up space in the wine caves for this year’s vintage.
The gel will not sport its vintage on the label, although up-market wines were hit particularly hard, so you could be rubbing your hands with some really great wines. Or at least some really expensive ones.
You can’t turn it back into wine, though, no matter how hard you try.
In Britain, shutting down the pubs–and also opening them back up, which will happen eventually–is all about beer, and beer (I’ve just learned) doesn’t last forever.
So how do you get rid of it? You can’t just dump it down the drain. You have to talk to the water board. You have to record everything and verify everything, because you’re going to want to get your beer duty back from the brewers.
Beer duty? You don’t want to know. It’s a tax. And you have to submit a Beer Duty (in caps) form by the fifteenth day of the month after your accounting period.
After you do all that, presumably, you can dump it down the drain.
New Zealand is now free of Covid-19. You probably already heard that, but good news is hard to come by and I can’t let it go to waste: New Zealand. Covid free.
If you’re not New Zealandish, though, you can’t go there. They’re keeping tight control of the borders, and even incoming New Zealanders will be quarantined–by which I don’t mean the mythical quarantine Britain’s imposed (ride public transportation, go shopping, lick a few door handles, then stay kind of vaguely inside, mostly, unless you need something), but the real kind, where you don’t breathe on people or touch them or lick their door handles.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the world-beating track and trace system that Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised us.
Why do we want to beat the world on this? Because we’re coming second in our official count of coronavirus deaths (the US is ahead, the wretches, and Brazil’s rushing up the charts just behind us). Well, by gum, that’s not good enough. We need to beat someone at something.
How are we doing at beating the world with our track and trace system, then?
Our custom-built track and trace app should be ready next month, the government says. It was supposed to be ready last month, but never mind. One month is a lot like another when you’re in lockdown. And the calling system that’s supposed to back it up, or possibly substitute for it until it’s working, is a privatized shambles.
An independent science advisory group, formed by the government’s former chief non-independent science advisor, Sir David King, says the system isn’t–in that very British phrase–fit for purpose. To prevent the infection rate rising, he says, it needs to detect 80% of an infected person’s contacts, and it won’t. He’s called for it to be scrapped.
“This is the critical moment for the government to act now or risk further spikes. We believe that a new approach is required, one that moves away from a centralised system that utilises a local-first approach. We are calling on the government to urgently rethink their course to ensure that we have a system in place that will help and not hinder the country’s recovery.”
Why’s the government stuck on the idea of a centralized system? My best guess is because there’s money to be made that way, and contracts to be handed out, and the god of privatization to be placated with large offerings.
One contactor in the tracing program is Serco, which has an impressive record of disaster. A few months back, it was fined £1 million for failures on a contract.
And £3 million for messing up another contract.
And £122.9 million (plus repaying £68.5 million) for another. That’s for the contract that saw them billing the government for all the work involved in monitoring the movements of the dead.
No, that’s not a joke. They really did that.
Anyway, they’re working on the contact tracing program. We’re in good hands here.
The junior health minister, Edward Argar, is a former Serco lobbyist. Which has nothing to do with anything. Don’t give it a minute’s thought. I only mentioned it because I’m biased.
A small pest-control company–small as in 16 staff members and £18,000 in assets–was awarded a £108 million Department of Health contract, making it the government’s largest supplier of protective equipment.
A coffee, tea, and spice wholesaler got a £2.15 million contract to supply medical and surgical face masks.
All told, £340 million in contracts were signed in April, most of them without a competitive process. Some of the companies may be doing exactly what they’re being paid to do. Others–. Well, you do get the sense that a lot of money was spent without adult supervision.
I was going to give you a link to Pest Magazine for this story, because how many times in a life does a person get a chance to link to Pest Magazine. Unfortunately, it’s not much of an article. I only added the paragraph to justify the link.
But we don’t need to go to a pest control company to buy a mask. A full-page newspaper ad tells me that we can all order our own, and since they’re not the kind the NHS uses, we’re not taking anything they need. The masks come in packs of three, they’re reusable, and the ad doesn’t say how much they cost.
But no mask is complete without face mask sanitizing spray, which is designed to “eliminate and reduce the spread of harmful germs and viruses.” So first we eliminate the little bastards and then, in case that isn’t enough, we reduce them. And it all comes with a 100% money back guarantee. The fine print is too small for human eyes, but I think it says that if you die from the virus, you get your money back.
But we were talking about Britain beating the world, and it still could. Or at least it could lead the world’s major economies in being hardest hit by the pandemic, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The current guess is that we’ll be looking at an 11.5% fall.
And even better, the Covid Crash should hide whatever disasters a no-deal or last-minute-deal Brexit brings us.