Moles, pizza, and remdesivir: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

A local spike in coronavirus cases in Leicester has been handled with all the grace and efficiency we expect of our government. It announced a local lockdown. The health secretary said the police would enforce it as needed. The message was, we’re tough. We’re efficient. We’re gonna win this thing.

The local police and crime commissioner still didn’t know where he was supposed to enforce the lockdown, though, because he hadn’t been sent a map. Then he got a map but still didn’t know the details of what they were supposed to enforce. 

But it’s okay, because we have a prime minister who can do at least one pushup while keeping two yards away from a photographer.

*

Irrelevant photo: St. Nectan’s Kieve

Chaand Nagpaul, from the British Medical Association, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s strategy of dealing with local outbreaks will be no use if the local people who are expected to contain them aren’t given the data they need. 

I could have said that, but it sounds better coming from someone with a medical degree. Leicester could’ve responded earlier if they’d been told they had a problem, and where and how and why.

When Johnson introduced his strategy of containing local outbreaks, he described it as whack-a-mole–a game where you whack a plastic mole with a plastic hammer and even if you’re fast enough to hit it, it pops up out of another hole. 

It was a rare moment of honesty in political discourse.

While we wait to see where the mole’s going to pop up next, Johnson tells us that local authorities have been sent the data they need. 

And the check is in the mail.

*

You’ve probably heard by now that the U.S. bought up almost the entire stock of remdesivir–500,000 doses: 100% of the manufacturer’s July production, 90% of August’s and 90% of September’s.

Remdesivir cuts Covid-19 recovery times, although it’s not clear whether it improves survival rates. Other counties have pointed out that buying up almost the entire stock might, um, undercut international cooperation in the face of the pandemic. 

“International what?” Donald Trump replied. 

Okay, he didn’t actually say that. I can’t remember ever seeing a quote in which he asks a question. 

The sale makes it sound like other countries are thoroughly screwed, but in fact they should be able to get the drug via compulsory license, which allows countries to override patents and buy generic versions from countries where the patent isn’t registered. This one is widely registered, but there will, it seems, be gaps.

The drug is made by Gilead, which sounds like it escaped from The Handmaid’s Tale. I’d love to tell you that it didn’t, but I don’t really know that. Lots of things have escaped from fiction lately, and nothing is more bizarre than reality. 

The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care tells us it’ll be fine and it has enough remdesivir “to treat every patient who needs the drug.” 

For how long?

They didn’t say.

*

The New Scientist says, “There is no longer any serious doubt that our bodies can form an immune memory to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.” 

The bad news is that we still don’t know how effective that memory will be. In other words, we don’t know if an immune memory’s the same thing as immunity.

Don’t you just love to hear from me? Don’t I just lift your spirits?

And from the Department of Confusing Information comes this snippet: For every person testing positive for Covid-19 antibodies, two more turn out to have specific T-cells that identify and destroy Covid-infected cells. That’s true even in people who had asymptomatic cases or mild ones.

What does that mean in everyday English? It means that for every person who registers positive on an antibody test, two more have some sort of immune response that doesn’t register. 

Those T-cells the two people have might give them some immunity to the disease. They might keep them from passing the disease on to other people.

They also might not.

The reason T-cells don’t register on an antibody test is antibodies are a whole ‘nother part of the immune system. Expecting to notice T-cells on an antibody test is like making yourself a pizza and wondering why it doesn’t come out of the oven with a side salad.

Basically, antibodies–that’s the pizza–attack the virus before it enters the body’s cells. T-cells–they’re  the salad, and it’s important to remember which is which–go into action once cells have been infected, attacking  them so they won’t infect  new ones. A balanced immune system meal needs both pizza and that salad.

You’re welcome. I’m here to clarify every baffling bit of our world, just for you.

What does all that mean for herd immunity? Not much, because for all anyone knows at this point, those T-cells could protect the bearer without keeping him or her from passing the virus on. 

If you worked this many twists into a pandemic movie, I’d throw my popcorn at the screen and stomp out, muttering, “Enough already.” 

Then I’d go out for pizza and a salad.

I’m just about old enough to remember a world where it was safe to go to movies and pizza joints. 

104 thoughts on “Moles, pizza, and remdesivir: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

    • You’re in Leicester? You should put a t-shirt on that photo of yours. You’ll freeze.

      That’s interesting. A sane system would be working through primary care doctors, both letting them know where the concentrations are and asking them for their observations, but–oh, what am I thinking?

      Stay well, please.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. “International cooperation” – oh, you fiction writers always make me laugh. Next you’ll start with “a priest, a bear and a stable genius go into a bar…” Oh, wait, the bars aren’t open. Oh well, maybe another day.

    If you want a math(s) problem, Remdesivir is being sold for $3,120 per patient (about 2,492 of your British Pounds) our Government might have paid the Medicare price of $2,340, but knowing our government, they probably forgot to bring the coupon or send in the rebate form. Your government will likely buy it from one of those back-alley markets for 89¢ a whack. You can use the billion+ pounds/dollars saved to print more maps and make better plastic hammers.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I do love a bargain. Especially when it involves plastic hammers. Whack-a-mole is the only game at the Minnesota State Fair that I was any good at, so I love that too.

      I didn’t mention it, but remdesivir was developed with a large infusion of public money so you’d think the public would maybe get a bargain on it. Or you might think that if you didn’t know better.

      Never mind. I’ll just go whack myself in the head with my plastic hammer, then look for a bar that’s open. They should be back in business in two days.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pizzas will ramp up the cholesterol level, so they may have immunity to Covid-19 but they might end up needing a cabbage…( CABG – coronary artery bypass grafting)! And on another tack…what’s to stop people from Leicester driving to the nearest city for a haircut? The police haven’t got the manpower to enforce a local lockdown. It’s crazy times for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good question, and I expect the police and crime commissioner will get instructions in another week or two, by which time they’ll have shut down the suburbs. Or the nearby towns. Or, at the very least, everyone who wanted a haircut (or a cabbage; or cole slaw) badly enough has gotten one.

      Liked by 1 person

        • call me cynical, but I can’t see the the countries of the world cooperating enough plan anything on a global level, let alone anything that destroys economies. Capitalists don’t plan economy destroying things…
          I clicked the link too…and no evidence is presented just a lot of coincidences…

          Liked by 2 people

          • Capitalists don’t plan to destroy economies (at least, not their own–they don’t mind destroying other people’s) but there’s an argument to be made that the system itself undermines them with great regularity.

            But that’s a whole different topic. Sorry. I’ve been trying to write about the City of London. My brain’s half fried.

            I don’t want to gamble anything larger than a sandwich on international cooperation, but without it we don’t stand a chance in hell of beating this virus, because no single country can control it alone. I don’t know if that’ll make us collectively desperate enough to play nice, but it should.

            Liked by 2 people

              • I’ve been monitoring many of these patterns since the late 90s and I wager that someone does have evidence. For me, the question is if and when this will be revealed

                Liked by 1 person

              • Again, patterns are easy to find. Our minds seek patterns–it’s why we see pictures among the stars, and why different cultures see different pictures. Without evidence, I wouldn’t rest any weight on them.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Interesting that you don’t see clues among the stars when some have made careers from interpreting them for millennium. I’m not one of those, but figure there has to be something there for this to have lasted for such a long time.

                Liked by 1 person

              • I agree, particularly since I will never understand astrology, and the fact that some believe attributes can be passed from place/date of birth… Can’t quite find the logic in that. However, I have a couple friends that literally base their daily agendas on what the stars are doing! They aren’t uneducated – one is a physicist!

                Liked by 1 person

            • The same argument can be, and has been, made to support astrology and assorted other things. It doesn’t make them true. And in writing a novel about a conspiracy theory, Open Line, I had to work up a series of arguments for why the Vietnam War never happened–it was all a fake. It’s surprising how easy it is to do.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Not really. It’s about a radio talk show host who gets bored one night and, just for the hell of it, claims that the Vietnam War never happened, it was all a massive government coverup of she has no idea what and is moving too fast to care. Before she knows what’s hit her, people start handing her what looks like evidence of her claim, and it all gathers speed from there.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Fascinating!
                I generally see the opposite effect in our media. For instance, I find it very interesting – and yes, quite a coincidence – that BLM (black lives matter) emerges about every 4 years, to put fear in people prior to one of our presidential elections… One can nearly mark them on the calendar. Ditto for some virus. In 2016, it was zika, this year it is corona, which has most shut indoors in fear… This despite the fact that it is apparently some ‘cousin’ of the common cold… Did you read how Tanzania tested the covid test and got positives on car oil, a papaya and a goat? That reeks of conspiracy or hoax to me. I’m just not sure if this is just a testing malfunction or if there is a darker motive.
                Perhaps you can use some of this for another novel – it is a ll a bit too dark for my YA books.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Sorry, I really do think you’re going down the rabbit hole there. By way of a quick reality check, I googled the Tanzania claim and can’t find a responsible news source documenting it.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Mind control is something else I’ve seen no legitimate evidence of. Manipulation, unquestionably. Individuals and large swathes of a population believing things that they’re told? Yup. Mind control, though? Nope.

                Liked by 1 person

  3. Didn’t Pizza Hut used to do all-you-can-eat salads. I just checked and they’ll be open in the UK on July 6th. Problem solved.
    It is possible I misread some of your post…
    Also, Michael Gove could pass for a mole, maybe Boris is going to whack him…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Every time I see Gove’s face, I feel a powerful impulse to whack him. And that was before you pointed out his resemblance to a mole.

      I admit you’ve solved the pizza problem, at least technically, but what I had in mind was–okay, I don’t want to be a pizza snob, but I hate Pizza Hut pizza. I guess that’s politics for you. You can never tell how your fixes are going to work out in reality.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I actually remember thinking someone was joking the first time I read that “Gilead” was the maker of Remdesivir. How could I be so naive? As Dan pointed out, with the cost they have set it will clearly go to the Commanders so that they may live to spawn more white male leaders for the new world.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s got to a point where the unravelling of any given Government announcement, in a question of hours after it has been made, is starting to look like the only thing they can be relied upon to get right is getting things wrong. I’m hoping they start announcing that it’s all hopeless and despite their very best efforts we’re all going to die next, then we’ll know it’s safe and probably all over.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Ha ! “Whack-a-Mole “?? Over here we are “putting out fires ! ” Apparently with gasoline, given the intelligence level of U-no-whom (and I don’t mean The Doctor )

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As far as President Trump asking actual questions, if they don’t center around him, there is a good chance that they don’t exist. His questions go something like this, “People tell me I’m the most incredible President they’ve ever seen—better than Lincoln. Have you heard that?”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So…I am reminded of the old hymn There Is a Balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul, o there is a balm in Gilead to make the sinner whole…I don’t remember any mention of remdesivir in the hymn, but then, of course the hymn is older than dirt which means it is pre-coronavirus days, and no one had heard of the Gilead drug producers at that time.
    I do remember going out for pizza and a movie in the old days before Gilead was making drugs for a virus. Were those the good old days?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The further we get into these days, the gooder the pizza-and-a-movie days look, although at the time they didn’t seem that exciting.

      In spite of my philosophical and religious differences with “Balm in Gilead,” it’s a gorgeous hymn. I don’t think remdesivir’s going to scan, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “Expecting to notice T-cells on an antibody test is like making yourself a pizza and wondering why it doesn’t come out of the oven with a side salad” – made me laugh, although I’m not entirely sure why?!? I noticed that I amone of few people wearing a mask when I go to the local shops. Wierdly people give me a wide berth when I am wearing a mask. They should be giving me a wide berth when I am not wearing one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is bizarre–not to mention useful. Not many people are wearing masks here either. Maybe the theory is that we’re not heavily infected here. Maybe not. A neighbor who cuts lawns for holiday cottages just told me that he wants to get them all finished before Spiky Saturday so he can stay away after that. I wonder if the masks will come out after today. In spite of everything that’s said and written about masks protecting other people, I think a lot of people think they protect them. I know I have to keep reminding myself.

      They really should be mandatory in enclosed spaces.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s almost reassuring to hear that your information there has just as many twists and turns and bafflement as this side of the pond…. and now I want pizza.. and salad!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry about that. I really don’t recommend putting the salad in the oven.

      Britain really isn’t quite as messed as the US is right now, but I can’t say I’m impressed with how the government’s handling things. There is, though, at least an attempt at a national policy.

      Like

  11. So the UK government is looking at ways to deal with this virus, and generally the actions have been fairly legit. The issue is that the government has been dithering throughout this, maybe because they were reluctant to take these actions and considering a similar procedure to what happened in America or maybe down to sheer incomitance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We can never rule out the power of sheer incompetence, but I think lack of leadership comes into it. Not to mention an absolutely religious commitment to privatization, even when–maybe especially when–it involves companies with a track record of screwing up badly. (Serco, anyone?)

      They had plenty of time to make plans before the virus reached us, and they did nothing. When it hit, they could have locked down early and hard but told us to wash our hands and sing Happy Birthday. I could go on but I won’t. And now, having in spite of themselves reduced the spread, they’re ending the lockdown in a chaotic way. I’m going to fasten my seat belt and wait for the second wave.

      Sorry—I lose my sense of humor pretty regularly over this stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, the lack of leadership too has contributed. The government are terrified of nationalization, while many private companies have been behaving in an appalling way for a long time.
        They certainly did have plenty of time, but Boris would rather get someone to film him washing his hands, rather than getting on with his job…

        Liked by 1 person

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