Lockdowns and communication problems: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

Cynics claim the British government has a communication problem. To demonstrate that this is a lie and a slander, I offer you the following statement from Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for health and social care. He’s explaining why a local semi-lockdown was imposed in Manchester. 

“We know that from the contact tracing information so whenever anybody tests positive the vast majority of them, unmm, we manage to speak to and we ask which contacts they’ve had who they– we been in contact with and that’s shown that the vast majority of contacts of people who have the virus are pe– are from other than people in their own household of course, unmm, who have to self isolate– anyway– is is is from households visiting and them visiting friends and relatives uhh err and and those two are bigger than the impact– the number of contacts that people have say at work or visiting ehm visiting shops and and and that means that we’re– because we have that information from the NHS test and trace system it means that we’re able to take this action which is more targeted at uhm erm controlling the spread of the virus.”

I hope that clarifies the situation. If the punctuation’s a bit unorthodox, I know you’ll understand. 

My thanks to the inimitable Bear Humphries, from Scribblans, who managed to extract the text from the internet and who is not responsible for anyplace it deviates from the spoken original. He tried to convince me to double check but it’s hard, when you’re looking at this level of iron-bound logic to imagine that anything could possibly have gone wrong. 


Irrelevant photo: Pears on our tree last year. This year’s aren’t quite this far along yet.

Since we’re talking about communications, the Manchester lockdown was announced just after 9 pm on Thursday and went into effect at midnight. Guidance on what was and wasn’t permitted was published well ahead of time, at 11 pm. Eid al Adha, an important Muslim holiday when families gather together, began on Thursday night, making the issue of what can and can’t be done under the guidelines particularly fraught.


You’re dying to know how I do my research, right? If you (or at least if I) toss Lord Google the phrase “new lockdown manchester,” the first link Lord G. suggests reads, “Seven simple tricks to fix a noisy washing machine in lockdown.” The second one said, “Doet het aantal stappen tijdens de lockdown er echt toe? – myprotein.com” 

I do, in fact, have lockdown toe. I don’t know how Lord G. knew that, since I hadn’t googled it yet, but I won’t be fixing my washing machine, no matter how noisy it gets. I once turned a 29-cent leak in the toilet into a $250 repair job, plus I took out the kitchen ceiling. When anything involves more water than fits in the dog bowl, it’s cheaper to call a professional.


And now it’s time to sit at your desks and settle down, people, because we’re going to talk about serious stuff.

Yes, you too, Bear.

The number of Covid-19 infections in England has risen slightly. Or seems to have risen slightly. That’s based on a weekly random sample, so it won’t have been skewed by either more or less testing of the population. The estimate is that 36,000 people are now infected, with 4,200 new infections per day, up from 28,000 with 2,800 new infections per day last week. 

Restrictions were supposed to be eased on August 1, with essential services like, um, casinos and bowling alleys reopening. That’s now on hold, and you’ll have to wear a mask if you go to a movie, a museum, or an assortment of other indoor places.

On the other hand, 2.2 million extremely vulnerable who’ve been advised to stay home up to now can go back to work if they can’t work from home and if the place they work is Covid-secure. 

What’s Covid-secure? You got me.

Is this a good idea? We’ll get back to you about that when someone dies.


I am endlessly indebted to Boris Johnson’s government for keeping me supplied with blog fodder. A new scheme to make Britain slim, Covid-resistant, and bike-addicted opened as farce this week. 

Picking up on a link between obesity and dying from Covid-19, Johnson launched a program to make Britain lose weight, saying it wouldn’t be “excessively bossy or nannying.”

These people who grew up with nannies. They’ve got a thing about them.

The program hits out at a few of the predictable targets: no more junk food ads on the TV before 9 pm. Information about calories visible on menus (or somewhere–I haven’t read the fine print; possibly in the back office). No junk food displays by the checkout. 

But the bit that’s getting the most press is the offer of a £50 bike repair voucher to anyone (up to some limit–it doesn’t matter just now what it is) stubborn and clever enough to survive its website. That eliminates anyone who doesn’t have a computer, an internet connection, or a bike–in other words, anyone who’s poor. Because the problem with poor people is that they don’t have enough money. And a shortage of money leads to a shortage of bikes, internet connections, and computers. Not to mention other stuff, like good food. So we can discount them.

We can also discount old people (that’s defined as older than me, and I’m upwards of 300), who also may not have computers, internet connections, or bikes, and who therefore aren’t really part of our culture and don’t matter.

But plenty of people wanted–and quite possibly needed–those vouchers enough that they hurled themselves at the website as soon as it went live.

Which crashed the thing. Twitter was alight with comments. The one that interested me most said, “Since when did the govmt use a one man band in Doncaster who has a £30k company with £455 of assets to develop WordPress websites for their national schemes??”

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of that claim and I’m too clueless to follow it up myself, but I thought I’d toss it into the conversation and see if anyone knows more about it than I do. The government has a habit of handing out contracts like that. They once, famously, gave a ferry contract to a company with no ships. 

Another tweet reported an improvement in the site: It had gone from not letting him in to crashing once he’d entered his information. 

Will any of it make the nation thinner? Governments have been trying to slenderize Britain for twenty years without any noticeable success. But it does give everyone the satisfying impression that Steps Are Being Taken. 


And now let’s drop in on the U.S of infectious A. Congressman Louie Gohmert has tested positive for Coronavirus and said in an interview, “I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, I might have put some germs–some virus–on to the mask and breathed it in.” 


But that’s amateur hour. Donald Trump promoted a tweet by Dr. Stella Immanuel which sung the praises of hydroxycloroquine. She has an impressive medical track record that includes warning people that alien DNA shows up in various medicines and that having sex with demons and witches in your dreams has a terrible impact on your health.

She also mentioned a vaccine that will prevent people catching religion. It doesn’t seem to be working, but maybe we don’t have herd immunity yet.

The caption on one of her videos asks, “How long are we going to allow the gay agenda, secular humanism, Illuminati and the demonic New World Order to destroy our homes, families and the social fibre of America.”

The quote didn’t come with a question mark at the end, and as far as I can figure out it didn’t have one in the original. I shouldn’t get snotty about punctuation, but “Get snotty about punctuation” is on the gay agenda for today at 2:50 pm, and I’m helpless in its grip.

I’d like to be better than that. Really I would.

I’d end by telling you to stay sane, because it’s crazy out there, but I worry that you’ll stop reading Notes. Stay only mildly crazy. Don’t get sick.

89 thoughts on “Lockdowns and communication problems: It’s the pandemic news from Britain

  1. I did take that serious bit seriously. But I suspect that, like many of us, the serious bits are too scary–and just so damn exhausting–to allow to run around in your head unaccompanied by some silly for too long.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A guy in the US who voted for Trump seems to have circulated a video (which he made after drinking a beer or two) in which he swears that if the Democrats nominate a ketchup bottle to run against him, he’ll vote for it.

      The right wing, I have to say, have done a marvelous job of confusing the issue–whichever issue you care to name. The pandemic? Global warming? Refugees? The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? The political debate–at least on one side–has stopped caring about fact and evidence. Assertion is enough. It’s horrifying.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. More cyclists….as oppposed to people who ride bikes….strikes dismay into the heart of my friend in London. As ‘gentrification’ has struck her area a toddle to the shops has turned into a hazardous expedition. Between yummy mummies with juggernaut buggies and helmeted people plugged in to music while they advance on her with those silent electric scooters life is dangerous for the elderly in Kensal Rise. Add to that an increase in the number of lycra louts riding their bikes on the pavement and she is tempted to fix piano wire to the lampost opposite her gate in order to garotte a few of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The old solutions are the most effective, aren’t they? I know they didn’t have pianos back when they used a thin rope to sweep someone off their horse, but the principle’s the same.

      Here, my sense is that bike riding’s a form of Russian roulette. What with the narrow roads and the blind curves….

      Liked by 1 person

    • I know you think you jest here and it’s funny in some way, it’s somehow OK to joke about ‘cycling on pavements’ and ‘lycra louts’ these days, but there are people, fellow blameless humans who decided to cycle that day, sometimes children, who have been seriously hurt by that ‘garotting’ method over the years. Here’s a fairly recent one; https://road.cc/content/news/cyclist-injured-wire-stretched-across-w-yorkshire-trail-272949

      I suffer from MS, can’t walk unaided but can cycle, and do so for some considerable miles sometimes. It is a great way of being independent for me. Cyclists (humans who cycle) don’t deserve garrotting, or passing closely to ‘teach them a lesson’ or anything else carrying the potential to harm them as they’re just people, going about their life and doing little real harm to anybody while doing so.

      Sorry Ellen, that sort of rubbish sets me off.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t blame Ellen, blame me.
        But preferably don’t blame me…I am sure you would not dream of using the pavement, so why be defensive about people who do so? My friend has nothing against people who cycle where they should – on roads or in cycle lanes, but the speed at which some of these thoughtless, egoistic people travel on a pavement is distinctly dangerous. Pavements are for walking and pushing prams, not for bicycles…or electric scooters.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m not defending pavement cyclists, I’m reacting to the overreaction of ‘your friend’ in threatening physical harm to a human in return for not apparently ever causing any actual physical harm to them but perhaps making them a bit nervous occasionally. ‘For making me jump in surprise, I’ll attempt murder.’
          Seems the balance is a little off.
          Meanwhile, vehicles stream by with drivers protected by a ton and a half of metal inches from the kerb at 20mph (some hope, more like 30mph plus) and your friend is not worried, even though they have actually killed pedestrians at around 468 last year. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/904698/rrcgb-provisional-results-2019.pdf

          I suspect that supporting local authorities when they propose proper cycle lanes instead of them taking a compromised approach of a ‘shared facility path’ due to protests would help too, just in case you ever see that sort of thing in your friends district.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Do lighten up. Black humour has long been a British characteristic.
            I understand from what you say that cycling is important to you as it gives you a measure of independence….I quite understand that as my husband is very ill and prizes any grip on independence that remains to him.
            But, with respect, your support for your pastime risks becoming a King Charles’s Head.
            Cars are on the road. They are extraneous to this discussion.
            Bikes should not be ridden on the pavement, we are agreed.
            But I suggest that the danger to pedestrians is more than ‘making them a bit nervous occasionally’.
            An old person who is physically and mentally able to live alone in their own home can suffer an injury which causes them to lose their confidence, health and independence, because someone thinks it is all right to break the law because they are riding a bicycle.

            Liked by 1 person

      • I’m out in the country and we–and the nearest small town–are inundated with tourists. They’re on foot, but they travel in flocks and what with the virus and all they’re spooking me pretty badly, even without the wheels.


      • She hasn’t mentioned skateboards..perhaps something to do with the demographic?
        Speaking for myself, I am fed up to the back teeth with people whose attitude is one of ‘I ride a bicycle, therefore I am a good person’
        Up to a point, Lord Copper.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Haha! Get snotty with punctuation is on the gay agenda. That one got something between a snicker and a guffaw. Note—I don’t even know what a guffaw sounds like; I just wanted to use that word.😎

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Having been an aircraft mechanic by trade, you would think that indoor plumbing would not be a problem, but like you, it is something to avoid and water pipes and me are a recipe for disaster. By the way, if you were in an airliner in the 90’s and had a problem with the loo, sorry.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “The problem with the poor is they don’t have enough money.” Now that’s what our Congressional Republicans must have trouble understanding since they refused to extend $600/week benefits for poor people that expired last night with no renewal in place. The Republicans are convinced that sending $600/week to people who are unemployed will encourage the recipients of this large sum to forego looking for employment. Never mind that there are now more than a gazillion unemployed people in the US so even if they were trying to get a job, they couldn’t find one.
    But hey, let’s just drop that down to $200/week and everything will be fine.
    The starving poor living on the streets can get by and will rush to their computers to look for work. ..or they won’t because they don’t have computers. Because they are poor and don’t have enough money.
    I’m becoming more convinced daily that you can’t cure stupid.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We may not be able to cure it, but we could, surely, get it the hell away from power. It’d be a start.

      Over here–and this didn’t make its way into the most recent post, although it should’ve–they’re ending the furlough scheme, where the government pays 80% of some salaries (up to some limit or other) while they’re not working. Even though the businesses still can’t open up again, so they won’t be able to pick up the difference.


      Liked by 1 person

  6. Notes is like a lantern on a dark night. I will never give it up, regardless of where the craziometer has it registering. The only thing crazier that Dr. Stella Immanuel is that a medical school on this planet accepted her, gave her passing grades and then a degree, and that our president follows and retweets here. That’s a lot of crazy.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hehehehehe! I have a washing machine that is begging to be put down gently. Alas, I can’t afford a new one so I keep asking my brother to fix it, at least for a few more months. But because it sounds like a jet at take off, I can only use it between noon and late afternoon, and only if there are no guests over, or the kids are watching tv.
    Are you serious about Dr. Stella Immanuel? Please tell me it’s a joke!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. There is nothing I can say that would be any better than those who have already commented, so I looked up this link for you (it’s from the BBC !)


    The Illuminati are usually linked to the Masons. My Dad, my Grandpa and my Uncle Ralph and Uncle Earl were all Masons. If they would take over the world it would be a better place,Unfortunately they have all been dead for more than 50 years.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The world really is full of crazy, isn’t it? As for the Masons, I’m sure you’re right: Death keeps most people from taking over the world. I’m not sure why, but it just works that way. If it didn’t–well, the dead do (I think) still outnumber the living, so they’d have that on their side.


  9. I’m not up on all the UK news but is Matt Hancock they guy that went driving all over the UK during the big lockdown. When asked why he said I needed to see if my vision was good enough to drive, so I put my COVID Sick wife and baby in the car and drove to my elderly in-laws’s house?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Right story, right government, but wrong guy. That was Dominic Cummings, who’s a special advisor–in other words, unelected and not civil service. Basically, he’s Boris Johnson’s brain, so he can’t get rid of him, no matter how politically embarrassing he might be.


  10. I’ve tried to help the fearful understand that the “IlIuminati” are basically a sci-fi fantasy riff (in 2 volumes) from two writer friends of mine who made a pile of money from that–they made it up from a few obscure unproven references in Gnostic/esoteric literature from the 14-1600s when people really did believe in alchemy and sex with demons (everything else punished). But even the highest Masons seem to go blank on this one and I would think they’d LOVE to be thought of as all-powerful. Could it be that it excites and pleases people to be afraid of something they can’t see? Than why not COVID-19??

    Liked by 2 people

    • Now there’s a good damn question. Maybe Covid’s too genuinely scary and they need to retreat to monster-under-the-bed fears. I don’t know, Scott. We’re a strange species. That’s about as far as I can get in the direction of understanding it all.


  11. Re HCQ and the less than eminent Dr. Immanuel, this piece nails the politicisation (I know you’d prefer a ‘z’, Ellen, but it’s a multilingual world) of the Covid 19 cure debate. To quote a sample: ‘Of course, the attraction of a miracle cure is nothing new. But the media and social media platforms can amplify and convert this desire into an article of faith, often tied to politics and identity. If it were effective, hydroxychloroquine might offer an immediate and individualistic solution that could appeal to those on the right, Mr Sear said, in opposition to more left-leaning values around social responsibility.’ https://tinyurl.com/y4smpogp

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey, I’m open minded (sometimes). I can live with an S. I even use one myself when I’m trying, in type, to pass myself off as unremarkable and semi-British.

      Everyone’s hoping for a miracle cure, I think. The trick is not to turn hope into belief. I don’t really think I’d want to be in the first wave of people who are vaccinated by whatever’s rushed to the market, because the testing process is necessarily sketchy. I think that overlaps with what the quote talks about as faith–or not turning hope into faith.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Mildly crazy and not sick, so I reckon I’m ahead of the game. :D … sending you a few big hugs through the interwebz-waves, :) cos having to write, let alone research, so much horrible stuff has to be a bit wearing.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. We have had workmen in our home in the last few weeks…gloves masks etc they wore. We are in stage 4 lockdown here started on Sunday night at 6pm Curfew from 8pm – 5am …allowed 1 hour of exercise within a 5km radius of home. Plus one adult is allowed to shop once a day within 5km of home for an hour. A huge amount of businesses are closing down, as our Victorian government has advised them to close. So essential places will be open come this Thursday ..lucky for me the liquor store is essential lol. Idiots here in Melbourne 800 of them in the last few days, when the police and the army have knocked on their doors they are not home?? Their was a loophole that allowed covd19 folks to be out exercising. This loophole has now closed. Good…so they will be fined $5,000 if they are not home from yesterday. or was it today. Anyway they can pay for our economy thats going to bin. Stay safe xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, that’s a big enough fine that it will focus people’s attention. I heard this morning on the radio that some nut jobs had declared themselves “sovereign citizens” and were out making a nuisance of themselves, defying to lockdown. I hope it’s just a few people getting outsize publicity. Stay well.

      Liked by 1 person

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