Small changes in the world of pandemic Britain

How is our world changing with the onset of the pandemic? Well, the International Football Association, which sets the rules for international competition, has added a new offense: deliberately coughing at another player. The referee gets to decide what’s deliberate and what’s close enough to be offense-worthy, and the player who’s on the wrong side of the decision can be sent off the field.

If you’re American, you should understand that football is soccer but that coughing is still coughing.


A company in Taiwan has developed a robot that can swab noses to test for the coronavirus. It sounds silly, but it’s one of those jobs that puts health care workers at risk. And you might as well admit it: You’ve always wished automation would swab your nose for you. 


Vaguely relevant photo: Fast Eddie, who can’t be bothered opening doors. He has people who do that for him.

When Britain was still in lockdown, adults went from watching an average of 34 minutes a day of streaming services in April 2019 to an average of 71 minutes a day in April 2020. Those are the Netflix-type shows that you pay for. But that’s nothing. They also went from watching 4 hours and 53 minutes of TV and online video a day to 6 hours and 25 minutes. 

If I understand this correctly, that’s 6 hours and 25 minutes of TV shows, online pornography, and videos clips of cats opening doors and performing brain surgery. Per day. 

Who says lockdown is destroying our cultural life?

Okay, I only know about the cats because I sneak a peek now and then. You can also find videos of bears sitting in blow-up wading pools or canoodling with cats.


How are we, as a nation, doing for money? About a third of Britain’s biggest companies have cut their top execs’ salaries in the face of the pandemic. 

Impressed? Don’t be. Top execs make as much or more from bonuses and share schemes as they do from their salaries.

What kind of money are we talking about? The head of Ocado–a grocery delivery outfit–made £58.7 million in 2018-2019–1,935 times the median salary of a full-time UK worker. To put that another way, it would take the average worker eight years to earn what he earns in a day. If that doesn’t add up, don’t blame me. I stole the statistic. See the link above if you want to argue. Or argue with me, but don’t expect a decent opponent. I’m a word person.

I don’t know if Ocado cut his pay–probably not, since food delivery businesses have been making out like (excuse the language) bandits–but I can’t see where he’d have a whole lot of trouble getting by if they did.

Back in the real world, there’s a ban at the moment on landlords evicting tenants who’ve fallen behind on their rent, but when the ban ends (as it’s scheduled to) they’ll owe a huge whackin’ amount of rent and no one who makes the decisions is talking, at least in public, about how they’ll to pay it off.

And a quarter of all adults are struggling with what’s being called food insecurity. That’s not exactly hunger. It’s hunger and being susceptible to hunger and to malnutrition. Almost a quarter have eaten less so they can feed their kids. 

In case anyone’s in danger of forgetting.


Like the rest of the world, we live in the shadow of the disease–some of us more immediately and some of us less so.

My partner and I got tested for Covid-19 yesterday. Not because we have symptoms but because a friend whose husband died of the virus really, really wanted us to. And because every country should be testing asymptomatic people on a mass scale. It’s the only way to identify clueless carriers, and until we do that they’ll keep spreading the virus. 

I was reluctant. To work, testing has to be on a mass scale and we’re only two people. We could test negative and be exposed tomorrow, so what does a test tell us, really? And the British government isn’t doing mass asymptomatic testing. It’s pushing testing for people with symptoms. But, as our friend reminded me, I didn’t have any overwhelming amount of respect for the way the government’s handling the pandemic, so why did I suddenly want to respect their decision on this? 

We signed up.

So here’s the report on testing: The website where you book the test got stuck in a loop when Ida signed up, repeatedly asking for her date of birth, so that she wasn’t just born again but again and again and again. But it did eventually let us schedule the tests.

Okay, Ida booked both tests while I sat on the couch and kibbitzed.

The system only wanted my date of birth once. 

The testing was well organized. We found a variety of ways to screw up, but the people who worked there were patient and got us through it. Then we came home to go online and register the tests, because if you don’t, you don’t get your results and the whole thing’s pointless. 

Ida couldn’t get past the screen that asked for her post code. It didn’t believe her. Or it didn’t like her neighborhood.  

Whatever. She gave up and called the phone number that the form gave as a backup option.

I got past the post code with no problem. We live in the same house but my half is in a better neighborhood than hers. I was getting all ready to feel  smug when I realized that the page the form had sent us to exists to book a test, not to register a test you just took. 

When do you want to book your test? it asks. 

Two hours ago, please. 

I picked up the phone and called.


I can’t leave you without a word or six about the government’s world-beating test and trace system. Because contact tracing is–or at least needs to be–a part of our lives these days.

Some of the people who’ve been hired as contact tracers still report–as they have from the beginning–having nothing to do. They’re supposed to call people who’ve tested positive, ask who they’ve been around, and then call them. And talk to them all about quarantining themselves. 

Some contact tracers report only making a handful of calls a month, including the ones to nonexistent numbers. Team leaders are keeping them busy with quizzes and offering prizes for the most calls made. 

One company subcontracting from the outsourcing giant Serco had 471 agents and made 135 calls in two days. That includes calls to wrong numbers, calls to voicemail, and multiple calls to a single person. The tales go on, but you get the drift. 

In early July, the system was reported to cost £10 billion.

That’s in addition to the contract tracing app that failed. That cost £11.8 billion

52 thoughts on “Small changes in the world of pandemic Britain

  1. Yes folks, we appear to have the sort of Government that thinks along the lines of “We have tens of thousands of people dying — it’s a great time to siphon off a few billion quid from public funds by vastly overpaying our chums companies without them noticing too much.”
    And I shouldn’t think too much about where Ida and yours medical data is going off too now Ellen, I expect there was a tick box saying ‘We’re going to sell this to some medical companies in the US now, are you OK with that?’ wasn’t there?
    Blimey, I’m a bit cynical this morning!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Now that he’s grown, almost all my shots of Fast Eddie are when he’s fast asleep or has one eye (slowly) open. The one I tried for when he was fully awake went wonky when he got interested in the camera. His nose is in focus. Everything else is blur. I actually like it.

      Lots more wasted money that I didn’t get around to, but–well, I’m not a newspaper. I don’t cover it all.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess you wrote this before today’s news that our wonderful government bought £150m of face masks that were unfit for purpose, from a financial company acting on behalf of both sides of the negotiation. Add corruption to ineptitude!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I guess I should count myself lucky. I got my pre-medical-procedure COVID results back about 12 hrs after I took the test. It was performed by a human, not a robot. Thank goodness, too. I have worse and more frequent tech troubles than anyone I’ve ever known. Just imagine if a robot malfunctioned mid-swab…

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Please tell Ida that I admire her persistence in getting the coronavirus test. At least, she did take the test (along with you who I fear was less enthusiastic).
    Pretty refused to take the test when I took it.
    Something about the long qtip or something equally lame.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. How long til you and Ida – since you live in different areas – get your results ? That’s the problem over here – waiting 7-10 days IF you can get a test.

    We would be a bit afraid that a robot might poke those swabs in a little too forcefully – reminiscent of how the Egyptians removed the brain to prepare a pharaoh for mummification. Which took 70 days.

    Well, as our Dear Leader observed: “It is what it is.”

    My cats send purrs to Fast Eddie.

    Liked by 2 people

    • As it turned out, living in such different areas didn’t affect the turnaround time, although mine were several seconds ahead of hers. Probably because of the better neighborhood and all. They were back within a 24 hours, so I not only can’t complain, I can’t make fun of that part of the process.

      Fast Eddie sends a sleepy purr back, but it may run into trouble in customs. They don’t entirely trust foreign purrs in these days of rampant nationalism.


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