Moonshots and international law: It’s the news from Britain 

We all just love good news, which is why we’ll try not to gag when we discuss Boris Johnson’s moonshot plan to test everybody in Britain for Covid all day every day, including when they’re asleep, working in their pajamas, or breaking and entering because they want to wear someone else’s pajamas for a change.

I know, but you do need to let me exaggerate now and then. It prevents explosions.

The moonshot plan is about ramping up Covid testing from 200,000 tests a day to 10 million a day by early next year. It would cost, at a wild and irresponsible guess (sorry–at a sober but preliminary estimate), £10 billion plus. 

Plus how much? At those levels, who cares? By way of comparison, that’s roughly equal to the UK’s education budget, but since the alternative, at least in the scenario posed by the prime minister, is a second lockdown, it’s a bargain at twice the price. 

Or something along those lines. 

Completely relevant photo: Have I mentioned that we’re going to the dogs?

It’ll involve lots of private companies–some of them the same ones who are screwing up the current test and trace program–so I could see where we’d end up paying twice the price. For half the product.

Given that the current testing program is short of something–probably lab capacity but who really knows?–and is therefore suggesting that people drive to hell and back if they seriously want to get tested because Britain’s a small island and when I was a kid we walked to school. Through the snow. We didn’t stand around waiting for a bus to pick us up and moaning about a little rain–

Let’s start that over. Why do you people keep leaving me in charge? 

The moonshot tests, or at least some of them, will give results in minutes. 

The problem is–

No, one of the problems is that the technology to make this work doesn’t exist yet. Another problem is the public health leaders are screaming for more control of the current testing program because the companies running it are making such a mess. 

This time, though, they’ll get it right. And I’ll be twenty again, only much smarter than I was the first time around. 

Also taller.


Want another problem with the moonshot program? The government’s advisors weren’t called upon to advise before it was shot at the press. The National Screening Committee was sidelined on the grounds that the moonshot is a testing program, not screening. 

“Mass testing is screening,” according to Allyson Pollock, the director of something very impressive at Newcastle University. I’d give her full title but we need to move on. Sorry.

See how British I’ve gotten in fourteen years? I apologize all the time. I don’t mean it, but I do apologize. 

If I were Britishly British, though I’d write “I’ve got” instead of “I’ve gotten.” Don’t ask me to explain it, but I’ve discovered that the American version annoys the hell out of someone in the village who’s well worth annoying. I’d use it anyway–my speech pattern, c’est moi–but it does add joy to the words.

Where were we? 

If the committee had been involved, it could consider the impact of false positives and false negatives and the social and economic impact of a large number of people being told to self-isolate. 

John Deeks, a professor of something equally impressive at the University of Birmingham said, “There is a massive cause for concern that there is no screening expertise evident in the documents. They are written by management consultants. . . . Before you start, you have to make sure you do less harm than good.”


If a massive testing program really happens, is anyone talking about paying people enough that they can afford to stay home if they test positive? 

Don’t be silly. It would set a bad precedent and make people lazy. 


While the official testing program limps along, running short of whatever it’s running short of, the University of Exeter is buying its own tests for students and staff–saliva tests that promise results either the same day or the next. They’re made by an outfit called Halo, which says they’re wonderful. As they may well be, but I’d like to hear that from an unbiased source and so far I haven’t found one. With a different test, people who actually understand these things complained that although the company making the test reported that it registered very few false negatives or false positives, it’s possible to game the data and unless companies make their testing process transparent, no one will know if they have. 

I don’t know if Halo’s transparent. 


Covid cases have been  rising in Britain, but the number of deaths has stayed low, presumably because the infections are concentrated among younger people, who are less likely to die or be hospitalized. A fair number of fingers have been wagged at them for getting sick. They’ve been out seeing friends, drinking in pubs, eating in cafes, attending illegal raves. 

Of course, the government’s been dangling vouchers in front of them–and the rest of us–to lure us into pubs and cafes so we could support the economy, as well as telling everyone working at home to get out of their bathrobes (which could use a good wash by now anyway) and relocate their hind ends to whatever office it is they used to work in. The economy can’t deal with this many people working from home.

That says something about how much sheer uselessness it takes to keep the economy rolling.

Now that more people are testing positive for Covid, though, it’s their own fault for listening to the government. They should’ve known better. 

Why are younger people really picking up the disease? A combination of factors, probably. Many of them have jobs that put them into contact with the public, and with all the viruses the public carries. Some of them are careless. They’ve been told they’re unlikely to get seriously sick. The police have broken up some illegal raves, but the entire younger population of the country wasn’t at them, 

You also have to figure that a lot of us who are retired are still in hiding, or semi-hiding, so we’re a little harder for the germs to find. Opportunists that they are, they jump into whoever they find.

What’s the government’s advice to  keep young people on the straight and narrow? “Don’t kill granny.”


There’s something unnerving about that as a way of mobilizing a nation.


No news from Britain is complete without a mention of Brexit: 

Rod McKenzie of Britain’s Road Haulage Association warns us, or warns the government, or warns anyone who’s listening, which may not be anyone at all since the government listens only to itself, I don’t really exist, and we’re not so sure about you–

Can we start that over?

Rod McKenzie, of Britain’s Road Haulage Association, warns us that we’re “sleepwalking to a disaster with the border preparations that we have, whether it is a deal or no-deal Brexit at the end of December.”

He’s worried about supply chains being interrupted, especially on the heels of the Covid crisis. 

“The difference here is between a disaster area and a disaster area with rocket boosters on.”

Remember the beginning of lockdown, when everyone was stocking up on toilet paper and bread flour (or hoarding it, depending on whether we were talking about ourselves or our neighbors)? If you’re in Britain, it might be worth doing that again. I have a recipe that calls for both if you want it.

20 thoughts on “Moonshots and international law: It’s the news from Britain 

  1. I hate to bust BoJo’s creative bubble, but Dear Leader’s program for IMMEDIATELY GETTING A VACCINE BEFORE ELECTION DAY NOV 3 (#vote early vote often) is called something very like Operation Moonshot, though I can’t remember what it is exactly (I take weekends off from the news as much as possible)

    Actually “Don’t kill Granny” is an improvement on the motivational tips we’re getting Over Here.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I’ve been avoiding posts about covid, you cunningly sucked me into this one by not mentioning “pandemic” in the title. Your fault if this annoys.

    I applaud your PM for suggesting moonshots, if you don’t want to wait for the govt. to get them to you, here’s the recipe:

    2 oz Gin
    3 oz Clamato Tomato Cocktail
    dash Tabasco Sauce
    Glass: Rocks Glass

    I’m guessing the Tabasco sauce is what kills the virus, the rest it just to get the people to drink it.

    I’m not a fan of mass screening, first reason is that it only screens Catholics, and then only ones who are at mass at the time of the screening. But the big reason is that it’s a useless waste of money and resources. It only indicates your condition at the time of the test, 10 minutes later, on your way home, you could become infected still thinking you’re okay because you tested negative, and attend a legal gathering before you show symptoms.

    Here, the CDC has cautioned against opening restaurants and bars (pubs) any more aggressively because some people who have tested positive have indicated that they were in a restaurant or bar within the last 48 hours. Of course, they’ve been other places as well, but that doesn’t matter.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It doesn’t matter whether they caught the beast in the bar or restaurant. What matters is that they could easily pass it on there. The more places people cross paths in poorly ventilated spaces or get too close to each other, the more chances they have to trade germs.

      Mass screening. My hunch is that it could be an important element in controlling this beast (even though I’m not Catholic), but I’d like the experts to plan it, thanks, instead of some tousle-headed fool who thought of it five minutes ahead of throwing it at the press. Or if not mass screening, then targeted. Yes, the test only speaks to the moment, not what happens next, but the more cases we take out of circulation, the fewer there are to pass on to the next person. And since I just bought a bottle of Tabasco sauce (I really did, just yesterday), I’m ready.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s why I avoid covid posts, I’m on the other side of the aisle. I believe the only way to handle this is through herd immunity, not by avoidance. Control the numbers so they don’t overwhelm the medical resources, otherwise let it go so people acquire natural immunity, just like other new versions of the flu.

        Liked by 1 person

          • It worked with SARS, Avian, H1N1, Ebola. This is the first time we’ve panicked like this, and it’s slowing the spread, making it take longer to obtain herd immunity. The problem now it that it might mutate before that immunity occurs.

            So, when will things calm down with COVID-19? According to Dr. Schleiss, it’s going to take herd immunity — which basically blocks out the virus when a large chunk of the population is immune from already being sick — along with an effective vaccine. “We really, really need a vaccine,” he said, adding that because the Food and Drug Administration will need to prove a vaccine is safe, it could take a year or two — best case scenario.

            Liked by 1 person

            • We do need a vaccine. We can agree on that. Waiting for herd immunity without it, and without trying to contain the spread, is basically a World War I drive-’em-over-the-top scenario: To hell with the deaths, we need to do this anyway. I’m not going to chase up the history and statistics right now, but at lest some, possibly all, of the nascent epidemics you mention were mention weren’t stopped by herd immunity but by public health responses that contained them.


          • And, yes, I admit it’s cold, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. To this point the numbers prove me right. Very very few people who have contracted it (note: only known are those who have been tested) have needed treatment.

            As of today from WHO:

            28m have tested positive
            20.6m have recovered
            61k are on critical care (0.21%)
            925k have died (3.3%)

            Yes, I admit that without precautions it would be worse by numbers, not necessarily by percentages, meaning far more people would have developed a natural immunity by now, lessening the chances of a second outbreak this fall.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Take into consideration an uncertain percentage who will have debilitating symptoms for a month, six months, or possibly a lifetime. And consider as well that the numbers are uncertain–including the number of deaths.


              • I don’t know about the rest of the world, but consider that reported deaths from covid, at least here, include cases when covid was listed as a “contributing factor” which simply means the person had it at time of death, but didn’t actually die from it. This inflates the death toll in an irresponsible manner.

                We do need a vaccine, I’ve signed up to be a test subject once a vaccine reaches the human trial stage, which is months, possibly years, away.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Every country has a different standard, which makes it very difficult to either compare or count. Britain changed its standard recently. Both are flawed but in different ways–one may overcount, the other probably undercounts. Given the lack of testing, it’s more or less meaningless to talk about who had Covid when they died and who didn’t, never mind which deaths were caused by it. The friend we lost to the disease was never tested, was never hospitalized, and is not considered a Covid death.

                Liked by 1 person

              • That sounds odd to me here. Whenever a person dies, unless a physician was present at the time, a full autopsy is performed listing cause of death and contributing factors. Cause of death is always in medical terms, for example if you’re hit by a train (which happens more often than one might think) the cause of death is listed as “impact trauma” with the train listed as a contributing factor. If he were drunk and had covid then his alcohol level and the presence of covid would also be listed as contributing factors, which tick up the counts on alcoholism and covid deaths, even though the train killed him.

                Liked by 1 person

              • There are inquests and autopsies here as well, but a lot depends on whether the judgement of the doctor who certifies the death, which will vary all over the lot. I can’t find the link anymore, but you’ll find researchers falling back on the category “excess deaths” because of the uncertainty.

                Sorry–it’s been a long day. That’s as far as I can go with this.

                Liked by 1 person

  3. For the benefit of Mr. Kite and his show tonight on trampoline (and you and your readers, Ellen), this seems to be the company behind the saliva testing and a bit about how it works. Sadly, as you have suggested, this silver bullet will fall far short of the moon.
    Just to confuse matters further (you’re welcome) there is a US product called Halo made by ARMS Pharmaceutical which is being tested as a virus preventative measure.
    But don’t be too hard on BoZo; it cost some US$26 billion for the original moonshot 50 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Their website does seem to be presenting it as a magic bullet. Again, I’d like to hear it from someone who doesn’t stand to profit from it. I guess we’ll hear eventually. I’d feel better about the program if it came from people who know how to set up something like this, not–as the man said–from management consultants. At least the original moonshot was done by actual scientists, not people who looked up, saw something big in the sky, and decided to throw a rocket at it.

      Liked by 1 person

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