The pandemic news: Science, social media, and the rule of six

England’s in three separate stages of Covid restrictions right now, with the stage depending on where you live and how high the local infection rate is, but weeks ago the government’s official scientific advisory group urged it to impose a short, tight lockdown to stop the rise in infections. To which the government said, “What do you know? We’re following the science.”

“Wait a minute,” the scientists said. “We’re the scientists.”

“Not the scientists,” the government said. “The science.”

It’s not clear at the moment exactly what science they’re following. I’ve been wondering if they got hold of one of those “The Science of. . . ” books. You know: The Science of Getting Rich, The Science of Storytelling. Or if they have science confused with Scientology.

Entirely relevant photo (if you read to the end), which won’t play well on social media: This is Fast Eddie thinking deeply.

In the meantime, though, everyone’s mad at everyone. Local governments in the areas with tighter restrictions are furious that they’ve been allowed no power (never mind funding or serious consultation) to deal with their local situations. People whose workplaces will be shuttered are mad that they’ll be paid a smaller percentage of what they’d have earned than they were paid during the national lockdown. Disregarded parts of the country are feeling more disregarded than usual. They tend to be the places where the infection rate’s high, because transmission’s highest among low-income groups and minority ethnic groups, which aren’t groups that get a lot of help from governments in general but that get even less when the Conservative are in power. So they’re mad. Parts of the Conservative Party are mad because they don’t want the government closing things. The Labour Party’s mad because it’s sure it could handle the pandemic better than the Conservatives–and to be fair, it would be hard work not to. And I’m not particularly happy because I’m buried in newspaper clippings. 

Yes, I work from actual paper, at least to start with. Some days, all you can see of me is a tuft of white hair and a pile of newspaper. 

Send tea. The dogs will know how to find me. 


It’s not just local governments who are feeling slighted. MPs from hard-hit areas are finding out about government plans for their areas via What’sApp or being given twenty minutes notice of briefings. One, from Wigan, claimed she was left out of a briefing because the ministers in charge didn’t know where Wigan is. To make up for that, another was invited to a briefing for an area her constituency isn’t part of. 

A third heard about a twenty-minute briefing eight minutes after it had started.


You know those face shields that are (presumably) more comfortable than masks? It turns out that they’re the next best thing to useless. Almost all those lovely, airborne droplets and aerosols that the wearers breathe out escape through the gaps. But you’ve got to admit they make a person look like they’re serious about not spreading the disease.


In September, while England was learning to count all the way to six in order to figure out who it was safe to get together with outside of a work or educational setting, a stag hunt not only got 130 people together, almost all without masks, the outfit putting it on also got a £10,000 government grant and a £50,000 loan from pandemic-related programs.

Grouse hunts are also exempt from the six-person get-together limit. But if you want to get together and grouse about how inconsistent the rules are, the limit’s still six.


People (predictable creatures that we are) increased their use of social media during lockdown, and it turns out that people who send more pictures on social media are at greater risk of depression. Or so says an admittedly small study involving 170 participants, an online questionnaire, and absolutely no photos of anyone standing on a beach looking 30 pounds thinner and 10 years younger than their actual weight and age. 

Does that mean photo-sharers are depressed (or at risk of . . . ) because they send photos or do they send photos because they’re depressed or at risk of? We don’t know. Or I don’t, and the report I saw doesn’t say. All I know for sure is that one fact one lines up with the other one. So can we be safe, please, just in case sharing photos does cause depression. Tell the cat he can stop doing that thing with the lettuce and the chisel because you’ve put the camera down and you’re going to face an entire day without clicking the imitation shutter even once. Even if he starts playing the banjo, you’re not picking it up. Not today.

Yes, bare-assed reality’s tough, but it’s out there anyway. Might as well see what it looks like.


In an earlier post (and if you think I know how much earlier, you don’t understand how things work around here), I mentioned a Covid bailout program for small businesses that the British government set up so loosely that it screamed “Scam me!” and people obligingly did. Well, for the sake of balance, it set up another one to be so complex that only one company got all the way through the process. 

The idea behind Project Birch was that big companies would get emergency finance and in exchange give the government a stake in the company. Ten companies were interested but found the process so complicated that they walked away.


The U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, said that the pandemic has shown us that the world needs universal health care if it’s going to deal with the next pandemic. 

By not responding adequately to this one, we’ve let the pandemic cause more than a million deaths, infect more than 30 million people in 190 countries, wipe out 500 million jobs, and cost the global economy $375 billion a month. 

The standard indicators of human advancement and well-being are going in reverse for the first time since the U.N. started measuring them in 1990.


It’s not news that the pandemic’s put a strain on health systems everywhere and that both non-urgent and damn urgent treatments have been postponed. But how is NHS England (NHS being the National Health Service) planning to respond? It plans to fine NHS trusts (that means hospitals, or at least the organizations that run them) that haven’t gotten back to near-normal schedules by the end of the month. Because what could possibly make more sense than taking money away from an overstretched system when it shows signs of being overstretched?

You bet. That’ll learn ‘em.


Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine trial has gone on hold while they frantically try to figure out why one of the participants got ill. That’s roughly all the information that’s available, although any decent reporter can fill several paragraphs with it. I’m not a reporter, so all you get is two sentences.


The following is a note from that deepest of thinkers, Fast Eddie the cat. He doesn’t usually communicate with strangers, and since he’s broken his silence I believe we should pay attention: 

sddddddddd bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbm,

Please, people, give it some thought.


67 thoughts on “The pandemic news: Science, social media, and the rule of six

  1. To be fair, the Irish government’s also ignored calls for a circuit break lockdown … until it changes its mind. I thought we were now settled in Tier 2 for 4 weeks, but the government apparently wants to move us into Tier 3. My sister, who lives in London, thought they were settled in Tier 1 for 4 weeks, but the Mayor of London’s said that they’ll probably be moving into Tier 2 next week. But at least we’re both doing better than Newcastle and Sunderland, which’ve had 4 sets of rules in the space of a fortnight.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, I wish at times I could be in Sussex or Wessex, in Cambridge or traipsing around with Detective Chief Inspector Doyle.
    I am caught up with being a good over-75 housebound citizen, watching the president spread lies and virus, and being glued to CNN for Supreme Court appointee hearings.
    Just sayin’

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not sure how old DCI Doyle is–or who he is, for that matter–although I did try googling him. I ended up with one corruption case (real) and one TV show (fiction) with the wrong name–Foyle’s War. But setting my complete ignorance aside, I can’t help wondering how much traipsing he’d be doing right now. People are still traveling around (which shocks the hell out of me, since many of them don’t absolutely have to do it), but it makes a lot more sense to stay home. Which is what we’re doing for the most part, although I can’t bring myself to watch the hearing. That kind of thing makes me homicidal. I’ll read about it tomorrow.

      Stay well. Vote.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. In re: James F. O’Neil’s comment – oh Dear Leader is EXTENSIVELY traipsing. I try not to see that OR the hearing.
    Eddie’s words are appreciated.
    I am depressed and I seldom post pictures on social media. Once in awhile a cartoon, and the last hour a pet food recall.
    In the Tier system is the highest number the worst, or the best ? We us colors over here and RED is pretty self-explanatory.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think the highest number’s the worst, but I’m not sure. It’s one of those things I haven’t needed to know, living in a relatively low-risk zone.

      Do you suppose Eddie’s words could be set to music? They’re hard to pronounce, but if we could get on top of that it would be incredibly soothing.


  4. I think this might be the Government’s source on science; it would suit their attention span.
    As for photo-sharing, my scientifically selected sample of friends (including some random ones) use this practice to stay in touch with each other’s reality as a way to avoid depression, with very promising results. Snaps of my broccoli have been known to cure bipolar disorder.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I’ve decided Pretty’s ban on politics in general and Supreme Court nominee hearings in particular isn’t a bad idea. I truly abandoned my normally attentive political self today – and turned off MSNBC. I’ll let you update me tomorrow after you’ve read the paper. I truly can’t take it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I don’t watch much of the TV news (which I think is better than what I remember of the US TV news), although I follow the papers and the news online. There’s only so much a person can absorb without wanting to put rocks in their pockets and walk into the sea. It’s bad enough to read what they’ve said, but to watch them dance smugly across your screen–

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am confused by fast Eddie the cat’s comment. I often get that happen when I accidentally place a folder on the keyboard whilst on a phone call.

    Okay this tier system. I think . We messed the response in march and it seems we might top that now. Now in winter!

    I annoyed at hospital and gps not providing normal services. And it is lottery if you have good gps.

    The uk is a right royal mess and I am upset beyond words. I rather focus on eddie the cat. I could not figure out he said.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hesitate to interpret Eddie’s comments. He speaks cat. Translations can never be exact. The best we can do it absorb what we can and hope it’s enough.

      My partner’s scheduled for an operation next month and we’re holding our breath, hoping it won’t be canceled. So yes, we’re not happy about the situation either. But honestly, after ten years of underfunding the NHS and privatizing it and reorganizing it (badly, and then worse) every time the mood takes them and leaving it massively understaffed, the only wonder is that it functions as well as it does.

      You’re right: Let’s go back to Eddie. I’m just sure if we can get our minds around what he’s telling us, we’ll fee so much better about things.


  7. I love your analysis. As a Brit, it is refreshing to realise that others see us the way I do, even if half of those living in the UK seem incapable of rational thought!
    Unfortunately the lunatics are presently running the asylum.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I read recently (and I can’t remember who said it) that if a lion could speak we wouldn’t understand it anyway. Whoever that was, I think they were onto something. So loosely is probably as close as we can expect to get. Thank you.


    • Wigan? It’s north of where I am. For most locations in Britain, I can get away with that. But then, I’m not pretending to govern the country. It’s not on the continent. If it were, we’d have to figure out how to pronounce Wigan in French, in German, in Czech, and so forth. The W pretty much rules Spain out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was just pulling your leg. One drives from Ashton-in-Makerfield on Warrington Road, and you’re there. How difficult can that be. (Just another simple example of our low-life politicians).
        Now in Czech, it is called Czigân. Le Bigan in French. El Wigano in Spain, etc…
        Take care.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Feel free to pull any legs that get close enough. And although I appreciate the translations, I wonder how far you’d go before you wouldn’t recognize the name. I used to know someone whose Polish family name fractured on contact with English and broke into variations that wouldn’t have been mutually recognizable. They all ended with -lo and had two syllables. After that, the similarities ended.

          Liked by 1 person

          • How far? Checo(no)Slovakia. I can handle English, Romance languages, I even dabble in germanic languages, but Slavic? Not a clue. Beer in Czech is pivo. (Piva in Russian). It should be illegal!
            Polish is the same. No identifiable roots. And funny accents on consonants. Seriously?
            Cheers Ellen.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Back when I was working as an editor and took getting the details right (I’m happy to let a lot of them slide now), I spent I have no idea how long trying to get the accent marks right on a Czech name. They were in the lower reaches of the background of the basement of whatever program I was using at the time, but boy were they hard to find.

              Pivo, on the other hand, I can handle without batting an eyelash. I studied a bit a Russian, and spectacularly failed to get my head around Japanese. Getting thrown into a language that makes massively different assumptions about how to glue human communications together is fascinating. Not to mention jolting.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Russian now? Living in the UK? An American? You wouldn’t be connected with the five form Cambridge I hope, “old girl”. 😉
                Czech is crazy. I had to send urgent mails to my execs while we were in Prague. Went to a cyber café. My exces later told me they had the fun of their life. Spanish mails with Czech consonnants!
                An editor, now? Fascinating… Perfection is in the details. Who with?

                Liked by 1 person

              • Not now, any of it. Long ago. I edited a small writers magazine that belonged to a Minnesota writers organization. After I left there, I freelanced, mostly as a copy editor, for a variety of places, the last of them Macmillan encyclopedias. Of course, that’s skipping over the hunting and fishing magazine. It’s been an interesting life.

                Liked by 1 person

  8. Fast Eddie – we feel your pain. It definitely feels like we’ve been joined at the center of the universe by some invisible “bug.” We need to get together and kick it out, since the humans are being so inept. Purrs Snoops and Kommando Kitty

    Liked by 2 people

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