Lockdown part two: it’s the pandemic news from Britain

England’s about to enter a month-long lockdown that includes pubs, restaurants (except takeaway), nonessential stores, and going in to work if you can work from home. The biggest exception involves schools and universities, and that loophole is big enough that we can move in the construction equipment and build a world-class germ exchange.

Five and a half weeks ago, the government’s own science advisory group suggested a two-week lockdown, but the government, in its wisdom, decided it would be too damaging to the economy. So now we have a longer lockdown in response to a higher number of infections and it will inevitably create a longer economic interruption. And of course it has that big honkin’ loophole I mentioned, so it may not work all that well, but we’re going to pretend that kids don’t spread the virus (which is possible but far from established) and that students, teachers, and staff don’t interact with anyone except each other. 

The emotional pitch for the new lockdown is that if we do this now, we can save Christmas. 

Someone’s been reading too much Dr. Seuss. 

Irrelevant photo. This, dear friends, is a flower.

The press conference where Boris Johnson announced the new lockdown started three hours behind schedule, and I would love to have eavesdropped on whatever was going on behind the scenes. So far, no one’s talking but I’m hoping for leaks. 

The delay left fans of a dance competition show, Strictly Come Dancing, frantic, and the BBC cut away a little early so they could start the show only a few minutes late, thus saving not Christmas but Strictly, which is important enough that the nation’s on first-name terms with it.

Only slightly less important than Strictly is a newly announced extension of the job furlough scheme–the one that pays people whose jobs haven’t gone up in smoke but instead have been shelved and may yet be unshelved. The furlough scheme is full of holes, but it’s better than nothing. 

But. When areas in the north of England were in local lockdowns, people who were eligible for the scheme got a smaller percentage of their usual pay. Now that the whole of England’s going into lockdown, people who are eligible will get a larger percentage. Because, um, yeah, basically the areas up north are up north somewhere, and they have these accents that don’t sound right in the hallowed halls of Parliament and–

Oh, hell, they’re a long way away. Who cares, right? 

That can’t be going down well up north. 

As recently as last week, a local government in West Yorkshire, which was moving into a local lockdown, was told there were no plans to make the lockdown national. I hate to sound naive, but I actually believe this. That’s the way Johnson’s government works: There were no plans. At a certain point, they just jumped. 

*

England–or Britain, if you prefer, because elements of this will overlap–isn’t alone in facing a second spike, but it does have its own particular causes, and an economist from the University of Warwick has traced one of them back to the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which offered half-price meals (up to a certain limit) to people who ate out at participating restaurants. 

Thiemo Fetzer traced three sets of data: the number of restaurants participating in the scheme in a given area, the days of the week the scheme ran, and the amount of rain that fell during lunch and dinner on those days. (Not as many people eat out when it’s raining hard.) Then he compared those to the number of known new infections in an area and concluded that the scheme “may be responsible for around 8% to 17% of all new detected Covid-19 clusters emerging in August and into early September.”

To which the Treasury Department said, “Bullshit.”

Okay. They said, “We do not recognize those figures.”

In early October, though, Boris Johnson said in an interview, “It was very important to keep [those two million hospitality] jobs going. Now, if it, insofar as that scheme may have helped to spread the virus, then obviously we need to counteract that […] I hope you understand the balance we’re trying to strike.”

If you’ll allow me to translate that, since it’s mildly incoherent, it means we knew it would spread the virus, but we had to balance that against getting people to spend their money.

Another swathe of infections can be traced back to a government effort to save the travel industry by opening “travel corridors”–arrangements that would let people travel to other countries withour having to go into quarantine when they came home. A Covid variant that originated in Spain is now widespread in the U.K.–and a lot of Europe, while we’re at it.

Spain was on Britain’s list of safe places to visit. Just bring your sunscreen and a bathing suit. Come home with some chorizo and a nice tan. The government cares about you and wants to make sure you can have your holiday–or vacation, if you’re speaking American, which no one was. It’ll all be fine.

The Covid variant, by the way, isn’t a particularly significant variation from the original. For a virus, Covid is surprisingly stable, but like all viruses it evolves and that means sometimes the origin of a cluster can be traced. In this case to Spain, and to a government policy that tried to save the travel industry. 

So here we are again, entering our second lockdown. Forgive me if I haven’t managed to be funny this time out. I support the lockdown, late and flawed as it is. Covid’s a dangerous disease, not only because of the deaths it causes and the way it overwhelms our hospitals but also because of the people it leaves disabled for no one knows how long, maybe for months, maybe for a lifetime. If you’re dealt a card out of the Covid deck, you can’t know in advance which one it will be. Will you be asymptomatic, have a bad week or two, become disabled, or die? 

And you don’t know who you’ll pass it on to, because people are infectious not just when they’re sick but before they have symptoms, or if they have no symptoms. So we gamble not just with our own lives but with the lives of people we love and of people we don’t know at all but share breathing space with. 

Stay safe, my friends. Be cautious. 

Wear a damn mask. They do make a difference.

 

80 thoughts on “Lockdown part two: it’s the pandemic news from Britain

  1. You had me at wear the damn mask. Just hoping Biden gets a chance to bring some sanity here. And that Trump does not throw a total tantrum / more crimes against the state when he loses. Although predictions of his reactions are not at all promising. Kansas did an inspired science experiment this past summer. It proved wearing a mask can slow the spread. Counties that did not enforce the mask mandate had twice the infection rate. The virus may ignore the turning the corner message from our whack job president. However it does not know how to infect as well as if you wear a mask. Wear a damn mask.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Winston Churchill once remarked that ‘You can always rely on the Americans to do the right thing … after they’ve exhausted all the other possibilities.’ This slander can, I think, be applied to most (but thankfully not all) governments. One could get all cynical about the desperate efforts of governments to keep economies going at all costs but it would ignore the fact that those most affected by lockdowns are those that can least afford it (it’s called capitalism). Yes, BoJo and his acolytes are clowns but name me a government that has ever had to face the challenges of containing a killing and crippling virus that only affects some, for which there is no proven vaccine and may never entirely go way. Sorry to go a bit seriousy but you started it ;-) Stay safe, dear Ellen and Ida, and Britain and all who sail in her.

    Liked by 4 people

    • The countries that have done well went after Covid ruthlessly at the beginning, instead of trying to balance out life-as-usual. The ones who tried to defend the economy are taking a much harder hit–not just their populations but their economies as well. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

      I have a theory that any quotation that wanders my way can be attributed safely to Churchill, Twain, or Yogi Berra. The attribution may well be wrong, but no one will care.

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Maybe BoJo could hold some large public rallies where people are encouraged t go maskless ! That seems to be working well for Dear Leader as we drive to achieve herd immunity before the election. Oddly, no governmental members of the herd are being permanently culled, just ordinary citizens.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Sigh – here we go again. Are we hopeful that we’ll be in any better state with a working test and trace system after it this time? Of course not. And I’m off down the bookies (OK, figuratively speaking and online only now of course) to put a bet on it not only being for four weeks.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. That Strictly thing shocked my eyeballs. I was calmly watching the announcement on BBC Iplayer and then the presenter popped her head around and said ‘right folks, let the PM sod off, it’s time for strictly. If ya really care about what he is saying then we are streaming it elsewhere’. And my husband said ‘this is like the Apprentice but for dancing’ and I went ‘aaaaahhhhh’. Too bad they cancelled the Apprentice this year. Sad the government didn’t listen to the advisors when they proposed the two-week lockdown, but you’re right, this Covid is no joke and the people who say it is (a lot of people, and a lot of people are just sick of not having a normal life so they will say anything) need to… well, I dunno really. Nobody knows. Thanks for sharing again. I did chuckle a few times throughout. It’s sombre news but you have to laugh at something else you’ll curl up in a ball and cry instead.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I was listening to the press conference, but as soon as Johnson took over from the experts, as far as I was concerned it was over. All her was going to do was glue words together in random patterns. So cut away to a dance program? Why, of course! Even though I don’t like it.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. England, or Britain, or whoever across the pond has a government which at least acknowledges that there is a Covid epidemic is light years ahead of our current administration which I fervently hope will be ousted in the upcoming election. Here’s hoping the second lockdown is effective for your country…and that Christmas will be saved.
    Saving Christmas. By all means.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right–whatever the similarities (and there are entirely too many), the difference between the two governments is huge. All I’m really hoping for is that we come out of this with a lower infection rate and limp along until either science or someone with some minimal competence comes along to straighten things out a bit. We’ll see. We’re lucky where I live. We have a relatively low infection rate and space enough to get outside safely. But even so, a neighbor posted on Facebook the other day that she suddenly feels like she swallowed a cheese grater and her head’s killing her. I don’t know that it’s Covid, but we’re all worried for her.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Stay safe and well.

    Round two. Proves we didn’t learn from round one, or the Asian countries , Australia, new Zealand etc. Nope we didn’t learn. We were late in march and we are late again.

    It is difficult for the gov. But he never let it go to zero and stay at zero for a good few weeks in the uk before opening.

    He might has the best intentions for the economy but the death toll is too high.

    I dont know.
    Hope this lockdown brings it down. But I hope it stays down and gets to zero.

    Stay safe and well

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope so too, but (again, apologies for getting serious on you) until we get some minimal competence into the government and a focus on something other than lining the pockets of friends, I’m not hopeful. At the moment, my best hopes are for a lower rate of infection so we can limp along until we have a vaccine and a cheap, quick test, but even those won’t be a magic bullet. They’ll need to be used–again, that difficult word–competently.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I am not sure if anyone has noticed this, but noone can actually cancel christmas. It’s like trying to cancel tuesday.
    I am not a fan of either to be honest and if they could cancel them both I wouldn’t be upset, but as far as I know both happen whether you like it of not, you just have to deal with them a bit differently when there is a pandemic on…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I reckon that Press Conference was delayed to allow Boris to nip out for a quick haircut before everywhere gets booked up before Thursday. I haven’t had a haircut since the end of January and I still look better than BJ :-D
    Here in Wales, the First Minister is going to announce our next steps after lockdown – including measures to stop the pesky English from sneaking across our borders. I am English but I was carried across the border in 1958 aged 15 months, so can count myself as Welsh for coronavirus purposes.
    Our First Minister will start his Press Converence at 12.15 precisely. Our First Minister also spent several months at the start of the pandemic living in an outbuilding on his property to protect vulnerable members of his own household. I know who I trust to deliver the best version of the truth :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Unfortunately, most of Europe is in this mess. Apart from France, the worst affected places seem to be Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which didn’t do so badly last time.

    And, no, the fact that we were told that a 67% furlough scheme would have to do for Greater Manchester, Merseyside, etc, but it goes up to 80% as soon as London gets locked down, is not going down well.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Another lockdown seems eminently sensible but I do wonder at the wisdom of keeping places of education open. While there is mixed data about the impact of Covid on children, we do at least know they are vectors for spreading the infection. I suspect the decision is driven by a desire to keep their parents working and contributing to the economy. I very much hope this lockdown succeeds in slowing the spread and alleviating the pressure on the hospitals.

    Our numbers are going up alarmingly steeply here. Trump has been campaigning hard here in PA and studies show his rallies have caused spikes wherever he has held them. Another contributing factor is people just not doing what is damn well required of them and I suspect Thanksgiving and the colder weather will lead to even more people flouting the mitigation guidance and just plain breaking the rules. In-person schooling is supposed to resume a week from today. That is now looking to be in doubt. No skin off my nose since my kids are staying virtual regardless but it is causing a whole lot of panic among parents. Some of the loudest voices demanding schools reopen despite our local numbers are the same folks who are having post-sports meet get togethers, meetups with friends without masks, and indoor social events.

    We can but hope that tomorrow will (eventually) usher in a change of administration and a more consistent and science-based approach to fighting this pandemic. This election truly is a matter of life and death.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is life or death, both for individuals and for the country as we’ve known it. Or at least I’m afraid it is. Best wishes to all of us. And thanks for the update on PA. I’m beyond words. I keep trying to say something sensible and just can’t.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not entirely like-minded people, but mostly. I used to have a wider range of readers, but as the writing here became more openly political (it was always somewhat political) they disappeared. That makes me sad, but at the same time I do understand it. There’s only so much Trumping that I can read before I want to slit my wrists and why should I expect people on the other side to be any different? I can’t help thinking, though, that it does make a difference for people to have a place where they can talk to people they agree with. It keeps us sane. It keeps us from thinking we’re the only voice out there. It may make a difference to people in the middle. Once in a while, we may still be able to talk with people we don’t agree with.

      Besides, words are what I have. I have to hope they do some good, somehow.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your words certainly land very well with me! And yes, it is wonderful to have a go to place for fun.
        I am also trying to keep my blog not political but since it’s always on the kitschy side of things that’s kinda included and a lost cause. What scares me more at the moment is that when you have a tolerant agenda you are instantly in the ANTIFA group. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a bit more on the left and I grew up on the outsirts of Berlin; that’s called survival ;) and anti fashist seems logical to me. Just having a problem with fachism, nazi douchebags & Co. make me a normal person, not a radical …
        [Insert happy cat picture]

        Liked by 1 person

        • The cat’s out or I would. I am, in real life, a raving leftist. (Sorry everyone–if you want to unsubscribe I can’t stop you.) I no longer have the illusion that I know the way forward, but I do think that the left is more open to trying to community, to ensuring that everyone has the chance of a decent life. And what’s happening around the world scares the hell out of me. The growth of racism, antisemitism, anti-immigrant feeling, homophobia–oh, hell, the list goes on. The level of anger and violence and blame is terrifying. And all this in a situation where the system isn’t working, people whose lives used to be stable don’t have stable jobs anymore, and (understandably) feel abandoned. I could go on, but I’ll shut up. You see why I try to limit myself to humor. Once I get started on this stuff, it’s hard to stop.

          What were we talking about? Cat pictures. Apologies. Fast Eddie’s out for the evening.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Cats. We need more cats!
            Mabye you didn’t hide all your left-wing tendencys too well ;) Please do what you do! You are making my day many-a times and I’m sure I’m not the only one! The ones who drop off are part of the process + there will always be new readers!
            I am not as young as I used to be but I like to think us old lefties can still make an impact

            Liked by 1 person

            • I hope we can. I don’t think I’m so much hiding my politics as not making them the focus. But–well, people’s beliefs will permeate everything they do or write, and I know mine do. Except possibly relationships with the feline world. The could be one of those things that overrides politics.

              Or maybe not. Eddie’s still out, in the office somewhere (the world is his office), or I’d ask. Sorry, but he’s not contributing much to this conversation.

              Thanks for saying that I’ve made your day at times. It’s a wonderful thing to hear, and it keeps me going.

              Liked by 1 person

  12. Yes, we also found the whole “delayed” announcement and dancing round Strictly thing to be farcical. We watched Andrew Marr the following day where Gove was being grilled over who else knew and confirmed it was indeed only the four in the meeting – Boris, Rishi, Matt & himself. “So one of you leaked it, was it you?” had to be the inevitable question. Gove, naturally, denied it was him. I really really really want to know who dun it …

    Liked by 1 person

      • I suspect my drive to know is more about wondering who’s making a play for power. Naturally, I’ve written off Matt Hancock, but if he was the leaker, I’d be forced to give him credit for being more than the ritual whipping boy. My suspicion though is it’s one of the other two, and as Rishi has been meeting with the 1922 committee, I wonder if we’re seeing a new leader in the making?

        Liked by 1 person

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