Will Britain go into full Covid lockdown?

Covid cases are rising across Britain, with ambulances backing up outside the hospital doors and hospitals reporting that the rivets are popping out of their metaphorical bluejeans. The Independent Sage group is calling for another national lockdown. 

What’s Independent Sage? It’s a scientific advisory group that the government doesn’t listen to because it’s independent. The government has its own fully domesticated Sage group, but I can’t guarantee that it listens to them either.

 

Current Covid restrictions

As I write, 40% of England is in the highest Covid restriction tier–that’s tier 4–with the devolved governments (Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland) setting assorted their own standards and if I had a shred of decency I’d cover them as well but it’s hard enough to keep this mess straight without taking in all its complications. I live in Cornwall, which legally speaking is part of England. That sets my focus. 

Apologies. I’m not a real newspaper, I just suffer from the occasional delusion that I should be. 

Irrelevant photo: A tree, pointing–as trees around here do–away from the coast and its winds.

One of the primary differences between tier 4 and the lockdown we had earlier in the year, when the government woke up and noticed that the pandemic hadn’t skipped merrily over Britain on its way to the US or Ireland, is that under tier 4 the schools stay open. 

The cabinet office minister, Michael Gove–a man who looks like a balloon wearing a bowtie–says England’s secondary schools will be safe to reopen after the holidays if the kids come back in stages instead of all at once. They’ll be protected by rapid-results Covid testing, which is roughly 50% accurate (not to mention 50% inaccurate, which sounds 51% more shocking than if you put it the other way around). 

Teachers unions and an organization of school governors say the testing can’t realistically be set up in the time they’ve been given. Other than those small problems, though, it’s a great plan.

As an aside, I agree that it’s cheesy to attack people for their looks, but you have to make an exception for some people. Not because of their looks. Because of their actions. 

Okay, it’s cheesy in all situations. What can I tell you? I’m not a good person. 

The cabinet is reported to be split over reopening the schools, and Independent Sage has called for schools to be reopened only when smaller classes, adequate ventilation, and free masks can be organized. That will all happen the minute someone locks the current government in a back room–I understand there’s a small one available underneath Big Ben–and launches a coup.

 

Assorted recommendations

A study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says the only way for the country not to exceed the levels of intensive care unit usage set during the first Covid peak is to impose nationwide tier 4 restrictions after Boxing Day (that was December 26, which has come and gone without the advice being followed); keep the schools closed throughout January; and vaccinate 2 million people a week. 

I can’t find any ongoing vaccination figures, but in the first week roughly 138,000 people were vaccinated. I’m not good with numbers, but I’m reasonably sure that’s less than 2 million.

 Independent Sage has called for: 

  • Covid tracing to be run by local public health staff, since contracting it out has been a staggeringly expensive disaster, and for it to trace not just who the identified carriers gave the disease to but also who they got it from. 
  • Practical support to be given to people who have to isolate. They cite New York as an example, where support can range from money to a hotel room to pet care.  In Britain, they say, less than 20% of people with symptoms self-isolate.
  • Workplaces to be adapted to prevent transmission. This would involve funding, inspection, and certification of all workplaces.
  • Financial support to be available to the public. Inequality, they say, plays a central role in the pandemic. 

 

Who gets the vaccine?

Tom Sasse, of the Institute for Government, has called for a public debate about vaccination priorities. National Health Service staff weren’t in the top priority group, although their work exposes them to the virus and staffing shortages are one of the reasons the hospitals’ rivets are popping out of place. 

They are in the second group, which is now being vaccinated, but they’re getting just 5% of the doses, which translates, in expert language, to nowhere near enough to go around. 

 

Life under lockdown 

A new report on what Britons did during the height of lockdown tells us that they spent 40% of their waking time watching TV–90 minutes a day more than in the comparable month last year. 

How much time is that? If 90 minutes leaves London traveling west at a speed of 65 miles per hour and Arabella British stays awake watching 40% of her TV from her couch–which she may call a sofa or a settee or a davenport, depending on what class she comes from or wants to sound like she comes from–

Sorry, where were we? All I have to do is catch a whiff of how class affects British word choice and I get disoriented. And extremely American.

The couch. I was trying to work out how much time, in absolute numbers, Arabella British spent watching TV during (or was it before?) lockdown, but I’m beginning to understand that I won’t come up with the number. Possibly not with the figures I’ve been given and definitely not the mind I so impulsively bought. She watched a lot of TV. Let’s leave it there. With a second full-scale lockdown looking possible, you have to wonder if we’ll keep in touch with reality at all or just give in and lose ourselves in our screens. 

*

A small group of Britons lurched into the cold brick wall of reality just hard enough to decide they didn’t like it, so they packed up and fled.

What am I talking about? A bunch of British tourists at a Swiss ski resort were told to quarantine for ten days from the date of their arrival to avoid spreading Britain’s new Covid variant all over Switzerland. 

Or maybe they were staying in several Swiss ski resorts, not one. It doesn’t matter. Swiss officials found about 420 British tourists, told them to stay in their rooms to avoid infecting anyone else, and about half of them packed up and snuck away in the night, leaving a trail of their possible germs all the way to the French border and from there back to Britain.

In case that doesn’t offend you sufficiently, I’ll add that once they got home some of them called the hotel to ask if they still had to pay for the nights they’d booked but not used. Or if I’m guessing right about the sort of people they are, they called not to ask but to demand a refund. 

 

Update

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has just been approved for use in Britain. It’s cheaper and easier to produce and store than the Pfizer vaccine, although the statistics on how effective it is are a bit on the murky side. It’s far better than nothing. Right now, that looks pretty good.

97 thoughts on “Will Britain go into full Covid lockdown?

  1. You know what’s mad, what’s utterly bonkers? There’s probably like 12 different tiers now spreading across Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland, all meaning different things, and nobody knows what anything means anymore, and it’s so clear that nobody cares. For example, is anybody still sanitising their shopping like they did in the first lockdown? I know i am not. Im bloody sick of it now. So hearing that less than 20% of people self isolate was not surprising to me at all. It is, after all, typically British, to complain about others, but act pig-headedly oneself. I was also so angry when I read the news of those Britons escaping a ski resort. I just thought, how typically British. Selfish, entitled bums. And to have the audacity to call and ask for a refund also?! I am also very surprised NHS staff are not on the vaccine priority list?! Why ever not?! And who did the government etc see fit to replace them with?! Finally, the scientists are screaming again that we need a nationwide lockdown, right? Like they screamed about it for weeks in March and for weeks and WEEKS in October-November. The government will listen, but it will be too little and too late. I have come to expect this now. Sigh.

    Liked by 3 people

    • If we had a marginally competent government, this could have played out so differently. But they managed–belatedly–to drive the R rate below one, thought they’d done their job, and invited everyone to go on holiday and eat out, and nagged them to stop working at home. And reopened the schools without serious preparation. Then they wondered why the R rate didn’t stay below one.

      Idiots.

      Some studies a month or three back reported that sanitizing groceries is only marginally helpful. Yes, the germs do survive on surfaces, but that doesn’t seem to be a major route of transmission. The last couple of times I shopped, I was halfway through putting them away before I remembered that I wasn’t cleaning them, so I guess I’ve stopped as well. I have to remind myself that the virus is still out there and that the danger’s real.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Kind of illuminates the mindset of some UK people that, when faced with Government advice for all tiers to ‘keep travel local unless absolutely necessary’, decide that going for their ski trip to Switzerland obviously still fits ‘absolutely necessary’. (Spoiler: I’ve done it… it isn’t really.)

    I will allow that, for some, that that specific advice this time MAY have come after they had already left, but still, the pandemic must have been going on long enough now for everyone to know that nothing is normal yet and it may be wise not to plan or assume you can act like things ARE normal–i.e. go abroad for a holiday–until SOME sort of all-clear signals are given?

    Of course, those who couldn’t afford skiing but wanted to flout the advice anyway went to the Brecon Beacons yesterday…https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-55474533

    Liked by 3 people

    • I can’t imagine, whatever the government’s advice is, wanting to go anywhere right now, but I do know there are people who are convinced that I want it equals is absolutely necessary. Especially if I’ve put money down.

      Hell, I ask myself if a trip into Bude is absolutely necessary.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yep, I know, and I still haven’t been since March and only just gone into Launceston for the eye test that came due. Not even leaving home for a haircut, now that Mrs S has become more proficient and can finally be trusted with the hair clippers…

        Liked by 2 people

  3. My mind continues to boggle at the Covid situation in the UK, US, Russia, Brazil etc. In Oz, where we care less about individual human rights and more about other humans’ right to stay alive, we have a grand total of 204 active cases currently and total of just under 1,000 deaths since March. The overseas mutations of the virus have arrived here and it has led to the re-introduction of intrastate and interstate travel restrictions. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/dec/20/australia-border-restrictions-here-are-the-new-state-and-territory-covid-rules-for-nsw-travellers Total lockdown, followed by whack-a-mole strategies for outbreaks is the only thing that works and will be until vaccinations are delivered to 80% of a population (I bleive the odds on the Second Comnig are less). Interestingly, we have been very laid back about a vaccination roll-out strategy (i.e. we don’t have one, despite stockpiling millions of doses). Seems we have more faith in educating people out of their moronic beliefs than trying to jab them all. Time will tell. Stay safe, my beloved UKanians.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I wish we could learn to see individual rights in a context of collective rights. You know: Keeping other people healthy and living. That sort of thing. If all we have is individual rights, we have nothing, really.

      I’m still holding out to see if the mutations are significant. I do think it’s right to act as if they are, but I’m holding onto a bit of hope that they won’t be. Bring on the vaccines!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. On a lighter note..
    Your Michael Hove description had me in stitches…

    There was a program called danger mouse and the side kick was penfold. I don’t want to say Gove is pinfold, but they look similar. But may pinfold was a nicer character.

    Back to the topic at hand. That man sacked his brains in more ways than one. The scientist shout, by my ego can’t hear, yet I listen to the scientist. I see other countries have eliminate the virus. Ps I = boris.

    Now I = me, I don’t know how to run a country, or economy or anything. Should I have an opinion 🤔. Well I do.

    Boris, is late, late, late, late, late, late each timetableshutdown. Quick , quick. Quick to open up. Never did we get r to zero.

    Send kids too school so they come home and pass it around. Some parents are vulnerable. And some work places the manager forcing staff into office.

    We need a full lock down.

    But our dear boris . He is late again. Pig headed about his tiers.. tier whatever. Man can you face the facts, the numbers, the mess.

    We have no nightingale hospital, quietly dismantle.

    We over the years reduce staffing at nhs. Brexit meant nurses etc left and didn’t want to come here.

    And you have some wonderful public who think what is the fuss about.

    Ahhhhhhggggggghhhhhh

    So back to the lighter point of your description of Gove.

    We gotta laugh cause I just want to cry 😢 a royal mess

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Those tourists are utter arseholes but sadly such selfish, entitled behaviour seems to be all too commonplace during this pandemic. I try my best to turn my focus to the people who are behaving in genuinely altruistic ways or those of us who are just doing our part to stay safe and keep others safe and healthy. Focusing on the arseholes just depletes the tiny sliver of faith in humanity I have left.

    School reopening is a controversial subject here. I get to observe it all from the outside since we opted just to spare our kids the risk and chaos and keep them virtual all year. I can, however, appreciate how stressful it is for working parents who think they have one schedule settled and then suddenly have to pivot to an entirely different one. Our school district reopened for a few weeks (full time for elementary and hybrid for MS and HS) but everyone had to go virtual again this month. Even when they were in session, entire classes were having to be sent home to quarantine because of exposure and kids were having to be taught – or really just supervised – by non-teaching staff because of a shortage of teachers. There has been no evidence in our schools of Covid being passed within schools but (back to those selfish arseholes again) people were contracting it through risky behaviours outside of school and then, of course, bringing it into school with them. A friend whose son is a hybrid student told me that in the last week kids were allowed in school, her son went through an entire day of classes where he was the only in-person student. It’s utterly chaotic here. I am glad I spared myself that ordeal and chose the more predictable ordeal of having the boys all home.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve been reading about teachers who are expected to teach both in person and online. Simultaneously. They could manage one or the other, they say, but not both. I’m sympathetic to the parents trying to juggle work and kids-at-home, and to parents who are in no way prepared to teach their kids. But it does seem like the schools could have done a decent–or at least a better–job of preparing the kids to learn at home if they knew that’s what they’d be doing. But to give them ten minutes to prepare and expect them to manage—

      Liked by 1 person

      • That is exactly what my kids are experiencing: a teacher delivering content to in-person and virtual students at the same time. It is not good. Not at all. A classroom student will answer a question and the teacher moves on and the virtual students were unable to hear what the answer was. On more than one occasion, one of my sons has been “abandoned” by a teacher who has forgotten to get the virtual kids set up with the lesson and has disappeared off camera to teach the in-person students – especially the case with PE. The virtual education system actually works great when that is the teacher’s sole focus but it a wreck when focus is split. And I in no way blame the teachers because expecting them to deliver in two modes at once while on a massively steep learning curve with technology and also, at times, homeschooling their own children or caring for a sick relative just has to be the most stressful experience.

        Liked by 1 person

          • I think everyone is just scrambling to do the best they can but there is only so much flexibility in the system. Ideally they should have hired more staff so they could have teachers dedicated to in-person and teachers dedicated to virtual teaching. I suspect we have another year of this to go so my hope is that, behind the scenes, plans are being tweaked in order to improve things. I am regarding this as a write off year for my own kids’ education. I am glad they have school to give them structure and routine, keep them stimulated and making some progress, but we are all going to have to recalibrate whenever we reach the “new normal”.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I saw a teacher’s comment a few days ago that kids not infrequently lose a year of school due to illness or family chaos and–he said–make it up surprisingly well. I wondered at the time if that was all kids or only kids with good family educational support, but if he’s right I’m sure it will apply to your kids.

              Liked by 1 person

              • The job of any educator is to meet their students wherever they are. It is time to throw out expectations and external measures of where kids are predicted to be on the learning path and just meet children where they are. Maybe one positive to come out of all of this is for education systems to place more focus on assisting individual students and not imposing external assessment tools and measures of performance on them.

                Liked by 1 person

              • I keep hoping, since the major meltdown here is about how kids will manage the standardized tests, that someone will suggest throwing out the standardized tests and relying on teachers’ grades. Isn’t that one of the things teachers are supposed to do–assess how their students are doing?

                Liked by 1 person

  6. I had read about the Brits in Swiss Land and their beating a hasty retreat from the ski slopes to skip quarantine and head home. Missed the part about asking for refunds. Geez.
    May a swarm of locusts (or something) invade their homes…soon.
    I’m not a good person, either.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Do you think you might have the Queen send over a spare tiara, scepter, and perhaps a couple of her old dresses and hats ? We have this serious problem here where someone has gone and stolen the election. And well we cannot have that. She can keep her golf clubs and cricket sticks cause he already has some of those. On second thought we will get back to you on the cricket sticks. Things are in such and uproar. He is so upset he can barely tweet. The lie function however is un-impaired. I think the new hat says something about royal again.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sadly, I think the horses have already bolted when it comes to yet another lockdown! The fatigue and ‘well it’s only me’ mentality have really taken hold, and I think the dash FROM the Swiss border says it all. Frankly, I think the public lost faith and that precious sense of togetherness when a certain unelected member of government tested his eyes up in County Durham.

    The flip flopping, toing and and froing, back and forth mentality of the government is staggering, as is the ‘world beating’ NHS track and trace debacle (never put a jockey in charge of public health) and cronyism that we’ve witnessed.

    I’m glad that they’ve approved the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine though, especially as it’s easier to store and distribute! Panorama have a very informative episode on the vaccine, and also clears up some of the confusion of the half doses providing better data.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve said pretty much everything I might have said. I think there’s a chance that if a new government came in and displayed some real competence, they might have a chance of rallying people. Whether this one can–

      Yeah. Who’d take them seriously?

      Like

  9. My Lord, you have become the Unite States. Without the plotting of a coup.

    As Walt Kelly said ages ago in “Pogo” – “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It looks as though all our politicians, worldwide, are gaslighting us about the distribution of the earliest available vaccines. They were all bragging about how clever they had been, but Pfizer’s was hard to store, impossible to distribute outside of the storage facilities, and in short supply. I think the politicians are all breathing a sigh of relief now that the Moderna vaccine is available and more easily distributed. As more vaccines become available, we all hope we can get them sooner. In the meantime in Alberta Canada, I have been informed that I will not get any of them until August or September, and I am 71!. If vaccine availability is better where you are, be very grateful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have no idea how available it is. I know of two or three over-80s in the village who’ve had or been contacted about getting the vaccine but my partner, who’s 81, hasn’t heard a peep. The local GP isn’t in charge of contacting its own patients about this, which probably means it’s been outsourced to some incompetent outfit. (I don’t have evidence that they’re incompetent, but I can testify that they’re unreachable.) Assorted reassuring dates are tossed around but I doubt they mean much.

      August or September does sound like a long time. I wonder if it’s an honest estimate or not.

      Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Collectivist thinking can get ugly. As in, I’m sure there’s been no *conspiracy* but equally sure there’s been a feeling of, “A virus that is serious only to the old and sick would solve our Social Security problem,” in the US and probably elsewhere.

    Thinking of individual rights in a philosophical way, rather than emoting about them in an infantile me-me-me way, leads to conclusions like “I don’t know which of my neighbors may be vulnerable to coronavirus but I want to know they didn’t get it from me”–which was why I did the quarantine thing when ill and why I’m staying out of town now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Both individualist and collective thinking can get ugly. I haven’t found the thread of human thought that can’t twist back on itself and turn mean. But ideally, I think we need to incorporate both. The individual has room to be individual within the context of society. Both need to be honored and defended. Both need space. I suspect that if you dig down, you’d find that balance echoes very neatly the idea that rights need to be balanced by responsibilities.

      Like

  12. The school situation is a nightmare – there’s no right answer. Some kids just didn’t work at home during lockdown, for a variety of reasons, many of which were no-one’s fault, and have now got way behind with their work. Some schools did much better than others at providing online learning. And some parents can’t work from home, so can’t work if their kids are off – and a lot of private sector employers take the view that staff members’ childcare problems are not their problems. But I see teenagers wandering about as they come out of school, girls linking arms, boys pushing and shoving each other – I’m not blaming them, because it’s a tough time to be young – and wonder how infection rates will ever go down whilst schools are open. It’s a very difficult call.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. As I have stated before, vaccines will not stop the spread of covid anytime soon. Vaccinations in the US only total 2 to 3 million in two weeks. At that rate it will take ten years to reach herd immunity! And those 3 million will start needing the second shot starting in about a week thus slowing down new people getting vaccinated as the second vaccination will have priority. What a mess in the US. President Biden needs to use the DPA to manufacture far UVC lamps and get them in all public places. Active measures do not work such as masks, distancing, vaccines, etc. because people are stupid. Far UVC lamps are passive. No one can say that they are a violation of their rights. It is a no brainer, but most politicians are lacking in that key ingredient.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remain open to the idea but not yet convinced, Pete.

      The UK is talking about delaying the Oxford vaccine’s second shot because the first one confers enough short-term immunity to get people through. That will allow them to give the initial shot to more people. Until they get the vaccine out not just to the populations of the rich countries but to all countries, though, no one can count the pandemic as over.

      Like

  14. I take your point about watching too much TV. My wife and I have never watched so much TV but now we realise how much rubbish is on it. I suppose it’s marginally better than news and reality. I really must get out and exercise more. In my head I’m just waiting for spring but my body is telling me I’m becoming a slob.

    Liked by 1 person

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