A snapshot of pandemic Britain

Britain’s back in lockdown and the number of Covid hospital admissions is higher than at the pandemic’s first peak. Go, us! The prime minister loves to set records. That’s why we had such a lovely Christmas germ exchange. 


The snapshot

Having reopened for exactly one day, the primary schools are now shut again. 

To explain the logic behind that, we go to Boris Johnson’s public statements. On Sunday he told us, “Schools are safe and . . . education is a priority.” On Monday he told us kids could (who knew this?) “act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.” 

Well, yes. Who would have thought that transmission thingy on a Sunday? It takes the cold light of a Monday morning for that to make its way through the fog.

Irrelevant photo: Primroses. This is the season for them. Almost everyone around here is complaining about the cold, but I feel very lucky to live in a climate where flowers bloom in the winter.

By Tuesday, Johnson had added the word alas to the situation. He says alas a lot. Maybe he always did, but he’s given himself so many reasons to alas this past year that someone I know set up a drinking game before his most recent press conference that would have her taking a drink every time he said alas. 

In fairness, she had a fistful of other phrases that would trigger a drink. I haven’t checked back to see how many bottles she emptied, but if she played the game at all (questionable, since drinking games like a cheering crowd and we’re not in crowd mode just now) she’ll still have the hangover.


Unlike schools, preschools–or nurseries, if we’re talking British–will be staying open, and Purnima Tanuku, the head of the National Day Nurseries Association, said, “What we didn’t hear from the prime minister . . . is the reason behind the decision . . . to keep early years and childcare open, i.e. the science behind it.”

Science? Figures? Oh, these fussy people. 

Maybe in next Monday’s cold light the figures will surprise us, alas, and be forthcoming. At which point the preschools may also have to close.

Tanuku did say that with not many kids attending and staff being out sick, many of them weren’t likely to stay open for long anyway.

Cynics suggest that they’re staying open because it’s harder for people to work from home with a three-year-old underfoot than with an eight-year-old. In other words, forget health, it’s all about the economy.

You’re shocked, I know. So am I.

The data on how effectively kids spread the virus is still contradictory, but a study of Florida elementary schools and high schools shows that Covid infections went up after they reopened. Florida’s  statistics list an infected person’s age and county, which makes it a handy place to study.

After high schools reopened, infections went up almost 30%. For elementary schools (that’s kids age 6 to 13, so it seems to include middle schools or junior highs), that was about 20%. The study didn’t include preschools, but in times like these a person who happened to be prime minister, alas, might want to be make his mistakes on the side of caution.


Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies tells us that the pandemic’s widening Britain’s inequality gap. More surprises, right? Poorer communities have taken a harder financial hit and their members are dying at roughly twice the rate of richer communities. Black and minority ethnic groups also have a higher death rate, in part as a result of disproportionately holding jobs that put them front lines. 

Kids from poorer families are hit harder by school closures. And people under 25 are twice as likely as older workers to have lost their jobs. 

The IFS has made several sensible recommendations to ameliorate the damage. Isn’t that nice? They’ll be ignored. 


New technologies that seem to be on the way

A new Covid test has been developed that not only gives a faster rapid result (five minutes as opposed to 20 or 30) but is accurate. It works by converting DNA to RNA and combining it with a technique called EXPAR. It will be called RTF-EXPAR. 

After that, unfortunately, I ran out of capital letters and couldn’t understand a thing. But it’s all very promising, they’ve applied for a patent, and they’re trying to get the beast into production.

If it works, it could be used for any RNA-based infectious agent or disease biomarker, including cancer.

I don’t know about you, but I understood the “including cancer” part of that sentence. The rest of it kind of went over my head, but I was impressed anyway.


An at-home antibody test may become available, allowing people to track their Covid immunity by identifying neutralizing antibodies.

You know neutralizing antibodies, right? They’re the ones you met at the neighbors’ just before lockdown sent us all scuttling back inside our own four walls. They’re the tiny beasties that keep the virus from infecting your cells, and Medical Express tells us that “emerging research suggests neutralizing antibodies offer the best protection against the virus.” So learn to recognize them and say hello nicely when you see them, please.

Tests have been able to measure them before this, but not quickly, easily, or cheaply. And not accurately. Other than that, though, they’re great.

Since we’re dancing on the edge of what’s known–especially in countries like Britain that are deciding to administer one dose of a two-dose vaccine–monitoring immunity (your own; the general public’s; everyone’s) could be useful, she said in a masterful use of understatement. 

They’ve also filed a patent application.

27 thoughts on “A snapshot of pandemic Britain

  1. Yes, it’s scary, life in the UK and the way Boris et al. muddle through in our British way, but from over here the US looks terrifying – especially with that maniac in denial fronting up the White House today – as for scientists, if you find two that agree they’re most probably both wrong – says he being one for best part of 40 years. All the best. Eric.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s even crazier over there today. Not to mention downright scary.

      Not all scientists will agree, but the nice thing about them is they work from what’s demonstrable, provable–unlike a lot of other people this days. That means that wrong hypotheses will eventually be shown to be wrong. In politics lately, they just double down and try it again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Clearly someone other than Boris raised his children and took them to kindergarten (as we call it here – who said Germany lost the war?). Normal people know that hygiene is a bit hit and miss for children at that age e.g. strings of mucus hanging from their noses are of little concern to them. Anyway, I’m sure everything will be under control before early April, just in time for stores to re-open to sell hot cross buns and chocolate bunnies and to start Lockdown 4.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I read this, Ellen, but in light of what is happening Over Here today, I’m too stunned to take it in (I couldn’t take in a nursery rhyme right now) much less comment.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. The numbers are insanely sobering. People I know who were nonchalant about it all are developing anxieties this time round. Several people I know have tested positive and several more I know have died. Others I know have recovered which is good to hear but it’s still so close to home. And then other people I know are arguing with me that it’s not as deadly as the media seems to portray and that they ought to keep schools open (stupidest thing in the world) and that we shouldn’t worry as much because the spanish flu was way worse and by comparison this is minuscule because ‘look at the figures!!’. Um yes but they did not have adequate healthcare to deal with a contagious respiratory illness back in 1918, and this is VERY SERIOUS because it’s not about whether someone gets it and recovers… it’s about can they be treated, is there enough capacity in hospitals, are we putting those in the front line under more stress? Some people are so selfish it’s ridiculous. The counter argument to that was ‘well yeah we have a shitty government who doesn’t fund our NHS enough so if they funded it better we could all go out and have a good time without it being overwhelmed’. So selfish. Nurses and doctors are so overworked and stressed out, and this is not just the media telling me, I know two doctors personally who work in London and several nurses (friends I grew up with) and they’re all stressed and overworked. One of the doctors works on the COVID ward and he gets on COD (call of duty) every night without fail for a couple of hours and he plays with my husband and all I hear from him swearing (at the game), and I say whoa there is some aggression there, and my husband tells me it’s his way of releasing tension. He can get on and forget about the day and let the steam out, so to speak. And oh I could go on forever, but I won’t. I just wish our government would do the right thing like lots of other countries did. CLOSE the borders. SHUT DOWN the interaction, and when it gets better don’t give people mixed messages and allow them to go nuts. Why are we such a small nation with such a huge number of deaths? Bigger nations have less deaths. I know there is no point saying all this, feels like banging my head on a brick bloody wall!!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hear you, on all points. Yes, the government’s been underfunding and disorganizing the NHS–and privatizing as much of it as they could, which is also undermining it; we’ve seen how impressive privatization is–but it’s the one we have to work with at the moment. People are dying of this. And no one knows, at this point, what the long-term cost will be to people who had lighter cases. There’s no just long Covid to contend with, but I keep reading about the possibility of long-term organ damage. It’s all an unknown at this point.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly, it’s all an unknown so we have to deal with it as it is. And long covid is certainly something to think about. Again, it’s not a ‘bad flu’, it’s a pandemic! Lol. I think a lot of people need to accept that and start behaving accordingly. Ah dear.

        Liked by 1 person

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