Lockdown in a hall of mirrors

If the Nobel committee ever gives a prize for incompetence, please, someone, can I nominate Britain’s current government?

It’s hard to know where to start, but let’s jump in with the government deciding to go off-label and give people their second dose of the Covid vaccines later than the manufacturers recommend. That set off a good bit of screaming by doctors and scientists, not because they know it’ll be a problem but because no one knows how it’ll work. 

But that’s serious stuff, so forget about it. What about the people who’d already gotten their first dose and were given appointments for the second one? 

Well, on the same day that the minister for Covid vaccine deployment (no, I didn’t know we had one either) said it was doctors could let patients keep their second-dose appointments, National Health Service England said the appointments needed to be “cancelled and rearranged.”

So that’s clear.

Irrelevant photo: skimmia japonica, I believe. 

Meanwhile, a Labour peer is suing the government over its decision to delay the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Not the Oxford vaccine as well? 

Nope. Its clinical trials offer some evidence that getting the second dose later might not be a problem. Might. Some. Pfizer, though, has said there’s no evidence to support delaying its second dose. So that’s the stronger case.

Her argument is that the decision is unlawful and potentially unsafe.

Two notes before I go on: One, a Labour peer is, in normal language, a member of the House of Lords who’s a Labour Party member. If you live in the real world that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but if you follow British politics long enough it starts to sound frighteningly normal. 

Two, something I read the other day objected to calling the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine simply the Oxford vaccine. I’m sure they’re right, and it’s annoying as hell. I really should do it right.


Lockdown in a hall of mirrors

The government has changed the lockdown rules sixty-four times since the pandemic started, according to a human rights lawyer who sat down and counted them. That’s an average of one change every four and a half days–and that’s just the actual laws, not advice or guidelines. So basically no one knows what we’re supposed to be doing.

That’s led to cops, lawyers, and government ministers not knowing law from advice or their ass from an apple. 

A lot of the information on lockdown that filters out to the public doesn’t reflect the actual law, and the average cops on the beat get their information from the same not-necessarily-accurate sources as members of the public. They’re not lawyers and they don’t read the new laws every four and a half days. 

What the ministers’ excuses are, I don’t know, but Boris Johnson’s recent bike ride reminds us that they’re as muddled as we are.  

What I’m talking about is that Boris Johnson, allegedly our prime minister, although I’m not sure how much of his time or attention the job claims, took a bike ride and a member of the public spotted him seven miles from home. That was after two women were fined £200 (each) for meeting five miles from their homes to take a walk. Because, after all, we’re in lockdown.

They were supposed to stay local, the cop who fined them told said.

The fines–after lots of embarrassing publicity–were withdrawn, but the incident did set a context. Was Johnson staying local? What does local mean?

The policing minister (I didn’t know we had one of those either) said, helpfully, that whether seven miles is local “depends on where you are.” 

And while we were all chewing our way through that, syllable by unhelpful syllable, he added, “Seven miles will be local in different areas.”

I hope that clarifies the issue. 


Deaths and other serious stuff 

On January 13, the UK had 1,564 Covid deaths–more than we saw on any day of the first pandemic wave. The best estimates are that those were people who’d been infected before the great Christmas germ exchange, so we can expect the daily number of deaths to rise when the Christmas cases start rolling in.

The situation in some hospitals is serious enough that to free up beds for Covid patients they’ve started discharging some patients to their homes, where they can at least theoretically be cared for by family, and others to hotels, where they’ll be cared for by volunteer organizations, medical people from the military, and (less realistically, since they’re already overstretched) NHS personnel. 

These are patients who they’d otherwise keep in the hospital. 

The NHS has also asked care homes to start accepting Covid patients who don’t have a recent negative test as long as they’ve been in isolation for 14 days and have no new symptoms. I don’t know about you, but I see trouble coming there.

No one sounds happy about any of this. It’s a measure of how bad things look right now. 


The vaccine in Britain and around the world

London is getting fewer doses of vaccine per person than other parts of the country, and it’s not being quiet about it. But the country as a whole is getting fewer doses than it was promised. We were told we’d have 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in our eager (and very cold) little paws as soon as it was approved. By Christmas, half that amount had made its presence known.

For the Oxford vaccine that I now have to call the AstraZeneca vaccine, 30 million doses were supposed to materialize immediately. By Christmas, 4 million were available.


That hapless minister in charge of vaccine deployment said the government would absolutely switch the mass vaccination centers to 24-hour-a-day operations if that became necessary or possible. Then the prime minister’s press secretary said there hadn’t been any clamor for the centers to stay open overnight. 

I hate to side with Johnson’s office, but people do need to sleep–especially overstretched medical people. 


While many countries are vaccinating their oldest people first, Indonesia is prioritizing people who are between eighteen and fifty-nine. Professor Amin Soebandrio said, “We are targeting those that are likely to spread the virus”–people who “go out of the house and all over the place and then at night come back home to their families.”


The first reports on the Sinovac vaccine (it’s called CoronaVac–Sinovac’s the maker) said it was 78% effective, but new reports say it’s more like 50% effective at preventing the disease but 78% effective at keeping people from needing medical treatment. That makes it a perfectly workable vaccine but the first vaccines reported such high numbers that we’ve started to expect fantastic instead of just workable. 

SinoVac was tested in Brazil, where it’s become a political football, with the president, Jair Bolsonaro, feeding into an antivaccination movement and the governor of Sao Paolo, João Doria (who hopes to run for president), championing the vaccine.


And a bit of research that doesn’t fit anywhere else

Researchers are reporting that double-masking–wearing one on top of another–can protect not just the person on the outside of the mask but you, the person on the inside, especially if the masks are thin. You don’t want to get so crazy with this that it’s hard to breathe, but two relatively flimsy masks can approach the effectiveness of the N95 masks that medical workers wear. 

The researchers also say you can get a better fit out of a mask with add-ons: ties from ear loop to ear loop or nose bridges to keep it in place. And you’ll be in the height of fashion. I felt like a bit of an idiot, but I did wear two masks yesterday and it wasn’t much different than wearing one. 


56 thoughts on “Lockdown in a hall of mirrors

  1. Yes, double masking gives about 5-6 layers of protection with is equivalent to the N95 and is a great idea if you must be out and about riding your bicycle…or just trying to stay safe and well

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Aw c’mon ! THAT will be Donald’s one chance to win the Nobel Prize he so covets !

    Obviously, 7 miles from that English/ Irish border in the middle of the Irish Sea would be considered less local than, say, in Cornwall.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad you’re keeping on top of this, Ellen, because it’s beyond me. Even making things up as they went along you’d expect to get a few things right but even with these much heralded vaccines things are starting to look distinctly pear shaped already.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pear shaped? Do we put that in the don’t-know-their-ass-from-an-apple column?

      Personally, I was hoping for the recommended dose when they get around to me, but at this point I’ll settle for the dose that got calculated on the back of an envelope. It’s better than no dose. I just read this morning that–oh, I think it’s Johnson & Johnson is working on a one-dose vaccine that’s close to completion. Let’s hope it comes through and that no one decides a half dose would be plenty.

      I’m not sure we can say I’m keeping up with this. The amount of mayhem I haven’t been able to wedge in is overwhelming.

      Liked by 2 people

      • And they still do not say if you get the vaccine you can still get covid and be contagious. This is a serious issue. On another note, I am a sci-fi fan and have been watching the original Star Trek series. Many writers of sci-fi have predicted advancements in tec like the airplane, motor cycles and space flight. Star Trek has had many things come true like the communicator. I watched episode 30 on Netflix yesterday (actually officially episode 29) “Operation — Annihilate!”. The plot line is that there is a epidemic of mental illness that is spreading across the galaxy and one outpost has ceased communications. The Enterprise is summoned to investigate and discovers a strange creature that infects the population. Spock gets infected but controls the pain which makes humans go crazy, and be controlled by the creatures. They study the creature and discover it is a single celled organism, like a nerve cell. They cannot destroy it by normal means. After some discussion the captain mentions that a ship crashed directly into the sun and the pilot said that he was finally free. The captain then theorized that the rays of the sun might destroy the creature. They placed the creature into a sealed room and exposed it to strong full spectrum light and it killed the creature. Then Spock entered the chamber and was exposed, killing the creature that had infected him but he was blinded. Then a scientist discovered that it was not necessary to use the full spectrum of light but just a narrow band of light. The narrow band of light was in the UV spectrum! They then launched satélites around the planet which radiated it with UV light killing all of the creatures! Yes, I still believe that far UVC light is the answer to stopping covid, confirmed by a 1967 science fiction series!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’d welcome a way to kill the virus en masse that doesn’t kill the host, but I’m still waiting for confirmation to come from something other than a Star Trek episode. Really, I hope you’re right on this, but so far I’m just not seeing confirmation.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. If the Nobel committee does reward incompetence then the British government would be most deserving and it really has been a team effort but it would be nice to be able to recognise the individual brilliance of certain members of that team. Gavin Williamson has been exceptional of late but Matt Hancock has also been consistent throughout. It is hard to look past Boris though. He had been the complete package for me. I’m going to start triple-masking to be extra safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe we need to sit down and work out guidelines so we know how to weigh exceptional moments against consistent performance. This is too important to decide impulsively.

      With triple masking, do they all go over each other or do you take the third and put it over your eyes to promote peace of mind?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Regarding discharging patients to recover at home… our friend who is a doctor on a covid ward has said the same a few days ago. He says they are sending high risk patients home with an oxygen supply – patients they would normally keep in hospital. I had shivers down my spine when I heard that and I cannot forget it. This country is a first world country. And when you say the Christmas gathering deaths have not even been reached yet so it’s about to get WORSE… I wonder how those selfish people trawling all over the UK feel now… but at the same time… I also wonder at calling them selfish.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You could argue that they are, but many are at worst naive. They were told it’d be fine. They believed it. I can’t imagine what the people who work in the hospitals–not just the medical staff but everyone–must be feeling like right now.


  6. I think our government should be in the running for that Nobel for incompetence, for what happened last Wednesday alone. If we compare accumulative idiocy versus rampant, clinically insane surges, I think we have you beat. (It’s such a shame, but I’m tempted to add “U.S.A. is Number 1! In bad governance, at least.)

    Very few vaccine’s have rolled out here. I know of some health care workers who have gotten them, but that’s it. It’s going to be a long haul until they get enough vaccinations out and into the populace that we might see a downward trend in the infection/death rates. Let’s hold on to our sanity until that day arrives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t argue. And I was just reading a summary from the NY Times about vaccines being available to the over-65s in the US. It’s full of tales of crashing websites, error messages, and convoluted signup procedures. Not to mention phone lines that don’t get answered.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Alfred’s unlikely to change his will posthumously so we’ll have to stick with what we’ve got. Never mind; the Nobel Prize for Literature will suffice, given that it is awarded for outstanding works in creative fiction over a career. It could perhaps be jointly shared by Donald and Boris.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a fiction writer, I have to defend the honor of my profession. (Is it a profession? Probably not, but let’s skip over that.) Lying’s relatively easy. Fiction takes a level of concentration that neither of them is capable of.


  8. It is extremely unfair that people within and related to the government can basically do what they like concerning lockdown rules, meanwhile if you happen to be a member of the public, regardless off your situation, you are at risk of getting into serious trouble. Personally I don’t actually have a problem with the bike ride in itself, but we need to remember what happened with Cummings. It really does seem that there is 1 rule for them and 1 rule for everyone else.


    • Exactly. After Cummings, you’d think Johnson would have the sense to ask himself how his actions will be seen by the public. Will he help pull people together or look like the rules don’t apply to him? Unfortunately, we don’t need to bother answering that.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thing is that Johnson (I am not calling him by that made up name) was more than likely driven to the park for his bike ride, breaking another rule (or is it guidance?). I dont think he did a round trip of 14 miles.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. And another thing…during WW2 the government didnt ask people to use their “common sense” during the blitz to ensure blackout so to avoid bombing by the Luffewaffe, they had wardens enforcing it. An error by one person could affect the whole neighbourhood. same with covid really.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “One, a Labour peer is, in normal language, a member of the House of Lords who’s a Labour Party member.” As an ex party member, this still bothers me. Another great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Anna. I’m not sure what the alternative is–short, of course, of the radical alternative of replacing the Lords with something vaguely democratic and harder for the party in power to pack. As long as it exists, it wouldn’t make sense for the Labour Party–even one that returned to its radical roots–to boycott it.


  12. If you want to keep your sanity, don’t pay too much attention to the vaccine news (news?) for the moment, just mask-up – or double-mask – , distance and hand-wash and try to trust your lucky star…

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ll have to try that double mask thing…and, forgive a little bit of (selfish?) triviality, but my doctor told me that my allergies were so bad, I had to wear a mask when I went out on the playground with the kids. I felt “like a bit of an idiot” to quote you, but now I just blend in with other mask-wearers. *wry laugh*

    Liked by 1 person

  14. So many contenders for the Nobel Prize in Incompetence.
    UK and USA possible front runners but now we can add Brazil, Indonesia to the mix. Hm.
    Local depends on where you are. Perfect. I’ve always assumed that to be the case.
    Meanwhile, the US has 20,000 National Guardspeople sleeping in the Capitol rotunda. I saw lots of guns – but few masks. Jesus Christ.
    But at least we have now had Agent Orange impeached for the second time. Let’s hope that’s the last, but there are six days left until he leaves office so he could try for a third.
    Who can spell cluster f—?

    Liked by 2 people

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