Wanting to be responsible journalists–and responsible bureaucrats who are responsible for responsible journalists–the BBC bought proximity sensors in January. Thousands of them. They were to protect the newsroom staff during the pandemic. Because not everyone could work from home. Some of them had to show up, so they’d wear these gizmos and if anyone got too close to anyone, they’d scream.
Not the people, the sensors.
It was a great plan, and it worked: The sensors screamed. Especially when people were recording. You know: “This afternoon in Birmingham–”
“Nyeee-ah, nyeee-ah, nyee-ah.”
Before long, most people had stopped using them. Not everyone, though, because one started smoking and threatened to set itself on fire. Why? No other sensors were being around to scream at and it lost its sense of purpose and became suicidal.
A BBC spokesperson said staff were still using them.
Staff members stopped giggling long enough to say they weren’t.
“We are surprised that a problem with a single electronic device is a news story,” the spokesperson said.
Her or his proximity sensor said, “Nyeee-ah, nyeee-ah.”
Here at Notes, we aren’t surprised that a single sensor that entered a smoldering, screaming state of despair is a good story. We’ve all been there during this past year and a fraction. At least once. It spoke for us all.
Britain wonders if it’s out of the woods yet
June 1 was the first day since last summer that no Covid deaths were reported in Britain for twenty-four hours. But before we celebrate being out of the woods, let’s check in with the scientists peskily pointing to trees and saying, “Woods, people. If we have enough trees, that means we’re in the woods.”
What’s the problem? We do have an effective (although distinctly incomplete) vaccination campaign. We also have a new Covid variant that seems to spread faster than the dominant variant that used to scare the pants off us because it spread more rapidly than the one before it but that we now look back at nostalgically and think of as our old friend.
Never mind if you didn’t entirely follow that. We can say the new variant’s scary and leave it at that. The day before we had no deaths, the country reported 3,000 new Covid cases for six days running. We hadn’t been at those levels since early April.
So which way is the country going to tip? Herd immunity? Third wave?
Several experts that the Relevant Authorities don’t particularly want to hear from are sending out warnings. A third wave, they say, is likely.
Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said he thinks the third wave had already started.
“The current measures are not stopping cases rising rapidly in many parts of the country,” he said. “Unless there is a miracle, opening up further in June is a huge risk.”
Why June? The 21st is the still somewhat tentative target date for the next stage of opening up.
Ravi Gupta, who’s on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group–called Nervtag, said, “If things go as I think they are going to go, we will likely end up with a third wave. It will be a big wave of infections and there will be deaths and severe illness.”
All waves, he reminded us, start small.
My best guess is that the government will open the country up regardless of the warnings, regardless of what’s happening as the date comes closer. Because the business community’s pushing for it. Because there’s money to be made. Because they want to deliver good news. Because they seem to be wired for it.
I would love to be wrong about this.
Renaming the Covid variants
The World Health Organization is renaming the Covid variants to avoid calling them by names no one outside the field can remember (B.1.617.2, anyone?) or after the places they were first identified, which has led people to blame them on the places. So the former Kent (or UK, or British) variant is now Alpha. The former South African variant is Beta. The former Brazilian variant is Gamma. And the former Indian variant is Delta.
It follows from this that the world will have to beat this beast before the Greek alphabet runs out of letters. It has twenty-four. Get with it, people.