Since Britain can’t get on the sun’s schedule more than once a measly month, going abroad in the summer is a Big Deal here. Preferably to places with sun, pools, and German tourists to be outraged by. So opening the doors and letting the British public go abroad looks like a measure of success to a government overwhelmed by the bad pandemic choices it’s made,
So the government made a list of countries Britons could visit safely, then it opened the doors and it said, “Have fun, kiddies. Don’t get sunburned.”
Of course they got sunburned. They’re British.
So far, so good, but Spain went and had a spike of Covid cases and Britain’s announced that anyone coming home from Spain will have to isolate themselves for fourteen days. That did three things: It made the government look like it was protecting us; it made the tourists already in Spain, along with the travel and aviation industries, furious; and it encouraged people who’d planned to go to Spain to cancel their plans.
Spain was and is (predictably, given how much of its economy depends on tourism) mad enough to spit tacks. The spikes, it said–
Okay, it didn’t say. Countries don’t really talk. The spikes, its spokefolks said, are regional. Travelers who’ve been visiting spikeless parts of Spain shouldn’t be quarantined. Heroically resisting any urge to be catty, Spain’s prime minister pointed out that most of the country has a lower infection rate than the U.K.
“It would be safer to be in [parts of Spain] than in the United Kingdom,” he said.
If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, Spain’s also implying that the spike is at least in part a result of increased testing, which catches asymptomatic cases–something the UK would do well to look for.
Except that, stop the press, Britain’s been giving this quarantine business some thought and you know what? We might just cut it from fourteen days to ten. Because we’ve got, you know, testing. And we could use that, couldn’t we, to see if people are carrying the virus?
Why, yes we could.
Could we have thought of this earlier? Possibly, but we didn’t take the time.
We’ll get back to you about this ASAP. As soon as we know what our plans really are.
Figuring out what it means that a country has a certain number of cases is, genuinely, a problem. If you test more–and that’s still the best way to control the virus–you find more cases. If you find more cases, you look like the thing’s gone out of control, although what it may mean is that you’re getting it under control. If, being a headline-based government, you resist the urge to test more, the thing really is likely to get–or stay–out of control, and that doesn’t look good either.
One thing Britain hasn’t bungled is its work on medical responses to the coronavirus. The UK Recovery Trial is conducting randomized tests on a variety of medicines you can’t pronounce– and neither can I in case I made you feel bad for a moment there.
They started work when Wuhan’s lockdown meant that Chinese researchers had so few enough cases to work with that drug trials came to a halt, and with the virus clearly headed for Britain they worked at high speed, taking nine days to do work that would normally take nine months, from drafting protocols to enrolling patients.
Large trials need more patients than any single hospital can supply, and the existence of the National Health Service made it easy for them to enroll patients from multiple hospitals. Even better, the UK’s high death rates meant that at the beginning they had plenty of available cases.
Every cloud has a silver lining, not to mention a cough and a fever. And sometimes a headache.
To date, they’ve shown that neither hydroxychloroquine or a combination of two drugs used for HIV help with the virus but that the steroid dexamethasone does. They’re currently testing an antibiotic called azithromycin; an antibody called tocilizumab, and convalescent plasma–blood plasma from people who’ve recovered from the disease.
I can pronounce convalescent plasma. Forget the rest of them.
The bad news is that because fewer people are being hospitalized in Britain (yes, every silver lining has a cloud as well), they have a smaller group of patients to recruit from, so research is moving more slowly.
The New York Times has been tracking Covid-related medical trials. One that’s been in the news lately is work on monoclonal antibodies, which is satisfyingly easy to type.
These are, more or less, a designer form of convalescent plasma. Instead of taking the whole range of a recovering patient’s antibodies, some of which will be as irrelevant to Covid as my photos are to my posts, they isolate the ones that look most potent, then replicate them synthetically and inject them into a patient.
Safety trials–the earliest stage of testing–have only just started.
The Times also has a vaccine tracker if you want to take a look. Their Covid coverage isn’t behind a paywall.
Can we abandon both the virus and the UK for a minute? A Texas state legislator, Jonathan Stickland, read a report about the Pentagon having an Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force and felt the need to tweet, “IF aliens are real, salvation through Jesus Christ is the only way they enter Heaven.”
And you’re telling us this why, Jon? In case they read Twitter? In case their sat-navs (in American, those are their GPSs) aren’t working?
It does raise the question of whether, if Christian beliefs (pick any strand you like) are correct, other planets couldn’t expect to get their own saviours or would have to ride on ours. And whether they’d be prone to different evils, which for the sake of simplicity I’ll agree to call sins.
Interplanetary theology is going to be complicated.
Want your feelgood story of the day? A family made up of parents, kids, and a huge honkin’ St. Bernard dog named (well, of course) Daisy climbed Scafell Pike–England’s highest mountain–and Daisy collapsed and couldn’t walk down.
Daisy weighs 8 stone 9 pounds, or to put that in European, 55 kilos. Or in American, 121.25 pounds. You might be happy to carry that much weight down a mountain if it was neatly bundled into a backpack, but you’d struggle to even pick it up if it was distributed into the shape of a large, floppy dog.
The family called the Mountain Rescue Team, and two hours later a team of sixteen appeared, carrying a stretcher but not the cask of–was it supposed to be rum that St. Bernards carried around their necks when they were the ones doing mountain rescue? Or was that brandy?
It took the team five hours to carry her down.
A long-time rescue team member said, “The team rescues canine casualties around a dozen times every year but this was the first time a St Bernard breed has been rescued by the team.
“Some might ask: ‘why rescue a dog?’ but our mission is to save life and alleviate distress. You can’t leave a dog on a mountain.”
C’mon, admit it, you tough old thing: You feel better, don’t you?