What happens after the Covid-19?


What happens after the Covid-19?

20 Jan 2020 – USA has first confirmed imported case – From China.

20 Jan 2020 – COVID-19 included in Statutory Report of Class B Infectious Diseases and Border Health Quarantine Infectious Diseases in China – Measures to Curtail: Temperature Checks, Health Care Declarations, Quarantines – Instituted at Transportation Depots – Laws of China – Wildlife Markets Closed – Captive-Breeding Facilities Cordoned Off.

22/23 Jan 2020 – WHO decides not to yet declare the outbreak a PHEIC.

23 Jan 2020 – China observes Strict Travel Restrictions.

24 Jan 2020 – First Report of case in Europe – France.

30 Jan 2020 – WHO declares 2019 nCov (former name of COVID-19) outbreak a PHEIC – under International Health Regulations (2005).

11 Feb 2020 – The Virus and the Disease it causes officially named – The Novel Coronavirus named ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)’; The Disease it Causes named ‘COVID-19’.

27 Feb 2020 – WHO updates case definitions for COVID-19 for Suspected, Probable, Confirmed – Worldwide Surveillance Continues.

28 Feb 2020 – Nigeria reports first case of COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa.

11 March 2020 – WHO upgrades the COVID-19 outbreak to a Pandemic.

A mother in a Lorrie Moore short story People Like That Are the Only People Here, jokes, ‘Healthy? I just want the kid to be rich’.  We know what happens next.

Writers are readers. If they’re no readers they’re not writers. Here’s the story: We’re all in it together. In Burlington Care Home in Glasgow, thirteen elderly residents died in a week. Two of the staff test positive for Covid-19. All over the world Covid-19 has been behaving in the classic hockey-stick manner of epidemics plotted on a graph. We sit on the side-lines and clap our team, the NHS, care staff, all those on the front line. There’s good reason for this. Wearing gloves and a face mask doesn’t mean you won’t get sick – viruses can also transmit through the eyes and tiny viral particles, known as aerosols, can penetrate masks, but it does make it five times more unlikely.

With no football on, we’ve all become expert analysists, pitting our team against other countries. We know from the SARs  2003-4 in South Korea, most of the cases were in health workers. The pattern is repeated with Covid-19. Those who spend more time treating victims are more likely to become victims, especially if they don’t have proper protective equipment.

Other armchair experts claim it’s no big deal, no worse than seasonal flu. Herd immunity sounded feasible. This was the positon the moron’s moron President Trump took. Now he’s saying 200 000 American deaths would be a good score. The side of the Atlantic, Boris Johnson took the same position as his senior partner in the Oval Office. Johnson is now settling for 20 000 British deaths after the first wave of the Covid-19 has passed.

Do the math. If borne out by further testing, this could mean that current estimates of a roughly 1% fatality rate are accurate. This would make Covid-19 about 10 times more deadly than seasonal flu, which is estimated to kill between 290,000 and 650,000 people a year worldwide. The population of America is around 250 million so if Covid-19 hockeystick trajectory continued as epidemiologist modelled with over 80%  of the population becoming infected over 2 million Americans would die. In Britain that would be around 600 000 deaths.

As we’ve seen, even with these lower numbers our health services are working beyond full capacity with apparently mild cases overlooked and hockey-stick numbers growing exponentially. This is important because as Chinese scientist have confirmed these cases DO contribute to transmission and need to be socially isolated. Health Care workers such as those in Burlington Care Home did go into work.  Tens of thousands of Care workers face that same dilemma.

Employers, until now, have created even more ways of punishing and sacking low-paid workers and depriving them of their rights. Care staff as disposable as bed-pans. Classed as self-employed. No holiday pay. No pension. Zero-hour contracts.  Minimum wage is the maximum wage and ways such as not paying for travelling costs being used to deprive them of even that. Classified as agency staff and their minimum wage reduced by a third by paying their employers for employing them. Take it or leave it.  

The future looks like the past. Imagine the Queen, Prince Charles and Camilla residents of Burlington Care Home. We’re all in it together. Under new NHS guidelines in England (this is Scotland you might argue) rationing or triage needs to take place. The Queen because of her age would not qualify for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or qualify for a ventilator. Charles might get into ICU but because of a shortage of ventilators doesn’t receive incubation. Camilla qualifies for both. Are we really all in it together?

Let’s look at the league tables and cheer. Singapore is top of the table. China has flat- lined, it no longer has hockey-stick growth in numbers. Italy is doing most testing, but has the highest fatality rate. Spain is catching up with Italy in terms of casualties and testing. Germanic efficiency, doing everything by the book. It  has been doing widespread testing of suspects with symptoms and contact tracing in the WHO-recommended fashion from the beginning of the epidemic. We’re at different stages of the epidemic. The UK death toll is currently higher than Italy’s at the same stage, reinforced by another showing that by this stage of the outbreak. Italy had begun to flatten its curve while in Britain the line keeps rising, the number of deaths doubling every three days. We’re not even looking at Third World Countries. Trump boasts he’s testing more than Britain, more than China. Those without healthcare or the capacity to treat victims know what to expect. We’ve all seen it before. More of the same.

When it ends, when it really ends, we’ll be back at the beginning, waiting for the second wave of the Covid-19. The golden bullet of vaccines, optimistically, look about a year away. Only about five major drug companies have the resources to manufacture the golden bullet if it was found today. Scaling takes time. First world countries would be first. Even the moron’s moron in the US  has woken up to the need to test – and is telling companies that export, America must come first. Trump tried to buy a German company bio-tech company. Third world countries third, because you can’t go any lower. But here you create a reservoir population, ready to infect the rest of the world. Using an economic axiom, ceteris paribus: Changing the number of people tested, or who is being offered tests, will also affect the number of reported cases.

Moving forward to when, or if, we flatten the hockey-shaped curve, people need to return to work in stages. In Britain one effect of government rhetoric is the NHS is safe, even under the Tories that have been selling it off piecemeal, and depriving it of funds. Any hint of depriving the NHS of much-needed resources would be political suicide, but this is short-term.

Cast your mind back to 2010 to the unfunny Laurel and Hardy of Cameron/Osborne government, before their slapstick act of economic stupidity and self-mutilation called Brexit. Note the four doctors to have died so far are BAME doctors.  Britain had to pay higher than other EEC countries for ventilators, for example, because they’re no longer part of the EEC and the pound is plummeting. Fifty percent of our food comes from imports. Crops will rot in the fields without immigrant workers. We import more than we export. Quite literally, we can’t go it alone. Our government knows this.  But the then outgoing Labour Chief Secretary of the Treasury Liam Byrne left a jokey written message to his incoming colleague, the Liberal Democrat (remember them) David Laws: ‘there’s no money left’.  

We all know what happened next. A detailed assessment showed that public spending was to increase in five Whitehall departments and to be cut in seventeen, beginning with welfare. What we used to call social security was gone. As over 1 000 000 people newly registered for Universal Credit have found out. Living on less than £100 per week is the new norm. While the British economy was flatlining in 2010, in the way we hope the Covid-19 will in 2020 the Tory government pursued a policy of taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. Tax cut. Tax cut. Tax cut. Privatise and cherry pick our NHS, stealth by the back door such as Virgin Health running mental health services. Yes, the same Richard Branson asking for a bailout for his airline. Private profit and dividend and tax cuts, whilst domiciled elsewhere. How does that add up with we’re all in it together?  Those were also the words used by George Osborne and leave a familiar taste in the mouth.

Austerity was imposed on the poor in 2010, but not on the rich. They bounced back very quickly to 2007-2008 levels of capital wealth and an increased share of the GDP. The gap between rich and poor matched that of the Great Depression. Wages never recovered. Those in work and claiming benefits grew and grew. The working poor, those that work in, for example, care homes as carers were mocked as the scum of the earth. Junior doctors were labelled greedy. Nurses were chastised for demanding a pay rise. Loans instead of grants were the new norms for nurses training and numbers dropped.  

Austerity in the twenty-first century. Covid-19 is a dress rehearsal for climate change, but one is now, the other deferred. In the same way, the $2tn US coronavirus relief package is doling out $60bn to struggling airlines and offering low-interest loans that are available to fossil fuel. Britain has in the words of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak effectively nationalised the economy. 10% of Britain’s GDP of debt and growing, £435 billion in Quantitive Easing (printing money) £200 billion up front to keep the economy temporarily afloat.

Writing in the Guardian, the economist David Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College in the US and a member of the Bank’s interest rate-setting monetary policy committee during the 2008 financial crisis, said unemployment was rising at the fastest rate in living memory. UK unemployment could rapidly rise to more than 6 million people, around 21% of the entire workforce, based on analysis of US job market figures that suggest unemployment across the Atlantic could reach 52.8 million, around 32% of the workforce.

“There has never been such a concentrated business collapse. The government has tried to respond but it has no idea of the scale of the problem it is going to have to deal with. We make some back-of-the-envelope calculations and they are scary,” he said.

 Unemployment looked to be at least 10 times faster than in the recession triggered by the 2008 financial crisis.

The Great Depression of the hungry thirties was ended not by fiscal stimulus, although that helped, but by the second world war. During the Depression years rich monopolists chaffed at government intervention in the economy and called for a return to lassez-faire economics. Sounds familiar. Listen to Thatcher’s ‘let poppies grow tall speech’. Reaganomics was just Thatcherism wrapped in a different flag.  We’ve seen the same effect under Osborne/ Cameron. At some point in the aftermath of the pandemic hard choices will need to be made. Simple choices if you’re a Tory, you take money from the poor and give it to the rich. After all under Thatcher dogma, ostensibly, they are the creators of wealth. The keepers of our economic good health, but just don’t ask them to share. Trillions can be wiped from stock market shares, ten, twenty, fifty, seventy percent, yet a tax increase of 1% is met as if Armageddon has occurred. Then it did begin to unfold.

Ironically, the moron’s moron may well win an election not for anything he did or said, but because he’s a leader on TV screens and his popularity remains high especially among white, male, Republican supporters.  Those most likely to die from the Covid-19 virus. Here Johnson is in social isolation. He has the virus. He is a viral infection. But he’s never been more popular. As an old Etonian when it comes to making hard choices of who gets what and why, well, that is easy, Thatcherism. Survival of the fittest. Tall poppies, like Branson. Survival of the richest. Poor people are there to be applauded, every Thursday, but not helped. There to be used and discarded. The backlash is coming and it’s coming soon. Expect no mercy from Tory scum. Don’t say I didn’t tell you so. If you think we’re all in it together you’ve been living on the moon and probably would vote Trump if you lived in America.   People Like That Are the Only People Here. A choice between being rich, or being healthy, few of us get to choose. I choose life, but not stupidity.

Natural Justice.

Natural justice isn’t something we spend a lot of time thinking about. Years ago when I was working on the roofs with Kenny Smith, he got paid more money than me. Let’s say he got £65 and I got £50 per week.  He was a roofer and time-served, could measure the roof out and bang down tiles quicker than a labourer. I accepted he should get more than me, which isn’t the same as liking it. We travelled together on the train and came home together, but one week I asked him how much expenses he got.

I can’t remember how much more Kenny got, but let’s say he said he got six quid more than me. I thought it was a mistake and when I asked the boss, he’d sort it.

The boss didn’t sort it, but he sorted me. Kenny was a tradesman. I was nothing. I could like it or lump it.

We’re going through the phony war with coronavirus. It’s something that happens in faraway places like China, then European countries and places a bit closer to home. We hear about people we know ‘self-isolating’ and laugh about it. Perhaps we’re more worried about whether Celtic or Liverpool should be awarded the league title. The idea of natural justice comes into these arguments. Partisanship and different biases dictating what position you take.   

Those most skilled in the use of rhetoric know the best position to take is to claim the moral high ground. In the biography of Lyndon Johnson, for example, United States Senators such as Richard Russell urged other Southern Senators to moderate their language (for public consumption) and talk about civil rights and  reframe arguments about hating niggers and willing to start another race war before they’d give equal voting rights, equal rights in employment, housing and education. Russell promoted the idea of separate but equal. Claiming the moral high ground makes you look senatorial, while name calling—niggers this and niggers that—makes you sound moronic.

A timeline of the moron’s moron in the Whitehouse gaffes and ad-libs about the corona virus goes unseen or is largely ignored by his supporters who continue to believe he is doing a good job as President, while his detractors highlight not who he is, but what he is.

Ally Mc Coist can claim the moral high ground with his claim that, of course, Celtic should be elected champions, but only after they have played the remaining eight league games. Otherwise they would be given something they have not earned.

We don’t like giving people something they have not earned, unless of course, they’re billionaires like Richard Branson.

The Johnson government has until now had a pretty good run in their handling of the coronavirus. No gaffes, no outright lies, like Trump. The Tory government advices British citizens largely to self-isolate and wash your hands, which is good advice based on the current data. The next stage is shutdown. We’ve already begun that slow progress with schools shutting next week. Police and army clearing the roads and streets and a pass needed to travel.

 Chemist shops in Dalmuir, for example, are also busy as people stock up on prescription medicines creating a backlog and longer waiting times. Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty with supermarket shelves clearing. My advice based on a dystopian novel I began to write years ago (but abandoned, like so many others) was don’t begin to panic buy until others begin to panic buy. I noticed the shelves in Asda are clear of most tins as people stock up. My thoughts weren’t how many more tins of beans I could squeeze into my rucksack, but what would happen to the foodbanks?

All of that stuff we don’t really care about because it’s not us, hits us. You can’t eat money. The vast majority of folk that start their day in debt and finish their day in even more debt (the working class) are separate but equal. People that rely on foodbanks have nowhere to go. An economic model based on the assumption that charity for the poor is a good thing, has quickly pulled the ladder up as wages go unpaid and business such a local pubs in Dalmuir go out of business, schools shut and nobody can offer childcare (while nurseries try to claim money for a service they haven’t provided—good luck with that). The sham of sickness pay coming under the Universal Credit government umbrella and  taking four to six weeks to process suddenly hits a lot of people hard, especially when they queue lengthens and they can’t get somebody to talk to on the phone. You find out the hard way that some people are expected to live on less than £100 per week and pay for everything else at the same time. Those people you looked down on have now become you. Usually that sort of thing doesn’t happen until you’ve got cancer or some other major illness and divisions of class and gender, for example, largely disappear.

Them has become us. Let’s claim the moral high ground. I deserve much more than they do—(fill in your reasoning here and apply for the next space on the defunct Jeremy Kyle show). It’s survival of the fittest.  As supermarket shelves clear and we fight over toilet rolls and steal hand wash from hospitals, we’re in the like it or lump it school and the harsh lesson I was taught as a teenager. Imagine, for a minute, you’re an immigrant, waiting to gain entry to another country. That’s not difficult for me as a writer. Perhaps it’s too much of a stretch of your imagination. Well imagine your mum or dad, being turned away from the hospital, as doctors and nurses practice triage on life support as they are doing in parts of Italy. Imagine your child dying? Or your child motherless? These are no longer storylines for would-be writers. These are the harsh realities of who lives and who dies. Who claims the moral high ground on the best of the terrible choices available?

Ask yourself is that fair?

Natural justice isn’t about legality, but morality. It’s about exposing lies and making the best of bad choices. The coronavirus has exposed the fault lines in our society. The lie of trickle-down economics that takes money from the poor and gives it to rich billionaires like Branson or Trump.  Let’s hope it changes it for the better in the same way the Beveridge Report changed post-war Britain. I’m pessimistic, but I’m still alive, so there’s hope. But if I needed intensive care and there was somebody younger than me that needed urgent healthcare and they had children, I’d like to think it is only right and proper they get first dibs, no matter how much, or how little money they had. That’s my version of natural justice. That was the kind of idea we had when we set up the National Health Service. But it also extends beyond healthcare, to life in general and how we organise our society. Natural justice demands much more of our society. Ironically, the coronavirus is a practice run for when global warming begins to bite.  

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I shared a post on Facebook (Fakebook) from Harriet Goodale which just about sums up how I feel.

I can’t wait to shut up about what an absolute fucking abomination the Tory party is. If you’re still voting conservative, now fully aware of the consequences, I concede defeat. Congratulations, you’re a prize cunt. Four million destitute children with empty bellies salute you. Have fun remortgaging your house when your appendix bursts. I hope they put us all in labour camps so I can find you in the gruel queue and stamp on your foot.

Reading about Boris Johnson’s victory is depressing, the fake humility and the promises, like any new football manager to turn things around. He’s a winner and we’ll be winners too. Trust him.

Johnson has got that bit of leeway now, results might not go his way initially, but it’s a new project. New Conservatism with big spending plans. When Brexit is dealt with he’ll get back to those other things he plans to fix. It’s a matter of faith.

Perhaps the most depressing thing I read was an interview with a homeless man living on the steets. He said he wasn’t registered to vote, but if he did, he’d have voted Tory. If I’d have put a £1 in his cap I’d have taken it back and taken another fiver or whatever he’d collected. I’ve faith in that’s what the Tories do. Take from the poor to give to the rich.

When things start going wrong, as they will very quickly, are indeed happening at this very moment, when the grace period of Johnson’s government is over and they revert to type, then we know what type they are.

Johnson is wooden and hollow, and his lies are Pinocchio in disguise. Does anybody really believe, for example,  that when Britain are locked out of the block of the richest trading nations, the monopoly on healthcare we call the National Health Service won’t be on the table quicker than you can say wooden nose?

Noam Chomsky tells us the standard technique of privatisation, defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry. You hand our NHS over to private capital. You hand the United Kingdom over to Boris Johnson and his ilk. He talks about Brexit. How he’ll pull it out of the bag, ready cooked. Results might go against him, but he’s one of us. He’s doing it for us.

The underfunded NHS is low hanging fruit. Perfect for rich fund managers to pick up as a bargain. The infrastructure is already in place. Borrow money cheap and buy. Economic rent can be paid as dividends to the already rich and increased every year.  Look for example at the £400 million profit to Richard Branson for not running Virgin trains very well. Or any of the privatised water companies, not investing in infrastructure but paying huge dividends to their already wealthy shareholders. Not only is privatisation costly it doesn’t work any more effectively than publicly funded corporations.

Deregulation, of course, means no regulation. If we look for example at Ted Genoways The Chain: Farm, Factory and the Fate of Our Food we see what it means is animals, including the human animal, are ever moveable replacement parts where profit is the only thing that counts. Land is degraded and runoff shit poisons rivers and streams. There’s a metaphor for the relationship between capital and labour.

External costs, land deregulation, water and air pollution are prices paid by the majority. Our problem isn’t just chlorinated chicken and degraded beef that will inevitably follow cheaper food, but fishing and farming in Britain being unable to compete and also locked out of EEC food markets. Our ongoing trading deficit with other nations becomes even wider.  The biggest external cost of all is global warming. The Third World War against climate change has begun and we are feeding that fire.   

Deregulation, of course, also gave us the 2008 banking crisis. The weapons of mass destruction were bonds, ostensibly backed by governments. Government money bailed out bankers, taxpayers money made the rich richer. But it also, ironically, provided an alibi for the Laurel and Hardy of British politics, Cameron and Osborne to cut back on public spending. The same promise of public spending that Johnson promises to put on hold and spend big.     

We live in an apartheid state, but it’s not the colour of our skin that matters (although if you’re classified as non-white it might not feel that way) it’s class. If you’re working class you know what to expect. If you’re comfortable, you can look away and smirk at Boris’s foibles. We lost the election, but more importantly we’ve lost the propaganda war.   Harriet Goodale gets it pretty much right. That’s what I call righteous anger.