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Observations on coronavirus, politics and world events

A wise person would probably steer clear of commenting on politics.

31st May 2020

Chinese Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic UK weekly update

For Malvern Seniors

Requesting a test

You should book a test if you feel unwell with COVID symptoms. Information about how to obtain a test can be found on the NHS website. Follow this link:

https://www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

In case of difficulty you can phone the Coronavirus contact centre by dialling 119.

General

The sunny dry spell has continued and the met office says the May sunshine has been the highest since records began. Farmers are now having to deal with drought, following floods earlier in the year, whilst those locked down at home have begun flooding to parks, the countryside and beaches. Despite warnings, small groups of youngsters have gathered locally at Gullet quarry.

This has been a week of two halves, beginning with press hysteria about the movements of the PMs special adviser and then more balanced speculation about easing of the lockdown.

The daily number of deaths from Coronavirus has continued to fall across the country, whilst the number of new cases reported falls more slowly.

The number of future cases can be expected to wax and wane as the lockdown is eased. The big question is will NHS Test and Trace work sufficiently well to prevent return to an exponential growth in cases and a second spike? Only time will tell.

The main things to remember are to continue to maintain physical distancing of 2 metres, not to touch your face, and wash your hands thoroughly after receiving goods and when you get home. And of course to self isolate if unfortunately you feel unwell with COVID symptoms

Those going out might want to take some 70% alcohol based hand gel with them which is beginning to reappear in the shops, and also consider wearing a 'face covering' if appropriate.

Review of local cases

This ought to be a good time to review the progress of the epidemic through Worcestershire now that the first peak in the epidemic has passed; except that is not easy because the UK government has kept the public in the dark, possibly because of the General Data Protection Regulations, unlike in Singapore where such data is in the public domain.

Hearsay has it that our milkman is off sick with Coronavirus, a family on the outskirts of Barnards Green was infected, eight people have died in a nursing home in Barnards Green and nurse Julie Omar died, who worked at Redditch hospital. Nearby, councillor Tom Wells has reported cases and deaths in the parish of Powick. Have you heard of other cases?

The Office of National Statistics has reported a total of 42 deaths in the Malvern Hills district due to COVID in the period up to 15th May. Of these 2 have been at home, 18 in care homes and 21 in hospital. The first death was reported in late March and the peak was reached in the middle of April. No deaths were reported in week ending 8th May.

Click for national ONS data on deaths (Excel spreadsheet)

Currently there are few new cases in Worcestershire and one must hope further spread will be mopped up by the new NHS Test and Trace organisation.

It is however slightly disturbing that the number of deaths (42)reported by the ONS suggests a death rate of 30% as the number of confirmed COVID cases in the Malvern Hills is only reported as 136. If the death rate were only one percent, as the government suggested at the start of the outbreak, then possibly there could actually have been as many as 4,000 unrecorded cases eg self isolating and recovering at home, and those showing no symptoms.

Numbers

The cumulative number of UK cases confirmed by the NHS rose today to 274,762 and the number of deaths to 38,489; of these there have been 1,379 cases and about 281 deaths in Worcestershire, and 136 cases in the Malvern Hills district Lower Tier Local Authority (LTLA), which stretches from Upton upon Severn in the south towards Stourport in the north.

There has been some tinkering with the Worcestershire figures, which went down by 9 on 30th May and the cumulative Malvern Hills figure which had been up to 138 and today fell to 136. Possibly this is due to cases and deaths in the county not being counted if it turns out the person's main place of residence was elsewhere.

Click this link to view UK government Coronavirus Dashboard

Trends suggest that during the next seven days the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases reported on the Coronavirus Dashboard can be expected to rise towards 288,000 and the number of deaths towards 40,000.

Advice

Many younger people will now be taking the opportunity to meet friends and relatives outdoors while ideally maintaining a physical separation of 2 metres. However our advice for the elderly and vulnerable remains the same - best mostly stay at home and continue with physical distancing until at least 30th June. Yesterday the government advised that the very vulnerable can go outdoors once a day with one other person - if they want to.

What happens next

The public can now travel any distance for exercise, and from 1st June primary schools can partially reopen. Elite racing, golf, tennis and football can commence behind closed doors, so expect the opportunity to watch competitions at home on TV. Groups of up to six people from different households can meet outdoors provided individuals maintain a separation of 2 metres.

Dentists can open from 8th June, but it sounds as though, for the time being, some may prefer extracting to repairing teeth to avoid aerosols. Hairdressers are unlikely to reopen before July, so you might need to ask your partner for a trim. Still no mention of public toilets reopening so don't go too far from home!

Click for full government Coronavirus guidance and support

The number of new UK cases of Coronavirus, confirmed by a test, is currently about 2,000 cases a day, although sampling suggests the actual number could be nearer 8,000. Easing of the lockdown is potentially going to increase the spread of the disease, but it is to be hoped this will be counteracted by NHS Test, Trace, and isolation. Let's also hope treatments and a vaccine are not far behind!

Take care, stay safe and keep washing your hands.

24th May 2020

Chinese Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic UK weekly update

For Malvern Seniors

Physical distancing continues but the Malvern Hills car parks, B&Q and Guarlford Nursery have reopened. Flour is said to be available from the Morrison's bakery counter.

Schools are investigating reopening in a limited fashion from 1st June for reception and years 1 and 6. Year 10 and 12 secondary pupils may begin going back from 15th June. The government says it will say more about non essential shops and social venues next week. We are keen to know when hairdressers will reopen!

Last Saturday left wing newspapers published a 'News of the World' style scoop about Dominic Cummings and his family self isolating in Durham 2 months ago creating a storm of public comment and speculation in the mainstream media. This was clearly a well crafted attempt to score political points and not done for the common good.

Would it not be better for the BBC and other mainstream media to use their resources to help trace the four thousand or so remaining carriers of the Coronavirus, rather than hounding Dominic Cummings for looking after his family.

 

Numbers

The cumulative number of UK cases confirmed by the NHS rose today to 259,995 and the number of deaths to 36,793; of these there have been 1,369 cases and about 270 deaths in Worcestershire, and 137 cases in the Malvern Hills district Lower Tier Local Authority (LTLA), which stretches from Upton upon Severn in the south towards Stourport in the north.

On 20th May the government adjusted the cumulative number of confirmed UK cases down by 2,997.

Only 2 new cases were reported in the Malvern Hills district this week.

Click this link to view UK government Coronavirus Dashboard

Trends suggest that during the next seven days the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases reported on the Coronavirus Dashboard could rise towards 275,000 and the number of deaths towards 38,500.

With so few new cases at present being reported in the Malvern Hills we envisage the risk of catching Coronavirus is low especially for those continuing to self isolate.

However our advice for the elderly and vulnerable remains the same - best stay at home and continue with physical distancing for the time being.

17th May 2020

Chinese Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic UK weekly update

For Malvern Seniors

Following the easing of the lockdown in England, announced last Sunday, there has been a resurgence of tribal politics. The Labour party has re-commenced taking pot shots at the government, the Welsh are setting up police road blocks to prevent the English exercising in Wales, and Nicola Sturgeon who was the first to talk about easing the lockdown, at a press briefing, has done a 'U' turn.

According to the press, the government's proposal to plan for a partial return to school in June has met stiff resistance from some teachers, the NASWUT and BMA. Others suggest that as COVID-19 could be circulating for years, ways must be found for living with the virus, and dragging heels postpones the inevitable.

The number of cases reported in Australia which has half the population of England is 7,045 and the number of deaths just 98. Many of these cases have been linked to infected passengers who disembarked from the cruise ship Ruby Princess at Sydney without checks.

Numbers

The cumulative number of UK cases confirmed by the NHS rose today to 243,303 and the number of deaths to 34,636; of these there have been 1,321 cases and about 255 deaths in Worcestershire, and 135 cases in the Malvern Hills district Lower Tier Local Authority (LTLA), which stretches from Upton upon Severn in the south towards Stourport in the north.

The daily number of new cases continues to slow. Only 2 new cases were reported in the Malvern Hills district this week.

Click this link to view UK government Coronavirus Dashboard

Trends suggest that during the next seven days the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases reported on the Coronavirus Dashboard could rise towards 270,000 and the number of deaths towards 37,000.

With so few new cases at present being reported in the Malvern Hills we envisage the risk of catching Coronavirus is low especially for those continuing to self isolate.

That said, hearsay is that during the eight week lockdown someone delivering to our door has been infected, as was a family in the Barnards Green area, and there have been cases at Powick; so our advice for the elderly and vulnerable remains the same - best stay at home and continue with physical distancing for the time being.

10th May 2020

Chinese Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic UK weekly update

For Malvern Seniors

This and that

It's been a quiet week in lockdown at home disturbed only by press speculation about how the lockdown might be eased.

We listened to a U3A talk about 'The Phoney War' using Zoom, Rev Gary held virtual church using Zoom, and we had phone and Skype calls with family.

Commentator Dr Stephanie Hare spoke at great length on the Rachel Burden show on Radio 5 about how the new NHS app being piloted in the Isle of Wight was unlikely to be effective. Would it not have been better for the BBC to have encouraged the take up of the new app rather than slag it off?

Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College had to resign from the government's Scientific Advisory Group (SAGE), after a visit from his girlfriend breaking the 'curfew'. The press loves a sex scandal - we wondered whether the press staked him out or his neighbours sneaked on him?

On the front page of Tuesday's Times newspaper was the photo of a distinguished bearded gentleman. Nice blue shirt we thought; and then reading down discovered he was explorer Robin Hanbury-Tenison who was able to return home for his 84th birthday after spending 49 days in hospital and being given only a 20% chance of recovery from COVID-19. What wonderful care the NHS must provide.

On Sir Patrick Vallance's Twitter we found a link to members of SAGE and advisory papers prepared by the committee:-

Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE)

Plenty of reading there for those wanting to take the plunge.

On John Menaude's Australian Blog about political affairs we read a two part article by Dr Jeff Kildea about the 1919 outbreak of Spanish Flu in Australia, and it was interesting to find how similar is the government's response today.

At the time Professor David Welsh of the University of Sydney wrote:

It is the irony of the situation that, whatever happens, all who have taken a part in trying to control the epidemic will be blamed. If they cannot be blamed for failure, they will be blamed for the means they have taken to achieve success.

No doubt this will be as true today as it was in 1919.

Numbers

The cumulative number of cases confirmed by the NHS rose today to 219,183 and the number of deaths to 31,855; of these there have been 1,260 cases and about 236 deaths in Worcestershire, and 133 cases in the Malvern Hills district Lower Tier Local Authority (LTLA), which stretches from Upton upon Severn in the south towards Stourport in the north.

There has only been a handful of new cases in the Malvern Hills district.

From the 29th April the figures have included the deaths of those confirmed COVID-19 positive in the home, hospices and care homes, in addition to those reported by the NHS.

Click this link to view UK government Coronavirus Dashboard

The daily number of new cases of Coronavirus has not been falling greatly, but the impression we get from the government's daily briefings is that this is because the enlarged testing programme is now picking up cases outside hospitals which would previously have gone unreported.

Trends suggest that during the next seven days the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases reported on the Coronavirus Dashboard will rise towards 255,000 and the number of deaths towards 35,000.

As the government eases the lockdown there is likely to be an increase in cases with an associated steady increase in the cumulative number of deaths; so we should not be surprised if the number of deaths attributed to Coronavirus rises from 35,000 towards 70,000 during the next six months.

Few new cases are at present being reported in the Malvern Hills so we envisage the risk of catching Coronavirus is low especially for those continuing to self isolate.

What next

At his press briefing on Sunday the PM set out a road map giving a sense of the way ahead - this has little impact on Seniors.

There was talk of setting up a COVID Alert System run by a new Joint Biosecurity Centre, and COVID Alert Levels, using test and trace to pinpoint and deal with flare ups, for example in care homes. From Wednesday no time limit on exercise periods eg allowing sitting in the sunshine to read a book and driving to locations. Some shops could reopen in June, and hospitality businesses in July subject to physical distancing. Some children could go back to school in June eg years 1 and 6. People should be encouraged to go back to work, where safe, avoiding public transport if possible.

Click to read PM briefing on 10th May 2020

Advice

Advice for the elderly and vulnerable remains the same - stay at home and continue with physical distancing.

3rd May 2020

Chinese Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic UK weekly update

For Malvern Seniors

The number of Coronavirus cases has begun to fall slowly and journalists are turning their attention to what happens next. It sounds as though the government will announce their plan for the gradual easing of the present restrictions, in a week's time. This is likely to be in a number of stages.

Talk about flood defences, BREXIT, the high speed rail project HS2 and the third runway at Heathrow has gone to the back of the queue.

This week the nations' morale was significantly raised by one man, veteran Captain Tom Moore who raised £32M for NHS charities and celebrated his 100th birthday. Well done Captain Tom!

Number of coronavirus cases

The cumulative number of cases confirmed by the NHS rose today to 186,599 and the number of deaths to 28,446; of these there have been 1,164 cases and about 230 deaths in Worcestershire. From the 29th April the figures have included the deaths of those confirmed COVID-19 positive in the home, hospices and care homes, in addition to those reported by the NHS, which has inflated the previously announced cumulative number of deaths by about 25%.

Click this link to view UK government Coronavirus Dashboard

The government has acknowledged that the daily death rate has peaked and begun to fall slowly. We estimate that during the next seven days the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases reported by the NHS will rise towards 220,000 and the number of deaths towards 33,000.

Few new cases are now being reported in Worcestershire so we envisage the risk of catching Coronavirus is low for those self isolating and following the rules in the Malvern Hills district.

What happens next

We have no idea but are expecting the PM to give a heads up in a week's time. The disease is now widespread across the world so is not going to go away and currently there is no vaccine or cure. So it can be expected that over the next 18 months the embers in the population will flare up into small outbreaks as restrictions are eased, which the government hopes to dampen down by testing and contact tracing. The cumulative number of deaths due to COVID-19 can be expected to continue rising.

Contact tracing will involve a number of tools - the existing Kings College mobile phone app already allows us to report symptoms of COVID-19, and the NHS app intended to warn those who have been close to a person later identified as COVID-19 positive should become available later in May. Allied to this contact tracing teams are being set up by government and we wonder to what extent they will be embedded with local GPs and public health teams.

We can help by self isolating to protect ourselves and others, especially if we feel unwell.

For those going out, physical distancing will need to be maintained, and face coverings ideally used where this is not possible for example when travelling by tube or bus.

Large gatherings are likely to be banned for the foreseeable future such as at theatres, pubs, restaurants, horse racing, football, rugby and tennis.

International air travel is likely to remain difficult, so there will be few if any holidays abroad this year, and people entering the UK may be quarantined.

Travelling should be reduced to minimise spread of the virus and replaced where possible by virtual meetings using for example Zoom, Google Meetings or Microsoft Teams. Remember how foot and mouth was spread by sheep being taken on 'holiday'.

It is difficult to see how the return to school can be safely managed, especially in relation to boarding schools.

Quotient (Edinburgh) and Roche (Switzerland) have announced an accurate test for COVID-19 antibodies. Unlike the home testing kits which are said to be unreliable, this involves a sample of blood being taken by a nurse and processed by a laboratory. If affordable this should enable further confirmation of who has had the disease, and monitoring of these indviduals may indicate to what extent immunity is retained and whether it is safe for them to return to work.

Diversions

We were interested to see an American channel c-span.org being streamed on the Parliament channel on Sunday with a phone in about Coronavirus. You will find a lot of commentaries about US affairs to read.

The U3A Military History Group has circulated details of a Virtual commemoration of the end of WWII 75 years ago sponsored by the National Army Museum 7th - 9th May. There is a lot to explore, here is the link:-

http://www.nam.ac.uk/whats-on/virtual-ve-day-75-festival

Ancestry is offering free access to their UK records until 10th May.

 

26th April 2020

Chinese Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic UK weekly update

For Malvern Seniors

We had hoped as the figures had reached a plateau the daily number of deaths and new cases would begin falling by now, but that is not yet the case. This suggests to us that currently each infected person is infecting approximately one other person (R=1), and we wonder if the present lockdown is possibly not strong enough to stamp out the disease - for example due to a minority breaking the rules.

Politicians are now being pressed by businesses and journalists to relax the lockdown which places them in an impossible situation - they could strengthen the lockdown and risk seriously damaging the economy, continue with current measures for which there is little appetite, or begin easing the lockdown gradually, whilst maintaining physical distancing and monitoring the impact on the NHS very carefully so as to prevent a second wave of infection.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is returning from sick leave on Monday 27th April and we wonder if he could possibly order an easing of the UK lockdown from mid May.

Meanwhile in Singapore, which had been doing well, the lockdown has been extended from 4th May to the 1st June, and a strict lockdown continues in neighbouring Malaysia.

Number of cases

The cumulative number of cases confirmed by the NHS rose today to 152,840 and the number of deaths to 20,732. Of these there have been 1,035 cases and about 192 deaths in Worcestershire.

Click this link to view UK government Coronavirus Dashboard

Information about cases in the Malvern Hills area is sparse but the Malvern Gazette has attempted an analysis based on ONS figures to 10th April:-

click for Malvern Gazette report on COVID-19 cases

Although some cases have been reported locally we envisage the risk is still relatively low for those self isolating and following the rules in the Malvern Hills district.

Our eldest son who lives in Scotland reported shopping in the pharmacy in Biggar, which has a one person at a time rule as in Barnards Green, when a delivery driver pushed by coughing and spluttering carrying a pile of boxes - apparently the 'rules' did not apply to him. Perhaps, as the mayor of London suggests, there is a case for those out and about to wear face masks in order to provide a measure of protection in such instances.

Although the increase in the daily death rate has flattened and can be expected to fall slowly over the next weeks, we estimate that during the next seven days the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases reported by the NHS will rise towards 190,000 and the number of deaths towards 26,000.

These figures exclude cases in the home, hospices and care homes.

Advice

Advice for the elderly and vulnerable remains the same - continue with physical distancing for the time being. Don't take silly risks; there is no cure and nationally to date 1 in 7 patients confirmed COVID-19 positive by the NHS are dying. That said there is no point worrying. We hope you are finding plenty to do, still have items unticked on your job list, and have arrangements in place for food and prescriptions.

Take care and stay safe.

19th April 2020

Chinese Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic UK update

For Malvern Seniors

A few days ago a relative said that she had seen her 'nephew' Professor Martin McKee on the BBC World News. He is a medical man and comments on the Coronavirus epidemic on his Twitter feed. On the 18th April he included a link to the sciencemag.org website where there is an article about the effects of Coronavirus on the human body. If you thought that Chinese Coronavirus was a mild illness then this will change your mind.

The government has announced that the lockdown is to be continued for at least another three weeks. After that a cautious and phased return to work may be possible.

On BBC Radio 5 mention has been made of a phone app for reporting and tracking the spread of the virus, and identifying hot spots. That sounds a wonderful idea and we predict it will become a useful tool in the management of the Coronavirus epidemic.

Click this link to find out how to get the Covid Tracker App

An NHS app, which uses Bluetooth technology, is also being developed to warn people who may have been in contact with a confirmed case of Coronavirus.

Both these apps may help significantly with the management of the disease during emergence from lockdown as has helped in South Korea.

Click this link to read an Australian article describing how South Korea has managed the COVID-19 epidemic.

Number of cases

The cumulative number of cases confirmed by the NHS rose today to 120,067 and the number of deaths to 16,060. Of these there have been 845 cases and 158 deaths in Worcestershire.

Click this link to view UK government Coronavirus Dashboard

The increase in the daily death rate has flattened and can be expected to fall over the next couple of weeks. We forecast that during the next week the cumulative number of UK cases reported by the NHS will rise towards 160,000 and the number of deaths towards 20,000.

These figures exclude cases in the home, hospices and care homes.

The eventual grand total of the number of deaths attributed to the current COVID-19 epidemic could well be comparable to the number of civilians killed in WWII which was 70,000; the daily death rate is currently 50% above the 'natural' death rate creating a significant extra workload for mortuaries, undertakers, and cemetery staff.

The press

Journalists are currently turning their attention to spread of the Coronavirus in care homes, shortages of PPE, possible exit strategies, and taking pot shots at the government.

If only they would be more positive and report for example on how the development and roll out of new ventilators is going, exactly where the log jams with PPE are and opportunities for clearing them, and reporting on improvements in testing infrastructure and progress with vaccines.

Advice

Advice for the elderly and vulnerable remains the same - continue with physical distancing for the time being; you must avoid catching this virus at all costs.

An elderly neighbour who has carers coming into her home 3 times a day is in a difficult situation and her safety mainly relies on the carers, who help others, wearing PPE and staying at home if they feel unwell.

Those living in sheltered accommodation can maintain physical distancing by staying in their room and arranging for food to be delivered to their door; knowing they have the option to press a panic button or dial 999 to call for assistance if they feel unwell.

We don't know much about the situation in care homes, but imagine they are all different generally with staff coming in to cook meals, change bedding and assist the infirm. Recent reports of Coronavirus spreading within care homes suggests it is extremely difficult to prevent and control infection in that environment. Prompt testing of 'suspect' staff and patients, and the rapid dispatch of hospital quality PPE to affected car homes ought to help. On the positive side, we have not heard of any cases of COVID-19 in Malvern, apart from 2 deaths at the Malvern Community Hospital, just reported by the Malvern Gazette.

Do tell us if you know different.

Remember, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and can't count from one to ten out loud due to shortness of breath, you should not delay but call your GP, 111 or 999 for advice.

13th April 2020

Chinese Coronavirus epidemic (UK update)

For Malvern Seniors

It does not seem like Easter Bank Holiday Monday, locked down here at home, except for the usual rerun of mediocre movies on Freeview TV. The government Coronavirus briefings at 5 PM are becoming somewhat boring and people are beginning to wonder what the criteria for leaving 'lockdown' will eventually be.

We were very glad to hear the Prime Minister is now out of hospital and convalescing at Chequers after almost falling victim to Coronavirus, and we have enjoyed listening to Dr Chris Smith, who talks a lot of sense, answering questions about Coronavirus on BBC Radio 5.

The cumulative number of cases of Coronavirus reported by the NHS is now 88,621 and the number of deaths 11,329 excluding those who died at home, in hospices and in Care Homes. Of the numbers reported by the NHS, there have been 605 cases in the county of Worcestershire and a couple of days ago the Malvern Gazette reported there had been 88 deaths.

Click for Coronavirus Dashboard

For some reason Worcestershire has been steadily moving up the league table from being one of the least infected rural counties to one of the most. We estimate about 5% of the population of Worcestershire may have been infected but have found no reports of cases, for example by postcode, either in the Malvern Gazette, or published by the Local Authority. We have however heard of one suspected case self isolating at Powick and there has been the sad news of the death of nurse Julie Omar aged 52 years who worked at the Alexandra hospital at Redditch.

The government figures published daily on the web based Coronavirus Dashboard suggests to us the present outbreak may have reached its peak; so the number of daily reported NHS cases and deaths could gradually fall over the next few weeks. Nevertheless it seems likely the cumulative number of cases reported by the NHS will rise towards 120,000 by next Sunday 19th April, and the number of deaths towards 15,000. By this time perhaps only about 5% of the UK population may have been infected, with the remainder remaining vulnerable.

It sounds as though the UK government could continue the lockdown for at least another 3 weeks. After that some phased return to work is possible with emphasis on continued physical distancing, as far as is practicable; however Seniors and the vulnerable ought to consider remaining in lockdown for longer as there could be secondary waves of infection once people begin to mingle.

In Singapore it was business as usual until recently, but people returning to Singapore from holiday have brought Coronavirus with them, and the country is now in LOCKDOWN until May 4th. They call it CIRCUIT BREAKER!

Click for information about Circuit Breaker in Singapore

We remain in very uncertain times and all governments are 'feeling their way'.

5th April 2020

Chinese Coronavirus epidemic (UK update)

Information for Malvern Seniors

The increase in cases continues, but the UK government is taking steps to increase hospital capacity and slow down the spread of the virus by maintaining a LOCKDOWN so while people are experiencing varying degrees of 'cabin fever' there is no need to panic.

The government's plan is working and deaths are much less than they would have been if the virus had been allowed to run wild. However we need to continue to take great care to avoid catching the virus and passing it on to others.

Number of cases

Today the cumulative number of confirmed hospital cases in the UK rose to 47,806 and the number in Worcestershire to 350. Most of these are likely to be patients with acute symptoms and there will be many others with the virus self isolating at home - so the actual number of cases could be perhaps 5 to 10 times the present number of confirmed cases making the percentage of the British population so far infected by the virus about 1%.

The cumulative number of deaths has risen sharply to 4,934 of which the Malvern Gazette reports 45 deaths at hospitals in Worcestershire.

Matt Hancock the Health Minister has returned to work, while the Prime Minister rather worryingly is still suffering from the effects of Coronavirus and has been admitted to hospital this evening. Sir Keir Starmer has been appointed leader of the Labour party replacing Jeremy Corbyn.

Click for Coronavirus Dashboard

Forecast of cases to 12th April

The cumulative number of hospital cases has recently been advancing more slowly, roughly doubling every week so could reach towards 90,000 in a week's time. However it is to be hoped the number of cases will be less than this, the degree depending on how effective the lockdown introduced on the 23rd March has been.

The cumulative number of hospital deaths has been rising more steeply, quadrupling every week, so could reach 20,000 in a weeks time. However if lockdown works we should soon begin to see the daily number of deaths due to Coronavirus plateau and then begin to fall. Deaths outside hospitals, for example in the care sector, are not currently being gathered, but will be reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in due course.

The government says it is too early to give an indication of exactly how Coronavirus will be managed in the months ahead, but we are guessing the present lockdown may continue to towards the end of May.

It is impossible to forecast how fast the virus will spread during the remainder of April; it will first depend on the public continuing to obey the lockdown, despite the sunny weather, and doing our best not to catch or spread the infection to others; secondly the NHS increasing testing in order to keep doctors and nurses in the front line, and help track the spread of the infection across the country; thirdly officials tracing and isolating contacts in order to keep infections down to a tolerable level until a treatment is introduced.

It may become clearer by the end of April how the Coronavirus epidemic can be managed in the UK, and hopefully world wide, in the medium term.

Our thoughts go out to the families of the 'fallen' of the NHS who have died from Coronavirus while treating patients. We did not initially imagine NHS staff would themselves be casualties.

Hospital beds and equipment

The Nightingale field hospital at the Excel Centre in London opened this week and other facilities are being created at Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Harrogate and Glasgow. Matt Hancock said today that the NHS had 9,000 ventilators and additional ventilators would be arriving from a number of sources to increase the total to 18,000. The governments says capacity is increasing faster than the number of cases, so the NHS though stressed should not become overloaded. That said there must be tremendous pressure on those medical staff having to comfort the dying.

Symptoms

We were initially told most people would get only mild symptoms and should recover within 7 days, yet there are many accounts of people having high temperatures, feeling rottten and very weak for up to 2 to 3 weeks after. In more severe cases, after about 7 days, patients can have difficulty breathing and need to be hospitalized.

If you have symptoms and can't count from one to ten out loud due to shortness of breath, you should call your GP for advice.

There is no cure for this virus. Treatment at home is isolation, paracetamol, plenty of fluids and rest. A hospital nurse thinks 'last ditch' intubation with a ventilator to provide extra oxygen to those with pneumonia is currently only saving one person in two.

This does not sound like a mild illness - Seniors should definitely take all reasonable steps to avoid it.

Shopping

During isolation you may want to take advantage of home deliveries by local supermarkets.

 The Waitrose website is back to normal, though stocking a reduced range of products, and priority for home deliveries is now being given to those aged over 70, and the vulnerable. It looks as though delivery slots currently can't be booked more than 10 days ahead and most of those are full, but if none found Seniors are being advised to log on the next day, as new slots are being added daily.

The Morrisons website is still overloaded - you are forced to wait in a queue before being offered a 10 minute window in which to logon.

 ASDA, Sainsbury and Tesco also deliver locally - do tell us whether you have been able to book deliveries with them.

Many shops in Barnards Green are now opening at 10:00 am and Lloyd's Pharmacy is limiting customers to two; possibly one at the Post Office.

For the young and fit, the risk of infection while shopping in large county supermarkets is likely to be low this week. The number of people infected with Coronavirus in Worcestershire is probably no more than 3,500 possibly rising to 8,000 representing about 1% of the county's population.

We assess there is currently a 50% chance there could be one person with Coronavirus in a large supermarket, and if social distancing is observed, as is now being operated for example at Waitrose, and you don't touch your face and wash your hands thoroughly on getting home, the likelyhood of being infected is small. The hazard is likely to be from an individual who doesn't observe the signs, coughs over others and may leave virus on either a shopping trolley handle or checkout key pad.

Seeking help

Worcestershire Count Council has a Here 2 Help web page where you can enter your details to ask for help:

http://www.worcestershire.gov.uk/here2help

scroll down the page a little and click on the ‘I need help’ button. From here you will be able to enter your details.

You can track Coronavirus cases and obtain further advice from the government Coronavirus Dashboard.

Please do let us, or the Malvern Gazette, know if you hear of Coronavirus cases locally.

Take care, hunker down, and stay safe

29th March 2020

Chinese Coronavirus epidemic (UK update)

Information for Malvern Seniors

The expected surge in cases is now apparent, but the UK government is actively taking steps to increase hospital capacity and slow down the spread of the virus by implementing a LOCKDOWN so while people are experiencing varying degrees of inconvenience there is no need to panic.

The government's plan seems to be working and deaths to date are much less than they would have been if the virus had been allowed to run wild.

Worcestershire is a rural county and the infection rate is thankfully much lower than in London where there is greater person to person contact.

That said we need to continue to take great care to avoid catching the virus and passing it on to others.

Number of cases

Today the cumulative number of confirmed cases in the UK rose to 19,522 and the number in Worcestershire to 126. Most of these are likely to be patients with acute symptoms who have gone to hospital and there will be others with the virus self isolating at home. So the actual number of cases could be perhaps 5 times the present number of confirmed cases. Even so, the percentage of the British population infected by the virus is still very small.

We are slightly disappointed the local Health Authority is not publishing where cases are occuring, but possibly this is to prevent panic.

The cumulative number of deaths has risen by 209 to 1,228 of which there has been just one death announced at Redditch and a second at Worcester.

A couple of days ago it was revealed that the Prime Minister and Health Secretary had both been tested positive for Coronavirus, as had Prince Charles. Unexpectedly the chance of stepping up the succession ladder has significantly increased! Some ask, jokingly, who is the Designated Survivor?

Forecast of cases

According to the government's Coronavirus Dashboard there has been an exponential increase in cases since early March, but in the last week we detect a slowing in the rate of acceleration, possibly due to the social distancing measures introduced on 16th March, and a further slowing can be expected due to the LOCKDOWN introduced on 23rd March. However we are still predicting the number of confirmed and unreported cases in the UK could reach 100,000 by the end of March.

We extrapolate that the cumulative number of deaths could increase by almost a factor of four over the next week towards 4,000 but if LOCKDOWN works we should soon after begin to see the daily number of deaths due to Coronavirus decreasing.

It is at present impossible to forecast how the virus will spread during the remainder of April; it is firstly dependant on us, the public, being responsible and doing our best not to catch or spread the infection to others; secondly the NHS increasing testing in order to keep doctors and nurses in the front line, and help track the spread of the infection across the country; thirdly officials tracing and isolating contacts in order to keep infections down to a tolerable level until a vaccine is introduced.

It should become much clearer during April how the Coronavirus epidemic is likely to progress. This Battle of Britain is likely to be fought over Easter with the NHS supported by the army in the front line. Supermarket checkout operators should not be forgotten, many of whom would rather be at home with their families rather than facing sometimes abusive and possibly infectious customers.

Our thoughts go out to the families of Dr Adil El Tayar aged 64 who died of Coronavirus on 25th March and Dr El Hawrani aged 55 whose death was reported today.

Hospital beds and equipment

The government has bought in beds from the private sector, ordered more ventilators and test kits, and the army is setting up a field hospital at the Excel centre in London for 500 intensive care beds initially, expandable to 4,000 and similar field hospitals are being considered at the Birmingham NEC, Manchester Central Convention Centre and the Cardiff Principality Stadium. Meanwhile beds have been reorganised in NHS hospitals to better cope with the expected surge in cases in April.

The BBC reports a temporary mortuary for 1,500 bodies is being set up at Birmingham Airport which will be part of a nationwide network capable of dealing with a 'reasonable' worst case scenario.

It has been suggested, with a favourable wind, the national UK death toll due to Coronavirus could possibly be as few as 20,000 of which Worcestershire as a small percentage of the UK population might suffer up to 200 deaths.

Another commentator has suggested that the probability of dying from Coronavirus is little different from the probability of dying from natural causes in that age group during the year - the inconvenience being people in the worst case might die within a couple of weeks instead of spread over 12 months.

Retired doctors and nurses are being invited back to help during the crisis and 750,000 members of the public have applied to be NHS voluntary responders.

Symptoms

We were initially told most people would get only mild symptoms and should recover within 7 days, yet there are many accounts of people having high temperatures, feeling rottten and very weak for up to 2 to 3 weeks after. In more severe cases, after about 7 days, patients can have difficulty breathing and need to be hospitalized.

If you have symptoms and can't count from one to ten out loud due to shortness of breath, you should call your GP for advice.

There is no cure for this virus. Treatment at home is isolation, paracetamol, plenty of fluids and rest. A hospital nurse thinks intubation with a ventilator to provide extra oxygen to those with pneumonia is only saving one person in two.

This does not sound like a mild illness - Seniors should definitely take all reasonable steps to avoid it.

Shopping

A week ago social distancing was not being observed in supermarkets, stocks were running low due to panic buying, and home delivery slots ran out.

A neigbour told us the situation is better this week, and staples can of course be bought at smaller shops, such as in Barnards Green.

The Waitrose website was back to normal last night, and giving some priority for home deliveries to those aged over 70, but the Morrisons website was overloaded.  ASDA, Sainsbury and Tesco also deliver locally.

As mentioned above, special measures are being introduced by the government to supply those the NHS has notified as being at especially high risk; possibly individuals in this category will be marked as a priority for home deliveries on supermarket databases.

Sadly there are reports of people abusing shop staff when they cannot get what they want. We can support them by showing kindness.

For the young and fit, the risk of infection while shopping in supermarkets is still relatively low. We assess there is currently a 10% chance that there could be one person in a large supermarket who has or has had Coronavirus, and if social distancing is observed, as is now being operated for example at Waitrose, and you wash your hands thoroughly on getting home, the risk of being infected is small. The greatest risk is likely to come from an individual who doesn't observe the signs, coughs over others and may leave virus on a shopping trolley handle and checkout key pad.

Help and advice

In some areas neighbours are getting together to support those with special needs and popping notes through letter boxes.

Worcestershire Count Council has a Here 2 Help web page where you can enter your details to ask for help:

http://www.worcestershire.gov.uk/here2help

scroll down the page a little and click on the ‘I need help’ button. From here you will be able to enter your details.

You can track Coronavirus cases and obtain further advice from the government Coronavirus dashboard.

Fitness

After those cloudy wet days of winter we have enjoyed getting out in the garden in the Spring sunshine. Many others have passed our gate enjoying a walk round the block with their dog.

We were entertained by Mr Motivator on Radio 5 the other day and later listened to a young fitness coach Jo Wickes who would appeal to families with young children - Google for his Youtube video.

A doctor said on TV that regular exercise should help boost the immune system.

Sadly most dentists, opticians and shops have closed down making it difficult for example to buy materials for DIY projects and plants for the garden.

Please do let us, or the Malvern Gazette, know if you hear of Coronavirus cases locally.

Take care and stay safe

22nd March 2020

Chinese Coronavirus epidemic (UK update)

Social distancing measures were introduced on 16th March causing bars, pubs, cinemas and the like to close down and on 20th March schools were closed 2 weeks before the end of term. A spate of panic buying has left supermarket shelves empty and supermarket home delivery slots have run out.

Today the confirmed number of UK Coronavirus cases has risen to 5,683 of which 7 are reported in Herefordshire and 19 in Worcestershire. The cumulative number of deaths has risen to 281, which is well below the annual number of deaths from other causes of 615,000.

The government's policy is now to use 'social distancing' to slow down the escalating rate of infection; in addition 1.5 million especially vulnerable people are being contacted and recommended to hunker down and go into isolation for a period of at least 12 weeks.

The purpose is to reduce the rate at which seriously ill patients arrive at hospital to a manageable level. The distressing images of patients gasping for breath in an Italian hospital powerfully indicate how serious the disease can be for some.

These 'social distancing' measures will increase unemployment and the government has put in place an aid package. An emerging worldwide ban on air travel could put many airlines out of business. Stock markets worldwide are depressed.

So what does this mean for the elderly in Malvern?

Vulnerable individuals will be contacted by the NHS and advised to isolate themselves at home for a period of 12 weeks. The government will be offering help with obtaining food and prescriptions.

Healthy over 70s should likewise isolate themselves, but can go out for walks and mix with a few others subject to maintaining a distance of two metres.

Expect doctors to stop walk in surgeries and offer consultations over the phone.

Supermarkets have suggested giving priority to the elderly and their carers as follows:

Waitrose: 1st hour after opening

M&S: Monday and Thursday 1st hour

Morrisons: no known special arrangement

Tesco (Worcester): Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 1st hour

You would have to be up early to take advantage of this!

Home delivery slots are currently very hard to come by, but try ASDA, Morrisons, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose.

Hopefully panic buying will cease in a week or two and the supermarkets will increase home delivery slots.

Exit strategy

You may be wondering when the Coronavirus epidemic is going to end, but nobody seems to know.

If it is assumed the NHS would not be able to cope with cases leading to more than 400 deaths a day, and a 1% death rate, that gives a maximum capacity of 40,000 new cases per day; even at that very high rate it could take 4 years for the whole of the UK population to be affected. If social distancing were to reduce the rate of infection drastically, it is just possible that with better testing and contact tracing the epidemic might start to be brought under control in 3 months time, as in China. However relaxing the control measures early could lead to further outbreaks amongst remaining susceptible individuals, until a vaccine becomes widely available.

We must hope that the situation begins to ease by the summer, whilst being prepared for it to last a little longer.

Here are some links to further information:

Link to UK Government Coronavirus page

Link to Coronavirus Dashboard for number of cases in UK

Link to BBC News Coronavirus explainers page

Link to Scottish Government website

A new Battle of Britain has begun; the enemy is unseen and we are beginning to enter the thick of it; it may yet be a close run thing.

15th March 2020

Chinese Coronavirus epidemic (UK update)

Events are beginning to move more rapidly with lockdowns in Italy, Spain and France, and travel bans and quarantine restrictions introduced restricting movement within and between countries such as the USA and Australia.

Today the number of cumulative UK cases reported by Public Health England has risen to 1,372 of which 35 people have died. In comparison Italy has had about 24,000 cases and 1,800 deaths. Though this is a big difference, the UK is possibly lagging behind Italy by just 14 days.

We are now estimating that the cumulative number of UK cases, both recorded and unrecorded, could be as high as 100,000 (0.2% of the UK population) by the end of March, and possibly even as high as 10 million (16% of the UK) by the end of April 2020, but control measures taken by the public could lower these numbers significantly.

We estimate the number of people infected per day could reach its peak between the end of April and mid May.

The Health Minister, Matt Hancock, said on Sky TV this morning that the most significant control measures were:

  • To wash hands thoroughly

  • Individuals with a fever and persistent cough should isolate themselves for 7 days

  • At risk people over 70 and those with underlying health conditions should isolate themselves during the peak of the epidemic which could last for up to 4 months - starting from a date yet to be announced.

Where contact with others is unavoidable distancing  by 2 metres from others has been suggested.

The minister went on to say that the government would be announcing new control measures next Tuesday to be enacted on Thursday. Possible measures could include banning large gatherings and advice on closing schools.

The risk in Malvern currently  remains low with 2 reported cases in Worcestershire and  1 in Herefordshire.

We recommend the elderly, those with underlying health risk conditions, and care homes should prepare plans for isolating themselves from early April or as otherwise advised by the government.

Think about shopping, cash, dealing with doctor's and hospital appointments collecting prescriptions etc. Consider what to do if you catch the virus, how you will communicate with family and friends, and plan activities  to occupy yourself during quarantine.

See the links below for further information on Coronavirus

12th March 2020

Chinese Coronavirus epidemic (UK update)

The epidemic is now being widely reported in newspapers, on radio, and television. The outbreak in China now seems under control and cases are declining, whereas cases in europe, started by travellers, are increasing, particularly in Italy where a countrywide lockdown has been introduced and the health service is having difficulty coping. The WHO has declared the infection a Pandemic.

The cumulative number of confirmed cases in the UK, while still relatively small, has been roughly following an exponential curve with a total of 596 cases reached today of which 10 have died. Our 'extrapolation' forecasts that the number of confirmed cases could reach at least 6,000 by the end of March, rising to 50,000 by the end of April, but there is great uncertainty about such numbers. It was reported at today's Downing Street briefing that the actual number of cases in circulation could be up to ten times the number of confirmed cases detected by the NHS.

We wonder if the real number of cumulative cases could potentially reach several million by mid April especially if control measures were to be ignored. It is therefore most important everyone follows government advice.

The government's stated intention is to slow the rate of infection so that hospitals are not overwhelmed and can treat the most seriously ill, but over time the majority of us are likely to be infected.

As the percentage of the population that has recovered, and has immunity, increases the transmission rate should begin to slow; currently there is no information when this will happen, but perhaps towards the autumn?

Management of the disease is today moving from the 'Containment' to the 'Delay' phase and perhaps the NHS will gradually lose track of the cumulative number of infections and only report hospital cases. However, as a rule of thumb, the number of cases is likely to be roughly one hundred times the number of deaths reported.

In China transmission has been halted by enforced quarantine but as only a small proportion of the population has been infected it is possible there could be a second outbreak, for example reintroduced from europe, prior to widespread deployment of a vaccine.

Today president Trump announced visitors from the EEC, excluding the UK, would be banned from entering the USA for 30 days. Could some leaders be taking decisions thought to be popular with voters, rather than scientifically based? Some journalists are asking why the UK government is not copying 'popular' measures taken in other countries.

Here are some useful links:

Click here to read about UK Government response

Click here for new COVID19 dashboard showing reported cases

Click here for cases identified by NHS region

Click here for COVID19 advice from NHS 111 online

Confirmed Coronavirus cases in England by local authority (withdrawn)

Until yesterday there had been no cases recorded in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, but one person who visited the job centre in Worcester for a training course is recorded under Birmingham and another case has been recorded in Herefordshire. We should be mindful that there are many care homes in Malvern and the elderly and those with health conditions are likely to be much more seriously affected by the virus. Think about what we can do to protect them.

The Malvern branch of the U3A has postponed its monthly meetings at the Cube.

At present schools remain open which appears sensible bearing in mind children do not suffer serious illness and their parents could well be providing vital services.

Locally, supplies of face masks and 70% alcohol based hand gels ran out days ago. However face masks have been said to be of doubtful value, while hand gels are not required at home.

Stock market crash

The FTSE100 index fell sharply from about 7,100 to 5,994 on 9th March following concerns about the impact of Coronavirus on the world economy and a price war between Russia and the Saudi's flooding the market with cheap oil.

After a slight rally the FTSE100 index fell further to 5,273 today making it the biggest stock market crash since the 1980s.

15th February 2020

Chinese Coronavirus 2019

The outbreak of this highly infectious flu like illness started in Wahen province, China. So far, isolating suspected cases in the UK has prevented spread.

The illness is said to be often fairly mild, but more serious in about 20% of cases, with an overall mortality rate of about 2%. That means, were the illness to become rife in the UK, in the very worst case, up to one million people might die, given there is currently no vaccine or treatment.

The disease is said particularly to affect older people and those with weakened immune systems and long term conditions. In the most serious cases it causes damage to the lungs, pneumonia and death.

Click this link for UK government advice to the public on coronavirus

Click this link for estimated number of coronavirus cases worldwide

Click this link for information on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak

The disease is thought to have been transmitted from an animal in a Chinese market where all sorts of strange and exotic animals are sold for meat, such as the Pangolin or scaly anteater.

11th February 2020

The UK government gives the go ahead for the HS2 high speed rail link between London and Birmingham. In our view, the situation regarding the extension of the line for example to Manchester and Leeds and integration with Transport for the North's ideas for Nothern Powerhouse Rail remains fuzzy and still to be worked out.

31st January 2020

The new Conservative UK government finally voted to leave the EU and we are now out, but continuing under the old rules for another year while new arrangements are worked out.

Jeremy Corbyn who lost the election and always looks unhappy remains leader of the Labour party until the end of March. The principal candidates to replace him are Sir Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy. The result of the Labour Party leadership election is due to be announced on 4 April 2020.

Grenfell Fire

Companies called to give evidence to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry are asking that any evidence they give won't be used to prosecute them. This is not ideal, but what's most important is finding out what went wrong at all levels and seeking to prevent such a disastrous fire happening again.

2nd January 2020

It's the start of a new year and new decade; an opportunity for people to come together and make a fresh start. The Archbishop of Canterbury says in his Christmas message from Dover RNLI lifeboat station, to quote:

.. Every time we reach out and connect with someone, it is an act of heroism. Don’t underestimate it. It could be someone you know. It could be someone you’ve always wanted to connect with but never have. It could be someone you really disagree with.  Let’s go for a heroic New Year’s Resolution. Let’s resolve to reconnect. To reach out to just one person we don’t know, or from whom we have drifted apart. Pick one person. Pick up the phone. Send them a text. Meet them for a cup of tea. Make that connection. Let's begin cementing our unity one brick at a time.

This is good advice; wouldn't it be better if all people and countries cooperated in a spirit of friendship to overcome poverty, famine, disease, natural disasters and the issues of climate change.

Roundup of 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May hangs on but the labour party block the BREXIT bill with help from Tory remainers such as Anne Soubry and Dominic Grieve MP, and Tory dissenters from the European Research Group such as Steve Baker and Jacob Rees-Mog, wanting a cleaner break with the EU. It's stalemate and Theresa May is eventually forced by her own party to resign. The main candidates for PM are Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt MP and Boris Johnson is elected PM in July 2019.

The Labour party commit a tactical error by agreeing to a General Election on 12th December 2019 despite the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which could have kept the Conservatives powerless and in a weak position until 2022. Both sides make grossly exagerated claims, but it is an unexpected landslide victory for the Conservatives with a majority of 80 seats. Why was this? Jeremy Corbyn was seen as a weak unpatriotic leader leaning too far to the left, few people believed he could deliver his promises, and the party went back on its manifesto promise to deliver BREXIT.

As 2019 ended Boris Johnson has a sufficently large majority to make BREXIT happen, President Trump in the USA is campaigning for reelection despite continued attempts by the Democratic Party to bring him down, and forest fires of unimagineable ferocity are burning across Australia, the worst being in the states of Victoria and New South Wales, while other countries are ravaged by either flooding or drought induced famine. Could this be the start of the Climate Emergency forecast as a consequence of Global Warming by young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg? Only time will tell.

In our day it was Rachel Carson who warned of the dangers of pesticides and environmental pollution in her book 'Silent Spring'.

 

15th November 2018

Brexit

It's about six years since we first posted on this page. The Conservative government got re-elected in 2015 without the help of the Liberal party, and in 2016 the Scottish Referendum narrowly resulted in  Scotland remaining in the Union.

It seemed Prime Minister David Cameron had a clear road ahead, until in 2016 the public voted in the EU Referendum to leave. Cowardly Cameron immediately resigned and left to write his memoirs and go on lecture tours.

Theresa May became Prime Minister and accepted the difficult challenge of negotiating the exit of the UK from the EU.  George Osborne was replaced as Chancellor and decided to leave politics and become a 'journalist'.

Theresa May called an election in July 2017 hoping to get an increased majority in order to push BREXIT through; however she was badly advised and her majority was reduced resulting in a hung parliament; but she was able to hang on with support from the DUP.

The Brexit Draft Withdrawal Agreement is published. It's a compromise, and neither leavers nor remainers are happy.

A few days later Dominic Raab resigned as UK Brexit Secretary; he had only been in the job 4 months. Replaced by Stephen Barclay MP.

The newspapers say MPs will vote down the proposals and the PM may be forced to resign. Remainers call for a Peoples' Vote.

The Labour party is saying very little. Its members want another General Election.

October 2018

Murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi went into the Saudi embassy in Turkey to obtain papers for his marriage, but he was murdered by lethal injection and his body cut up. It is alleged senior members of the Saudi establishment may have authorised this.

This event suggests how thin the line is between 21st century politics and those of the Middle Ages. In 1170 AD priest Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered by four knights in Canterbury Cathedral, believing that this act had been verbally sanctioned by King Henry II.

September 2018

Brexit negotiations with the EU are proving hard work. One wonders whether the UK will ever leave the EU. Boris Johnson appears to be posturing with a hope to becoming Prime Minister,  but we don't think he stands a chance.

July 2018

Boris Johnson resigned as Foreign Secretary in July 2018 and was replaced by Roger Hunt MP who moved from Health.

At the same time David Davis resigned as UK Brexit Secretary and was replaced by Dominic Rudd.

Theresa May puts forward her version of BREXIT known as the Chequers Plan. It's a compromise and probably the reason why Boris and David Davis resigned.

June 2017

Prime Minister Theresa May calls a snap election. Jeremy Corbyn does much better than expected and the Conservative lead is reduced requiring the help of Northern Ireland MPs.

The Conservative party campaign is very badly run.

The Grenfell Tower disaster

PoppiesOn the 14th June 2017 there was a horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in London. The entire building was incinerated and tragically many people were burnt alive. This should not have happened and all the people involved in the building and maintenance process and associated legislation should be called to account. A year on this event has largely passed from the headlines.  It's disgraceful the government does not appear to be pursuing the matter with great vigour.

Click for Grenfell Tower Inquiry website

Click for Wikipedia account of Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Click to go the the BBC website for daily accounts of the ongoing Grenfell Tower Inquiry

Click for summary of The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety led by Dame Judith Hackitt; its purpose was to make recommendations that would ensure a sufficiently robust regulatory system for the future; published May 2018 - wonder what subsequent changes have been made to these regulations, and other tower blocks to make buildings safer?

Little more than a year after the  Grenfell disaster a tragedy of even great magnitude unfolded in California as forest fires raged across thousands of acres rapidly destroying homes and complete towns leading to significant loss of life and causing 250,000 residents to flee.

The year 2016

This was a momentous year.

Prime Minister David Cameron disgracefully attempted to discredit Sadiq Khan, elected Mayor of London; it's disappointing our elected representatives sometimes show such disrespect.

Infighting in the Labour party was astonishing, and perhaps that can be put at the door of Ed Milliband who introduced a reformed procedure to elect the leader of the party. This seems to have resulted in attempts by the extreme left wing to take control of the party - which we think will make the Labour Party unelectable.

Scottish Independence Referendum; Scotland to remain in the Union.

EU Referendum; people vote against government advice to leave the EU.

The year ended with businessman Donald Trump being elected President of the USA. Unlike his predecessors Donald Trump is not a professional politician and his tenure has been controversial to say the least.

Archive

April 2012

This blog started on Friday 13th April 2012 and this is what we jotted down and were pondering then; you may seen things differently.

OK, the Conservative Liberal Coalition government has been in power for two years and what has it achieved?

Finance

The financial crisis continues. It used to be all Gordon Brown's fault, but now it is a world problem  according to the Coalition.

The Conservatives said they had no plan to put up VAT before the election, but of course they put the rate up from 15% to 20% immediately on gaining power.

Interest rates have been very low, so pensioners don't get any interest on their savings, while fuel and energy costs have soared.

Mortgage payments have been lower, which has benefited working families.

Petrol crisis

Lorry drivers on strike. Angus Maud MP suggest we stash petrol in cans in our garages.

Phone hacking

News of the World and other newspapers hack in to celebrities' voicemail. Surely if people want privacy they should set their passwords.

Lord Leveson conducts inquiry and makes recommendations.

News of the World closed down.

Prime Minister David Cameron does not implement the recommendations presumably because newspapers are giving him a good press and slagging off the Labour party.

2010

By 2010 David Cameron had emerged as the leader of the Conservative party, after William Hague and Ian Duncan Smith had failed to win elections and widespread support. By now Labour was in its death throes bickering amongst themselves. Gordon lacked charisma and it was time for a change. Neither party set out a clear agenda apart from agreeing  there were hard times ahead due to the world financial crisis.

Conservative politicians slated Labour  for the economic situation and the poor state of hospitals and schools, but locally we had seen the opposite happen.

The Conservative party got the most votes and formed a coalition government with the Liberals. Labour took a pause to lick their wounds and elect a new leader - Ed Milliband was the choice of the Trades Unions. His brother David would probably have got more votes from middle England.

2009

MP's expenses

Big scandal over MPs claiming excessive allowances.

1997

The country was tired of the Conservatives who had been in power for 18 years and Tony Blair led a big election victory for New Labour. He was the new young man on the block, always willing to come on TV and explain what was going on, and he seemingly got on well with politicians of other countries.

He led a strong response to the genocide in Bosnia and carried peace negotiations through to a successful conclusion. 

In Malvern the infrastructure of state schools improved markedly. Pupils no longer had to share books and the use of IT equipment became widespread.

The new Royal Hospital was built in Worcester, and the Malvern Community Hospital which people had lobbied for, for so long, was built.

In early 2001 there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease which was due to the bad practice of dealers transporting animals around the country; it caused huge damage to the farming economy and associated businesses. A lot of animals were buried in pits on the old airfield site at Throckmorton

The attack on the World Trade Centre on the 11th September 2001 changed everything. We watched in real time on TV as the second airliner hit the tower. And so the UK became involved in the war against terror in Afghanistan.

The British public were not keen on the invasion of Iraq and when weapons of mass destruction were not found Tony Blair lost credibility.

Gordon Brown eventually took over from Tony. One of his first tasks was to deal with the 2007 outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease which was handled well.

Then the Economic crisis of 2009 struck.

Failure of the banking system would have been disastrous for the UK economy and individuals, so Gordon and his Chancellor Alistair Darling had to rescue 'Northern Rock', RBS, HBOS and support the other banks.

Gordon did away with the 10p tax band which he himself had created. This got him some bad publicity, which his press office should have neutralised.

1979

Margaret Thatcher was elected in 1979.

She and her Conservative government closed down coal mines, privatised water, gas, electricity and the railways, stopped school milk, sold council houses, cut benefits, under funded state schools, introduced the poll tax but then had to withdraw it after riots in London. The government took its eye off the ball leading to the invasion of the Falklands by Argentina, and Norman Lamont  lost a lot of money trying to support the exchange rate. During her term inflation peaked at nearly 15% and at one point unemployment was high.

Hang on that's a lot of negative stuff; so what was positive.?

'Cometh the moment cometh the man'. The unions had become too strong following WWII and were holding the country to ransom. Margaret stood up to them and weakened their power. She also fought the IRA, and authorised military action to retake the Falklands. Though worshipped by many she was deposed by her own MPs who were concerned they would lose seats under her leadership at the next election.

For a list of British Prime Ministers since 1952 click here

 

Notes and ramblings

This  is intended to be a secular and non political blog.

The influence of the press, social media and TV

When we question our own views and those of others it seems to us that opinion is largely formed by the press, social media and television, and it is sometimes debatable whether or not we are being told the whole truth, or presented with fake news.

In Britain, the news media sometimes makes a huge issue out of minor concerns such as minor changes to tax, wages and prices, while hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods, diseases, and civil wars, are causing havoc in other countries.

The economic crisis

The economic crisis which started in 2008 was not foreseen by experts in government and the banking world, even though it was clear to us that the profligate lending by the banks and surge in house prices caused by the cheapness of loans was at some point going to end in trouble.

Between 2008 and 2010 we listened carefully to  politicians and economists on the radio, and television and there seemed to be no coherent understanding of what is going on and what needed to be done to put matters right.

There was an extended financial crisis in Greece following the financial crisis of 2008. It seems billions of euros were lent to the Greek government who spent the money unwisely and were never going to be in a position to pay back the loans; now there are concerns about Spain and Italy. One suspects the bankers must either be incompetent or lack integrity.

Given that the banks ran out of money, the only way to keep the financial system working would seem to be for the central banks to 'print' money and pump it into the banking system. Nowadays they seem to call that Quantitative Easing, and it seems to be done electronically. That in the longer term might be expected to lead to inflation and rising prices, but as of 2016 that does not seem to have happened.

About workers' pay and unemployment

Working families were in a difficult position during the financial crisis. Pay for many has been frozen since 2010 while inflation measured by the RPI has risen by more than 10 %.

Steeply rising council tax bills were a problem for retired people a few years ago; other problems have been steep rises in the cost of energy for heating and transport.

Due to the Coalition government's cutbacks unemployment rose to almost three million of which about one million 16 to 24 year olds had no job. This was brought home to us by one extremely well qualified member of the family who had great difficulty finding a job and two who lost their jobs. It seems wrong to us to have a large section of the workforce standing idle, yet that is what the austerity programme did. By 2018 unemployment had fallen to about 1.4 million.

Government suggestions that we will get out of trouble by manufacturing more doesn't stack up well with the fact that people will have little spare money to buy the goods, including our European neighbours whose economies are also in the doldrums.

It seems to us that someone needs to do some deep thinking to come up with a credible plan to stabilise the economy and world banking system.

 

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The interpretations and opinions expressed are our own