Analysts are wondering why UK’s strategic manufacturing capacity is so under prepared and what happened to UK’s pandemic/disease monitoring systems.
London is thought to be one month ahead of the rest of UK in terms of coronavirus infections. Looking at the Covid-19 graphs of contagion proves the effectiveness of social distancing, every hour that people are circulating makes a difference, if people are not locked down the graph keeps growing upwards.
However, analysts are wondering why UK’s strategic manufacturing capacity is so under prepared and what happened to UK’s pandemic/disease monitoring systems. Throughout January the advisory about China and Wuhan from the Foreign Office was “the risk to the UK population has been assessed as low…the risk to travellers to Wuhan is moderate”. There were still three flights a week arriving in Heathrow from Wuhan. There are also questions around British Airways and Virgin Atlantic’s cancelled flights to China in February and why they resumed them before the advertised date.
On Friday, the Prime Minister closed cafés, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres.
Rishi Sunak reassuringly announced an unprecedentedly ginormous package of economic interventions to help employers and employees, including government grants covering 80% of the salary of retained workers, up to a total of £2,500 a month, above UK’s median earnings level; this income is taxable and applies to workers given a temporary leave of absence and registered as “furloughed”. Sunak said there was no limit to the amount of funding for this scheme. Commentators are concerned it could open the door to redundancies as the government is picking up the tab, and some questions remain on the level of support for the self-employed and freelancers. Sunak reminded businesses and individuals to treat each other with compassion and kindness during these times.
All schools and colleges were officially closed on Friday, except for key worker’s children and children that are vulnerable, have special educational needs or depend on school for their main meal, potentially this is a lot of children which might slow down the government’s goal of slowing the virus. Many schools are using Google Classroom which is equivalent to an intranet and are expecting students to keep up to date with their syllabus/course work from home. Closures will last until at least September and some universities have self-closed.
Key workers are those essential to keep the UK going: medical staff/social workers/medical suppliers, supply chains/including food and transport systems for passengers/freight, banks, utilities, broadcasters and journalists, call centres, postal services, network operators, waste disposal, police, charity staff, ministry of defence staff, armed forces, local governments, education and childcare staff, the judiciary and services for the deceased. All together these are thought to add up to about 5 million people.
General Sir Nick Carter, UK’s Chief of Defense Staff called on 20,000 military personnel to step up to provide military assistance to civilian authorities, he said the army should be on an operational footing from mid -April and be prepared for this to last six months; other estimates predict up to a year.
Authorities have set up a tented morgue in Westminster for the expected increase in casualties.
Transport for London have cancelled the underground Waterloo and City lines closing 40 stations, a reduced subway service enables London’s critical workers to make essential journeys; everyone else is urged not to use public transport but the numbers using public transport are still too many.
There are reports the government are in talks with British Telecom about acquiring anonymous data, revealing the numbers in select geographical locations within telecom cells to see if people are still gathering in significant numbers. These areas could then be targeted with public health alerts.
HM The Queen released a statement reminding the nation that every individual has a responsibility to help beat this pandemic, what the government calls a “national effort” to adhere to the social distancing advice. Alas too many reluctants have been carrying on regardless while other terrified people empty the shops, delivery services have crashed from the overload of panic buying.
The emergency Coronavirus bill promises momentous changes to UK legislation that can be used from the time it passes (Monday?) for two years, many have been surprised by this duration, the Bill is fast tracked to pass before parliament recesses on 31 March. The Bill suggests that 80% of the population could become infected; the Bill allows the government to temporarily amend existing legislation or introduce new statutory powers designed to mitigate impacts on a reduced work-force, pressure on the NHS and simplification of death management processes. The scope of the Bill is huge.
- Introduces powers to register emergency medical professionals from mid-wives to pharmacists, biomedical and clinical scientists and more.
- An indemnity clause to protect the NHS from negligence claims for treatment during coronavirus pandemic, this clause endures beyond the end of two years.
- The Investigatory Powers Act creates the statutory basis for the use of the investigatory powers by the intelligence and law enforcement agencies, the bill gives government power to increase appointments of Judicial Commissioners who sign warrants and urgent warrants.
- Powers to force to food industry to comply with government requests.
- Arrivals at Ports could be redirected if there are insufficient Border Force officers/workers.
- New screening, isolation and immigration powers relating to potentially infected people and public health.
- Powers to ban and prevent public gatherings and postpone elections and polls.
- Restriction on the use and disclosure of information appears to make leaking or printing certain types of information and data illegal.
- Justice will continue to be delivered; the Courts will become virtual. Hopefully the public will be able participate in court and tribunal proceedings through video and audio links. The decision to use technology in hearings will be a matter for the judge, magistrates or panel, who will determine how best to uphold the interests of justice.
These are just a whiff of over a hundred carefully explained clauses, the Bill reads like the context for a war game and essentially war is what the government is preparing for.
Whether the preparations were done adequately and in time is being discussed, often by Piers Morgan, broadcaster, who seems to be the self-appointed opposition scrutinising Boris Johnson and his chief Medical Advisors decisions. Morgan is highlighting the measures taken in other global metropolitan areas and believes the UK is behind the curve. At present there is no credible opposition in parliament, Labour have no leader, Prime Minister’s Questions are about to stop, thus the government has no scrutiny.
It’s a fact front line hospital staff have not been tested, do not have sufficient personal protection equipment and still have to pay hospital parking charges, and there are not enough ventilators or respiratory beds. The Nation is glued to Johnson’s 5pm daily Corona Update but media speculation follows every broadcast, and some folks are hoping for a glimmer of emotion from Boris Johnson.
Even when important stuff like Brexit and elections are going on these departments must be in front of the curve.