Brief comments on various issues (4) 

 

See Comment 1Comment 2 and Comment 3 for earlier posts on a wide range of subjects

For Corona thoughts see: 1  2  3 4 and more at Thoughts on 

 

17/11/21

 

Keep thanking trees                                          

 

Another glorious autumn of colour this year. Much to my shame, though, I’ve forgotten to do something very important, something we should all do now and again whatever the season: say thank you to a tree.

 

A couple of days ago I parked the car in a local industrial estate and was surrounded by a spectacular palette of leaf colour. So thank you collectively to all the trees I saw which provided this delight.

 

And thank you, also, to the silver birch in the garden of my neighbour opposite. I’ve gradually watched its leaves change colour to the dusky gold they have now become.

 

But my deepest gratitude, once again, must go to the prunus at the bottom of my garden which is still aglow with yellowy-orange flames, some edged with blushing scarlet. This is a very special and precious tree, a faithful friend which never fails to lift my soul. I’ve just been into the garden to thank my friend out loud and give it a gentle hug.

 

Click here for a previous post and here for some photos

 

 

7/9/21

 

They have failed the nation

 

For better or worse parliament is back and my verdict, sadly, on its performance over the past eighteen months is this:

 

Our government and MPs from all parties have failed the nation. They have failed their local constituents and their national constituents. Blunder has followed blunder and the two crucial lessons of not delaying restrictions, and not relaxing them too soon, have sadly never been learned.

 

The first unequivocal moral duty of government and parliament is to protect lives. There never has been, and never will be, any balance to be struck between lives and livelihoods. The latter can be restored, lost lives cannot.

 

So far MPs have allowed over 157,000 people to be killed by Covid – nearly all completely avoidable. It has been a horrific tragedy, the most monumental peacetime disaster ever, bringing anguish to our fellow human beings on an unimaginable scale.

 

MPs must learn to think for themselves and not be influenced by partisan allegiances and identities. They must stop their adversarial and immature behaviour and engage in rational discussion which acknowledges different points of view. They must have the humility to admit to having been wrong.

 

They must now make it their absolute number one priority to stop the ongoing carnage caused by Covid. Other issues are obviously important but they must not become a distraction from the central issue. Lost lives cannot be restored but with the right decisions further deaths can be kept to a very low level.

 

The way to do this, and the only way to return to normal, is not to listen to the siren voices who say we must learn to live with the virus  but to do the opposite and chase it down – as should have been the strategy from the start. Zero Covid may not be possible but Nano Covid certainly is, with a low level of infections and perhaps 5 or fewer mortalities a week. At the present rate(7/9), living with Covid means living with 948 deaths a week, over 49,000 a year – a grotesque number which must not be countenanced.

 

The normalisation of these horrific statistics must never be accepted. Every life is precious and every lost life brings terrible grief and suffering.

 

Now we have vaccines it is perfectly realistic and achievable to chase the virus down in the UK and globally. Sensible restrictions on mask wearing, social distancing, indoor and outdoor gatherings, and household mixing must be restored immediately, and very strong messages must be given about the need for discipline and compliance.

 

Politicians from all parties must come together to lead the country in a spirit of national unity and shared endeavour. More than ever before in their lives they desperately need to show some true leadership.

 

Unlike their counterparts in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and other countries they must not continue their policy of surrender. We shall never surrender said Churchill and we must not.

 

And when numbers fall, as they undoubtedly will if we change course now, we must not relax but press home our advantage until we win. No one can say that the past eighteen months have been our finest hour in fighting Covid. Our politicians and others have let us down badly.

 

But, the future will be brighter and our finest hour will come if they, and all of us, adopt the mantra “Together we will destroy the virus” and we make a determined effort to do so.

 

 

18/2/21

 

Stop the carnage

 

And the carnage goes on and on. Why doesn’t the government do something about it now instead of just relying on the vaccines? We should have had a 4 week total shutdown which would have saved thousands of lives. See 7/2/21 for what this would have involved.

 

7/2/21

 

Complete shutdown

 

Latest tweet: 

 

WE MUST STOP THE CARNAGE NOW – not wait for more vaccine rollout. Thousands of people dying each week. Unimaginable and desperately tragic suffering.

ONLY ANSWER is complete SHUT DOWN OF ALL NON-ESSENTIAL ECONOMIC & SOCIAL ACTIVITY.

GOVT must act NOW. 

See below:

 

Shut down the economy and tighten restrictions to save lives

 

In the light of the increased infection rate of the new variant of the virus the following points should be considered either as mandatory requirements or strongly advisory guidance:

 

No non-essential economic activity, unless working from home, including in construction, manufacturing and financial services. There should be no attempt to keep the economy functioning as normal – no balance to be struck between the economy and reducing the death toll; it must always be lives before livelihoods – the latter can be restored the former cannot.

 

Extend the 2 metre social distancing rule to 3 metres wherever possible including when wearing masks.

Facemasks to be worn outside in addition to indoor spaces.

Facemasks to be worn by anyone delivering any items to homes, shops or businesses, including groceries, online products and mail.

 

Best quality PPE to be available for everyone employed in health and social care.

High quality PPE to be available for all key workers in retail, transport and public utilities.

 

As far as possible groceries should either be delivered to homes or collected from stores by click and collect. The same should apply for any other essential household items which are broken and need replacing.

There should be no non-essential online orders and deliveries.(in order to reduce general economic activity in warehouses/distribution centres etc)

No junk mail. No national or local newspapers – online news only or local radio stations. Home postal deliveries reduced to one or two per week. Business post kept to an absolute minimum.

 

Nursery schools should be closed as should places of worship. The issue of how many people should be allowed to attend weddings and funerals should be looked at again.

 

Only essential travel. As little use of public transport as possible. No car sharing. Exercise should be taken from home only and not involve driving to a location for this purpose.

 

All professional sport to be stopped.

 

Wiping food packaging etc down to be strongly advised as also any other packages either purchased in a shop or delivered. Post to be left untouched for a few days.

 

Hand gelling to be strongly advised after contact with touch points outside the home such as keypads on non-contactless card readers, petrol pumps, gates and many more. People to be advised not to sit on park benches or similar.

 

Anyone isolating with symptoms must stay in special accommodation. Anyone testing positive with no symptoms, or who has been in contact with someone testing positive, must be strongly advised to stay in one room at home and not come into contact with other family members.

 

Whatever psychological, emotional, social and financial reasons people have for wanting to deny the severity of the pandemic they must be told very firmly they have no choice about complying with the restrictions. Covid marshals, the police and the military must ensure 100% compliance.

 

The necessity for everyone to be completely focused on not catching the virus or spreading it must be continually repeated in a huge public information campaign. As well as the high risk to the over 60s the dangers to under 60 age groups must be stressed.

 

Such a campaign should emphasise not getting back to normal life any time soon – in terms of employment, daily life and leisure activities. It must exhort everyone, whatever their age or political beliefs, to come together in a spirit of national unity; to have the utmost discipline and self-discipline; to exercise impeccable behaviour in following the rules; to have determination and patience; and to show kindness and love to each other.

 

***************

 

17/1/21

 

Four week shutdown

 

Please scroll down to Lockdown 3 to see the further measures that need to be taken immediately to control the virus. Plus see below for my letter to Chris Whitty urging him to advise the government to introduce them.

 

Dear Professor Whitty

 

Despite the good news about the vaccine rollout I was deeply disheartened by much of what I saw and heard at Friday’s press briefing (15 Jan) – the statistics and the general impression. It was clear from everything that was said that there was no plan to introduce further restrictions since infection and mortality rates would fall as more people were vaccinated. The vaccine was being used as a reason not to implement other measures that would control the virus – apart from the closing of travel corridors to guard against the Brazilian variant. I imagine the thinking behind this, as has been the case since last March, was that further restrictions would damage the economy.

 

In my view this is a most unwise approach. Every possible action should be taken to avoid further loss of life which means doing much more than vaccinating people and much more than the present measures involve. It is the first duty of government to protect the lives and well-being of its citizens and it must continue to do this using all the means at its disposal.

 

A massive effort for a few weeks now would not only save lives and protect the NHS in the short term it would be hugely beneficial in the medium and longer term. If we do our utmost to bring the rate of infection down to the rate it was last summer not only would this protect the vulnerable it would offer much needed protection to younger age groups who are becoming more and more endangered as time passes.

 

May I urge you therefore to advise the government to implement restrictions which would include a four week shut down of all but the most essential aspects of the economy and the measures I set out in my previous letter to you – set out below. The vaccine must not be used as a reason to reduce restrictions it should be used as a reason to increase them in order for us to use all our weapons in the fight to destroy the virus.

 

May I take this opportunity to thank you for all you have done and are doing on behalf of all us. It must be incredibly demanding and we are all truly grateful for your diligence and the great empathy you show.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

PS I am confident that the overwhelming majority of the British people would support the measures I outline as they have supported previous lockdown restrictions.

 

11/1/21

 

More restrictions now

 

Have decided that the further restrictions I propose in the comment below must be implemented immediately. If the pandemic is the worst it has ever been according to Chris Whitty this is the only sensible and logical course of action.

Any economic, personal, social or leisure activity that is not essential to fighting the virus must not be permitted for at least a month. This includes work in the construction, manufacturing and financial services industries, except if in the latter it can be done from home.

 

10/1/21

 

Lockdown 3

 

Pleased that a third lockdown has come into effect. It is hugely painful for everyone but absolutely essential in order to control the virus. It probably needs to go further and my letter to Chris Whitty below suggests some additional measures that should be looked at. 

 

Professor Chris Whitty

Chief Medical Officer

Lockdown 3

 

Dear Professor Whitty

 

I fully support the new lockdown and the measures that accompany it. They are absolutely necessary to reduce infection levels. I wonder, however, if we need to go even further with some things over the next few weeks and I have set out a number of these below. I hope they are helpful and perhaps you and your colleagues might be able to look through them as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

 

 

Shut down the economy and tighten restrictions to save lives

 

In the light of the increased infection rate of the new variant of the virus the following points should be considered either as mandatory requirements or strongly advisory guidance:

 

No non-essential economic activity, unless working from home, including in construction, manufacturing and financial services. There should be no attempt to keep the economy functioning as normal – no balance to be struck between the economy and reducing the death toll; it must always be lives before livelihoods – the latter can be restored the former cannot.

 

Extend the 2 metre social distancing rule to 3 metres wherever possible including when wearing masks.

Facemasks to be worn outside in addition to indoor spaces.

Facemasks to be worn by anyone delivering any items to homes, shops or businesses, including groceries, online products and mail.

 

Best quality PPE to be available for everyone employed in health and social care.

High quality PPE to be available for all key workers in retail, transport and public utilities.

 

As far as possible groceries should either be delivered to homes or collected from stores by click and collect. The same should apply for any other essential household items which are broken and need replacing.

There should be no non-essential online orders and deliveries.(in order to reduce general economic activity in warehouses/distribution centres etc)

No junk mail. No national or local newspapers – online news only or local radio stations. Home postal deliveries reduced to one or two per week. Business post kept to an absolute minimum.

 

Nursery schools should be closed as should places of worship. The issue of how many people should be allowed to attend weddings and funerals should be looked at again.

 

Only essential travel. As little use of public transport as possible. No car sharing. Exercise should be taken from home only and not involve driving to a location for this purpose.

 

All professional sport to be stopped.

 

Wiping food packaging etc down to be strongly advised as also any other packages either purchased in a shop or delivered. Post to be left untouched for a few days.

 

Hand gelling to be strongly advised after contact with touch points outside the home such as keypads on non-contactless card readers, petrol pumps, gates and many more. People to be advised not to sit on park benches or similar.

 

Anyone isolating with symptoms must stay in special accommodation. Anyone testing positive with no symptoms, or who has been in contact with someone testing positive, must be strongly advised to stay in one room at home and not come into contact with other family members.

 

Whatever psychological, emotional, social and financial reasons people have for wanting to deny the severity of the pandemic they must be told very firmly they have no choice about complying with the restrictions. Covid marshals, the police and the military must ensure 100% compliance.

 

The necessity for everyone to be completely focused on not catching the virus or spreading it must be continually repeated in a huge public information campaign. As well as the high risk to the over 60s the dangers to under 60 age groups must be stressed.

 

Such a campaign should emphasise not getting back to normal life any time soon – in terms of employment, daily life and leisure activities. It must exhort everyone, whatever their age or political beliefs, to come together in a spirit of national unity; to have the utmost discipline and self-discipline; to exercise impeccable behaviour in following the rules; to have determination and patience; and to show kindness and love to each other.

 

***************

 

2/1/21

 

Tier 5 lockdown   

 

The new Covid measures are clearly necessary. They will reduce infections and the number of deaths.

 

But we absolutely MUST go much, much further in order to suppress the virus properly and to prevent further large-scale loss of life.

 

We must have an immediate UK wide, Tier 5 lockdown.

 

This must be even more stringent than the lockdown in the spring and require strict stay-at-home and curfew measures and no household mixing.

Schools, colleges and universities must be closed as must non-essential retail and service outlets along with leisure and entertainment venues. All professional sport must be stopped.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants must also be closed, and preferably, for the moment, not be allowed to offer takeaway facilities.

Household deliveries must be restricted to essential items only.

People must continue to work from home and only essential businesses must remain open.

No non-essential travel should be permitted.

Masks must be worn outside the home in all indoor and outdoor spaces, and inside the home when necessary.

 

There must be 100% compliance with the restrictions and strict enforcement of them.

There must be much, much stronger messaging about why the measures are needed and why everyone must comply with them and exercise maximum self-discipline. Anti-lockdown views must be strongly refuted especially on social media.

 

A national Tier 5 lockdown will be extremely difficult for everyone but it is the only way to avoid further carnage until the vaccines are on stream. People must understand that normal life is impossible, and in fact always has been, until the virus is virtually eliminated.

 

*************** 

 

30/12/20

 

Ten reasons why we must continue with lockdowns and why they must be for all age groups

 
Everyone understands why there is a vociferous, and sometimes offensive, minority of people, who are opposed to lockdowns as a means of controlling the virus. We all feel for those who, because of the restrictions, are suffering hardship, anxiety and distress of any sort – financial, emotional, or related to mental health. I imagine all of us are having difficulties of some kind because our lives have been disrupted in so many ways.

 

But I know everyone also shares my feelings for the unimaginable number of people who have tragically suffered an untimely and horrific death from Covid, and for their loved ones who are still suffering the grief and anguish of their loss. Those who say they just want to get on with their lives and have a drink with their mates should reflect on this.

 

I would prefer to use a different word from lockdown, one without connotations of a prison, perhaps something like a “stayhome”.

 

But for the moment I’ll stick with lockdowns and here are 10 reasons why we must continue to have them – for everyone, not just the elderly and vulnerable as is regularly demanded by a vociferous minority.

 

1  They work – especially when they are stringent and there is a high level of compliance. The first national lockdown reduced infections and mortalities dramatically, so much so that most people thought we had the virus well under control. They worked in other countries such as China, Australia and New Zealand.

2  Opinion polls have shown they are widely supported by the public.

3  The restriction of individual liberty required by a lockdown is far removed from the action of a totalitarian state as has been claimed. It is a temporary restriction to prevent people doing harm to each other – just as we have similar restrictions in many other areas of life. Not being able to visit a pub or a gym, or attend a football match, are a minor loss of liberty compared with the ultimate loss of liberty that the virus can inflict.

4  In imposing lockdown measures the government is quite rightly acting in pursuance of its first duty, namely to protect the lives and well-being of its citizens.

5  It is not clear, from those who have proposed the idea, what exactly would be involved in an age-related lockdown just for the over 60s and vulnerable. But it would clearly require measures similar to a national lockdown and would therefore be discriminatory in permitting the under 60s liberties not permitted to the over 60s.

6  The notion that an age-related lockdown will not be harmful to the under 60s is seriously flawed. There will be many deaths and serious illnesses in this younger demographic before any hoped for herd immunity is established by allowing the virus to spread.

7  Until the vaccination programme is completed for the over 60s the risk of those in this group being infected by those who are younger will be far, far greater than at present thus making contact between generations virtually impossible and posing enormous difficulties and dangers in multi-generational households.

8  If, with an age-related lockdown, most people under 60 are at risk from being infected by each other in the short and medium term, there could be a problem having sufficient health and care workers who are well enough to carry out their work and also administer vaccines.

9  An age-related lockdown will be far more damaging to the economy than a full lockdown as it would take much longer to be effective and for economic activity to be restored to a higher level.

10 National lockdowns are the only way to demonstrate our common humanity which can be shown by our care for other people irrespective of whether they are young, old or in between. We all have a moral duty to care for each other particularly those who are frail or elderly. It is deeply disturbing to read and hear comments that seem not to reflect this absolute moral imperative.

 

My feeling is that in order to bring the virus under control as soon as possible, and ultimately eliminat it. we need the tightest possible UK wide lockdown for the next few weeks. Europe, North America and South America require the same.

 

As I have said before in posts and tweets we also need discipline, determination, patience, impeccable behaviour, full compliance with the rules, a sense of unity, and more than anything, kindness and love.

 

There is still no balance to be struck between saving lives and restoring the economy. The latter can be restored but lost lives cannot. Saving lives must continue to be the only priority and strict lockdowns are necessary to achieve this.

 

***************  

 

6/3/20

 

Big questions about climate change

 

And still it comes down as I look out of the window. I cannot recall so many storms and so much rain in such a short period of time. It is no surprise that last month was the wettest February on record. Although many of the fields nearby are waterlogged we have not had any flooding in the county of Somerset but I feel for all those who have recently had their homes inundated. It will have been an extremely distressing experience.

 

I am willing to be persuaded that the atrocious weather we have had in the past few weeks is a result of climate change as are abnormal weather events around the globe. However, it has been the rapid melting of the ice in the cold regions of the world that has convinced me that global warming is a reality and is happening all too quickly.

 

There has been a massive amount of discussion about climate change and a commitment by governments to take the necessary measures to control it. Many people, especially the younger members of society, have been vocal in their demands for more and faster action and there is an almost universal recognition that huge changes will need to be made for society to be fully functional.

 

But despite the extensive discussion taking place there are plenty of questions that can still be asked about the whole subject – big scientific and philosophical questions. Here are a few of mine, starting with science and followed by some which can be pondered in a more abstract way.

 

First of all, given that our planet, and I imagine billions of other planets in the universe, have been warming and cooling for hundreds of millions of years without the presence of human beings are we absolutely certain that the greenhouse gases produced by human activity are the only cause of climate change?

 

Second, as well as thinking about the climate on our planet should we spending an equal amount of time thinking about the sort of planet we wish to inhabit, one, perhaps, that is more equitable and less driven by mass consumption?

 

Third, how can we ensure that measures to reduce greenhouse gases are taken by every country?

 

A fourth question is arguably the most crucial: should we be looking to find ways of reducing the global population that are voluntary and have full public support, such as financial incentives to have small families?

 

And finally, provided there is no human suffering involved in the process, should we be relaxed about our warming planet and simply let life forms adapt and evolve during the course of the millennia to come?

 

There is no question that climate change is happening and we urgently need to take action to reduce it. But simultaneously let us think about other big questions regarding our planet and society.

 

***************

 

6/1/20

 

Manifesto for the new decade

 

The extract below is from the Quercus Manifesto I wrote for the general election in December. It was based on a very similar manifesto I put together for the 2017 election and contains policies based on enduring precepts that have shaped human behaviour for a long time.

 

I am hopeful that if these precepts and policies were to form the basis of how society is organised in the coming decade we could make progress towards fulfilling the aim expressed on the title page: well-being for all in a caring and fair society.

 

Perhaps if you come across the manifesto you may be able to spare a few minutes to read through the whole document and carefully consider what it has to offer.

 

Extract:

 

Aims and aspirations 

 

We will strive to ensure the best possible mental and physical well-being for everyone irrespective of our varied human attributes such as age, gender, individual needs, ethnicity or beliefs.  We will do this in order to enable individuals and families to lead fulfilled and happy lives.

 

We will aspire to create a caring, compassionate society in which everyone is encouraged to be loving, kind, generous, unselfish, neighbourly, gentle, tolerant and respectful.

 

We will fully support those who need help in any way or for any reason. We will do this collectively through the machinery of the state and by supporting charitable organisations and individual action. 

 

We will aim to build a fairer society in terms of individual and household income.   

 

We will work to achieve a collective mindset where all jobs are seen to be worthwhile and contributing to the welfare of others …

 

For the manifesto in full click here.