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On this day in 2020...30th September


WEDNESDAY 30th SEPTEMBER 2020.


Facts and figures.


With differing figures circulating we can certainly report that globally we cusp on 1 million deaths directly from COVID-19. Johns Hopkins University has the figure of 1,100 shy of the 1 million mark.


COVID-19 has spread to 188 countries and every continent apart from Antarctica. The highest death rates are:


USA 203,000

Brazil 102,000

India 97,000

Mexico 77,000

The UK has 42,000, this being the highest in Europe.


State of play.


Denmark, Slovakia and Iceland have been added to England’s travel quarantine list. Denmark has a weekly infection rate of 45.3 per 100,000, and Slovakia has 24.6 per 100k. Iceland is 50.7.


The yardstick which the UK uses to determine who qualifies for the quarantine list is 20 cases per 100k. Incidentally, the UK is currently at 38.6 per 100,000 population.


Below is a snapshot of the highest and lowest infection rates:


Highest:

Montenegro – 305.4 per hundred thousand of the population.

Spain -165.6

Czech Republic – 122.6

France – 108.4

Luxembourg – 99.4

Moldova – 89.5

There are currently 20 countries whose citizens must self-isolate if they visit the UK.


Lowest:

Germany – 14.4 per 100,000 of the population.

Turkey – 14.3

Bulgaria – 13.5

Poland – 13.4

Cyprus – 8.4

Finland – 7.2


As America exceeds 7 million cases and 200,000 deaths, we can briefly look around where other countries are this week, as of Thursday 24th September 2020.


China – 85,297 cases. 4,634 deaths. No virus transmission since May 2020. Implemented lockdown and mass testing.


Spain – 682,267 cases. 30,904 deaths. The infection rate is rising again with local lockdowns in place. Spain was very strict in the policing of the lockdown and took very decisive actions regarding closing hotels etc.


Sweden – 89,756 cases. 5,876 deaths. Sweden took a very different approach and had no lockdown at all, seeking herd immunity. This hit their care homes severely. They appear to have come out of it pretty well, though. Unless you happen to be one of the deaths. Whether the UK would have had the same outcome is doubtful as Sweden is a large country with a small population, so distancing is much easier.


Italy – 302,537 cases. 35,758 deaths. In the first wave, Italy was hit badly, and their health system all but collapsed. We saw terrible TV footage emerge from their hospitals with patients scattered all over and tough decisions being made on who could and could not be ventilated. With a tough lockdown and facemask-wearing, they eventually got it under some sort of control and used local testing successfully. Cases are rising still but currently more slowly compared to many others.



Daily news.


Health Secretary Matt Hancock spoke in the House of Commons (Monday) and said that the UK was on track to process our 20 millionth test, more than the number of tests done collectively by France and Spain combined.

Tuesday – Wales announced yet further local lockdowns in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham commencing 6 pm on Thursday. This now means that three-quarters of Wales is affected by lockdown, more than 2.3 million people.


‘Not by decree.’


There has been a growing feeling among Conservatives that there should be more scrutiny around some of the decisions coming from Number 10. A motion had been tabled by MP Sir Graham Brady asking for the legislation to be scrutinised before it comes into force and as MP Mark Harper said, ‘not by decree.’


Mr Hancock responded by saying,

‘The problem in this House is how to ensure scrutiny whilst being able where necessary to move fast and respond to the virus.’


Jailhouse Rock.


As if to make the point, we learnt in the new legislation that there were 5 new COVID 19 laws that no-one knew about previously which had been added on:


1) Recklessly leaving isolation - warrants a £4,000 fine for the first offence rising to £10,000 for the second or third.


2) Maliciously forcing someone into isolation - warrants a £1,000 fine. This speaks to people who falsely give a contact to the Track and Trace team who will be subsequently told to self-isolate unnecessarily.


3) Tell work you are isolating or incur a £50 fixed penalty. This is for people who do not tell their employer they are self-isolating and makes it easier for the government allegedly to ensure that firms do not force workers to come into the office.


4) Hospitality venues are forced to stop people from singing and dancing. Owners of pubs, bars and cafes, etc to take ‘all reasonable measures’ to stop such activity by six or more groups. Exemptions apply at weddings but only for the bride and groom!


5) Music volume is limited. A ban on hospitality venues playing music louder than 85 decibels, despite live music performances, is excluded from the restriction.


Author’s note. What an extraordinary cluster of laws these are. Taken in isolation, a ban on singing and dancing and playing music louder than 85 decibels, it really is bizarre, yet the scientists seem to think this necessary. I have never known such times.


Older sibling.


The civil liberties group, Big Brother Watch, Sky News tell us, have great concerns.


‘Yet again this was imposed without scrutiny from parliament. Where will it end? Government cannot and should not legislate every part of our lives.’


The ongoing legislation under the Coronavirus Act 2020 was passed at the beginning of March 2020 and has to be renewed every 6 months, this flew through by 330 votes in favour to only 24 dissenters. A 306 majority.


Mind the gap.


The WHO are rolling out 120 million rapid COVID-19 tests to poorer countries in Africa as there is a testing gap with richer countries. The programmes need £467 million and will go to 20 countries in Africa.



5 pm Press Briefing. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.


The big 3, the A team of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the two chiefs of Science and Medicine respectively; Professor Sir Patrick Valance and Professor Chris Whitty put in an appearance at the lecterns.


Brief encounters.


We were told nothing particularly startling and were informed that there would be more regular COVID briefings such as these.

Author’s note. The fact we are to have more regular briefings sounds ominous.

No new measures were introduced. It was a re-emphasis of ‘Hands – Face – Space’ and the existing recently changed measures, along with some slides showing that the numbers were ‘heading in the wrong direction,’ according to Sir Patrick.


Animated response.


One thing of interest was an animation showing how the virus grew pretty much at the same rate all over the country in the first wave. However, in the latest wave, it is not. It is growing in clumps and regions which require local lockdowns. The emphasis was on The North West and the North East, Yorkshire, and some parts of the West Midlands. Professor Chris Whitty expects the second wave to be a more localised problem.


Author’s retrospective note. We now know what was happening. The virus was spreading like wildfire and areas of lockdown were unable to quell it. Test and trace were overwhelmed as were the NHS. With hindsight we realise, there was nothing we could do. All is revealed why this was happening in Part 2 of this tome.



Family life.


Lessons learned?


My home county of Nottinghamshire does not seem to be faring too well with preventing new cases in schools. Almost 45 schools have been affected by the virus since re-opening. Lincolnshire had 20 schools reporting cases, Derbyshire 25 and Leicestershire 50 schools, albeit they are in local lockdown measures because of the high infection rate.


Also, in my hometown of Nottingham, we see the lowest of citizens arrested for spitting in the mouth of a woman and ‘ripping off another woman’s mask in the City Centre.’ A 24-year-old man was charged.


Homework.


I have received an email from my daughter’s school, she is 11 and in year 7. The headmaster informs us that there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 reported in year 7. They have sent home a class from that year, and if we have not been contacted directly, then our child is not affected.


The school has emailed that if I have not received a separate email, all is well, and the procedures have worked. Let us hope my Lily is fine and they have nipped it in the bud and there are no further outbreaks.


When I picked her up from school, she said that her friend who she usually walks with is in lockdown. We have no way of knowing if she, or indeed Lily has the virus, so I guess we must take our chances. This is how it can happen; I suppose. We are one removed from catching it even when religiously taking precautions.



Quote of the day.


‘Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men undergo the fatigues of supporting it.’ – Thomas Paine.



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