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Posts tagged ‘UK’

Capacity

After 25 years managing in a professional environment where the word ‘capacity’ frequently involves a justification to do little, please excuse me if I feel a bit fatigued with its application within the context of testing for the coronavirus.

Let’s peel back this context when Dominic Raab (The stand-in for the PM) explains the government as having a testing capacity of 40,000 a day, and this will be 100,000 in the next eight days.” On 25 March, the prime minister said: “We are going up from 5,000 to 10,000 tests per day, to 25,000, hopefully very soon up to 250,000 per day.” Professional anoraks often get themselves in a sweat over such terminology, but to help cut this short, there is the self capacity and then there is holistic capacity. There was a sleight of hand today by Dominic Raab who tried to shift the narrative from actually doing 100,000 tests a day to having the capacity to do 100,000 tests per day. Let me try to explain.

Self-capacity is pretty much self-explanatory. What government ministers are now repeatedly talking about is the government having the test capacity, which means having the resources and procedures in place so they can then commission adequate testing.

All well and good, you may say. Still, the health and care sector in the UK has been fragmented through the ideological enslavement of privatisation, outsourcing and artificial internal markets, as well as the climate of austerity, means that “self-capacity” is pretty futile. The government themselves do not do the testing. It is undertaken by either other parts of the state or a private agency contracted to carry out the tests.

One of the main reasons the government is struggling with PPE and testing is the lack of capacity throughout the health and care sector (holistic capacity throughout the supply chain) in the UK. We do not have an integrated national health and care service in the UK.

Decades of underfunding and trying to do things on the cheap through competitive market tendering have left weaknesses throughout the supply chain from service design, procurement, delivery and then right through to the quality outcomes for the person in receipt of the service.

Cruelty in our care homes is directly linked to UK politicians and social policymakers being obsessed with market competition in health and social care. The horrific case of Winterbourne View is but an example of what is going on and a simple Google search ‘care workers jailed for abuse in the UK’ will no doubt lift a few compassionate eyebrows.

At the end of the day, the government may have the capacity to resource 100,000 tests per day by the end of April. The whole health and care sector having the ability to deliver these 100,000 tests, well that is a different outcome altogether. The government are playing spin with the lives of our NHS and Care Sector workers, instead of sorting the supply chain shambles out.

In the murky world of political spin, the smoke and mirrors of tabloid headlines and the lack of interest for many to scratch beneath the surface, tragically lives will still be lost.

The Virus of Impunity

The decisions of Boris Johnson’s Conservative government have determined if a large number of people in the United Kingdom have lived or died. The only similarities between a state of war and tackling a pandemic virus are that when lives are at stake, there is no greater need for accountability. It was this reality and my growing anxieties that I wrote my first blog on this matter on 28th May 2020. The reaction to my first blog on this matter drew both criticism and praise.

Historically governments have stood and fallen by the decisions they made. However, in this era of fake news and an overwhelmingly biased media in favour of the government, it would seem Johnson’s administration is beyond accountability with impunity. In 2016 Johnson’s counterpart in the White House said, ‘I could shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.’ In other words, it does not matter what I say or whatever actions I take my voters will turn a blind eye. I am untouchable. His arrogance is neither surprising nor amusing but a sad reflection on the nation he leads. Likewise, Boris Johnson and his administration is a reflection of my country. Administrations on both sides of the Atlantic shelter in the disconnect between accountability, weak opposition and a voting populous that seem passive in demanding answers.

The UK Government operates as a sponge to public opinion. It continually seeks to weave its narrow ‘populist’ ideology through a maze of bobbing icebergs, tilting, swaying, ducking and diving. It is twitching a message here, making an empty promise there, and deflecting responsibility, while obfuscating in an ocean of soundbite drivel. The government is panicking, in holding its alliances together as it falls into its self-delusion of being a ‘one national’ political party. Paralysed by a Prime Minister terrified at the prospect of being cross-examined by journalists. A senior advisor with a hostile ‘drain the swamp’ mentality towards the civil service, they have created a toxic environment for a healthy government to function.

Trump threatens to withdraw funding from the World Health Organisation. The government in the UK encourages tabloid headlines demanding wealthy footballers take a wage cut to fund the NHS. Yet, the same cabinet of politicians sitting at the centre of this government made up of multi-millionaires as well as drawing down a salary paid for by taxpayers refuse to contemplate any financial sacrifice themselves. It’s all a cynical pantomime, a deflection, but a deflection with deadly consequences.

The media in the UK frequently compares data with the US, Spain and Italy. Those worst affected by the virus, but rarely with other states who seem to be delivering much better outcomes for their citizens. The Johnson administration dodges, but the questions will not go away.

Why is testing capability so inadequate in the UK?

Why is the UK government only publishing death rates from hospitals and not from the wider community, including nursing homes, like Franch, for example?

Why are our frontline staff in the NHS, Care Homes and those providing care in the community not being provided with appropriate protective clothing, but the UK Government can find time to promote a badge?

Why has a government, which branded itself with the ‘taking back control’ mantle continued to allow flights from some of the worst-hit enter the UK without suitable checks?

While our closet neighbour The Republic of Ireland cancelled St Patrick’s Day celebrations and large gatherings of more than 100 people. The UK Government allowed the Cheltenham Festival, large rock concerts and a major sporting tournament to take place on UK soil with a team from one of the worst-hit countries. At the time of writing close to 400 people had died in Ireland as opposed to 12,000 in the UK. If you adjust for population differences, there have been 7.4 deaths in Ireland for every 100,000 people. In the UK, there have been 17 deaths per 100,000.

The State of California, USA, is another part of the world that seems to be delivering much better outcomes for its citizens despite the goon show from the White House. On the 9th March, Santa Clara County banned gatherings of 1000 people, shortly followed to groups of 50 people. Other counties followed suit soon afterwards. California, whose population do not face the extraordinary levels of high-density living, as many UK residents do in our urban cities and towns simply took the threat seriously from day one.

When asked if one day or two can make a difference in the efforts to save lives Dr Neha Nanda, the medical director of infection prevention at Keck Medicine, University of Southern California, replied “Oh yes….even being one day ahead can have a huge impact,” she told the BBC. “the mortality we will be able to avert – it’s huge.” 

While nobody knows how this will end for either the UK, Ireland or any other country. One thing is factually at the time of writing. UK citizens are dying at twice the rate as their counterpart in Ireland. Why is this not being reported in our press?

Herd Impunity

A bit of a lengthy read, so I know I’ll lose quite a lot of people who absorb their knowledge through the cut and paste the meme culture of social media. If you believe the UK government has handled this situation correctly, then I’m not here to convince you otherwise or even attempt to change your mind. I suggest you stop reading now and go about your day. Those that remain please I encourage you to read on.

It may come as no surprise that you have been spun. Such is the growing unease in government it has been reported that Johnson has now hired the same ‘messaging gurus’ who sold the successful 2019 Conservative election campaign to oversee the communications on the UK’s response to the virus.  Public exposure to the Government’s cock-ups started just over a week ago when they admitted that “a communications mix-up meant it missed the deadline to join an EU scheme to get extra ventilators for the coronavirus crisis.” Until then No. 10 was ahead of the game with their slick new chancellor leading the public message, but you can only spend the same money a limited number of times before the fig leaf slips.

Remember as early as January 2020 reports of the severity of this virus were known by governments across the world. Those who immediately attacked it are now in the best position to manage it, which does not mean it will be easy, but it does look percentage-wise fewer people will die in those countries. As well the as lockdown, public advice and large funding stimulus packages to protect the economy. The key seems to be mass testing, in effect to hunt the virus down and kill it. This enables governments to understand the hotspots, how it is spreading and respond with appropriate restrictions when needed. This is precisely the strategy Germany has adopted and the results are the envy of those fighting the virus.

And here is the marked difference in German and UK leadership. The German chancellor has a Doctorate in quantum chemistry and the training to appreciate what the scientists were telling her and she act on it. As a country, Germany has a well-resourced health service and a strong industrial base. They had the capacity to respond. In the UK we have a clickbait writer in charge who is far more interested in projecting his pound shop Churchill pantomime act.

From January to March the Johnson administration with its pool of ‘weirdos and misfits’. The mavericks who think off the wall because Johnson and Cumings do not trust Whitehall civil servants seemed more interested in the notion of herd immunity. It was widely reported that Cummings had made some reference to, “if a few old people die, so be it. The priority is to protect the economy.” If this is true or not is hardly the point. The fact is that Johnson went on TV in the same period of time and spoke openly about herd immunity, letting the virus simply pass through the population and in his own words, “take it on the chin.” Johnson talked openly about shaking hands at the start of the crisis. His cavalier approach seems to confirm what many people believed. In the initial stages of the virus spreading, he did not take the threat seriously and viewed it as nothing more than the seasonal flu.

Let me try to explain herd immunity. This is simply the notion of allowing a majority of the UK population to catch the virus or the disease so they become immune. At this point, the virus can no longer spread and you achieve herd immunity. Measles can’t spread because our population is immune. So if someone comes to the UK with measles, one or two unimmunised people might get infected, but it no longer spreads. We have herd immunity. The herd is protecting the weak. Johnson’s self-entitled ‘weirdos and misfits’ had this idea that they could just let the population get infected. Once 60 per cent of the population was infected, the epidemic would be over because there would be herd immunity.

The trouble is if you just let the virus spread at any rate and lose control, you actually get overwhelmed with the numbers of infected people. The UK’s population is 70 million, 60 per cent of them is 42 million people. Even with a 1 per cent mortality, that’s 400,000 deaths. (Further reading here) Currently, in the UK, the mortality rate is 5 per cent, which translates to an estimated 2 million deaths.

Boris Johnson suddenly realising the magnitude of his dreadful mistake in taking time to listen to his ‘weirdos and misfits’ who seemed more excited about eugenics than the immediate task of saving lives. While some governments had started to fight back Johnson was still caught pondering his university undergraduate days and the privileged networks where along with his friends and fellow toffs like Toby Young they would self-flagellate over (Young’s term) “progressive eugenics.”   

Johnson went into full panic mode to change policy by backtracking and staying away from public scrutiny. He is now beyond accountability and questioning as he is self-isolating. From the confines of his isolation, he makes pronouncements. His latest is “testing would unlock the puzzle.” 

Firstly, it’s not a puzzle. It is a virus and like all virus’s you need to hunt it down and kill it. You can only do this with information and data. You only get this information by (you’ve guessed it) mass testing. Secondly, he is now spinning beyond his own control by repeating things he does not understand. It’s straight out the Trump playbook, say something often enough, and ultimately some people will believe you and he will probably get away with it. People want to believe. And when you have a sizable proportion of the public in fear they are hungry for belief and will believe in anything. At the moment, the UK is some way behind other countries when it comes to testing. South Korea, for example, has been able to test far more widely than the UK. Despite having a slightly smaller population than the UK, it has twice as many labs and about two-and-a-half times the weekly testing capacity.

At the end of the day, people have died because of Johnson’s stupidy. Though the vast majority of people (thankfully) will not be faced with losing a loved one because of his incompetency. Any decent person under the illusion that Johnson is fit to be a world leader will no doubt seek herd impunity once this is all over.

*Written as a criticism of his policies and competency and not the man. I wish him and his partner a speedy recovery. 

Chinese Metal

This is boring. Literally boring stuff, but like all boring stuff, it tends to be important.

The London Metal Exchange (LME)10 Finsbury Square London, EC2A 1AJ is the world centre for the trading of industrial metals from lead to gold. In 2018 the LME traded $15.7 trillion and 4.1 billion tonnes of what they call ‘lots’ of metals across the globe.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEx) bought the 135-year-old LME for an estimated £1.4bn in 2012. The HKEx now promotes itself as one of the biggest market operations in the world and the leader in “China Connectivity.”

HKEx itself was created in 2000 and formed through the merger of The Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the Hong Kong Futures Exchange and the Hong Kong Securities Clearing Company. The merger was designed to increase China’s competitiveness in the global market.

The sale of the LME raised a few eyebrows at the time with the Financial Times reporting (June 2012), “The sale would also deliver a windfall to the banks and brokers who own the LME. At £1.4bn, JPMorgan would receive £151m for its shares, Goldman Sachs would get £132m and the Bagri family, owners of Metdist, would receive £130m.” In the same article, the paper also suggested the Chief Executive of the LME was inline for a bonus of around £10m.

Seven years on following the sale of LME to the HEKx it is widely accepted that the deal has not realised its ambition of building a commodities bridge between the West and China. But as HKEX chief executive Charles Li says, “All you need to think about is if this is the right asset for us. The rest is detail. You don’t worry if the price is right.”

Roll on to December 2019, Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union has already fired a shot across the UK’s PM Johnson’s bow by warning that Brussels is ready to cut off the City of London’s post-Brexit market access unless the UK stays closely aligned with EU rules after it leaves the EU.

In an interview with the Financial Times (December 2019) Dombrovskis is quoted as saying, “Brussels was willing to grant the UK access through a system of “equivalence” decisions that are already used by banks and brokers in other countries such as Singapore and the US. The EU would be especially vigilant in checking that British rules for ensuring financial stability and protecting consumers remained aligned to the EU’s own standards and would act decisively in the event of any lapses.  Access will depend on Britain not starting to engage in some kind of deregulation.”

Meanwhile, as China maintains one alarming eye on the streets of Honk Kong while accusing ‘foreign interests’ of stirring up the disturbances, the other will be watching the negotiations between the UK and EU. Playing safe The London Metal Exchange has an office on the 7th Floor, MYP Centre, 9 Battery Road, Singapore, although it’s not as if they do not already have one foot in the negotiations.

Summer Holidaze

Stanely stands upright at the edge of the curb with his wife Doris besides him. A driverless bus hurtles down the hill, inches from where he and his beloved stand. Passengers arguing and fighting, fellow onlookers from the village look on angst.

Sitting immediately behind the vacant driver’s seat fingers in ears sits Theresa oblivious to the chaos around her. Jeremy sits immediately opposite hands over eyes, peeping through a narrow gap of his fingers to the vacant driver’s chair muttering a mantra of solidarity and hope to himself. Behind them, stands Nigel pointing his long, twisted accusing finger at the last passengers to get on the bus, “sabotage” he shouts.

A small group of irate passengers spit obscenities at the rest of the passengers and occasionally at each other. As the bus jumps headlong over traffic calming bumps Ariaf loses grip of this Mcdonald’s vanilla shake, which doses Tommy who burst into tears and places his pet snail Bernard back in its dark cardboard box. “How am I going to explain this to mum?” He sobs as he looks down on his new and ruined school uniform, but he already knows who to blame.

Vince jumps up and down seeking attention, after being sent to the back of the bus for helping David, the driver, escape through the emergency exit. Meanwhile, a small group of ideological puritans from left and right of the “spectrum” exchange admiration for the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

Caroline sits patiently by herself, knitting a jumper, waiting. On seeing the large brick wall coming at them with growing speed Chuka, Anna and Heidi form a circle with a handful of other devotees to sing hymns from the old book.

Meanwhile, Nicola demands a show of hands for those interested in joining her on the roof. Ariene screams “no surrender” at the wall.

The vast majority of the nation sits at home listening to BBC Radio 1 playing Cliff Richards singing summer holiday on an endless loop. Young people look at each other in despair.

Stanley turns to Doris with loving eyes, “ah Doris, Brexit, means Brexit.” Doris takes a lick of her ice cream, turns to the button on the pelican crossing, the rapid beeping, cars come to a halt and hands in hand they stroll aimlessly across the road to the bus station.

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