Monday 31 August 2020

Day 168 of self-isolation - A visit to the zoo

 A visit to the Zoo

It's grandson.2's birthday, so there was a party at Battersea Park Zoo. The traffic going in to London was very bad, I don't know why. So much for people staying at home! And when we reached the park, it wasn't easy to find the zoo. And when we found the zoo, the car park was full, so we joined the line of cars circling round waiting for a space.

I dropped off ladysolly, she had an urgent interrupt to service, and I circled the car park until eventually I got a parking space.

I put on my N95 mask, and walked to the zoo. I was waved though; we'd already bought the tickets. I was almost the only one masked, apart from ladysolly.  I saw donkey, emus, squirrels, ducks and monkety. Then we reached the picnic area, and had the birthday party, for which I unmasked, it being remarkably difficult to eat or drink while masked. 

The zoo is quite small, and soon we were walking (masked) through the gift shop, and back to the car. Then we drove to the flat of daughter.1 for party.2.

That consisted of me blowing bubbles for grandsons .2 and .3, and them catching them in their mouths. The mouths part was not my idea.

Then on to dinner, which was what I call "enhanced pizza", which is ordinary pizza, with a lot of extra toppings. And garlic bread.

This was our first day out since early March, not counting dentists and blood samples. I don't think I took any big risks, and it was nice to get out and about. But the increasing number of cases per day in England, plus the return to school and university, might lead us to a reluctance to repeat the outing, at least until the vaccine is available.

Sunday 30 August 2020

Day 167 of self-isolation - working from home

Working from home

Our government is trying to discourage people from working at home, to commute into work. Why?

Yes, it's sad that many coffee shops and sandwich shops will lose business, and that propery prices will fall considerably. But the world changes.

Many people have found that they are just as effective working from home as in the office. For a start, it cuts out that time-wasting one or two hour commute in the morning, and again in the evening. It means that, if you can create yourself an "office space" in a room, an attic or a shed, you can work without too many interruptions.

So I was thinking about my own work - could I have worked from home?

When I was at IWS, probably not entirely. Some of what I did was programming, and that goes extremely well at home, but some of it was digging out information from published journals. I would also wander round the building from time to time, just talking with people about what they did and how they did it.

When I was at BP, a lot of what I did could have been done from home. But - serendipity and schmooze. Just as happened at IWS, I was able to make lucky discoveries, just by being there. For example, I learned how to read mag tapes by hanging round the computer department and begging an example program from a friend. That led to a major project of buying in data tapes and putting them online for the rest of the company, and also a rather sweet project where I read the tape log of the telephone system, and was able to track down a thief as a result. A byproduct of that, gave me an online searchable phone book for the whole company.

And now? I've been working from home for a couple of decades now. I don't wear a suit, I work the hours I prefer, it's all good.

So, in conclusion. I don't think that working from home gives you 100% of the utility of office work, but it can give you a lot. How much, would depend on the sort of job you do. My jobs were always very creative, but involved a lot of working with computers. So I could imagine a good compromise would be to work in the office one or two days each week, work from home the rest of the week.

Saturday 29 August 2020

Day 166 of self-isolation - More evidence on HCQ

 More evidence on HCQ

A Belgian study has just been published. The summary is that they found
Hydroxychloroquine had some beneficial effects on Covid-19 patients.

This was a retrospective study (not a randomised double-blind) with a sample size of 8075 patients, carried out on data from May 1 to May 24 in Belgian hospitals.

The test was on HCQ alone (without AZM or Zinc), in a low dose.

In previous trials of HCQ, doses of 800 mg were given, another 800 mg after 6 hours, then 400 mg twice per day for 9 days - a total of 9600 mg.

In the Belgian study, the dose was much less - 2400 mg over a period of five days. This is more in accord with the dosage recommended in the "British National Formulary", which is the "bible" of drug usage.

The results were interesting and very encouraging. The paper reports estimated direct-adjusted mortality at 40 days. In the group that wasn't given HCQ, there were 26.5% deaths; in the group that was given HCQ, there were 19.1% deaths. So an additional 7.4% survived.

The chart below shows the various morbidity factors. So, for example, you can see that being a smoker, made your chance of death worse, taking HCQ made your survival chance better.

Another published paper comes from Brazil; that reported that HCQ alone made things slightly worse, HCQ with AZM makes no difference to fatality rates.

Recommendation - follow up this retrospective wth a double-blind randomised trial, using the lower dose of HCQ as used in the Belgian hospitals.

Here's the full Belgian report:

Friday 28 August 2020

Day 165 of self-isolation - A Navajo disaster

A Navajo disaster

In the USA, there is a group called the "Navajo Nation". It isn't one contiguous area, there are a dozen areas, scattered over Arizona and New Mexico. Arizona is one of the worst states (677 deaths per million); New Mexico 360. 

There are 174 thousand people, but they have been affected disproportionally by Covid-19. Deaths per million in the USA reached 556, but in the Navajo Nation, it has reached 2868, more than five times as many, and far, far more than any of the 50 states of the USA.

Why is this?

I think the fundamental reason is, no-one cared. They just don't have the resources that other states have, and the response from the federal government has been too slow.

 A third of households have no access to running water or electricity. 

But I don't think it helps that they call the disease "Big Cough-19". "Covid" isn't actually an English word, so why translate it to something that sounds so harmless?

And it isn't over yet.

Thursday 27 August 2020

Day 164 of self-isolation - fake medicine

What happens when you sell fake medicine?

Kingdom Church

Bishop Climate Wiseman of the Kingdom Church in Camberwell, London, claimed a bottle of oil and some red yarn would protect his followers from the virus. He sold his "plague protection kit" for £91.

Did anyone do a double-blind randomised clinical trial on this? No. Because that would be a waste of medical resources.

Just like no-one did a clinical trial on Violet leaf oil, or oregano oil, or raw onion.

But if anyone had done a double-blind randomised clinical trial on this, someone would have claimed "you also have to take Zinc", or "you also have to take Vitamin D".

There is now a statutory enquiry being held into the Kingdom Church.

Hopefully, someone will be prosecuted.

Poison in Iran

Alcohol is, of course, forbidden in Islam. But someone started a rumour that drinking high-proof alcohol would kill the virus. Absurd, I know, but other people have suggested injecting disinfectant.

So, lots of Iranians started buying and drinking high-proof alcohol. That in itself would have not done much damage, apart from awful hangovers, som alcoholism and no effect on Covid-19. But although it's easy and safe to ferment beer or wine, it is very dangerous to distil this to high-proof alcohol unless you know what you're doing. Because you can get methanol along with the ethanol, and methanol is poisonous.

Between February 23 and May 2, in Iran, there were 5876 hospitalisations for methanol poisoning, and 800 deaths.

Bleach in America

Some people in America have somehow gotten the idea that drinking bleach will kill the virus. The problem is, it will also kill them. Yes, bleach kills the virus, and it's fine to use that on surfaces and toilets. But not to drink.

Texas hospitals report that they've had 46 cases of people drinking bleach. Apparently, they got the idea online.

Who to believe?

In these days for fake news, fake medicines and fake everything, who do you believe? Some people urge "do your own research", but very few people have the resources to do a randomised double-blind clinical trial, and many of those would not know how to conduct such a trial, or why.

Watching youtube videos is NOT doing research. Watching a youtube video, gets you the opinion of one person, who very likely isn't medically trained or qualified. So who to believe?

Can you believe the government? In some countries, no. Some governments have a bias, and try to hide the truth - this would be governments of badly governed countries. For example, the South African Minister for health suggested treating AIDS with beetroot. For example, a US president suggested injecting disinfectant.

So, your first task is to find a medical authority that you can have confidence in. For me in the UK, that would be the NHS. In other countries, if you totally don't trust your own government, find a government that you do trust and take the advice of their medical people.

But oil isn't going to cure Covid-19, nor will alcohol, and nor will bleach.



Tuesday 25 August 2020

Day 162 of self-isolation - Fewer deaths in the second wave

 Fewer deaths in the second wave

Currently, it is voluntary for people in school to wear face coverings. But that could change soon. In Scotland, students will soon have to wear face coverings while moving between classes and in communal areas, and I think it would be a good idea to have the same in England.

In Aberdeen, some of the additional restrictions that were imposed a couple of weeks ago, have been lifted.

More good news - only 70 out of a million children became infected with Covid-19. Public Health England said "out of more than 1 million children attending pre-school and primary school in June, just 70 children were affected".

Spain and France are getting a lot of new cases; UK, Germany, Holland and Belgium have low numbers. Looking at Spain, the peak number of cases per day was 8000 back in March; now the number per day is about 5000. But the death rate, which was 800 per day in April, is now a dozen or two. 

So the number of deaths per thousand cases, is a lot lower than it was in March/April and we're seeing the same thing in France.

Some people have wondered if this means that the virus isn't as nasty as it was in March, but I think that this isn't the whole story. I think the other reasons are:

1) We have treatments now (such as dexamethasone) that reduces the death rate.

2) We have a much better understanding of the importance of keeping the virus out of care homes

3) The people getting infected now, are younger and less likely to have severe symptoms

4) Mask wearing is a lot more common, so people who used to be infected with a large viral load, will now be infected with a smaller number of virus particles, because of the mask effects.

We can see the same thing in the USA, if you compare what happened in New York last March, with what is happening now in the South West USA.

Monday 24 August 2020

Day 161 of self-isolation - another visitation

Another visitation

Today, we had another visit from daughter.1, daughter.2, son-in-law.1, and grandsons .2 and .3. We held it outside, because in these Covid-19 days, that's safer. But not long after we started lunch, the wasps joined us. There were only a few, but they were annoying, and as I batted one of them away, it stung me. Ouch.

But later, when I was drinking coffee, a wasp investigated in my mug, and drowned itself. Karma.

And then it rained, so we all went indoors, while maintaining distance.

But it's always great to see family.

Sunday 23 August 2020

Day 160 of self-isolation - vaccine news

Vaccine news

Each year, 150,000 people die of measles, worldwide. There is a very good vaccine for measles, but still there are a lot of measles deaths. Why?

In the rich countries, everyone can afford a vaccine, but some choose not to take it.

In the poorer countries, many can't afford a vaccine; some can, but refuse to take it.

Why would anyone in their right mind, refuse to take a life-saving vaccine? I don't know. WHO call it "vaccine hesitancy", but that's inaccurate. They aren't hesitating, they are outright refusing.

800,000 people have died of Covid-19, and uncountable numbers are suffering long-term damage. Yet a large percentage of people are already saying that they won't accept the vaccine - especially in America. Go figure.

The US company ModeRNA is about to start phase three trials, and they're looking for 30,000 volunteers. So far, they've recruited 13194, of which 18% are minorities - the target is 60% minorities, because they are hit much harder by the virus. They are hoping to get the volunteers assembled by mid September.

Saturday 22 August 2020

Day 159 of self-isolation - Low deaths, too many cases

Low deaths, too many cases

In the UK on Thursday, only two Covid-19 deaths were reported, and this is excellent news, it's the lowest figure for several months. But the case numbers are up to 1033, which is more than is comfortable. The R-number is reported to be 1.1, which means that each 1000 people infects 1100. That's bad - we want the R-number to be well under 1.

The lockdown in Oldham, Manchester, Preston and others has been increased; no mixing is allowed between households.

And very soon, the children will be back to school. Fingers crossed (and masks on). 

Evictions have got another stay of execution, delayed until September 20. But this isn't fixing a problem, it's delaying it. The rent will still be owed, people will still be unable to pay. People who can't make their mortgages, will be worrying about what happens after September 20. I don't have a solution to this problem, but I don't think the government does either.

Roll on the vaccine!

Friday 21 August 2020

Day 158 of self-isolation - It's not the heat, it's the humidity

It's not the heat, it's the humidity

Some interesting new research; low humidity leads to more Covid-19 cases. This helps to explain why the sun belt USA is having so many new cases now. Of course, the other causes are still a lack of common sense and too much wishful thinking. Wishing won't make the virus go away.

If it's really hot, then you want to sit indoors with the air conditioning on. When you're indoors, the virus particles don't get dispersed as well as they do when you're outdoors. But aircon also reduces humidity.

The main transmission vector of Covid-19, is the virus particles that you breathe out. They are contained in the water droplets that come out of your mouth and nose when breathing, talking, singing, coughing or (worst) sneezing.

The largest droplets quickly fall to the ground, and can't be breathed in. The smaller droplets stay longer in the air. But the worst is when the droplets evaporate completely, leaving the very microscopic virus particles floating in the air, where they can remain for a long time, and be breathed in by uninfected people.

Air conditioning reduces humidity, and with lower humidity, water evaporates more quickly. So if you're indoors, using aircon, that's the worst possible environment for virus transmission.

It's August now, the hottest time of the year. In the hot states of the USA, people will prefer to be indoors, enjoying the aircon. In the UK, aircon is not common except in cars. Part of the reason for the terrible increase in cases (and deaths) in Florida, Texas, California and other hot states, is the tendency to stay indoors with aircon.

I'm not suggesting that people should stop using aircon, I'm just looking at reasons.

Now let's fast-forward to winter. November to February, is winter in the Northern hemisphere. And it will be cold. People will spend more time indoors, and turn up the heating. That will reduce humidity, and the rest is obvious.

We have a thing called "seasonal flu", so-called because it hits us every winter. It's safe to guess that this winter will be no exception. The seasonal flu is caused by a virus, which is spread in the same ways as Covid-19. Huddling indoors, low humidity leads to more flu and more Covid-19.

I will definitely be getting a vaccination against the seasonal flu, even though I know that it's not 100% protection. It's like walking through nettles; I'd rather be wearing long trousers than none, even though I know that I will still suffer some stings.

I will also be getting a vaccination against Covid-19, if it is approved by the NHS. Because I've done my own research, and I have discovered that there are people in the NHS who really understand this stuff much better than I do, and better than I would even if I spent a couple of years studying virology.

Thursday 20 August 2020

Day 157 of self-isolation - the purpose of life

The purpose of life

What is the purpose of life? Theists and atheists tend to diverge on this. First, let's look at the theist's point of view.

From the theist's point of view, the purpose of life for animals is to be eaten or harnessed by humans; the purpose of life for plants, it to be eaten by humans or animals. I don't know what theists see as the purpose in life is for bacteria and viruses; perhaps their purpose is to punish humans?

From the atheists point of view, the purpose of humans, animals, plants, bacteria and viruses, is to replicate (and to stay alive long enough to do so). Yes, I know that sounds dull, and some people would like there to be some other purpose to life, but I would like a rainbow-coloured unicorn. Wanting something doesn't make it true.

But after fulfilling that primary purpose, we can choose other purposes. Theists can't do that, they are tied to the "will of God". I could choose to play golf, I could choose to write programs - it's my choice. Muslims, for example, see themselves as "slaves of God". Slaves cannot choose their purpose.

Theists also believe that after our brief sojourn on earth, there will be an infinity of time in heaven (or hell). So the time spent in heaven (or hell) is hugely greater than time spent on earth. And I'm wondering this. What is the purpose of the time you spend in heaven (or hell)?


Wednesday 19 August 2020

Day 156 of self-isolation - Immunity


It has been unclear how much immunity an infection of Sars-cov-2 (the virus that gives rise to the Covid-19 disease) gives you, and for how long. But there's some research now. And the news is good, very good.

First, there was a fishing boat. It put to sea with 122 crew, and they were all tested before they set off. Three of the crew were seropositive, meaning that they had had Covid-19 in the past, and now had antibodies against the disease. They, and the rest of the crew, were tested for the presence of the virus before they set off - all were negative.

18 days into the voyage, the boat had to return home because one of the crew needed hospital. All the crew were tested. and 104 of those 122 were infected. Clearly, one of them had boarded with the virus, perhaps at too low a level for the test to reveal it. The fact that 104 were infected, is not surprising - this is a very infectious disease, and these people were all in a confined space.

Now the good news. The three that had been tested for antibodies, were not reinfected. This shows that the antibodies are continuing to work, even after the disease is beaten.

Also. It turns out that Sars-cov-1 memory T cells persist for many years, so we can hope that Sars-Cov-2 is the same. Which would mean that, once you've had Covid-2, you won't get it again. And also, if there's a working vaccine, then that will confer protection for a long time. And so there's a good likelihood that the vaccines being tested will work, in the sense that people being exposed to the virus after vaccination, will get a mild case of the disease, or even be asymptotic.

Tuesday 18 August 2020

Day 155 of self-isolation - more education and exams

More education and exams

Our blessed government has done a complete U-turn. The algorithm has been abandoned, and we've going back to teachers' estimates.

Somewhere in our blessed government, there is a dire need for a programmer with some experience. I'm not going to volunteer. Our blessed government has a long track record of cocking up IT projects. Remember the world-beating track-and-trace app that has disappeared without trace or track?

When you've written a program, you have to test it. When I wrote the antivirus, I'd test it in the virus lab against a collection of viruses, to make sure that it detected them all, including a LOT of instances of the polymorphic viruses. Then I'd give it to the quality control department.

They would test it using a variety of operating systems, and a HUGE number of files, because that's how you make sure that the program will run on every computer that runs it, doesn't hang the system and doesn't give any false alarms. This testing would take about a week.

With an algorithm for grading students, you would also spend a week on quality control. And in this situation, you'd be looking at edge cases. What happens when a student was predicted with three Ds, with three A-stars, with an A-star and two Ds. What happens in the worst school? In the best school? And so on.

Test test test. Look at the outputs when the inputs are unusual. And don't let the product out of the door until you're happy that it isn't going to cause the greatest kerfuffle that UK education has ever seen.


 Also there's going to be a ban on daytime advertising of Marmite. And mustard.

Monday 17 August 2020

Day 154 of self-isolation - Morality, religion, atheism and theism

 Morality, religion, atheism and theism

I was listening to a debate between an atheist and a Muslim, and the Muslim put the following question.

"Why would it be wrong to hit a human with a hammer, but not a snowman, since they are both just collections of atoms, according to atheism?

In my naivety, I would have thought it was obvious. But clearly not, because the Muslim needed to ask the question. So let's examine this question, because it goes to the root of morality.

Theists claim that there is an objective morality and that it's objective because it came from God. The problem with this view is that there are 4000 religions, each with different Gods and different moralities, and the choice between them is subjective. Also, many of these "moralities" include slavery, homophobia and misogyny, which any decent person would condemn as immoral.

But where does morality come from, if you're an atheist? Obviously, I can only speak for myself here, but you're free to agree if you do.

First, let's talk about "collections of atoms". Water is just a "collection of atoms"; hydrogen and oxygen. The atoms collect together into molecules, as governed by the laws of electromagnetism and quantum electrodynamics. The molecules of water attract each other via the "Van de Waals" forces, and at room temperature we see a liquid, with properties that, in the mass, are quite different from the properties of individual atoms. This is called an "emergent property".

And we've all seen snow, and have seen the complexity of a snowflake, and how each snowflake is different, but they have strong similarities. Another emergent property.

So now let's talk about evolution (by the way, at least 10% of educated Muslims accept evolution, at least to some extent). It is clear that a brain confers an advantage; that's why so many animals have one. And when you look at the evolutionary success of humans, a big brain and greater intelligence is a BIG advantage.

When we discovered fire, that led to a big leap forward. Fire lets us get more nutrition from our food than leaving it raw. Fire means that we can devote less energy to digestion, and more to our brain. Human brains grew and grew until now they are so large that birth is only just possible (ask any mother). So there we are, great apes with large brains.

Monkeys and apes (including us) live in tribes, because we survive and flourish better in tribes than as lone individuals. And animals that live in tribes (packs, flocks) need to be able to communicate. Humans invented structured language, which is a much better way to communicate than noises or grunts. And to communicate more effectively, you need what is called "theory of the mind".

Theory of mind is what lets us recognise states of mind in ourselves (fear, anger, desires) and in other people. That introspection is what leads to the emergent property of self-consciousness. I think that I exist. It also leads to the recognition that other humans have the same states of mind - I think that they exist.

So I know that when I stub my toe, it hurts. And I also know that when someone else stubs their toe, that will also hurt. This is the emergent property of empathy. I can guess how you will feel.

Empathy leads to the "Golden rule". I should treat you in the way that I would want to be treated, because I know what would hurt me, and therefore what would hurt you. But, not everyone behaves in accordance with the Golden Rule. So we need rules. Don't murder. Don't steal from other people in our tribe. These rules, whether written or just agreed, lead to better coherence in the tribe, which leads to better survival. Evolution, once again, prefers tribes that cohere.

And that, by the way, is where religion comes from. The small number of humans that are reluctant to follow the tribe's rules, are told that they will be severely punished after they die as an incentive to keep the tribal rules. Or rewarded if they do keep the rules. Most people don't need this carrot-and-stick, because we have empathy, but there is always a tiny percentage of people whose empathyis inadequate, and need additional incentives. Today, we use fines and prison for this incentive, and we are able to agree on more precise and widespread rules.

So that's where morality comes from. It is am emergent property of evolution, intelligence, self-consciousness, theory of mind and, ultimately, empathy.

So now, perhaps theists can explain to me where their morality comes from? How did you realise that slavery is bad, even though your Holy Book says it's OK?

I'll tell you. If you're a human, your morality comes from the same place as other humans - from your empathy. You wouldn't want to be a slave, so you know that it's wrong to enslave other humans.

And that's why it's OK to hit a snowman with a hammer,  but not a human.

Sunday 16 August 2020

Day 153 of self-isolation - Education and exams

Education and exams

What a mess.

It was always going to be a mess. And I wonder whether it might have actually been possible to hold socially distanced, masked, exams? But that's another story.

I had a look at the "Algorithm". Algorithm is just a fancy way of saying "A way of calculating something". When it's really complicated, your best plan is to use a spreadsheet, or a computer program, and I'm guessing that's what they did.

They tried to take into account everything they could think of - past performance of student, past performance of school, subject by subject. And they convolved it all together. I looked at the algorithm, and it's sufficiently complex that I don't think anyone would be able to guess the outcome for a student - you have to run the algorithm.

I could probably write a program that implemented this algorithm, but I wouldn't have the data to feed into it. If I did have the data, then I would look at the outputs before publishing them, and that's what I don't think they did sufficiently carefully.

Teachers submitted the grades they thought each student would have received if they had sat the papers, and also a rank order of students.But that was only part of the data used; the rest of the data downgraded those results by 39.1%

Teachers are thought to give better grades that an impersonal exam would. Most of the downgrades were by a single grade, a few by two grades, and a few were upgrades. The purpose of this was to avoid grade inflation - even so, the number of A* grades rose to 9% and the number of A grades or better rose to 28%.

There is no totally fair way to do this. The pandemic is the root cause of the unfairness, and it has led to many unfairnesses - this is only one of them.

I think back to when I took my A levels, and how I would have felt if instead of taking an exam, my teacher had guessed that I'd get excellent result, and then some algorithm that I can't even compute (because although I have the algorithm, I don't have the data they fed into it) had decided that I get a substantially lower grade. I would have been annoyed. But not too badly, because even a much lower grade would have gotten me into the university of my first choice.

But for so many school-leavers - this process that feels unfair and arbitrary, has left them without a university place. 

And I am sad for them.

Saturday 15 August 2020

Day 152 of self-isolation - vaccines and fines

How are vaccines tested?

In the pre-clinical stage of testing, researchers give the vaccine to animals to see if it triggers an immune response.

In phase 1 of clinical testing, the vaccine is given to a small group of people to determine whether it is safe and to learn more about the immune response it provokes.

In phase 2, the vaccine is given to hundreds of people so scientists can learn more about its safety and correct dosage.

In phase 3, the vaccine is given to thousands of people to confirm its safety – including rare side effects – and effectiveness. These trials involve a control group which is given a placebo. 

The Russian vaccine has not been through phase 2 or 3, and Russia's top respiratory doctor has resigned in protest at the gross violations of ethics involved in rushing through this vaccine. The Oxford vaccine has passed phases 1 and 2, and is now in phase 3. 

Our government has spent another £90 million and bought 60m doses of a vaccine from the US company Novavax, and 30m doses of another from the Janssen Pharmaceutical Company, owned by Johnson and Johnson. GSK/Sanofi Pasteur is also providing us with 60m doses. So we're buying a variety of eggs in a variety of baskets, and now have a total of 340m doses. Let's hope that at least one of them works!


We're relaxing the lockdown from Saturday - at least you can have your eyebrows threaded, which means they pull out the hairs at the follicle level. I have rather bushy eyebrows, but I keep them under control with scissors. Still, if you're a fan of threading, it's great that you can be threaded again.

Fines for going unmasked in a situation where it's mandatory (for example, public transport) have been increased to £3200, but since only 33 people have been fined so far, I wnder how much effect this will have. I find it amazing that people are willing to accept laws against drunk-driving (which benefit everyone) but some are reluctant to wear a simple cloth mask.

I'm just bought, on eBay, three 3M type 8835 masks - one for me, one for ladysolly and one for the wash. In addition, we both have washable cloth masks, and a couple of dozen disposable paper ones.

We're also allowed to gather in groups of up to 30 people; the fine for going above that limit is up to £10,000

Friday 14 August 2020

Day 151 of self-isolation - Resurrection


Matthew 27:52 "and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;"

In the UK, the total number of Covid-19 deaths has suddenly fallen from 46706 to 41329 (a fall of about 12%). How did this happen?

Previously, if you tested positive for Covid-19 and subsequently died, you would be included in the death from Covid-19 count. There's an obvious problem with this - if you were infected in March, recovered in April and in July you were killed by a falling piano, you would still be counted as a Covid-19 death.

So, after taking scientific advice (there's a good case to be made for banning the word "scientific" in this context), it was decided to apply a time limit. So now, you're only a Covid-19 death if you died within 28 days.

This, of course, is also not quite right. Some people will take longer than that to die.

There isn't a "right" answer here. Whatever criterion you use, can be objected to. In my view, most statistics have this kind of problem, and we just have to do the best we can. What is important, is consistency over time. It would be nice to have consistency across countries, but that's not usually possible.

The past figures have all been revised to be consistent, and whereas before we were seeing a long tail of 60 to 80 deaths per day, we are now seeing a long tail of around 12 deaths per day.

And that is a BIG difference. Although the total has fallen by 12%, the daily number is a fifth of the old statistics.

This doesn't affect the case numbers; we're still seeing just over 1000 new cases per day, and we'll be seeing the deaths from that in September.

Thursday 13 August 2020

Day 150 of self-isolation - Kilograms



First, some good news. I'm down to  103 kilograms. My diet is working, slowly but surely.

The 13th August, is A level results day. I remember when I was eagerly awaiting my A level results, but at least I'd actually sat an exam. What must it be like for kids today, relying on teachers estimates, mock results and the astrological predictions of the stars? Best wishes to you all. I was fairly happy with my results.

Not so happy with the UK economy, which has fallen 20.4%, quarter on quarter. That's HUGE, much more than in other countries, and I have to wonder why. Were we just unlucky? I don't think so. The virus has accelerated many existing trends, such as the move to online shopping, the move away from face-to-face business meetings, and much more. And maybe it has accelerated to effect of Brexit. The position we're in now is one of huge uncertainty. We can't even get a trade deal with Japan, let alone our major trading partner, the EU. Brexiteers are moaning about these difficulties, to which I say "You won, get over it".

Investment has ground to a halt, along with the tourist industry, the hospitality industry, air travel and we don't know when it will come back - if ever. What will happen to sea cruises now? And how many businesses will just go under, never to be seen again? I'm hearing adverts saying "We left the EU, now's your chance!" and I just wonder, exactly what opportunities have opened up?

For example. I pay VAT (at German rates) on sales to Germany. But I don't pay VAT n sales to Canada. I'm being told that I will have to continue to pay VAT on saoles to Germany - except that I can't do it through the existing VAT Moss system, because that ends in December. So I'll have to register for ANOTHER Vat Moss system (non-union), based in an EU country (probably Ireland because they'll be able to speak English to me). Except I don't understand why, if we've left the EU, I am paying VAT to EU countries still. And what, exactly, is this opportunity? To me, it just looks like I have to jump through additional hoops, just to continue doing as I am, while an unelected Dominic Cummings, who seems to be above the rules of lockdown, is running the country.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Day 149 of self-isolation - Vaccine news

Vaccine news

 Two vaccine things to report - the Russian vaccine named Sputnik-V has been approved for use - in Russia. Not so much elsewhere. It has been tested on just 38 people, and that's only a phase 1 test. No Western country will approve a vaccine on such slender evidence, but dictatorial countries don't go by medical science, they go by the commands of the dictator.


In the USA, the ModeRNA vaccine is still being tested. Trump says that it will be ready by the election (November 3rd), but last February he was predicting a vaccine very soon, and that didn't happen either. But we do know the pricing for the vaccine, it will be $32 to $37. That's probably excluding the cost of the healthcare worker applying the injection.

In New Zealand, after 102 days without any new cases, a new Covid-19 infection has been found in Auckland. Four cases in one household. Stage three lock-down measures have been implemented.

In the UK, we're seeing 900 new cases per day, and rising while in the USA, the number of new cases per day is coming down from a peak of 78,000 to 55,000 and falling. World new cases are about 250,000 per day, and has plateaued.

The statistics for August 11 are not available because of "a technical problem".

I hear that New Zealand is very nice at this time of year.

Tuesday 11 August 2020

Day 148 of self-isolation - Laptop upgrade

Laptop upgrade

I "inherited" an Advent 8555GX laptop with a faulty hard drive (I did a data recovery on it). It's been sitting around for a couple of years now.  I had a look, it's a standard 2 1/2 inch drive, but Sata (the ones I use are Pata). So I went on eBay, bought a Sata 2 1/2, 80 gb and installed it (£5). Then I needed to install an operating system - Linux, of course. But the DVD drive seems to be incredibly flaky, and I had to have dozens of tries of several different Linux versions before I finally got Linux Fedora 28, 64-bit, Workstation, net install, to read. Then I upgraded the Linux to version 30, then 32, which is the current version. Linux doesn't like it if you jump versions too far.

It has a 17 inch screen (1440 by  900), 4gb memory, gigabit ethernet, wifi, HDMI and VGA ports and much more.

Some big numbers

The total number of cases in the world is now over 20 million.

Brazil went over 100,000 deaths

The USA deaths are now more than 500 per million population.

Monday 10 August 2020

Day 147 of self-isolation - to vaccinate or not?

To vaccinate or not?

This is not a simple question. If it were, then there wouldn't be about half of Americans refusing to vaccinate.


There are a number of reasons not to vaccinate, but the most convincing reason would be, if the harm caused by vaccination, was (on the average) greater that the harm caused by not vaccinating.

 We've got used to the idea that vaccination is a no-brainer.  The elimination of smallpox, the near-elimination of pertussis, rubella, polio, TB - we take those for granted. We've killed those diseases so effectively, that people no longer have the spectre of polio in front of their eyes. Kids don't die of whooping-cough. There are no more TB sanatoriums.

Now add to that - people trust governments a lot less than they used to. And, in the USA, people have no good reason to trust their healthcare provider, because in the USA, healthcare is a business, and the function of a business is to make a profit for the shareholders. In the UK, we don't have that problem - the function of the NHS is to make us healthy.

So, we have to make the case for vaccination. But first, let's look at some of the cases against.

 Compensation claims

 The most convincing data I could find, is compensation given for vaccine injury. This covers the period 1/1/2006 to 12/31/2018, so that's 13 years. Over that period, there were 3,761,744,351 vaccinations, and 5151 successful claims. That's 1.4 successful claims per million vaccinations. But let's put that into perspective. 5151 claims over 13 years, is 396 claims per year. If we look at injuries caused by lightning in the USA, there are 400 injuries and 40 deaths.

So the chance of getting a vaccine injury is about the same as the chance of getting hit by lightning.

Fetal cells

Another case against vaccines, is the fact that fetal cells are used. Yes, that's true for some vaccines (Varicella (chickenpox), rubella, hepatitis A, and one preparation of rabies). These are cells from elective termination of pregnancies in 1960; the cells are reproduced in the lab, and used to make vaccines. So they come from a 60 year old source, and not since then.

But the vaccines do not themselves contain fetal cells, or any human DNA segments.


The form of mercury being considered here, is thimerosal. But thimerosal is not used in childhood vaccines. Flu vaccines are available in both thimerosal-containing (for multi-dose vaccine vials) and thimerosal-free versions. It was removed from UK vaccines between 2003 and 2005.


Someone did a study that purported to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. It turned out that, not only was there a lot wrong with the study, but the doctor who wrote it was guilty of such egregious fraud, that he got struck off. And since then, everyone, including the National Autistic Society, have agreed that there is no link between vaccines and autism.


Vaccines take four years to develop. The Covid-19 vaccine has been rushed into production - how do I know that it's been properly tested?

That one is easy to refute. That simply isn't true. How do you think that we get flu shots each year? They cannot be taking four years to develop!

The true length is about five months. And that can be shortened, if you're willing to take the financial risk of going into mass production before the tests are complete. If you do that, and the tests prove bad, then you have to incinerate all that vaccine, which is a financial cost.

And, as with many processes, if you're willing to spend unusually large amounts of money no it, you can make some parts of it happen faster.


"I don't want anyone injecting poison into my child" - that's hard to argue with. Especially if you're arguing with someone who smokes, drinks alcohol, and eats Kentucky Fried Chicken. So I'm not going to try.


I kid you not - there is a small but vocal group of people who think it's all a plot to inject us with quantum dots, that can be used as identifiers for us. Or microchips. The objective is to 

1) Inoculate against religion

2) Implanted identification

3) Mind control

4) Some evil plot by some evil mastermind. Yes, Windows was a pain.

Again - I'm not going to argue this one. You'll just have to accept that it's a fantasy. Or not, make up your own mind.

The case for vaccination

So now, let's look at the case for vaccination. What are the benefits?

I'm not going to talk about polio, tetanus, tuberculosis or rabies. They are, in the western world, quite rare. And the issue is going to be Covid-19. So let's look at the vaccination that is probably most similar - the influenza vaccine.

Each year, I have a flu jab. In the UK, it's free, and recommended by the NHS, and I trust the NHS, and that's important. Because Americans have less reason to trust their healthcare provider (who stands to make $5 to $30 from the jab).

Each year, the flu shot contains inactive virus for the three strains of influenza expected to be most common that year. One of the problems of flu, is that it mutates rapidly, and each year, a different version becomes the main problem.

Death numbers

 In the UK, there are around 8,000 deaths per year from flu (in 2018/19, that was 1700. The vaccine uptake is 71 to 75%. On the average, the flu vaccine is 50 to 60% effective. We don't know how many people get the flu each year, because most people just fight it off without hospital help, but with a 50% effectiveness rate and a death toll of 8000, that would mean that with a zero effectiveness rate (i.e., no-one is vaccinated) that would mean about twice as many deaths. So, the flu vaccine is saving thousands of lives each year.

In the UK, Covid-19 has killed 47,000 people, and that's after six months. The death rate has now come down to around 1200-1500 per month. If we had a 50% effective Covid-19 vaccine, and if 75% of people accepted it, that would save about 500 lives per month. But, more importantly, it would mean that people could go back to work, back to school, and back to the pubs.

The case for vaccination is that it lets us get back to normal, although it would be a "new normal". Now that businesses have found that they don't actually have to travel to important meetings, now that many people have found that they can work from home, now that people have found that online sales are more convenient than they had realised - the new normal will accelerate trends that were already happening.

Herd immunity

There has been much talk of "herd immunity". When a large enough percentage of people in the human "herd" are immune, the virus finds it difficult to infect new victims. At what percentage does this happen?

The general thinking is that this happens at about 60 to 70% of the population, although there's no hard-and-fast figure for this. It might be less. The point of herd immunity, is that even those who are not vaccinated, are protected, because the virus can't get close to them, with all the immune people getting in the way. And some people can't be vaccinated, for medical reasons. Herd immunity protects them, as well as the 50% for which the vaccination is ineffective.

So it would be very good to reach the goal of herd immunity. But even without that, vaccination benefits the individuals who choose to vaccinate.

Compulsory vaccination

Should vaccination be compulsory? The herd immunity is the reason in favour of that - it protects those who can't vaccinate for medical reasons. But I think that the political cost of compulsory vaccination would be too grat. We've never done it before, because people have always made their own decisions, and made the right decisions. So I don't think it should be compulsory.

Bottom line

The bottom line is this. I understand the science, and I've looked at the numbers. I've seen the arguments for and against. Even if I didn't, I trust our NHS.

As soon as the vaccine is available, ladysolly and myself will be taking it.

Sunday 9 August 2020

Day 146 of self-isolation - testing and masking

Testing and masking

A test that gives you back results two weeks later is useless. Even a week later is useless. But what are test results taking so long?

The problem is in how companies are paid. Currently, they are paid per test, and there's nothing about turn-around times. Here's how it should be.

If you turn the test round within 48 hours, you get paid. Longer than that, you dn't get paid. Within 24 hours, you get a bonus.

NHS test labs take less than 24 hours.

I'm hoping that this timing will get better as the high-speed tests are rolled out across NHS hospitals, care homes and labs.

 When schools reopen, I'm hoping that masking will be mandatory. When I was at school, there was a mandatory dress code; trousers, blazer, tie and cap. We hated wearing the cap, which was only for the first to third form. I don't know why we hated the caps, maybe they symbolised our subjugation by the system. Or maybe it was just a fashion statement. We also had to wear shorts until the fourth form, at which point we changed from blue to black blazers, long trousers, and NO CAPS! Compared to the arbitrary imposition of caps, the requirement to wear face masks would have been a small thing, although I know that some of my classmates would have rebelled. Just because.

And I would probably have been one of the rebels.

Saturday 8 August 2020

Day 145 of self-isolation - Why aren't children dying of Covid-19?

 Why aren't children dying of Covid-19?

A few are. But not many. And although we are grateful for this mercy, we don't seem to have worked out why.

I can think of two things. The first is that they have been exposed to fewer viruses in their shorter lives, than an adult that is several time older. The other thing is that children have been more recently vaccinated against various diseases than adults.

Although some people have said that children are immune - they are not. They are infected by  the virus, but show light symptoms, or even none, but they are still infected, and can pass the virus on to parents and grandparents. Which is why we have to be careful about reopening schools.

But why aren't the children dying? We need to urgently investigate this, because perhaps children have something that adults don't have, and maybe it's something that adults could make use of.

I can think of two things. The first is that they have been exposed to fewer viruses in their shorter lives, than an adult that is several times older. The other thing is that children have been more recently vaccinated against various diseases than adults.

I get the flu shot each year, but I got the usual range of vaccinations so long ago, I can't remember. Maybe one of those vaccinations is also giving them protection against Covid-19? I don't know.

But maybe it would be helpful to find out.

Friday 7 August 2020

Day 144 of self-isolation - a gross post

 A gross post.

If you are of a nervous disposition, don't read this post.

A refreshing glass of Chlorine DioxideAdd caption

Bolivia's healthcare system has collapsed under the pressure of the virus. We no longer have precise statistics on what is happening there.

Bolivian police said on Tuesday they recovered more than 400 bodies from streets and homes over a five-day period, with 85 percent of the dead believed to have had coronavirus.The other 15%? Maybe from heart attacks, strokes or other problems that a hospital could have alleviated.

Hospitals are full, and have closed their gates, and put up signs saying "There is no space".

Here's the problem. Many Covid-19 victims can be saved by the provision of oxygen, and kept alive while their body gears up and fights off the virus. We also have drug treatments that are tested and known to work, for simple and also severe cases. And in the situation of a swamped healthcare system, the death rate increases from under 1%, to something much greater.

And Bolivia hasn't hit the peak yet.

Some Bolivians have resorted to fake cures, including a toxic bleach (chlorine dioxide) that people are lining up to buy in the city of Cochabamba. Disinfectant is fine for cleaning surfaces, but poisonous to drink. Or inject, as one famous person suggested. But the national Senate has approved its use and a top lawmaker has threatened to expel the World Health Organization for opposing its medical use. Does that sound familiar?

Julio César Baldivieso, a local soccer hero said that because Cochabamba’s hospitals “don’t have tests, they don’t have materials, they don’t have protective equipment,” he's using chlorine dioxide. Ten Roman Catholic bishops have endorsed it. Right - footballers and bishops are medical experts. And reality TV hosts, of course.

In the capital Sucre, local health officials last week began testing chlorine dioxide on 200 local prison inmates and guards. “The application of chlorine dioxide has produced perfect results in the recuperation of critical patients,” said the mayor, Germaín Caballero.

Medical experts say chlorine dioxide is, at best, a placebo. As we know, the majority of people recover without any drugs. But it's sad that several people needed hospital treatment after poisoning themselves with the bleach.

Does that remind you of anything? All the people who claim spectacular results, while not bothering to do a proper clinical trial.

Thursday 6 August 2020

Day 143 of self-isolation - a big bang.

A big bang

Aberdeen has been locked down again. Pubs, clubs and restaurants were closed from 5pm Wednesday. This is going to happen in every place that flares up because people stopped bothering about the precautions for the virus.

In the USA, states have been told that they'll have to pay 25% of the costs of the National Guard - except for the states of Florida and Texas, which are, by the way, Republican.

In Beirut, at least 135 people were killed and 5000 wounded in an immense explosion. How did that happen? As usual, it was a series of incompetencies.

A shipment of 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate  arrived in Beirut in 2013 on a Russian ship, but there were money problems, so it didn't continue its journey to Mozambique. Instead the fertiliser was stored in a warehouse.

I thought that everyone knew that ammonium nitrate makes a powerful explosive? And yet it was stored in the middle of a big city. And for seven years, various authorities wrangled about it.

The explosion was about a tenth of the size of the Hiroshima explosion.

It's happened before. In 1947, a ship containing 2300 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded at Texas City, triggering another ship carrying 1000 tons. 600 people were killed, and 3500 injured.

The conspiracy fantasies will now begin. But the truth is, this is an incompetence issue.

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Day 142 of self-isolation - Down with skool!

Down with skool!

As any fule kno, skool start on Aug 24. At snt custards, hedmaster grimes has dettoled the klassrums and is reddy for akshun, with glas screans all over. Head boy grabber will be suking up as ushal, hoppnig to get his rafia work prise agen and fotherington-tomas will be skiping around saing hullo clouds. skool will be wet and weedy.

Everyones skared of the corna virus so we have to soshul distant witch mean staing apart. Ive got this wicked space helmet to ware and molesworth 2 waring a kloth on his eyes

I herd that half the boys wont be bak this turm, woried about the corna and thats grate because more for us. and all the teechers will haf to ware ful face masks, wot fun!

with luck, the corna will hit the skool and well all be sent home to mater and pater again.

Down with skool! 

Tuesday 4 August 2020

Day 141 of self-isolation - Covid-19 testing

University of Oxford Covid-19 testing

The university has spun off a company called Oxford Nanopore, who have developed a fast, scalable testing facility for Covid-19.

Fast means that results are available in 90 minutes. So say goodbye to the two week wait that many Americans are enduring. Scalable means that this is done via a portable device that can analyse up to 2,000 samples per day, or a desktop device that can run 15,000 samples per day.

Large numbers of these machines are being installed by the UK NHS - by next week, the capacity will be half a million tests per week, with millions more to be added this year.

The machines use DNA sequencing, but the operator does not need healthcare training. Is uses a swap or saliva test. But these are not sent to a laboratory for analysis, they are tested on the spot using the GridION or MiniION machines.

Another 90-minute test, also using DNA sequencing, is available from DnaNudge. These "nudgeboxes" can test up to 15 tests per day, and 5000 of these machines will be distributed across the NHS, useful in places where only small numbers of tests are needed.

Once the needs of the UK are satisfied, perhaps we'll be able to export some of these machines to third-world science-starved countries in the grip of a pandemic that they are unable to control.

Monday 3 August 2020

Day 140 of self-isolation - An assortment of good and bad news

An assortment of good and bad news.

First, the good news.

Johnson and Johnson are one of the 150 companies developing a vaccine. They inoculated 6 monkeys, and 5 of them were immune to Covid-19. Human trials started at the end of July.

A US company has been experimenting with training dogs to diagnose Covid-19 by smelling urine or sweat. They are claiming 95% accuracy. Dogs have a very clever nose, and are used at airports for sniffing out drugs, and large amounts of money. Apart from a large wet nose sniffing your luggage, they are non-intrusive.

Russia is claiming that in October, they will start mass vaccination. Is it possible that they have got so far ahead of the USA? But then I remembered Sputnik. And if the Oxford vaccine could be ready by October, so could others.

Then the bad news

Tropical storm Isaias will soon hit Florida, and is expected to be a hurricane by the time it hits. This will complicate the response to the pandemic. How do you do social isolation when large numbers of people have to sleep in refugee centers?

A survey has revealed that 14 million children in the USA are going hungry, mostly because of the way that the pandemic has affected parents' income.

Australia is in the grip of a major second wave. They got the case numbers down to zero, but now they are surging, and the governor of Victoria has declared a "state of disaster" and imposed strict lockdown measures. Current deaths per million are 8, which is much lower than we're seeing elsewhere, but they want to knock the virus on the head.

Mississippi has joined my list of states to keep an eye on. The sate has poor medical services compared to other US states, and the case numbers are rising fast. Deaths per million are 568, which is much worse than the big states that have been hitting the headlines.

Sunday 2 August 2020

Day 139 of self-isolation - Whack-a-mole


So now we're playing whack-a-mole. Every time the virus pops up, we whack it on the head. But there are drawbacks to this strategy - it creates a lot of uncertainty. Can you plan a family get-together? A wedding? Can a business plan to reopen? Business hates uncertainty. But I can see why they're doing it.

An interesting trade-off has been proposed. We're on the verge of R=1. We're still seeing a hundred deaths per day, or so, while other European countries are a tenth of what we're seeing. But September isn't far away, and it would be great if we could reopen the schools.

We know that reopening the schools, is going to give a boost to the spread of the virus. So is there anything that we could do to counterbalance that? How about closing the pubs?

Are schools more important than pubs? And at pubs, it's got to be very difficult to stop the spread of the virus. People have to unmask to drink, and that's assuming that they were masked in the first place. So there's a proposal floating around - close the pubs in order to open the schools.

Test and trace

Our test-and-trace has been a shambles. There was going to be an app. It was rolled out in the Isle of Wight, and then it was going to be rolled out over the whole country - and then it wasn't. So now, we're doing it the hard way. If you're infected, you tell the tracers, and tell them who you've been near (less than two meters for at least 15 minutes). "Yes, I was down at the Dog and Duck, quite a crowd there. No, I don't know their names. Dominic Cummings, I was close to him".

So we spent £12 million on an app that not only didn't work; it could never have worked, and Google, Apple and I all told them so. Meanwhile, in Ireland, they have an app that does work, and is being used. What is wrong with us? I blame Dido Harding, because she's in charge of all this.

Not only does the Irish app work, it's also working in Northern Ireland. How come a Brit in NI can have access to track and trace, but we don't in England? Why can't we say "Priti please" to Ireland and use theirs?

How many dead?

46,193 people have died of Covid-19 in the UK. But if you poll people, they'll tell you that 7% died, which is about 4 million. It's worse in the USA, where 158 thousand have died, but the poll said that people thought it was 30 million. I suppose that demonstrates that people are completely unable to assess risk. Or are as innumerate as Diane Abbott.

76% of Brits are expecting a second wave; 66% of Americans. Although since America is still drowning in their first wave and will probably be doing so for the rest of this year, it's surprising that they're thinking about a second wave already.

Seeds from China

Mysterious packets of seeds have been arriving unordered in people's letterboxes, from China, and there has been much specualtion about whether they might be a biohazard. I was guessing that they might be triffid seeds, but the truth turned out to be more mundane. The US Department of Agriculture has identified them as cabbage, rosemary, hibiscus, mint, sage and other herbs. Still; advice is not to plant the seeds.

I wonder what the intention is? Obviously, we should suspect a scam, but I just can't think of a scam that starts of with receiving unrequested seeds through the post.

Saturday 1 August 2020

Day 138 of self-isolation - A bit more lockdown

A bit more lockdown

In parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, the lockdown has been tightened up, in response to an increase in the virus.

You can no longer meet with people at home or in your garden. That's exactly what we did last Tuesday! And there's other restrictions, see the link.

This is, of course, somewhat inconvenient for the people in those areas. But it's better than applying it over the whole country.

And it creates a good precedent - if people violate the rules (and of course they do) to the extent that the virus starts spreading again, then we have to re-apply the lockdown. And that isn't punishing the people, it's punishing the virus.

But why are pubs still open? I haven't been to a pub recently, but I would guess that they make ideal places for people to spread the virus. You can't drink with a mask on. I wonder how many people in pubs are masked most of the time? And whether they keep their distance?

I think what happened was that the "track and trace" data told the trackers that the infections were happening  between people who knew each other and were in each others homes or gardens. But if I go to a pub, shop or restaurant, I simple don't know the names or addresses of all the other people there, whereas if I visit someone's home, I do know who they are. So I'm wondering if maybe this is an artifact of the data collection method?

It's sad that we didn't have the app that we were promised, because our incompetent government went in a direction that everyone (Google, Apple, me) told them would not, could not, work. And wasted millions of pounds and several months, going in the wrong direction.

Baroness Dido Harding was in charge. No surprise, then. She was in charge of TalkTalk when they had hack after hack, so she knows all about IT failures.

I think they should have also closed pubs and restaurants. The main way you get infected, is by breathing in what an infected person breathed out. Pubs are closed public spaces, and are much more conducive to virus spread than half a dozen people meeting in someone's garden.

So what will you do if your family wants to get together with another family? Not outdoors in your garden where the wind disperses the virus. Oh no. You all go down to the nearest boozer and cram into the bar along with dozens of other people.

I get the impression that someone isn't thinking this through.

. I expect she's good with horses.