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Sunday, 31 January 2021

Day 321 of self-isolation - Vaccine wars

Vaccine wars

I suppose it was always inevitable. There was always going to be a vaccine shortage, and it was always going to be uneven between countries.  The UK has given a first dose to 13% of the population. Germany 3%, France 2%. There's a shortage of vaccines. 

There also seems to be a shortage of capacity to give the jab, which is really surprising, because we've known for a year that we were going to need that.

Countries can't be mean to each other about capacity to give the jab, but they can be mean about vaccine quantity. And that's what is brewing.

Although the EU has flinched over the restriction of imports to NI, they're still up for restricting it to everywhere else outside the EU.

This is not going to be pretty.




Saturday, 30 January 2021

Day 320 of self-isolation - The Irish question

The Irish question

For Brexit, Ireland was always going to be the insoluble issue. For there to be no hard border between Northern Ireland (NI is part of the UK) and Eire, and no border between Northern Ireland and the UK, and yet a hard border between UK and Eire (part of the EU), it was like trying to square the circle.

So the eventual bodge was to make NI part of the Single market, while the UK is not. It was always going to fall apart, but no-one expected it to fall apart a month after it was set up.

It's all about vaccines, because right now, vaccines are more valuable than gold. The manufacturers aren't making as much as they hoped, which was always a strong possibility, which is why the contracts were all about "best efforts". But how should they distribute the smaller-than-expected amounts that they have made?

The contract isn't clear. It's almost as if no-one thought this might happen. So the UK is saying "first come, first served", because we signed the contracts before the EU did, so we're the "first come". The EU says "it isn't that simple" and are now keeping tabs on what vaccines get exported from the EU. ANd since the UK isn't part of the EU, shipments to the UK count as exports.

But what about shipments to NI? Single market, so they shouldn't be affected. But you know and I know that shipments to NI could easily end up in England, Wales or Scotland. And the EU knows that too, so the EU invoked article 16 which allows parts of the deal to be unilaterally overridden.

So how will this be resolved? 

The EU uninvoked article 16. 

So vaccines can still move freely from the EU to NI.

Which means that NI vaccines don't need to come from the rest of the UK (GB), and maybe some enterprising businesses will export vaccines from NI (one part of the UK) to England (another part of the UK. Because what would stop that happening?

But the threat of article 16 is still on the table, if we do export vaccines from NI to GB.

And if we get caught.

 



Friday, 29 January 2021

Day 319 of self-isolation - Vaccinations continue

Vaccinations continue

Brother-in-law and sister-in-law have been summoned for vaccination over the coming weekend. So the rollout is continuing - 7.5 million people have had their first dose as of 27 January, that's 11%. 

Meanwhile, the Oxford University/AstroZeneca vaccine hasn't been approved by the EU, but they're complaining that they aren't getting all the deliveries they were expecting. Well, tough. This isn't like manufacturing cardboard boxes, and there's been less made than the manufacturer had hoped.

In Germany, they are worrying about the effectiveness of this vaccine on over-65s. The worry is caused by the fact that the population tested only had a few hundred over-65s.




Thursday, 28 January 2021

Day 318 of self-isolation - The heat's on

The heat's on

In the last couple of days, the heat pump has been moved into place and plumbed in. The floors are warm again, the house is heated. We can stop using propane gas heaters, at last.

I can plumb, and have, I've installed a sink, I connected our waste system to the main sewage pipe. I can plumb in copper and in plastic.

But not with lead.

Plumbing with lead is a lot more difficult that copper or plastic. And the word "plumber" comes from the latin word for lead, "plumbum". But we don't use lead much now, because we know that heavy metals like lead can be quite toxic.

Installing a heat exchanger is probably beyond my plumbing skill. So I'm glad that it was done by proper plumbers.

And ladysolly can be warm again.




Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Day 317 of self-isolation - 100,000

100,000

Yesterday, we reached 100,000 deaths, and the daily death rate is running at 1631. In deaths per million population, we are pretty much the worst country in the world, only Gibraltar, San Marino, Belgium and Slovenia are worse.

How did we blunder so badly?

There were a number of bad mistakes, starting with locking down too late, the "Test, trace and isolate" fiascos, "eat out to help out", the Christmas fiasco, the failure to secure our borders at airports, the failure to recommend masking right from day one. Or, to put it another way - omnishambles.

But whereas the omnishambles in "The thick of it" were comedy, these are tragedy.

Government policies have been a series of U-turns, forced partly by the situation with the virus, and partly by the blind optimism of the government until reality was actually hammering on the door. And all the while, chanting "We're following the science" even when very obviously they were not. And still are not.

But I hear the hooves of the cavalry, just over the hill. We've vaccinated 10% of the population, and are now steaming on at three million per week. The death rate is very high, but the number of new cases per day has come from the 68,000 peak down to "only" 20,000. And the number of patients in hospital has started to come down from the 40,000 peak (which was twice as high as the desperate days of last spring).

 



Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Day 316 of self-isolation - Brexit costs

Brexit costs 

Heat exchanger

The men to install it have arrived - just in time, we're in a cold snap, we need our heating back. 

We gave them the Covid test, all passed. 

Brexit costs

Meanwhile, Brexit is the gift that keeps on giving. You'll have heard about the sad plight of the UK fishing industry, which now has access to British fish in British waters, but because we left the Single Market are having big problems in selling them into EU markets. 

But that only affects the fishing industry.

Now Mastercard is raising their fees by 500% for people in the UK buying stuff in the EU. 

Why?

The EU capped the fees charged by Mastercard at 0.3% for credit cards. But the UK isn't in the EU. So now we pay 1.5% to Mastercard (and you can expect that Visa will follow suit).




Monday, 25 January 2021

Day 315 of self-isolation - Snow

Snow

We got snow! Grandson.2 is enchanted by the sight, and grandson.3 has never seen anything like it. All that white!

We knew it was coming, so we opened the gates because we didn't know how deep it would be. We need the gates open for tomorrow, when the heating system installers arrive.

 



Sunday, 24 January 2021

Day 314 of self-isolation - U-turn coming?

U-turn coming?

There's a vaccine shortage. We can inoculate more people than we have vaccines for. So our world-beating government came up with an oven-ready idea. Instead of following the instructions on the tin, and give two doses three weeks apart, they are giving then 12 weeks apart. This means that about twice as many people can be jabbed ... in the short term. It's actually a way to kick the can further down the road.

But one dose only works 50% of the time, you need two doses to get the full 90% protection.

And Pfizer and BioNTech have both warned that this hasn't been tested. It might work, or it might not. There is no evidence their vaccine would continue to be protective if the second dose is given more than 21 days after the first.

No other country is doing this. Only the UK.

The  British Medical Association wants that 12 week wait to be shortened to six weeks, and they've written to the government to say so.

And what happens to a can kicked down the road? Experience tells us that the usual answer is that it gets kicked again. There is no guarantee that the second dose will be available three months from now. Supplies of vaccine are not like saucepans coming off a production line.

So I feel a U-turn in the offing.



Saturday, 23 January 2021

Day 313 of self-isolation - Inaccurate testing

Inaccurate testing

There are two kinds of test. There is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. These aim to detect the RNA of the particular virus that they are testing for. But what is the accuracy? They are good for confirming that you have the virus, but not so good at giving you the all-clear. You get a false negative 30% of the time. In other words, if you test 100 infected people, the test will say that 30 of them are not infected. Not good.

The other kind is the lateral flow test, which is the one that the UK government uses for testing, and it's even worse. The government claims that these are 77% accurate on false negatives, but that's a lie. If you use experienced nurses to test symptomatic people, only 23% of infected people are passed as clear. But in real life? Not fit for purpose. If non-medical staff test people without symptoms, it's a lot worse.

In the Liverpool study, 49% of infected but symptomless people were passed as clear. In the Birmingham study, 97% infected were passed as clear.

And testing twice doesn't help. Whatever was the problem that caused the problem the first time (lower viral load, swabbing difficulties) will still be there the second time. It isn't like rolling dice where the second roll is independent of the first.

Yet the government is writing to schools and parents telling them that the Innova lateral flow test is as accurate as a PCR.

So the bottom line is this. If you take a test and it shows positive, then you probably have the virus, and should isolate for the required time. And if you have great difficulty breathing, get to hospital.

But if you take the test and it shows negative, that doesn't mean that you are definitely clear. It means that you might be clear. But with what probability?

That is a difficult question to answer, and depends on other factors. We call it the "prior probability". For example, I've been in self-imposed isolation for several months, I don't have symptoms, so even before I take the test I'm highly likely to be clear. If I then take the test and the test says I'm clear, then I'm still highly likely to be clear.

But if you work in a hospital in a Covid ward, and even though (of course) you're taking the greatest precautions, then your prior probability isn't as good as mine.

But it's still good; only a percentage of hospital workers catch Covid.. And so if you take a test and you're passed as clear, the probability is even better that you're clear, but by no means 100%.

Uninformed people might think that passing a test means that you're clear. But now you know that it isn't that simple. The tests are far from perfect.

Even if you're tested as clear, you should still continue to take the same precautions that you were taking before the test.

We have to people coming next week to install our heating system. We'll give them a test before they start, and if they test positive, we'll tell them that and send them away. But if they test negative, we're still going to take all the precautions that we would have taken if they hadn't been tested - masking and distancing.

It makes you wonder why exactly the UK government has spent more than £1 billion on buying these tests.

Friday, 22 January 2021

Day 312 of self-isolation - The change to Linux

The change to Linux

25 years ago, I knew nothing about Linux. I had encountered SCO Unix while doing a data recovery, and that threw me in at the deep end, and it was painful. I didn't even know how to do a directory listing (it's ls instead of dir). But when I started running internet servers, Linux was the obvious choice. At first, Debian, but I soon switched to Red Hat Fedora on the servers. And I wrote all the software I needed in perl, which is sufficiently like Pascal (and Algol, my first love) to make the conversion easy. I found C horrible.

Then I came up with the idea of doing all the data preparation and computation on a computer that wasn't being constantly accessed from the internet, so I set up a server for that. I looked at Debian, Fedora and BSD, and chose Fedora, because at that time, BSD didn't have a way to mount Windows volumes on the unix server.

But I was still using Windows as my general purpose workstation. For things like email, browsing the web and editing.

Then I got hit by The Register. The Register is a tech news site (I still use it) which I visited every day. But one day in 2004, I visited The Register and all hell broke loose. It was immediately obvious that my Windows 98 computer had been hit by a trojan, and it turned out that the cause was an advert (which I hadn't clicked on) being shown by The Register.

I spent half an hour trying to get rid of the thing, but it kept coming back, meaning that I hadn't actually gotten rid of it. And then I sat and thought.  I could either flail around trying to remove this thing that was obviously going to be difficult to remove, or I could completely Zap the hard drive and reinstall Windows from scratch.

So I zapped the hard drive. And then I had another thought. Since I'm starting from a clean system, and since all my important data is on a file server that isn't the infested computer, why reinstall Windows?

So I installed Fedora Linux, with a Gnome graphical user interface (GUI). From my work with servers, I was already familiar with the command line of Linux, but the GUI was completely new to me - or was it? It turned out to be remarkably similar to the Windows GUI.

But what about the applications? For email, I was already using a terminal to my mailbox with Pine as the mail app. The advantage of Pine is that it's a text-only interface without javascript or other clever stuff, so it's going to be immune to the attacks that are made on web-based email apps. For my browser I used Firefox, and browsers all work in pretty much the same way. Instead of Excel, I used gnumeric (now I use Libre Office) and all spreadsheets work much the same way. Instead of Word, I used Abiword (now I use Libre Office)and all word processors work much the same way. Instead of Notepad or Wordpad, I used nedit, a text editor. Instead of PC Paintbrush, I use Gimp. 

And when I need some particular piece of software, I just go get it, because you don't pay for Linux software. And pretty much everything is available, because when someone has an itch, they scratch it and make it available for other people for free.

So now I have dozens of Windows licences, because often when I buy a second hand computer, it seems to come with a Windows licence taped to it. Or does it? Maybe the licence is only to the original owner? I don't care, because I'm replacing it with linux. And right now, I have just two Windows computers; one is for running GSAK because there isn't a linux version, and the other is for playing Civilisation VI.

But for everything else, there's linux.




Thursday, 21 January 2021

Day 311 of self-isolation - Weight report

Weight report

I was down to 15 stone, 11 pounds this morning. It's slow, but still going down.

In other news, I just got  an email from Bucks council, telling me that they're planning to vaccinate all over-70s by February 20th.




Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Day 310 of self-isolation - America is turning the corner

America is turning the corner

I think that the most important statistic today, is the number of people hospitalised. It's important  because of the hospitals get swamped, and people can't get hospital treatment, many who might have been saved, will die.



New case numbers also look like they're retreating from the peak of 300,000 down to a still huge number of 200,000


Death numbers lag behind these figures by a few weeks, so death numbers in the USA are still horrible. But we can hope that they will follow hospitalisations downwards.


On 20th January, the new president is inaugurated, and can start to take control. One obvious difference is that whereas Trump promoted non-masking by his personal example, Biden takes the opposite line. It's hard to believe that a medical issue like mask-wearing, has become so heavily politicised in the USA.

But whoever claims credit for getting us out of this pandemic (and many politicians will), the true heroes are the nurses and doctors who risked death every day to give medical care to those who needed it, and the scientific community that developed and tested a vaccine in such a short time.


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Day 309 of self-isolation - The heat pump arrived

The heat pump arrived

Two months ago, there was a flash and a bang and our heat pump stopped working.

A heat pump is a refrigerator running backwards. A refrigerator makes the inside of the box colder, by making the air outside the box warmer. So, our heat pump makes the inside of our house warmer, by making a mass deep underground, cooler. And in summer, it cools the house.

And then in summer, the mass deep underground warms up again, so we can do it all again next winter.

So after the flash and bang, we got the expert in. He said we need a new heat pump. So we ordered one. It comes from Sweden.

It arrived after about a month, but when we looked in the back of the delivery lorry - it had fallen over. These things are about six foot tall, and two by two on the base. And they are top heavy. So after consulting the company that sent it, we refused to accept the delivery.

For the first month without the heat pump, we used electric heaters. But that's an expensive and inefficient way to heat a house, so we switched over to gas, using portable Calor gas cylinders - propane. Each cylinder would last us about five days, and then we had to change cylinder. But those cylinders are heavy. About 70 pounds each. I use a porter's trolley to move them around.

So today, after about two months without our heat pump (and therefore without central heating) the replacement arrived. 

The driver unloaded it. It was on a pallet, so he used a hand truck to move it, and the tail lift of the lorry. It only just fitted through the garage door, that's how high it is. And it weighs about 800 pounds, so manhandling it isn't an option. 

So it's now sitting there, waiting for the installers to move it to the place where it will live, and then plumb it in.

 



Monday, 18 January 2021

Day 308 of self-isolation - Drive replacement

Drive replacement

The main hard drive of my central file server is looking wonky - 120 reallocated sectors, and 1576 that the drive thinks need fixing. In addition, there are three files that won't read.

This is all symptomatic of a drive that's near the end of its life. It's a 3 terabyte Seagate, and those are some of the worst drives I've ever bought. So I took the server out of the rack, installed a fairly new 4tb drive, and I'm in the  middle of copying all the date to the new drive.

If it does fail, I have backups. Many backups. There are two backup servers that I can just switch in, and another three backups that rotate, ten days at a time. So I'm not too worried about it failing, but it's so much easier to copy the data drive-to-drive on the same computer, than to restore a backup, that I'm doing it that way.

The replacement drive is a 4 terabyte Seagate, and those have been much better than the 3tbs.

I checked prices; I can get these 4tb drives now for £55. But I still have a few in stock, and prices usually decline over time.

 




Sunday, 17 January 2021

Day 307 of self-isolation - Vaccination continues

Vaccination continues

As of now, 3.5 million people have had their first jab. The first target is to give the first jab to the top four groups by mid-February. And if you look at the graph, it's looking like the target might get achieved. 

Those in that target include:

Care home residents

Care home workers

Age 80+

Healthcare workers

Social care workers

75-79

70-74

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (under 70) 

 

These groups account for 88% of deaths from Covid. So ladysolly and I are expecting to be invited to our jabs in early February.

But not everyone will accept the vaccine offered. Vaccine hesitancy was highest in Black or Black British groups, with 72% stating they were unlikely/very unlikely to get the jab. Pakistani/Bangladeshi groups were the next most hesitant, with 42% unlikely/very unlikely to be vaccinated.

This is strange. Everyone surely knows that higher mortality is correlated with darker skin, so if anything darker skinned people should be keener to be inoculated. We don't know whether that higher mortality is caused by vitamin D deficiency (darker skins make vitamin D more slowly) or whether it is socio-economic factors. But either way, you'd think that people more at risk would be keener to take the vaccine.

Why is this? Nobody knows. But there are far too many people spreading disinformation, ranging from the mythical "chip implantation", the mythical "it isn't halal" all the way up to "it hasn't been tested enough".

Meanwhile, Salisbury Cathedral has been temporarily turned into a vaccination center.

 


Saturday, 16 January 2021

Day 306 of self-isolation - Lack of oxygen

Lack of oxygen

Some Brazilians hospitals have run out of oxygen. When that happens, a lot of Covid patients die.

"Guys, I'm asking for mercy. We are in a terrible situation here. The oxygen of this entire unity has just ended. There is no oxygen. There is so many people dying right now. Whoever has a tank of oxygen at home, please, bring to this hospital. There is so many people dying. Oh my god, I ask you to share this vĂ­deo, we need help. There is to many people dying. Please! Please! Oh my god!"

In the UK, we've closed all "air corridors" from other countries. But people are still allowed to travel - they just have to "self-isolate". But you know and I know, that many people who are supposed to self-isolate, won't do that.

Two million dead worldwide. $00,000 dead USA. 86,000 dead UK.

 The UK target is to vaccinate ladysolly and me by mid-February.


 

Friday, 15 January 2021

Day 305 of self-isolation - Blog spam

Blog spam

For every genuine comment on this blog, there are dozens of spam comments. Most of these consist of flattery on the content of the blog; I suppose they think that I'm more likely to approve those.

It's very strange that only a few of the blog posts get these spam comments. One is my Christmas story about "Rudolf the Red" (I've left one of them there as a specimen), another is "Out with ladysolly". A description of a few of my bicycles gets a surprising amount of attention.

I don't understand what they think they're getting out of this. There is no lonk to anything, there's nothing that I can see that gets the spammer any advantage.

Is it possible that hundreds of people genuinely admire my literary style and command of the subjects that I cover? Not a chance. If that were true, it wouldn't be just a few blog posts; they['d be scattered over a great many posts.

So what is going on?

If anyone knows, please tell me.



Thursday, 14 January 2021

Day 304 of self-isolation - Variants

Variants

There's the Kent variant, the South Africa variant and the Brazilian variant. Where did they come from, and what problems do they cause?

It's evolution in action. The purpose of a virus is to copy itself, and to do so, it uses the mechanisms of our cells. But the copies are not always exact. Sometimes, there is a small mistake in the copy.

This mistake could mean a non-viable virus, and that's a dead end. Or it could mean a virus that is less infectious. Or more infectious.

The more times this copying happens, the more chances there are for a minor copying error. Most such errors don't change infectiousness, but the copying errors that make the virus more infectious will, obviously, spread faster than the original.

So the problem will continue. As the virus gets more and more common, there will be more and more variants which are more infectious. Kent was unfortunate to be hit by one of the first, and now the whole of the UK is suffering.

The vaccine will change the environment. And evolution is about adaptation to the environment.

With that many copies of the virus floating around, it's likely that some of them will be more resistant to the vaccines. And in the same way that bacteria have evolved resistance to antibiotics, so Covid can evolve resistance to the vaccines.

The vaccines will get us off the hook for now. But not for ever. Just as we need a new vaccine for flu each year, we could need a new vaccine for Covid each year.

We have to get ready for that.

How?

I'd suggest three things.

1. We have to stop running the NHS at near 100% capacity. There has to be unued capacity to cope with an epidemic. Yes, that will cost money.

2. We need more doctors and nurses, and we need to get them by paying for their training (bursaries) and paying them well when trained. Yes, that will cost money.

3. We need to have enough medical equipment (for example, PPE) in stock so that if there's another pandemic, we aren't left using bin bags instead. Yes, that will cost money.

This will all cost money, but not as much as it can cost if we don't get ready for the next pandemic. 




Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Day 303 of self-isolation - More masks

More masks

Waitrose, Adsa and Tesco have all announced a new tough masking policy.

No mask - no service.


Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Day 302 of self-isolation - Masks

Masks

Morrisons and Sainsbury's are banning customers unless they wear a mask. 

Good idea. Perhaps that will lead other supermarkets to follow suit. And perhaps that will make a contribution to reducing the spread of the virus.

We're looking like 100,000  deaths by the end of February.

 



Monday, 11 January 2021

Day 301 of self-isolation - All vaccinated by March end

In Israel

Every Israeli citizen over the age of 16 who is willing to, will be vaccinated by the end of March.

 Why can't we do that here? We have the world-beating NHS, we have a carpet-beating government, we have access to three approved vaccines, including one developed here.

Israel is also in their third national lockdown, and are currently looking at 400 deaths per million population. That's a third of the number in the UK, which is 1200 per million.

Israel is using the Pfizer vaccine; we are too. Currently, 20% of Israelis have had their first dose if the vaccine; in the UK, it's more like 2%.

Why can't our own oven-ready government exdigitate?



Sunday, 10 January 2021

Day 300 of self-isolation - The first 300 days

The first 300 days

10 months ago, I started this series with a satirical piece "Day 97 of isolation". I chose 97 because I thought it was very far in the future - but it wasn't.

But I'm not going to look back on the last 300 days. There are so many interesting and terrible things happening in America.

The center of government in the USA, is the Capitol building in Washington. It's their equivalent of the Houses of Parliament.

So on 6th January, Trump held a rally in Washington, in which he invited attendees to walk with him to the Capitol to tell the senators and congress people to reverse the results of the election of November 3rd.

And so they did as he asked. Of course, he didn't walk with them. But his followers arrived at the Capitol, and proceeded to break in. In the riot that followed, the police were heavily outnumbered, because who could have guessed that this would happen? Everyone, actually.

Many of them broke into the building, forcing doors and breaking windows.

One police officer (Brian Sidenick) was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher.

 


One rioter (Ashil Babbi, 35) was shot and died as she tried to force entry by climbing through a window. 


 


One woman (Rosanne Boyland, 34) was trampled to death in the crush as people tried to force entry. Here's a picture of her waving her "Don't tread on me" flag.



Kevin Greeson, 55, allegedly was trying to steal a portrait of Tip O'Neill, accidentally tasered himself in the testicles and died of a heart attack.


This all came as a great shock to many people, but the general consensus is that this was incited by Trump, as part of his lie that he had really won the election and that it had been stolen.

So what do you do when something is stolen from you? You try to get it back.

But it wasn't stolen. There has been 60 court cases, all of which have failed to show that there was anything wrong with the election. The man in charge of election security said that it was the most secure election in US history. The woman who falsely and repeatedly claimed that Dominion vote counting machines flipped huge numbers of votes, is now being sued for $1.3 billion by Dominion. 

Trump went too far this time. You don't incite an insurrection against the US government - there are consequences. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram have all suspended his account. Shopify has closed his online shop for Maga hats and other stuff. And the process to impeach him has been started - his second impeachment.

Trump's drive to "Make America Great Again" has ended in tragedy and farce. To 380,000 deaths in the pandemic, partly because of his non-mask-wearing leadership. To a ruined USA economy, a ruined respect for the US government and an unprecedented division in America.

Biden is probably not the best person in America to be President. But he had the huge advantage of not being Trump. Hopefully, Biden will take facts on board, will follow the science in the response to the pandemic, and will try to bring America together to heal the terrible rifts that Trump exploited and widened.

Perhaps, after four years, the lunatics will no longer be running the asylum.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Day 299 of self-isolation - Worst ever

Worst ever

On Thursday, we had 1325 Covid deaths which is the worst ever, and 68,053 new cases, which is the worst ever. We are now paying the price of Christmas, which was 14 days ago. We had our Christmas at home, just the two of us, plus the family via Zoom. 

The UK is the worst Covid country to be in the world right now, even worse (on a per million basis) than the USA.

The pressure on the ambulance service and on the hospitals, is horrendous. London has declared a "major incident" as Covid threatens to overwhelm hospitals. This is a very bad time to get any kind of illness that needs hospitalisation.

There are 7,034 people currently hospitalized with Covid in London, 35% more than the worst time in April.

In the USA, deaths were 4207, a new high. New cases were 279,154, a new high. Also Christmas. Also dire. And, of course, American attention is concentrated on their political crisis and the insurrection in Washington.

In California, doctors are now facing the horrendous choice of who to admit to hospital and who to turn away - triage.

And the Kent variant of the virus is starting to spread in the USA.

 



Friday, 8 January 2021

Day 298 of self-isolation - Good news, bad news

Good news, bad news

Good news

The first piece of good news is that my weight was down to 15 stone 12 this morning. OK, it isn't world shaking, but I'm pleased.

More importantly, clinical trials have shown that two drugs, tocilizumab and sarilumab, in conjunction with dexamethasone, reduce the risk of mortality for people going into intensive care, by 8.5%.

More good news - Trump has been banned from Facebook, his Twitter account locked, Snapchat blocked him and his online shop has been closed by Shopify. He went too far when he incited revolution against the US Constitution. The revolution failed, and Trump has paid the price. Without his Twitter account, he's just another old man mumbling about "Could have been a player".

Bad news

Wednesday deaths were 1162, just four short of the worst so far. We are now reaping the consequences of the 50,000+ per day that we've been seeing for a week. And now we're also seeing the results of the Christmas break.

In America, deaths have gone over 4000 per day. And 261 thousand new cases. But no-one in America is watching Covid, because of the political insurrection that happened on the 6th of January.

In the riot in Washington, four people died.

Other news

There's talk of impeaching Trump, and there's talk of invoking the 25th Amendment, to declare Trump incapable.

Trump is, apparently, mostly upset about being locked out of Twitter.




Thursday, 7 January 2021

Day 297 of self-isolation - Distance learning

Distance learning

I spent three years at university doing distance learning. 400 of us sat in a big hall, the lecturer was at the front, writing on a blackboard. We copied down what he wrote. He was 20 yards away, but he might as well have been 20 miles away. One of my lecturers was Professor Paul Dirac, a brilliant Nobel Prize winner, but his handwriting was almost illegible from where I sat.

There were also "supervisions". Two students and one postgrad. He went over the stuff he'd set for us last week, and set us some stuff for next week. It might as well have been Zoom.

The social life, of course, wasn't distance, and in some cases, it was very up-close. There was also the weekly "Puzzles and Games Ring", the weekly bridge tournament, the SF Book Club. But the academic part of it, was all distance learning.

It was pretty much the same at school. Apart from cricket, which I disliked and football which I hated, the teacher was at one end of the room; we were lined up in front. I did like woodwork and metalwork, and learned a lot from that, and you can['t do that remotely, but nearly all the academic learning at school, was no different from distance.

Today, you can get a Raspberry Pi for £35, a keyboard for £5 and you almost certainly already have a TV. If you don't, then a good monitor is £25. The government could do a deal with the Raspberry Pi Foundation and bulk-buy even cheaper. And distance learning can continue.

And what's the problem with exams? Traditionally, you need to crowd the examinees into a room so you can invigilate and make sure that they don't cheat. But there are also "open book" exams, where understanding is tested rather than memorisation. And those are easier to do at distance.

And consider this. The Open University has been running since 1969 and covered 2.2 million people. Distance learning works.




Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Day 296 of self-isolation - Back in the Jug Agane

Back in the Jug Agane 

 By Willans and Searle I loved the Moleswortt books, alongside Jennings, Just William and Swallows and Amazons.

61 thousand new cases and 830 new deaths.

We're back in Covid jail, most of us. One exception is pre-school. Four year olds at infant school, are kept at home. Four year olds at nursery school, can still attend. Don't ask me to explain this. It is what it is. Science? We've heard of it.

In London, one in 30 people are currently infected. That's a lot.

But in Los Angeles,  ambulance crews have been told by the county emergency medical services not to take patients with little chance of survival to hospitals.

That's the harsh reality of triage. Some young medic has to decide who gets treatment and who doesn't. It's a nightmare. And, of course, the people who don't make it to hospital, have a worse change of recovering.

That's why we're locking down now - to avoid that nightmare.

 




Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Day 295 of self-isolation - Here we go again

Here we go again

We're back to full lock down.  It's Groundhog day again. We're back to the lock down that we went through in March/April.

I'm not complaining, it's obviously the right thing to do, but there is one mistake - places of worship can stay open. What, did Boris negotiate an agreement with God? I can't play tennis with one other person, but a bunch of Covidiots can cram into a church to spread the word and the virus? Scotland has closed the churches - why not England? Do people think that God can't hear them pray unless they gather in Covid-spreading clusters?

The lock down is till mid February ... at least. So, here we go again.

The significant difference is that now we have vaccines, although there's a question over how long it'll take to roll them out. We're being told March, but we've heard so many optimistic stories from our world-beating government, that I'm more than a little sceptical.

Hospitalisations now are 40% higher than they were back in April, so we really do need this. The limitation that is important, is hospital places. And hospital places doesn't just mean "beds" - you can buy a bed in any furniture shop. The limitation is the medical staff and equipment needed to take care of patients in dire need for as long as it takes for their immune system to fight off the virus - or until the worst happens.

We'll certainly be following this new rule in our house, but then, we've been ahead of government rulings since last March.

 



Monday, 4 January 2021

Day 294 of self-isolation - Donate to both sides

Donate to both sides

 I got spam.

Subject: TRUMP2024 IS THE BEST
 
 
TRUMP2024 IS THE BEST WE'VE GOT
It's not other, until President TRUMP says it's over!
 
Republicans have outspent Democrats by more than $50 MILLION on ads in Georgia.  
 
Click on the link to learn more:
https://strongmarch.com/optin88pkxz25
 
We?re in the final stretch of the election that will decide the ENTIRE Senate.  
The Senate will decide the Presidential election outcome.  
 
We CAN win in Georgia and GIVE PRESIDENT TRUMP A FIGHTING CHANCE.  
It?s going to be incredibly close.  
 
click below and ACT NOW!
https://secure.actblue.com/donate/pttf-email?refcode=20201226_em_fr_b1_pelosi_30_op&amount=10&amounts=20%2C70%2C1
 

So what is interesting about this spam? Apart from "It's not other"?

The first link is soliciting a $19.95 donation in exchange for a t-shirt, on behalf of the Republicans. Allegedly.

The second link is soliciting a donation on behalf of the Democrats. Allegedly.

There must be a lot of gullible people in America, and they are all being milked by crooks. 




Sunday, 3 January 2021

Day 293 of self-isolation - Remember the Boris moonshot?

Remember the Boris moonshot?

The plan, announced on 9th September, was to spend £100 billion to enable 10 million tests per day.

It got cancelled on October 22nd.

Remember "Five days of relaxed rules of Christmas?" Actually one.

Remember "Schools will reopen on January 4th?" No, they won't.

And the latest. We'll give everyone a single dose, and the second dose 12 weeks later. The reasoning is that this will make use of the scarce resource (the vaccine) to save the greatest number of lives.

I have two thoughts. The first is, I was under the impression that AstraZeneca was manufacturing at full speed while the trials were going on, so that there would be a big stock of vaccines ready to go. It seems that I was under a false impression.

The second thought, is that the first dose of vaccine gives 70% efficacy, 21 days after the first dose.  But many people won't like the idea of not getting the 95% efficacy that was promised.

 



Saturday, 2 January 2021

Day 292 of self-isolation - Schools stay closed

Schools stay closed

All primary schools in London will remain closed until 18th January. The government has been reading my blog again.

 

Bucks, Beds and Herts are at the highest level of Covid restrictions, and in Bucks, the hospital system is being overwhelmed. This is why we went into full lockdown last April.

In parts of Bucks and Herts, the reopening of primary schools is postponed. Case rates are from 8000 to 10000 per million; the UK as a whole is about 1000 per million.

 

 



Friday, 1 January 2021

Day 291 of self-isolation - Happy New Year

Happy New Year

2020 has not been a complete washout. 

I didn't get infected, nor did Ladysolly, nor did any of our relatives get severe Covid. One of them is already vaccinated.

In November, Trump lost the election.

 Three vaccines were tested and approved.

We left the EU with a free trade agreement.

2021 will be a lot better

Sometime in 2021, hopefully before summer, most people in the UK will be vaccinated. I'm hoping that Ladysolly and I get the jab before spring; we're 10 millionth in line for it.

The new Covid variant will be prevented by the vaccines.

I'm hoping that our heating system will be repaired by February, and we can stop using the Calor gas heaters.

My HSBC Securekey will arrive in January, and I can do online banking again.

I can get a haircut.

 In June, we can have a big family holiday, to make up for the dismal Christmas of 2020. But not on a cruise ship.

I can stop using the horrible VAT MOSS Union scheme from HMRC, and start using the Irish non-Union scheme. 

Ladysolly can play bridge offline.