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The fight against Coronavirus



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  • One year of coronavirus ‘lockdowns’ Report by Dr John Puntis, co-chair Keep Our NHS Public to Health Campaigns
    Together Affiliates meeting – 23rd January 2021:
    "January 23rd 2021 marks the first anniversary of the Wuhan lockdown and is ten
    months from when the UK first introduced restrictions on people’s movement in
    order to decrease the spread of the virus. In this brief overview, I want to look at
    where we are now and what the Westminster government has or has not learnt."

  • Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak Excellent interactive New York Times resource with trackers and statistics on the prevalence of Covid infection and the measures to deal with it in every US state and around the world

  • Memorial of Health & Social Care Workers taken by COVID-19 Moving and interactive a digital tribute and memorial by Nursing Notes to the dedicated members of our health and social care family who gave their lives during the fight against Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19).
    NursingNotes is committed to planting a new tree in a protected forest for every single health and social care worker who loses their lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Unite warns that private Leamington mega lab will damage local NHS services Unite publishes (24 Feb) the excellent report warning on the dangers and consequences of the new privatised mega-lab being opened in Leamington Spa.
    Unite lead officer for health in the West Midlands Su Lowe said: “This is an important report as it lays bare how the mega lab will undermine NHS services in Warwickshire and Coventry.
    “Unite, which represents biomedical scientists, believes that it is disgraceful how the government is using the Covid pandemic as cover to force through the creation of the mega labs.
    “The NHS scientists who will be most impacted by the creation of the mega labs are working flat out to protect the health of patients.
    “Given the very public failures of the test and trace service which has greatly exacerbated the number of deaths due to Covid-19 in the UK and which has contributed to the need for successive lockdowns. It is frankly shocking that the government still thinks that test and trace is capable of setting up a fully functioning and safe mega lab.”

  • Birmingham blood cancer patient dies of Covid after ward outbreak Shocking story from BBC Midlands news (Feb 23/24):
    "A 43-year-old man being treated for blood cancer has died of Covid after contracting it in a hospital outbreak.
    "He had received stem cell transplants in an open bay at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, despite virus guidelines saying such patients should be treated in isolation. His family, who have asked not to be identified, said they were "surprised" he had been on an open ward.
    "The hospital said it would now treat such patients in isolated side rooms.
    "An outbreak of Covid among stem cell transplant patients was reported on the ward earlier this month - the second there since October.
    "Transplants had to be halted amid the autumn outbreak.
    "The hospital department was circulating the national guidelines in December, but transplants continued in open bays."

  • People's Covid Inquiry: Learn Lessons, Save Lives Website with details of the People's Covid Inquiry launched by Keep Our NHS Public, with a series of hearings to bring key expert testimony to bear and piece together an analysis of how the government has got so many things so wrong about the Covid pandemic.

  • G7 backs Gavi's COVAX Advance Market Commitment to boost COVID-19 vaccines in world’s poorest countries Vaccines NGO GAVI press release Feb 19 with some belated good news:
    "Today G7 leaders announced a doubling of funding for Gavi COVAX AMC to support lower-income economies obtain life-saving vaccines against COVID-19, ensuring greater equity in fighting to end the acute phase of the pandemic.
    "New funding from the European Union, Germany and the United States will allow COVAX, the international COVID-19 vaccine mechanism, to secure more doses and further diversify its vaccine portfolio, advancing its goal to roll out at least 1.3 billion vaccine doses in world’s poorest economies in the next few months.
    "This comes alongside a number of recent pledges, including a pledge announced today by Ireland.
    "The announcement also includes securing doses for COVAX to support vital humanitarian work in places where populations face emergencies.
    "In addition, the UK and France announced commitments to share vaccine doses with lower-income economies, joining a number of other countries expressing the same goal, to further accelerate a coordinated international response and help put an end to the pandemic globally."

  • We will keep fighting Update (Feb 23) from the Good Law Project after inflicting major setback on Matt Hancock:
    "We are pleased to be able to tell you that the Court has granted a cost-capping order in our judicial review over the award of huge PPE contracts, without advertisement or competition, to Pestfix (a pest control company), Ayanda (an opaque private fund owned through a tax haven), and Clandeboye (a confectionery wholesaler).
    "After Government said it would cost an unbelievable £1million pounds to defend the case, we asked the Court to cap our exposure to Government’s legal costs at £100k. We are a small not-for-profit that relies on crowdfunding. After reviewing our fundraising efforts for the case so far and looking at what we have saved for a rainy day, this is the figure we could afford.
    "Instead, the Court has granted a cost-capping order of £250k. It means that if we lose the case, we are liable to pay a quarter of a million pounds to Government, as well as needing to cover our own legal costs. Despite huge support from members of the public, generous individuals and organisations, we are still short.
    "But we will not be bullied out by costs. This case, which we are bringing alongside EveryDoctor, is simply too important."

  • The UK’s PPE procurement scandal reminds us why we need ways to hold ministers to account Excellent BMJ Feb 23 summary by Martin McKee on the Hancock/PPE scandal:
    "The struggles that frontline health and social care workers faced when trying to obtain PPE are surely well known, although not seemingly to the health secretary when he told the BBC that there had been no national shortage. Some of the best accounts are in books by two British doctors, Rachel Clarke and Dominic Pimenta. Indeed, Pimenta stepped away from frontline medicine to create a charity to source PPE for the NHS.
    "Yet equally shocking were the stories of how the procurement process was operated. In one of the most visible cases, only a fraction of 400 000 gowns ordered from a Turkish t-shirt manufacturer arrived and when they did, they were late despite the Royal Air Force being sent to collect them, and they were found to be unusable.
    "Fifty million face masks, purchased through a company specialising in currency trading and offshore property, part of a £252 million contract, were also unusable.
    "A Miami jewelry designer, awarded a £250 million contract for PPE, was found to have paid £21 million to a consultant to broker the deal. A pest control company with net assets of £19 000 was given a £108 million contract for PPE. A highly critical report by the National Audit Office provides more examples.
    "These vast sums of money were being spent as schools and community groups were using their spare time to make PPE using their 3D printers."

  • Matt Hancock took nearly 3 times legal time limit to publish Covid-19 contracts Mirror February 23:
    "The High Court rapped the Health Secretary for unlawfully failing to publish contracts within 30 days in a “substantial number of cases.”
    "A defiant Mr Hancock said today that he would breach the law again if needed, claiming the documents were on average only a fortnight late.
    "But in a letter to Government lawyers, the Good Law Project revealed the Health Secretary’s estimate that contracts took an average of 47 days to be published did not include contracts which had still not been released.
    "They said that once unpublished contracts were included the figure skyrocketed to 78 days by November - almost three times the legal limit.
    "In a letter to the Government Law Department, lawyers Deighton Pierce Glynn, who represent the Good Law Project said they were concerned Mr Hancock was “denigrating” the High Court decision."

  • The Covid contracts furore is no surprise – Britain has long been a chumocracy Polly Toynbee in the Guardian Feb 22:
    "The Good Law Project, the admirable not-for-profit public-cleanser, last week proved in the high court that the government had breached what the judge called the “vital public function” of transparency over “vast quantities” of taxpayers’ money. A VIP fast-lane for protective equipment contracts made the contacts of ministers, MPs, peers and officials 10 times more likely to win contracts. PPE prices sky-rocketed: even bodybags were being charged at 14 times their previous cost. The Good Law Project’s demands for publication of those favoured suppliers, their VIP sponsors and prices paid have been denied so far.
    "Why the secrecy? The Guardian has already revealed that the medical regulator is investigating Alex Bourne, health secretary Matt Hancock’s ex-neighbour, who won £30m of work producing medical vials, despite having no experience in the field.
    "In the panic over empty PPE shelves in hospitals and care homes, that dash to procure might be forgiven were it not that favours to friends is the everyday modus operandi for Boris Johnson."

  • ‘We did not have a national shortage of PPE’, says Hancock Nursing Notes Feb 21 with an angry response to a blatant lie from Matt Hancock
    "The Health Secretary has angered health and social care workers by rubbishing claims of a national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the first wave of the pandemic.
    "In an interview with Andrew Marr today Health Secretary Matt Hanock said that his team was spending “7 days a week, often 18 hours a day getting hold of the equipment that was saving lives” insisting on three occasions that the UK “didn’t have a national shortage of PPE”.
    "A NursingNotes survey of healthcare workers following the first wave of the pandemic showed that over half of workers (52%) had been given PPE they felt was inappropriate or inadequate, a third had been told to re-use single-use PPE, and a fifth has been given PPE that had already expired.
    "With the vast majority of nursing staff caring for COVID-19 patients wearing nothing more than a standard surgical mask, gloves, and a thin plastic apron, Mr. Hancock’s claims come only days after healthcare leaders wrote to the Prime Minister again calling for improved PPE.
    "Across the UK, at least 930 health and care workers to date have died and many more are suffering from long-term adverse effects of COVID-19."

  • Matt Hancock's ex-neighbour under investigation by UK's medicine agency Guardian Feb 21: “The former publican and neighbour of Matt Hancock who secured lucrative work producing millions of vials for NHS Covid tests is under investigation by the UK’s medicine agency, the Guardian can reveal.
    “Alex Bourne, who used to run the Cock Inn near the health secretary’s old constituency home in Thurlow, won about £30m of work producing the test tubes despite having no prior experience in the medical devices industry.
    “Prior to the pandemic, his company, Hinpack, made plastic cups and takeaway boxes for the catering industry. Now it supplies tens of millions of vials from its production site on an industrial potato farm complex in Cambridgeshire.
    “The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirmed it has launched an investigation into Bourne’s company. “We take all reports of non-compliance very seriously,” said Graeme Tunbridge, director of devices at the MHRA. “We are currently investigating allegations about Hinpack and will take appropriate action as necessary. Patient safety is our top priority.”

  • Call for new Beveridge report as number of destitute UK households doubles during Covid Guardian Feb 20:
    "The number of British households plunged into destitution more than doubled last year, according to alarming new research on the devastating fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
    "Amid growing concerns over the unequal impact the crisis has had on the poor and low-paid, it has emerged that there were 220,000 more households living in destitution by the end of last year, potentially more than half a million people.
    "The troubling figures come alongside calls for a major review of the support provided to the poorest during the crisis. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is expected to extend state support for businesses and the low-paid as part of in his Budget next month.
    "The increase in destitution – from 197,400 to 421,500 households last year – was revealed by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) for a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation to be broadcast tomorrow, Britain’s £400bn Covid Bill: Who Will Pay? Destitution is defined as a two-adult household living on less than £100 a week and a single-adult household on less than £70 a week after housing costs."

  • Covid: Matt Hancock acted unlawfully over pandemic contracts BBC News website story Feb 20:
    "Matt Hancock acted unlawfully when his department did not reveal details of contracts it had signed during the Covid pandemic, a court has ruled.
    "A judge said the health secretary had "breached his legal obligation" by not publishing details within 30 days of contracts being signed.
    "The public had a right to know where the "vast" amounts spent had gone and how contracts were awarded, he added.
    "The government said it fully recognised the "importance of transparency".
    "But Labour claimed the government's awarding of contracts was "plagued by a lack of transparency, cronyism and waste"."

  • Matt Hancock ‘acted unlawfully’ by failing to publish Covid contract details Channel 4 News report Feb 19:
    "There have been another 12,000 new cases in the UK and another 450,000 people received their first dose of the Covid vaccine yesterday. Almost 17 million people have now received their first dose of a vaccine.
    "But the political row over the government’s handling of the crisis has continued.
    "Today, the High Court ruled that Health Secretary Matt Hancock acted “unlawfully” when he failed to publish details of contracts signed during the pandemic."

  • Matt Hancock acted unlawfully by failing to publish Covid contracts Guardian Feb 19 on the big story the BBC largely failed to mention:
    “The health secretary, Matt Hancock, acted unlawfully by failing to publish multibillion-pound Covid-19 government contracts within the 30-day period required by law, a high court judge has ruled.
    “The judge, Mr Justice Chamberlain, ruled the failure to do so breached the “vital public function” of transparency over how “vast quantities” of taxpayers’ money was spent.
    “The judgment is a victory for the Good Law Project (GLP), a crowdfunded not-for-profit organisation that is making a series of legal challenges related to the government’s procurement of protective personal equipment (PPE) and other services during the pandemic.
    “Research by the procurement consultancy Tussell had found Hancock’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had spent about £15bn buying PPE from different companies by the beginning of October, but that only £2.68bn worth of contracts had been published.”

  • UK government broke the law by failing to disclose PPE contracts, court rules Reuters report Feb 19:
    “The British government broke the law by failing to publish details of billions of pounds of spending on personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic, a London court ruled on Friday.
    “As COVID-19 swept across the world last year, Britain scrambled to secure protective gear for medics and nurses on the front line.
    “The Good Law Project, a campaign group, and three opposition politicians brought a judicial review seeking information about undisclosed deals with firms that had no medical procurement expertise and, in some cases, delivered defective protective equipment.
    “Martin Chamberlain, a High Court judge, said the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, failed to comply with a public procurement law that requires the government to publish contract awards within 30 days.
    “The Secretary of State spent vast quantities of public money on pandemic-related procurements during 2020,” Chamberlain said. “The public were entitled to see who this money was going to, what it was being spent on and how the relevant contracts were awarded.”

  • Whistleblowers trigger downgrade of maternity unit over staff shortages Independent Feb 19:
    "A hospital’s maternity unit has been downgraded over safety fears after whistleblowers raised alarms over unsafe staffing levels.
    "The Care Quality Commission has issued Worcestershire Royal Hospital with demands to improve after inspectors found shifts had only half the required number of midwives during an inspection in December.
    "The regulator said whistleblowers had raised repeated concerns over unsafe staffing levels in the maternity unit which were not being acted on by managers.
    "According to its inspection report, the CQC found there was a shortfall of registered midwives between September and December of 49 per cent. Between March and June last year the unit was 30 per cent short of midwives."

  • Frontline NHS staff at risk from airborne coronavirus, Boris Johnson warned Independent Feb 19 with a story underlining that PPE supplies are even now not adequate for some front line NHS staff:
    "Frontline NHS staff are being put at risk because they’re forced to work with inadequate protection against coronavirus, leading health organisations have warned.
    "A coalition of more than 20 health and science bodies have written to the prime minister urging him to intervene and order a review of UK rules on infection prevention so that workers are provided with higher-grade masks.
    "They say new research shows the virus should be considered an airborne pathogen and current rules are incorrectly based on the idea the virus spreads via droplets alone.
    "The organisations, including the Royal College of Nursing, British Medical Association, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Royal College of Midwives, told Mr Johnson: “The evidence is clear and lives continue to be put at risk.”
    "On most general hospital wards nurses and doctors are expected to wear only basic surgical masks, although The Independent revealed earlier this month some hospitals were already defying the rules and handing out higher-grade masks."

  • First image of the Kent & Canterbury 'super' hospital which could become hub for healthcare in east Kent A brazenly one-sided Kent online Feb 19 propaganda puff for a new "huge" hospital plan that would 'centralise' all services for East Kent in Canterbury, and downgrade hospitals in Ashford and Margate, each 20 miles away.

  • Unwinding lockdown ‘too fast’ risks ‘disaster’, warns government scientific adviser Independent report Feb 17: "Unwinding the national lockdown “too fast” would risk a “disaster”, a government scientist has warned as she urged caution with many yet to receive Covid vaccines.
    "Dame Angela McLean — a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) — made the remarks as Boris Johnson prepares to unveil the government’s roadmap for lifting restrictions next week.
    "The prime minister stressed on Wednesday that the government’s strategy would be based on a “cautious and prudent approach”, reiterating he wanted the move out of lockdown to be “irreversible”.
    "Appearing at the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Dame Angela, who also serves as chief scientific officer at the Ministry of Defence, said the country “got into real trouble” in 2020 for not being cautious enough."

  • BORIS JOHNSON'S CRONY CONTRACTS Valuable Feb 17 collection by Byline Times of 74 varied examples of crony contracts issued by Johnson government during the pandemic, going back to April 2020.

  • Losing one’s faith in leaders 17 Feb BMJ opinion piece from Partha Kar:
    "What, exactly, has gone right so far, apart from vaccine delivery by primary care? We’ve seen the development of a contagious variant, the opening up over Christmas, a lack of any cohesive strategy to support people from ethnic minority backgrounds, and a vaccine strategy that may work—yet wrapped around a sense of hope rather than science.
    "When it was known that loosening restrictions over Christmas would lead to a huge surge in deaths, where does the responsibility lie? When do we acknowledge that being silent over these failings makes us complicit?
    "I’m frustrated and tired. I’m hurt by my own loss of faith, when I’d placed so much trust in leaders. We’ve been brought to this position by an out of control pandemic, itself brought on by the same people who failed to influence politicians to do the right thing: close borders, lock down early, forget Christmas for a year.
    "To me, leadership isn’t defined by how nice or popular you are. It’s defined by outcomes. That’s how I judge my own successes and failures. In this pandemic—if death and collateral damage are the barometers, as they should be—the leadership teams have failed us all."

  • Unprotected African health workers die as rich countries buy up COVID-19 vaccines Alarming Science Mag report 17 Feb:
    "Countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americas have administered more than 175 million shots to protect people against COVID-19 since December 2020, with most countries giving priority to medical workers.
    "But not a single country in sub-Saharan Africa has started immunizations—South Africa will be the first, this week—leaving health care workers dying in places where they are scarce to begin with.
    "The exact toll of COVID-19 among health workers is hard to gauge, but Hakim was one of several prominent doctors to succumb in recent weeks in Africa, which has suffered a second pandemic wave.
    "Just 1 day before him, U.S. physician David Katzenstein, who had moved to Harare after his retirement and directed the Biomedical Research and Training Institute there, died from COVID-19 at the same hospital.
    "Those losses stand for many others, says Robert Schooley, an infectious disease researcher at the University of California, San Diego, who worked with Hakim for many years. “We don’t hear about a lot of the others who are labouring in the health care workforce behind them.”

  • Poorer areas falling behind on vaccination against coronavirus Independent Feb 17: "The NHS is increasing efforts to reach out to ethnic minority communities in more deprived areas of England as analysis by The Independent shows poorer areas are vaccinating fewer at-risk people.
    "Among the most deprived parts of the country, fewer people aged over 80 and in their mid-70s had received their first dose of vaccine against coronavirus by 7 February when compared with more affluent areas, sparking concerns communities most at risk are being left vulnerable.
    "Comparing local NHS vaccination data with Public Health England’s deprivation scores for each NHS region reveals six of the most deprived parts of England were in the bottom 10 local areas for vaccine uptake among the over-80s and those aged over 75.
    "The worst performing NHS region was East London, with just 73 per cent of over-80s vaccinated by 7 February. East London was also one of the worst-affected areas during the second wave of the virus as hospitals became overwhelmed early on in the crisis."

  • Unwinding lockdown ‘too fast’ risks ‘disaster’, warns government scientific adviser Independent report Feb 17:
    "Unwinding the national lockdown “too fast” would risk a “disaster”, a government scientist has warned as she urged caution with many yet to receive Covid vaccines.
    "Dame Angela McLean — a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) — made the remarks as Boris Johnson prepares to unveil the government’s roadmap for lifting restrictions next week.
    "The prime minister stressed on Wednesday that the government’s strategy would be based on a “cautious and prudent approach”, reiterating he wanted the move out of lockdown to be “irreversible”.
    "Appearing at the Commons Science and Technology Committee, Dame Angela, who also serves as chief scientific officer at the Ministry of Defence, said the country “got into real trouble” in 2020 for not being cautious enough."

  • After the market—what do the proposed new plans mean for the NHS? BMJ opinion piece from Nigel Edwards of the Nuffield Trust Feb 15:
    "For 25 years, politicians from the Thatcher to the Cameron government tried to use market principles and competition to push the NHS forwards, culminating in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. The publication of a new White Paper last week marks the decisive end of that approach, preparing to reflect in law the dropping of many of the more overt aspects of a market system since the 2014 Five Year Forward View.
    "Since then a significant amount of NHS effort has been put into developing a more integrated and population health based approach, and planning service change. Both of these principles are hard to reconcile with a market driven system, and so over time the 2012 Act has increasingly been ignored. The national tariff for paying hospitals had already been abandoned in many places and there had been increasing emphasis on collaboration, which the response to the pandemic has reinforced.
    "The new proposals to remove the jurisdiction of the Competition and Markets Authority, replace the procurement regime that often produced onerous bidding processes, and formalise Integrated Care Systems (ICS) as statutory bodies, are amongst a number of significant changes that complete the dismantling of much of the 2012 edifice.
    "If markets and competition have now been largely abandoned the question is: what is now the mechanism for driving change and is it strong enough to deliver the very challenging goals that have been set? "

  • Pandemic has had negative impact on mental health: poll Observer Feb 14: "More than four out of 10 people say the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer.
    "In the survey, 43% say their mental health has deteriorated over the past year, while more than a third (35%) report that their physical health has got worse.
    "The shocking data bears out warnings from experts who have predicted that Covid-19 and the resulting restrictions on movement and activities, as well as job losses and lay-offs, would trigger a mental health crisis.
    "Last December Dr Adrian James, the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, warned that the UK was facing “the biggest hit to mental health since the second world war”, with lasting effects."

  • Community nursing faces ‘rehabilitation disaster’ as Covid leaves thousands in need Independent Feb 14: "Tens of thousands of coronavirus survivors needing long-term care are heaping pressure on Britain’s stretched community services, threatening a crisis that experts warn could dwarf that seen in hospitals over the past 12 months.
    "As many as 100,000 intensive care patients, including up to 15,000 Covid-19 survivors, will need long-term community nursing care after being discharged from hospitals during the past 12 months, The Independent has been told.
    "This will be on top of an as yet unknown number of Covid patients from the 350,000 treated on general wards since the pandemic began, as well as tens of thousands of people who were sick without going to hospital but have been left with debilitating symptoms of long Covid."

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