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The fight against Coronavirus

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  • 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.

  • Dispelling disinformation - If Covid-19 doesn't kill the young and fit why can't we just ignore it? Consultant David Oliver in the excellent Byline Times makes some blunt and sensible points in response to the right wing hacks misleading readers in mainstream media:
    "‘COVID-19 Only Kills the Old and the Sick, After All’
    "The insinuation behind this claim is pretty disturbing. As COVID-19 doesn’t kill or harm many ‘normal’ people (i.e. younger, fitter and less socioeconomically deprived), it shouldn’t concern the rest of us. By extension, public health protection measures from behavioural restrictions and changes, through to vaccines or lockdowns, aren’t worth adopting.
    "This is a covert manifesto for age discrimination and discrimination against the old, sick and disabled. "

  • America facing ‘darkest days’ in modern medical history if virus isn’t controlled, warns top medic Independent Nov 27: "America could face its "darkest days" in modern medical history if the coronavirus crisis is not brought under control, a top medic has warned.
    "Dr Joseph Varon, chief of staff at Houston's United Memorial Center, said a surge of infections over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays may push hospitals to breaking point.
    "His comments came as US health officials on Wednesday reported 180,830 new coronavirus cases nationwide – a rise of 2,630 from the previous 24 hours, New York Times data shows.
    "Just over 100,000 new infections were reported on Thursday, although that figure could be artificially low with fewer people getting tested on Thanksgiving.
    "Covid-19 deaths have been steadily climbing in recent weeks. Some 2,313 Americans died from the disease on Wednesday, according to the data."

  • ‘Difficult to maintain emergency care’ as region’s ICUs at full stretch HSJ Nov 27: "A live dashboard of critical care in the Midlands NHS region — which stretches from the Welsh border in the west, to Lincolnshire in the east — shows at least five hospitals were reporting “CRITCON” level three on Thursday and Friday, up from just one last week. Images of the dashboard have been leaked to HSJ.
    "This effectively means the critical care unit is at full stretch. It is one escalation level away from the highest, at which resources would be overwhelmed and there is the possibility of imposing thresholds on entry to critical care.
    "Around 70-80 per cent of the critical care patients have covid-19. Covid-19 occupancy has continued to grow across much of the Midlands in the past week.
    "Several units in the region are well over 100 per cent of their normal critical care capacity, with Walsall Healthcare recording the highest at 169 per cent, according to the Midlands critical care network dashboard."

  • Hancock's former neighbour won Covid test kit work after WhatsApp message Guardian November 26 with another story of chums and plum contracts:
    "An acquaintance and former neighbour of Matt Hancock is supplying the government with tens of millions of vials for NHS Covid-19 tests despite having had no previous experience of producing medical supplies.
    "Alex Bourne, who used to run a pub close to Hancock’s former constituency home in Suffolk, said he initially offered his services to the UK health secretary several months ago by sending him a personal WhatsApp message.
    "Bourne’s company, Hinpack, was at that time producing plastic cups and takeaway boxes for the catering industry. It is now supplying about 2m medical grade vials a week to the government via a distributor contracted by the NHS.
    "Bourne categorically denies he profited from his personal contact with Hancock. However, the case raises questions for the health secretary and is likely to reignite the row over alleged government cronyism during the pandemic."

  • Untested, untraced: how three-quarters of Covid contacts slip through cracks Guardian animated graphic Nov 26 explains the weaknesses in the test and trace system:
    "It was in May that Boris Johnson promised the UK would have a “world-beating” test-and-trace operation in place within weeks.
    “Our test-and-trace system is as good as, or better than, any other system anywhere in the world,” he doubled down in July.
    "But nearly half a year after the system was established, thousands of Covid-19 cases still go undetected each week, leaving severe lockdown restrictions as the only option to prevent hospitals across the country from collapsing.
    "The Guardian has analysed the latest figures on the performance of test and trace to show how people at risk of spreading the virus go missing at every step of the process."

  • Coffey announces 37p benefits rise, after PM announces £24 billion more for defence Disability News Service Nov 26: "Benefits for disabled people are set to rise by just 0.5 per cent next year, the government has announced, despite the increasing costs and cuts to support many of them are facing as a result of the pandemic.
    "The announcement by work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey means that someone in the work-related activity group of employment and support allowance (ESA) will receive a rise of just 37p a week from next April.
    "The same 0.5 per cent increase – in line with September’s inflation rate – will apply to personal independence payment and disability living allowance, but not state pensions, which will rise by 2.5 per cent.
    "The 0.5 per cent increase comes even though many disabled people have faced extra costs as a result of the pandemic, including having to switch to more expensive online food deliveries, and paying for personal protective equipment for personal assistants and care workers and extra cleaning products.
    "Coffey also failed again to extend the £20 a week uplift given to claimants of universal credit – introduced as a temporary measure in the early weeks of the pandemic – to those on ESA, jobseeker’s allowance and income support."

  • BBC: Laura Kuenssberg 'promoting Tory austerity' with 'economic illiteracy Insight from Scotland Nov 25 The National:
    “THE BBC has been accused of “promoting economic illiteracy” after its chief political editor claimed the Tories were being forced into the cuts announced in today’s spending review because the UK had “no money left”.
    “… Kuenssberg, the BBC’s chief political editor, said: “If you think about the debate we had really all the way through from the late noughties all the way through to the 2015 election, it was defined by ‘how is the country going to pay back what we had to borrow in the credit crisis?’.
    “This is that, and some, okay? This is the credit card, the national mortgage, everything absolutely maxxed out. Enormous levels of the country basically being in the red.”
    “Kuenssberg was speaking alongside Faisal Islam, the corporation’s economics news editor, who did offer some counter to her position.
    “… Still more experts condemned Kuenssberg’s "unfounded" rhetoric.
    “… Chris Marsh, a blogger and former economist with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said Kuennsberg’s “language [was] hugely irresponsible and unfounded”.
    “… Writing in today's National Extra, George Kerevan highlights how the "cost of servicing the National Debt (circa £2 trillion) is actually falling because of low interest rates. In fact, the latest public spending increases are being funded by the Bank of England, which is owned by the Government. In other words, Chancellor Sunak is taking from one pocket and putting it in another," he writes.
    “Elsewhere, political economist Richard Murphy said that scaremongering around national debt repayments was an “obsession”.
    “He said that “every bit [of the national debt] plays a vital role in keeping the UK, its pensioners, savers and banks, plus its international trade secure. Now which bit of that do you want to forego? Or is that that we really do not need to repay the national debt, and the claim that we have to do so is made up to give reason to tax you (but not the wealthy and big business) quite a lot more and to persuade you that austerity is really necessary when it isn't? You decide.”

  • The AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Data Isn't Up to Snuff Worrying questions from Wired Nov 25 for those who see the cheaper vaccine as the best way forward:
    "Monday’s press release from AstraZeneca presents “convincing evidence that [the vaccine] works,” said Science. But not everyone has been convinced. The price of AstraZeneca’s shares actually dropped on the news, and an analysis from an investment bank concluded, “We believe that this product will never be licensed in the US.” Over at STAT News, Anthony Fauci cautioned that we’ll need to see more data before coming to a conclusion. The skeptics have strong reasons to be concerned: This week’s “promising” results are nothing like the others that we’ve been hearing about in November—and the claims that have been drawn from them are based on very shaky science."

  • Deaths in UK 'a fifth higher than normal levels' BBC report November 24: “The total number of deaths occurring in the UK is nearly a fifth above normal levels, latest figures show.
    “Data from national statisticians show there were almost 14,000 deaths in the week ending 13 November. Some 2,838 of the deaths involved Covid - 600 more than the preceding week, according to the analysis of death certificates.
    “The North West and Yorkshire have seen the most excess deaths. The number of deaths in both regions were more than a third above expected levels.
    “By comparison, the number of deaths in the South East was just 2% above the five-year average.”

  • Matt Hancock gave key Covid role to lobbyist pal (£) Sunday Times Nov 22 with another tale of chumocracy at work:
    “Matt Hancock has failed to declare that he appointed his closest friend from university, who is the director of a lobbying firm, as an adviser — and later gave her a £15,000-a-year role on the board of his department.
    “Gina Coladangelo, 42, is a director and major shareholder at Luther Pendragon, a lobbying firm based in central London that offers clients a “deep understanding of the mechanics of government”. She is also communications director at Oliver Bonas, a fashion and lifestyle store founded by her husband.
    “Hancock, the health secretary, first met Coladangelo, a public relations consultant, while involved with radio at Oxford University and the pair remain close friends. In March, he secretly appointed her as an unpaid adviser at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on a six-month contract. She has since accompanied Hancock, 42, to confidential meetings with civil servants and visited No 10 Downing Street.
    … “In September, Hancock appointed Coladangelo as a non-executive director at DHSC, meaning that she is a member of the board that scrutinises the department. There is no public record of the appointment, which will see her earn at least £15,000 of taxpayers’ money and could rise by a further £5,000.”

  • Student nurses on Covid placements in UK call for return of paid NHS contracts Guardian Nov 22: "Student nurses are calling for paid contracts to be reinstated for those on placement in hospitals in the UK, saying they feel “forgotten about” during the second wave of Covid-19.
    "In March, final-year student nurses in the last six months of their degree were offered the option to join the NHS workforce under paid contracts. Other final year students and those in second year could also opt in for paid clinical work.
    "Paid contracts finished in September as pressure on the health service eased, and there are no plans to reintroduce them in any of the four nations of the UK.
    "As admissions to hospitals rise this winter, many student nurses are now being drafted in to help on Covid wards. In England and Scotland, their student status also means they are not automatically eligible for the death-in-service benefits that paid NHS staff receive."

  • Tory Steve Dechan’s £276m in PPE contracts lands him a place in the country (£) Times Nov 22 on yet more questionable behaviour in PPE cronygate:
    "A former Conservative councillor, who was awarded £276m in government contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE), has traded his modest home for a £1.5m, 17th-century Cotswolds mansion with 100 acres of land.
    "Steve Dechan is the owner of Platform-14, a Gloucestershire firm that specialises in medical devices for people with chronic pain. It recorded a loss of almost £500,000 last year.
    "In April, Dechan, 52, was awarded a £120m contract to supply masks. At the time it was the third largest order that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had placed for protective gear. He later received a further £156m to provide gowns and masks. Neither contract went through a competitive tender process."

  • My Little Crony Excellent interactive "visualization of the connections between Tory politicians and companies being awarded government contracts during the pandemic based on a wide range of investigative reporting."

  • A Covid ward consultant's powerful message for conspiracy theorists who say that coronavirus is a 'scamdemic' Manchester Evening News Nov 21 article from Dr David Oliver, an experienced NHS Consultant Physician and medical writer from Manchester:
    "I want to explain how damaging it can be when some individuals or groups pump out untruths, distortions, bile and blame around the NHS frontline response to Covid-19.
    "By November 18, the UK had recorded over 53,000 deaths from or with the virus and both Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions have been rising steadily since October.
    "Big regional variations have seen the North West hit hard.
    … "We may all be fed up it and want to wish it all away, but Coronavirus still merits serious attention from policy makers, health and social care workers and the general public.
    "Distorting the truth and attacking the key workers, helps no-one except individuals dining out on the notoriety and attention."

  • Mersey company forced to lay off staff as PPE contracts go to Tory connected firms buying from abroad Liverpool Echo Nov 21 with a local take on the PPE procurement scandal:
    "A family-run Merseyside company has had to lay off a fifth of its workers after its offer to supply PPE to the government was ignored and then refused.
    "The owners of Knowsley-based Florence Roby said they had been left frustrated by the government’s procurement process, that handed out contracts worth millions of pounds to brand new companies but overlooked UK-based businesses with years of manufacturing experience.
    "Business owner Jan Roby said: “If we had been given just one contract we could have got more jobs going for local people.
    “There’s a lot of local raw talent around, we could have brought them in. But we’re struggling to keep going and it’s heartbreaking because only last year we were picked out by the government as one of four model successful factory firms.
    “Yet we weren’t model enough to even quote for a contract for PPE.”

  • Boris Johnson ‘acted illegally’ over jobs for top anti-Covid staff Guardian Nov 21 with more revelations of Cronygate or so-called chumocracy:
    “Boris Johnson and his health secretary, Matt Hancock, acted “unlawfully” when appointing three key figures – including the head of NHS Test and Trace, Dido Harding – to posts in the fight against Covid-19, according to a legal challenge submitted by campaigners to the high court.
    “The Observer has seen details of documents from those pursuing the case – and initial responses from government lawyers – relating to the call for a judicial review into the appointment of Baroness Harding, who is a Tory peer, and into those of Kate Bingham to the post of head of the UK’s vaccine taskforce and Mike Coupe to the role of director of testing at NHS Test and Trace.
    “The case has been lodged jointly by the not-for-profit Good Law Project headed by Jolyon Maugham QC, and the UK’s leading race equality thinktank, the Runnymede Trust. If it is successful, it would represent a further serious blow to the credibility of the government’s handling of the pandemic and support claims that ministers have been running a “chumocracy”.”

  • Parliamentary Panel on COVID-19 Finds India's Response to Pandemic Ineffective The Wire India (Nov 21) on the failure of another right wing populist-led government to handle the Covid pandemic properly:
    "Amid rising COVID-19 cases, inadequate beds in government hospitals and the absence of specific guidelines for the treatment resulted in private hospitals charging exorbitant fees, a parliamentary panel on Saturday said, asserting that a sustainable pricing model could have averted many deaths.
    "Chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee on health, Ram Gopal Yadav, submitted the report on Outbreak of Pandemic Covid-19 and its Management to Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu.
    "This is the first report by any parliamentary committee on the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    "Underlining that healthcare spending in the country with a population of 1.3 billion is “abysmally low”, the panel said the fragility of the Indian health ecosystem posed a big hurdle in generating an effective response against the pandemic.
    “The committee, therefore, strongly recommends the government to increase its investments in the public healthcare system and make consistent efforts to achieve the National Health Policy targets of expenditure up to 2.5% of GDP within two years as the set time frame of the year 2025 is far away and the public health cannot be jeopardised till that time schedule,” the report stated."

  • Reality check coming for deniers of the NHS challenge Lowdown Nov 21 comment on the minimal £3 billion increase in NHS spending announced ahead of Chancellor Rishi Sunak's spending review.

  • How the Government spent £12 billion and still lost control of the virus Nov 20 KONP review by Dr Jacky Davis of Channel 4 Dispatches:
    "Keep Our NHS Public's Jacky Davis, author of NHS for Sale: Myths, Lies and Deception finds that Channel 4's recent Dispatches programme, Lockdown Chaos is right - the Government's chaotic handling of the crisis has caused unnecessary deaths and lost the public's confidence in their ability to keep us safe.
    "South Korea has a population of 51 million. As of this week, it had had 29,000 cases of Covid and under 500 deaths. The UK has a population of 68 million, with 1.4 million cases and 52,000 deaths. These figures are truly shocking and show that it didn't have to be this way in the UK. The big question now is how did our government manage to spend so much money and end up with the highest death rate in Europe?"

  • Johnson And Gove ‘Ripped Up The Rules’ On Covid PPE Contracts For Private Firms Huffington Post Nov 18: "Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have been accused of “ripping up the rules” on procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) with secret fast-track treatment for private firms personally recommended by politicians.
    "Commons spending watchdog chair Meg Hillier hit out after a new National Audit Office (NAO) report revealed that a special “high priority lane” had been created by the government earlier this year to source masks, gloves and aprons to protect staff dealing with Covid.
    "The NAO also criticised the lack of transparency and inadequate record-keeping as Johnson and his ministers scrambled to buy PPE and awarded £10.5 billion on contracts without a competitive tender process.
    "Its investigation revealed for the first time the existence of the “high priority lane”, which was created for officials to act on “leads” from key figures in Westminster and Whitehall."

  • PPE suppliers with political ties given 'high-priority' status, report reveals Guardian Nov 18 on the NAO report that exposes PPE purchasing scandals:
    "PPE suppliers with political connections were directed to a “high-priority” channel for UK government contracts where bids were 10 times more likely to be successful, according to a report by the parliamentary spending watchdog.
    "Almost 500 suppliers with links to politicians or senior officials were referred to the channel, where their pitches for contracts were automatically treated as credible by government officials charged with procuring PPE."

  • England's contact tracing system so complex workers fear wrong advice could be given Telegraph Nov 18 finds room for some news amid the ravings of anti-maskers and Covid deniers:
    "England’s test and trace service is so complex that those operating it say they fear that potentially dangerous symptoms could be missed or the wrong advice given to the public.
    "Contact tracers speaking anonymously to The Telegraph said they also worried that people who test positive for Covid-19 are being called repeatedly to ensure they comply with orders to self-isolate. One extended family got 70 calls in one day, due to an oversight in the system.
    "The NHS Test and Trace system - touted as “world-beating” when it was launched by Boris Johnson - is increasingly struggling to reach enough patients and their contacts.
    "According to a Test and Trace tracker developed by the Health Foundation, an independent think tank, the system has only been able to reach an average of 60 per cent of those who had been in close contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus."

  • Highest number of weekly coronavirus deaths since mid-May in England and Wales, ONS figures show Independent Nov 17 with a grim reminder for the Covid deniers:
    "The highest number of weekly coronavirus deaths in England and Wales has been recorded since mid-May, new figures show.
    "A total of 1,937 people died from Covid-19 complications in the week up to 6 November, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is up from 1,379 deaths in the previous week — a jump of 40 per cent -— and marks the highest weekly figure since 22 May.
    "The number of Covid-related deaths that occurred in hospitals rose by 442 between 30 October and 6 November, bringing the weekly total to 1,520. "

  • Sky high costs paid for PPE - PQ Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan , Commons Nov 17: - The price of an FFP2 mask, bought by the government, increased by 1400% & gowns by 350%... so can the minister categorically assure the country that no Tory Party donors are profiteering from the pandemic?

  • Go-between paid £21m in taxpayer funds for NHS PPE BBC News Nov 17: hard edged story with predictable softening by inclusion of government denial.
    "A Spanish businessman who acted as a go-between to secure protective garments for NHS staff in the coronavirus pandemic was paid $28m (£21m) in UK taxpayer cash.
    "The consultant had been in line for a further $20m of UK public funds, documents filed in a US court reveal. The legal papers also reveal the American supplier of the PPE called the deals "lucrative".
    "The Department of Health said proper checks are done for all contracts."

  • Confusion over hospital’s ‘critical incident’ (£)HSJ report Nov 17: "A hospital trust struggling under an influx of covid patients has denied it declared a critical incident after confusion about how it had responded to extreme pressure over the last few days.
    "Medway Foundation Trust was understood to have declared the incident after a difficult weekend was followed by an even more challenging Monday. But at lunchtime on Wednesday, nearly 24 hours after being notified of HSJ’s understanding, it issued a statement from chief executive James Devine saying no “official critical incident” had been declared.
    “While we are seeing an increase in demand for our services due to an increase in coronavirus patients, we are working with NHS partners across Kent and Medway to maintain services for our patients and will continue to review our approach,” he said.
    "However, NHS staff have continued to contact HSJ with concerns about how the trust was coping. One source told HSJ the pressure within the hospital was at levels not seen before. Another spoke of staff members being in tears amid long delays for ambulance handovers. "

  • Rishi Sunak refuses to say if he will profit from Moderna Covid vaccine Guardian Nov 17 on yet another shady side to a profoundly dodgy ex-banker Tory chancellor: "The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has refused to disclose whether he will profit from a surge in the share price of the Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer Moderna, one of the biggest investments held by the hedge fund he co-founded before entering parliament.
    "Moderna has become the latest biotech firm to announce successful trials of its vaccine, declaring on Monday that it was 94.5% effective in trials.
    "Sunak was a founding partner of Theleme Partners, a major investor in Moderna, and one of the executives managing its US office. He left the firm in 2013, returning to the UK to pursue his political career.
    "It is not known whether the chancellor retained any investment in the Theleme fund after leaving. Theleme is registered in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven which does not make company records public. Ordinarily, a partner in a hedge fund would own a stake in the management company and have money invested in its fund."

  • Mass testing for covid-19 in the UK Hard hitting BMJ Editorial Nov 16 on the flaws of the Moonshot mass testing project:
    “Despite claims by the city council that the Innova test is “very accurate with high sensitivity and specificity,” it has not been evaluated in these conditions. The test’s instructions for use state that it should not be used on asymptomatic people.
    “A preliminary evaluation from Porton Down and Oxford University9 throws little light on its performance in asymptomatic people or in the field. It suggests the test misses between one in two and one in four cases.
    “… Spending the equivalent of 77% of the NHS annual revenue budget on an unevaluated underdesigned national programme leading to a regressive, insufficiently supported intervention—in many cases for the wrong people—cannot be defended.”

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