If the UK Government Put Public Interests First We Might Have Averted Disaster

Boris Johnson’s Government’s focus seems to have been on big corporation interests from the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, thinking they could “flatten the curve” after contact tracing and quarantining had been dropped.  After John Newton predicted a million cases, the government abandoned its contact tracing in favour of a 3-4 month national lockdown. Could this have been averted if public interests had come before capitalism?

Yes, some things have worked for some people or companies, particularly large retailers and social media, who have executed an unnerving level of censorship over information being shared across their platforms. Social media has profited at the expense of the print media, which has maintained its editorial standards, while much of its revenue is syphoned by Google, Twitter and Facebook.

Over the last decade, there has been an upturn in excess deaths from respiratory diseases. In 2018, The BMJ Lancet Rapid Response says:

“So the government are now apparent not only blaming fluctuations in winter mortality on flu but all excess winter mortality on flu, to the tune of more than 50,000 deaths.”

Meanwhile, in April 2016, The Guardian says:

The failure to provide an effective flu vaccine last year may have contributed to the largest rise in deaths in England and Wales for 12 years, the government’s public health agency has admitted.

Then in 2018, the Guardian report another sharp rise and publish this graph by Public Health England.

Here is the Office of National Statistics report from November 2015 blaming the rise in the virulence of that season’s flu. This suggests to me that, while novel coronaviruses from bats and civets were being reported widely and detected, as amongst adults out and about in Paris and New York in 2016, the British government wanted to blame it all on flu without any wider research or further discussion.

We have had plenty of warning about coronaviruses. See this from a medical journal in 2007:

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is a novel virus that caused the first major pandemic of the new millennium (, , ). The rapid economic growth in southern China has led to an increasing demand for animal proteins including those from exotic game food animals such as civets. Large numbers and varieties of these wild game mammals in overcrowded cages and the lack of biosecurity measures in wet markets allowed the jumping of this novel virus from animals to human (, ). Its capacity for human-to-human transmission, the lack of awareness in hospital infection control, and international air travel facilitated the rapid global dissemination of this agent. Over 8,000 people were affected, with a crude fatality rate of 10%. The acute and dramatic impact on health care systems, economies, and societies of affected countries within just a few months of early 2003 was unparalleled since the last plague.”

Sound familiar? Yet, when SARS-COV-1 started transmitting, with a death rate of 10%, there was no response such as we have experienced with COVID-19. Most importantly, these previous outbreaks have been controlled, managed, reported and advised by qualified medical professionals.

How is it that since SARS-COV-1 emerged from bats and civets in wet markets in early 2002 and is still transmitting over a decade later, that COVID-19 managed to hold off until 2020? I’m not suggesting anything at all. I do genuinely want to know. I wonder if the virus mutated to spread more successfully by becoming milder so that infected persons spread it via surfaces without realising for the long gestation period of up to 14 days or occasionally more?

Respiratory viruses including coronaviruses have been circulating for a decade
Image links to article on PLOS. Visseaux B, Burdet C, Voiriot G, Lescure F-X, Chougar T, Brugière O, et al. (2017) Prevalence of respiratory viruses among adults, by season, age, respiratory tract region and type of medical unit in Paris, France, from 2011 to 2016. PLoS ONE

Since the turn of the millennium we have had MERS, SARS and Ebola, but there are at least 7 coronaviruses circulating at present. This is how the BBC reported the new SARS-like coronavirus in 2013.

“No general virus spread has been reported meaning the risk to the public remains very low.”

How do they know what wasn’t reported? What if people thought they just had a heavy cold? In 2013, MERS-COV caused concern about a global pandemic when it reached and transmitted within families in the UK. This Guardian article from the time provides more info.

The biggest difference between SARS-COV-1 and MERS-COV is that they are more deadly than COVID-19.

In 2007, The National Center for Biotechnology Information provided this graph showing various human coronaviruses amongst related viruses.

The The National Center for Biotechnology Information – Coronavirus graph from 2007 – SARS

This graph was updated once MERS had emerged in 2013.

MERS-COV amongst its virus family in 2013

In 1665, the horse and cart was the fastest transport, no phones, no internet, no hospitals, no anti-biotics, no sanitation, penicillin, hygiene or tested treatments.  Yet, when a virus started to spread, people took meetings outside, socially distanced, stopped touching each other and stayed at home to the point of locking the whole family in, whether infected or not. As a result, those with immunity in infected households starved to death. The plague has not been a pandemic in the UK since the last Great Plague. The story of personal sacrifice in Eyam in the Peak District to stop transmission once it had reached the village in clothing from London shows core measures that stop contagion spread.

Amazingly, on 2nd January 2018, The Journal of Infectious Diseases publishes a paper called: “Asymptomatic Summertime Shedding of Respiratory Viruses

The Journal of Infectious Diseases Paper says how the swab tests on asymptomatic adults in New York in the spring of 2016 showed that: “These findings indicate that significant levels of asymptomatic respiratory viral shedding exist during summer among the ambulatory adult population.” The highest detection of viruses was coronaviruses at 21.5%  of those detected. That was 2016. Where were those test kits in 2020?

So coronaviruses are not new. Why did we respond to COVID-19 like this when we see how they have been spreading around New York and Paris as reported, but also in the UK where we all expect to have a cold or two a year and might not think it was serious if we are healthy. The shortness of breath has been around with previous respiratory coronaviruses.

How has the relationship between politicians and big corporations, particularly technology, processed food, large retailers and pharmaceutical companies changed the fortunes of our various nations? Is our runaway capitalist system the instigator of a censorship, dictatorship, totalitarian, central, corrupt and manipulative system, a return to the inequality, racism and divided society of over a century ago?

Back to the UK government’s COVID-19 response.

At first it seemed to be under control. Narratives about it being new and people having no immunity have been heard before. Lines of transmission were well known. When talk about vaccines and ‘flattening the curve’ started to be discussed, it became ominous. Why were politicians leading this conversation, not scientists or hospitals? Why was money being pumped into pharmaceuticals when vaccines for coronaviruses have been sought for over 50 years?

What did they think we could do differently in 2020? In February, people returning from Wuhan were sent to quarantine. Contacts were traced, cases were reported, hotspots overseas were identified and people were warned. Today, viruses are more likely to arrive by airplane than by boat. As an island, the UK had an advantage over mainland Europe.  We could stop the spread, simply by quarantining people for 14 days when they arrived in the UK. They did this at the beginning. It was working so why did they stop?

Professor John Newton of Public Health England was made Chief Testing Officer. This is the man responsible for justifying food and drink industry input into public health advice on diet to create the Eatwell Guide. Despite rises in respiratory viruses (4th biggest cause of pre-mature death in UK and costs the NHS a fortune), obesity, Type 2 diabetes and the huge loss of productivity to business from sickness. That man is fucking good at his job. In charge of alcohol he created Drinkaware, working with companies selling – guess what – alcohol. In charge of smoking, he lent an ear to tobacco and medication companies and actively said that unassisted cessation to smoking was the least successful method behind vaping or prescribed medicine. So why not give him more public health responsibility as he is that good for capitalism?

Yes, say the government and put him in charge of COVID-19 testing. What happens?

The Government was forced to abandon its contact tracing system after experts forecasted it would face a million cases of coronavirus, according to the UK’s testing chief. (Professor John Newton). 

Sorry,  A MILLION CASES? So we went into lockdown because Professor John Newton PREDICTED there would be a MILLION cases of coronaviruses and to abandon its contact tracing system. Do you remember Professor Neil Ferguson? He took responsibility for his ‘predictions’ as this BBC article shows.

Prof Neil Ferguson has quit as a government adviser on coronavirus after admitting an “error of judgement”.

Can you believe this? Look at where we are now.  When? In March? Could they not have carried on until they couldn’t manage any more? In all of this, almost no one knows the name Professor John Newton. On Twitter it is only one who lived 200 years ago and me pissing in the wind trying to attract attention to this man’s actions, which come up on Twitter. Has he organised content suppression? One of the few mentions of this cataclysmic event in February is here on Politics Home.

Then, why did Public Health England stand down the 5,000 trained track and tracers linked to regional NHS trusts and only have 300 of their own?

Does this sound familiar at all? Why do we have people like Matt Hancock and John Newton advising the government, not Tracy Daszkiewicz who worked solidly for a year to decontaminate Salisbury? Novichok didn’t show symptoms when it was put on the Skripals’ front door handle. Tracy Daszkiewicz and her team had to destroy cars, trace contacts, evacuate buildings and lockdown Salisbury but they had regular public meetings and kept the local community informed throughout. The UK government have run their COVID response centrally from Downing Street with secret meetings and without a senior experienced medical scientist in their SAGE group. Meanwhile a group of scientists from different disciplines has answered public questions and broadcast live every week on YouTube. 

For example, social media is not constrained by the same laws as print media. Twitter manipulates users to either see pornographic videos in their newsfeed, until they discover how to switch off ‘sensitive materials’, which means all manner of innocent and harmless media is hidden from view.

A noisy Netflix documentary called The Social Dilemma – I call it noisy as there is an exhausting and tense audio soundtrack competing with dialogue almost through out – shows how social media sets out to manipulate everyone by any means for profit.

We have seen how elections have been swayed by social media manipulation and people such as Dominic Cummings, who sent Tory whips around to ask MPs to gaslight people questioning his lockdown breakout. Why didn’t Cummings choose to be upfront and transparent and say ‘my wife and I have suspected COVID and I need to take our child to safety?’ It was assumed after the event that everyone should understand this need to protect a child. How safe was that child travelling in a car with an infected parent?

We have had various outbreaks of coronaviruses and warnings about changes to wet markets in China due to increasing demand for animal protein, game and even wild animals. In 2004, the Lancet declared wet markets as a continuing source of severe acute respiratory syndrome and influenza. 

COVID-19 could have been prevented from transmitting if government had put public health first – Image by Syaibatul Hamdi from Pixabay – “Vanguard”

COVID-19 is not new and did not come out of the blue. We were well warned.

Even though the UK is an island and people were contact traced and quarantined at the beginning, it seemed our government saw an opportunity, or big corporations saw an opportunity to manipulate people on a global scale for profit, control and power.

This Forbes article looks at the difference in leadership between male and females. It says:

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, stood up early and calmly told her countrymen that this was a serious bug that would infect up to 70% of the population

If Professor John Newton had not advised the government to abandon contact tracing, if local NHS trusts had been allowed to contact trace new cases by phone or even door to door, if all people flying into the UK had quarantined for 2 weeks, if people had worn masks from the outset when in confined indoor spaces such as at work or on public transport, if money had gone to the NHS to use as needed to be fully staffed and equipped with protective equipment, had the C-19 symptom tracker app been used by the whole of the UK and all NHS services to share data with government and healthcare, if independent businesses had been used for equipment and not expensive contracts handed out to companies without proper tender processes, would the whole world be in a much better place?

Even Trump wouldn’t have caught COVID-19. The government could have prevented the disaster to the nation, the world and the global economy if they had just put people before profit. Governments should be support networks, not nagging parents.