The Corona Diaries – Day 365

It’s a gloomy day in Yorkshire. That is appropriate. This marks one year of official lockdown. This also marks the anniversary of my Corona Diaries. It is also the anniversary of the start of my daily two hour walks.

Not for one minute did I think that I was going to still be in isolation one year later!!

That’s worth analysing, celebrating (aspects) and thinking about.

An anniversary is always a good time to reflect.

One thing that is clear is that some countries have done well (New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea) and some have been terrible (The UK, The USA, Brazil).

Another thing is that the female leaders have down much better than the male leaders.

The Populist leaders have done worst of all.

It’s worth asking why.

Populist leaders like Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro are extremely good at coming up with simple slogans and bolstering their base in order to get elected but are extremely poor at the detail for dealing with anything. They like grand statements, clever phrases, memorable slogans and appealing to an adoring crowd. They are cheerleaders not leaders. They never accept the outcome when things go wrong. It’s always someone else’s fault.

Female leaders may well be better at dealing with detail, have diverse leadership teams and a tendency to take responsibility for the outcomes of what they do.

The countries that have done better were prepared, had a plan ready to go and strategies put into place.

Making decisions that affect millions of lives, cost billions and have dire consequences for the country is not easy. It helps if you have a clearly thought-through roadmap to follow.

The successful countries had developed strategies based on experience. Everyone knew that a bad pandemic was going to come. Some chose to ignore it. We have had a whole string of potential disasters – MERS, SARS, EBOLA, HIV, AVIAN Flu, SWINE Flu, and we had managed to contain them. Everyone knew another, potentially worse one, was going to happen.

The wise countries prepared.

The less wise were complacent. That complacence has cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

In order to overcome a pandemic one has to act swiftly and decisively.

The successful countries quickly closed their borders, monitored all people entering, ran health checks, introduced quarantine with follow up and stringently tracked, traced and isolated all cases.

The unsuccessful countries ignored it. Went in denial, calling it a minor flu, shaking hands with infected people, telling everyone not to worry, to get back to work and it would soon be over.

The unsuccessful countries were slow to lockdown, slow to introduce measures to slow the infection, denied the effectiveness of facemasks (when Asian countries knew they worked from experience) and tried to keep everything normal. Mass sport events were allowed to take place, mass meetings, rallies and political gatherings. Face masks and distancing were stupidly politicised.

In the UK, in 2016, the Tory government had called a major review of our readiness to deal with a pandemic. The large exercise was called the Cygnus Exercise. The Cygnus Report came out in 2017. It showed that we were unprepared, the NHS was run down, we did not have enough equipment, facilities or staff and our chemical supplies were inadequate. Rather than spend money putting things right they shelved it.

When the pandemic struck the successful countries acted. The unsuccessful countries did not.

It took a year for the UK to introduce proper border controls!

The situation in China was being monitored in November 2019 but reports were played down. Even when the virus was raging in Italy in March and April we failed to act.

There was complacency and stupidity. Johnson was in denial shaking hands with infected people. Sporting events such as the European Liverpool Barcelona match despite it being known that the virus was raging in Spain and the Spanish fans would bring it across. They even held Cheltenham – after all this was horse racing – much more important than a pandemic.

In the States Trump was playing it down, urging normality and calling it a flu. In Brazil Bolsonaro said it was nothing – just a little flu.

The denials gave way to panic. Because there was no road-map there was dithering and bad decisions. They went for herd immunity until the scientific modelling showed that it would result in millions of deaths.

They panicked and built nightingale hospitals at enormous cost. They spent billions on useless PPE using private contractors. They spent billions on a useless phone app that has never worked. They spent billions (£37 billion) or an ineffective Track and Trace – put out to private contractors with huge salaries. In fear that the NHS would be overwhelmed they dumped infected elderly patients back into the care homes while telling everyone that they were throwing a ring of protection around care homes.

The panic and dithering was apparent. The bungling was hidden up.

In the successful countries there was calm leadership.

In the UK Johnson continued his populist cheerleading – everything was wonderful. We were going to have world-beating apps, world-beating track and trace and world-beating moonshots. It was all bollocks.

In the USA it was even worse. Trump was still in denial urging people back to work for the sake of the economy and pushing fake news about cures – one being a totally ineffective anti-malarial drug – Hydroxychloroquine. He even suggested using bleach and UV light in the body (both extremely dangerous and lethal).

Bolsonaro mimicked Trump.

In the successful countries the communication was calm, clear and based on sound science. The leadership was visible and action clearly explained, concise and decisive.

Trump, Johnson and Bolsonaro went AWOL, ignored science, clutched at straws, were unclear, over-optimistic, did not have a handle on the disease, gave false hope, inaccurate information, dithered, and gave out false information.

The results are all too clear:

CountryTotal Number of Deaths
USA543,000
UK126,000
Brazil295,000
New Zealand26
Vietnam35
Singapore30
Thailand91

There was an arrogance at work – a macho mindset – an incompetence – an unwillingness to accept responsibility and a tendency to blame others.

Trump used racist conspiracy – this was an engineered virus designed by China. He had no evidence. It was all an attempt to deflect responsibility and deflect the anger against a foreign country.

Johnson went AWOL and tried to blame it on bad scientific advice.

In the summer when the virus numbers were low enough for our ineffective Track and Trace to actually work Johnson made another set of blunders. He told people to go back to work and did a crazy eat out to help out scheme – Lo and Behold, we found ourselves in a second wave that was worse than the first. His cheerleading kills thousands.

Fortunately Trump was dumped in favour of someone with more intelligence and scientifically knowledgeable – someone who’d actually read a book.

In the UK Johnson, after much cronyism, wasted billions and useless cheerleading finally gave the vaccination programme to the professionals and the NHS rolled it out.

Just think if they had pumped all those wasted billions into the NHS in the first place. We might have had an app that worked, a functioning Track and Trace and saved thousands of lives.

So today I will go for my walk – my 365th – think about my year in isolation, play some Beatles and reflect on how this bunch of populist fools – Trump, Bolsonaro, Johnson, Modi, Erdogan and others – have led us into this economic catastrophe. If they had all been on the ball like Jacinda Ardherne this virus would have been contained months ago and we would not have had all these hundreds of thousands of deaths!

Stay safe!!

2 thoughts on “The Corona Diaries – Day 365

  1. Well, it’s not a gloomy day here, weather-wise at least. Very pleasant when you’re in the sunshine. A bit cold when you’re not.

    As to women leaders being more effective against the virus, you might actually have something there, Opher! Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Finland all have female prime ministers or equivalent, and they look to be the European countries which have dealt with the virus best. I know, from experience, that women make both the very best and the very worst people-managers in business. Maybe that carries over to politics too? But having a woman in charge isn’t all good. Look at Theresa May – the worst home secretary, and the worst prime minister, in UK history. Even worse than Johnson!

    You’re right about their failure to close borders. Even though you and I are both (for very different reasons) opposed to political borders.

    As to the NHS, I don’t think I’ve told you this before, but back in 1993 I spent five months working on an NHS project. It was actually my first contract as an independent. It was a computer system to collect treatment claims on-line from NHS dentists around Scotland, and to show them in almost real-time the status of their claims as they were processed. A good idea, you would think? But the English dental practice board got angry with the Scots for being so entrepreneurial, and lobbied (successfully) to have the project cancelled. That’s the kind of crap you see when you work inside the NHS; and I’ve no doubt it’s still there.

    It was also an interesting place to work. Most of the people were really nice, but some were political operators. Which included the project’s team leader (he wasn’t Scottish, he was from Birmingham). There was a Glaswegian lady on the project who was very opinionated, and more than a bit of a moaner; and she and the team leader had a personality clash. But her work was brilliant. I had to speak to senior management to get her kept on the team! And, after a team of five had achieved nothing at all in four months, she and I wrote a 760-page detailed specification for the system in ten weeks. I well remember the final push: I left work twice, on the same day, at the same time (3:20)!

    That, of course, was many years before Blair’s contract changes, that all but destroyed NHS dentistry. That’s what political interference does!

    I think you are right to praise the people who work “on the ground” for the NHS. And those in the supporting offices, like the good people I worked with in Edinburgh, who do their utmost to deliver what they are paid to do. But the whole system is corrupt, because it is politicized.

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