Monthly Archives: December 2020

Nearly 1,000 deaths in a single day and Johnson STILL WON’T CLOSE SCHOOLS!

Boris Johnson: he’s wearing the expression he would probably have if anybody asked him to do a photo opportunity in a school during term time in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis.

What is the matter with Boris Johnson?

Does he have some homicidal – genocidal – desire to kill off as much of the older generation as possible, through the agency of the younger?

That seems the only explanation for his determination to keep schools open, denying the science that says schools are the most common vector for transmission of Covid-19 and that they should close for the foreseeable future.

Not yet…

We certainly will – especially in the light of today’s (December 30) frankly horrifying infection and death statistics:

The situation is doubly contradictory as Boris Johnson has decided to delay MPs’ return to Parliament, citing concerns over safety:

Sadly, it seems the general public will have no help from Labour’s non-opposition leader Keir Starmer, who backs Boris Johnson up to the hilt on this matter.

So much for his “forensic” attitude!

We are left in a bizarrely contradictory situation:

Meanwhile the clock is ticking:

How many people have to die before Johnson sees sense – and supports the science, as he keeps claiming?

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Humiliation for Starmer as Labour MPs refuse his call to support Johnson’s bad Brexit deal

Keir Starmer: yet another own goal.

Keir Starmer stood humiliated in Parliament after his reasons for supporting Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal were ridiculed on all sides, and almost one-fifth of Labour’s MPs rejected his call to join the Tory government in voting for it.

In total, 36 Labour MPs who do not currently have the party whip suspended abstained from voting for the deal. Two more, from whom the party whip is currently suspended – Jeremy Corbyn and Claudia Webbe – also abstained. And Bell Ribeiro-Addy went further, voting against the deal.

Perhaps they all agreed with these words:

He means there was no opportunity to change the deal – it was a matter of taking it or leaving it (“no deal”) so the rights of the UK electorate to have it discussed in a democratic way were trampled.

Mr Corbyn’s decision is particularly embarrassing for Labour’s Chris Bryant, in the light of this:

Do I have to point out the obvious – that Bryant did indeed support Johnson’s deal, and Brexit, while Corbyn did not?

But Bryant’s embarrassment is just a symptom of the about-turn that Labour has made under Keir Starmer:

Starmer himself came badly unstuck when he spoke in the Commons debate on the deal.

It seems his rationale was that any deal is better than no deal at all, But there is a flaw in that argument:

It is indeed a poor excuse, as was pointed out to Starmer by Independent MP Jonathan Edwards:

I am afraid the leader of the Labour party has accepted the spin of the Government that this is a binary choice between deal and no deal. It says a lot about the way his position has changed over recent weeks.

He also made a point of noting that Starmer had turned his back on Corbyn’s pledge that Labour would only support a deal that passed six tests:

He used to have six tests for any Brexit deal that he would be willing to support. How many of those tests does he believe the agreement actually meets?

Starmer could not answer.

It got worse.

David Linden (SNP) said,

If he can point out to me in the Order Paper where I am voting for no deal, I will be very happy. Will he tell me what page that is on?

Starmer could not. He could only make the vain claim that Linden was hoping to avoid the consequences of his “no” vote with the belief that the deal would be passed without his support.

The problem with that is, everybody knew that this would happen. In such circumstances it is perfectly reasonable for MPs to show their disagreement with the legislation by voting against it.

Indeed, a vote that – although positive – shows significant disagreement would leave a message for history that the legislation was controversial. Starmer’s demand for Labour to support it may be seen as an attempt to sabotage that.

Perhaps the knockout blow for Starmer’s credibility came from Theresa May:

She said:

I did listen with some incredulity to what the Leader of the Opposition said. He said he wanted a better deal. In early 2019, there was the opportunity of a better deal on the table, and he voted against it, so I will take no lectures from the Leader of the Opposition on this deal.

May is widely considered to have been the worst UK prime minister since Lord North (a dubious accolade that she inherited from her immediate forerunner, David Cameron). If that is the case, what does it say about Starmer that he allowed her to have the upper hand in this?

Yes. It says that his loyalties lie more with the Conservatives than with the members of his own party – the vast majority of whom wanted the Corbyn-led government that he helped to ensure could never be.

As for the threat of “no deal” – well:

The problems with the deal – and with Keir Starmer’s demand for Labour MPs to support it – were highlighted by Clive Lewis in his speech, most of which he has repeated in this video:

Starmer ended up in the worst of all possible worlds:

Yes, the deal passed, which is what he wanted.

But he was made to look a fool for supporting it and the 39 Labour MPs (with or without the party whip) who did not follow him have emerged as principled, moral … and right.

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If Nightingale hospitals are forced into service, will the NHS collapse under the strain?

Simon Stevens: He’s in charge of the NHS but the Tories have never given him the money to run it properly. Now that lack of funding may trigger its collapse.

Who do you think is more horrified that the so-called Nightingale hospitals might actually have to be pressed into service? The Tory government or NHS bosses who simply don’t have the resources to staff, let alone equip them?

Nightingales across the country currently stand empty, despite the fact that the number of Covid-19 cases in the UK has skyrocketed beyond the height of the virus’s first wave.

Apparently the NHS has been told to prepare the Nightingales for us in the next few weeks, but problems are likely:

According to Metro,

Despite this huge surge in patients, the majority of the seven emergency Nightingale hospitals lay empty and have not yet started treating people with coronavirus in the second wave.

The facilities cost the Government a total of £220 million to build, but the Telegraph reports they have been left mostly empty as there are not enough staff to run them.

Only the Exeter Nightingale Hospital has been used since mid-November.

Some NHS trusts have however reportedly been told to ‘begin planning’ for the use of Nightingale hospitals.

Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said this was ‘extremely worrying’ and said ‘systems will again be stretched to the limit’.

They really were an expensive waste of money, weren’t they?

Built just for show – to reassure people that Boris Johnson’s Tories were doing something positive about Covid-19 back in the spring, when they really weren’t.

Now the Tories are facing the possibility of having to press them into service after all.

The finding of Operation Cygnus – the Tories’ own test-run to see how the UK would fare in a pandemic situation – was that the NHS would collapse under the strain.

That must be weighing heavily on a lot of minds right now.

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Government buys 100 million doses of vaccine by firm that ‘procurement tsar’ part-owns

Interesting display of priorities by the Conservative government here.

It has bought 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, enough to vaccinate 50 million people, having approved its supply with the first doses to be given on Monday.

This compares with just 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that was approved in early December – enough for 20 million people, with doses already supplied to nearly 700,000.

Is it a coincidence that – as revealed by the New York Times – Lord Deighton, the Tory procurement tsar whose attempts to get personal protective equipment went so badly wrong, is a shareholder in AstraZeneca?

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, with the first doses due to be given on Monday amid rising coronavirus cases.

The UK has ordered 100 million doses – enough to vaccinate 50 million people.

This will cover the entire population, when combined with the full order of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

Meanwhile, the number of new Covid-19 cases has soared again, to 53,135 on December 29. This is due to the Tories’ failure to make any real effort to control the spread of the virus.

Even in the current lockdown, schools will reopen when term begins in January – and schools are now recognised as the principle vector for the spread of the disease.

It’s almost as though someone had created an urgent need for a vaccine, in order to supply that demand.

I know.

It’s just paranoia. And I shouldn’t mind that somebody is getting very rich indeed from the suffering of millions of people.

Source: Covid-19: Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine approved for use in UK – BBC News

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Will you be able to pay next year’s FIVE PER CENT council tax rise?

 

Isn’t it wonderful that dodgy Tory Robert Jenrick has announced a huge boost in councils’ spending power next year?

And isn’t it diabolical that, after finding billions upon billions of pounds for fake firms run by Tory cronies, these funds will be provided via a massive five per cent hike in council tax?

Councils will be given the freedom to hike bills by 5% next year despite wages and growth stalling in the pandemic.

The small print of a police grants report, published today, also reveals next year’s police funding is dependent on council tax hikes of £15 for a Band D home.

Those hikes would be over and above the other rises in council tax to pay for general services and social care.

And what will you get for it?

Street lighting, rubbish collection (except you still won’t be able to recycle everything that you should), and inflated salaries for councillors and council officers who don’t deserve them.

Source: 11 bits of bad news the Tories sneaked out hours before the Christmas holiday

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Is it too early to demand an investigation into the naked Covid-19 cronyism that has cost so much cash – and so many thousands of lives?

Two-fingered salute: this will be the likely response if we ask Boris Johnson politely for an inquiry into his procurement methods for Covid-19-related equipment and services.

Listen to the following video from our old friend Jeremy Corbyn:

He’s right about the cronyism. The New York Times – a US newspaper and one from a country that supports private enterprise over socialism – recently ran an article examining the phenomenon.

Its findings were an indictment against Boris Johnson and his ragtag gaggle of freeloaders, for whom the phrase, “We’re all in it together,” actually means, “Everyone for themselves!”

Under the heading Waste, negligence and cronyism: inside Britain’s pandemic spending, the paper stated: “In the desperate scramble for protective gear and other equipment, politically connected companies reaped billions.”

It began: “When the pandemic exploded in March, British officials embarked on a desperate scramble to procure the personal protective equipment, ventilators, coronavirus tests and other supplies critical to containing the surge.

“In the months following those fevered days, the government handed out thousands of contracts to fight the virus, some of them in a secretive “V.I.P. lane” to a select few companies with connections to the governing Conservative Party.”

The paper said it analyzed the roughly 1,200 central government contracts that have been made public, together worth nearly $22 billion (£16.28 billion):

About $11 billion [£8.14 billion] went to companies either run by friends and associates of politicians in the Conservative Party, or with no prior experience or a history of controversy.

Meanwhile, smaller firms without political clout got nowhere.

It said the procurement system was cobbled together during a meeting of anxious bureaucrats in late March, and a wealthy former investment banker and Conservative Party grandee, Paul Deighton, who sits in the House of Lords, was later tapped to act as the government’s czar for personal protective equipment.

Eight months on, Lord Deighton has helped the government award billions of dollars in contracts –– including hundreds of millions to several companies where he has financial interests or personal connections.

It looks like we should start making a list of names in advance of a future corruption inquiry, and this Lord Deighton should be at the top of it!*

That’s if we ever get all the information…

Citing the urgency of the pandemic, the government cast aside the usual transparency rules and awarded contracts worth billions of dollars without competitive bidding. To date, just over half of all of the contracts awarded in the first seven months remain concealed from the public

The paper mentions some of the firms with Tory connections that received funding:

Uniserve Group: Awarded $1 billion in PPE contracts, the company is among the biggest winners. Its founder is an adviser to a pro-Brexit think tank panel chaired by two prominent government ministers.**

Randox Laboratories: Awarded $646 million in testing contracts. Owen Paterson, a government minister [and another name for our list], is a paid consultant for the firm.**

Deloitte: Awarded a contract to consult on PPE procurement retrospectively and without competition. The company has made non-cash donations to the Conservative Party and others.**

Around $6 billion went to companies that had no prior experience in supplying medical personal protective equipment. Fashion designers, pest controllers and jewelers won lucrative contracts.

PPE Medpro: This company won its first contract barely three weeks after it was set up. It went on to win nearly $274 million in PPE contracts.**

Ocean Footprint: The marine equipment supplier was awarded a $7 million contract without having any prior experience in supplying medical PPE.**

PestFix: The pest control supply firm won more than $470 million in PPE contracts. It supplied 600,000 face masks that could not be used for their original purpose.**

More than $5 billion was awarded to companies with histories of controversy, from tax evasion and fraud to corruption and human rights abuses.

KPMG: Its UK arm recently faced a negligence lawsuit over alleged accounting failures linked to the collapse of outsourcing giant Carillion.**

Serco: Awarded $285 million for testing and contact tracing. The company admitted… defrauding the government and paid a $30 million fine in 2013.**

Honeywell: Embroiled in two global bribery probes. The UK PPE czar is a shareholder.**

All of the companies named by the NYT have denied wrongdoing, and there is no evidence to suggest that government officials were engaged in illegal conduct.

But there is ample evidence of cronyism, waste and poor due diligence. Some of it has been documented by the British media, but the scale of the problem is wider than previously known.

Officials ignored or missed many red flags. Dozens of companies that won a total of $3.6 billion in contracts had poor credit, and several had declared assets of just $2 or $3 each. Others had histories of fraud, human rights abuses, tax evasion or other serious controversies. A few were set up on the spur of the moment or had no relevant experience — and still won contracts.

The paper contacted the Department of Health and Social Care, which led the Tory government’s pandemic procurement. In denial of all the evidence, a spokesperson said that “proper due diligence” was carried out for all contracts.

How can it have been?

Did this person mean that they ran all the necessary checks, saw the information that showed the firms were not suitable to receive these huge contracts (and this huge responsibility), and handed over the cash anyway?

If so, then the government was negligent. Considering the system as described here, this seems likely:

Junior staffers reviewed thousands of proposals and passed on a chosen few to their bosses, who often had only a day to sign off on contracts, according to a government official involved in the process. Some businesses said they were left waiting months as their proposals went unanswered. Others said it was difficult to keep up with what the government wanted, with safety specifications sometimes changing after deliveries had already been made.

Normally, companies would bid on individual contracts with requirements published in advance. But given the government’s frenzied need for supplies, most companies simply submitted broad proposals through a government website. Government officials then decided yes or no, or in some cases approached companies themselves.

The race to procure PPE – Personal Protective Equipment – is a very clear example (and a sore point for the government).

The necessity to have such equipment easily available in readiness for the arrival of a pandemic infection like Covid-19 was highlighted by Exercise Cygnus in 2016 – the Tory government’s own simulation of the effect of a pandemic on the UK which predicted that the NHS would collapse due to lack of resources – and by top medical journal The Lancet, which published a direct warning to Boris Johnson that he needed to secure “supply chains of pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, hospital supplies and the necessary human resources” on January 24.

Johnson ignored the warnings. In fact,

Ministers could have avoided the panicked spending spree, critics said, had they not ignored their own pandemic preparedness plan and sold off stocks of P.P.E. from rainy-day reserves in the first three months of the year.

So the government’s claim that

the huge global demand for P.P.E. had created “a highly competitive market” and that it used “the quickest and most accessible routes” to buy protective gear

appears to be nonsense.

Having given way his own supply of PPE, Johnson then had to scrabble to buy some back. You can bet he had to spend more doing this than he raised from the sale, too – those are the laws of supply and demand and as a Tory, he should have known such things. But his people’s behaviour was actually worse:

In choosing speed over due diligence, however, ministers squandered millions on “unsuitable” items, including some that did not meet safety standards, according to the National Audit Office.

The government said that only a tiny portion of the supplies, 0.5 percent, had been found unfit for their intended uses.

Yes, but then the government said it followed due diligence in awarding contracts to unsuitable firms as well, so its people are hardly to be trusted.

The VIP lane

As if the above information wasn’t bad enough, Matt Hancock (another name for our list) secretly authorised a so-called “VIP lane” for favoured companies to win procurement contracts, in April.

These firms

proved to be 10 times more likely to win contracts than those outside that group, according to the National Audit Office.

The government did not carry out systematic company checks, including for potential conflicts of interest, until it had already spent nearly $2 billion, auditors found. Officials did not always document who recommended a company or why it was awarded a contract.

This site has already documented the story of Ayanda Capital. Awarded $340 million (£251.6 million) to supply personal protective equipment, it eventually delivered 50 million masks worth more than $200 million (£148 million) that could not be used for their original purpose, because the ear loop fastenings did not match the government’s new requirements.

One of the firm’s senior board advisers was Andrew Mills (another name for our list) who also worked on the government’s Board of Trade, meaning there was a clear conflict of interest even though we don’t know what part he played in the awarding of the contract, if any.

Ayanda has said the masks met all the government’s requirements when the order was placed and – considering the evidence that requirements were likely to change after contracts were signed – it is entirely possible that this is true. It is the fault of Boris Johnson and his government that this process failed. They chose to employ firms that were unable to provide the equipment that was needed.

Meanwhile,

many companies and business people, often better qualified to produce P.P.E. but lacking political connections, had no access to the V.I.P. lane. Multibrands International, a British manufacturer that had been producing P.P.E. for China since December, was among them. Its owner, Rizwana Hussain, spent months trying to reach government officials through public channels.

Ms. Hussain had offered to supply the government starting in March, her emails show. She was still at it in early May when news broke that 400,000 protective gowns that the government ordered from Turkey had proved to be unusable. “I was so upset thinking, ‘Why are we listening to these disastrous happenings when we’re here and are offering our help?’” Ms. Hussain said.

She said that although her company could produce large quantities of P.P.E. at its factories in China and India, she never heard back from the government.

Government officials said the high-priority lane was set up to efficiently prioritize credible offers of PPE for the National Health Service, and that all proposals, whatever channel they went through, were assessed by the same standards. Does anybody really believe that?

But they have not released the names of the nearly 500 companies that made the V.I.P. list., fuelling questions of cronyism.

It seems clear there is enough evidence here – or lack of it, in many instances – to justify an inquiry. This Writer, being a lay person, is unsure what form such an investigation should take. Judicial review? Public inquiry? Perhaps somebody with more specialised knowledge could let us know.

We already know that Johnson will try to brush this scandal under the carpet (his carpets must be bulging with the amount of mess he has hidden beneath them).

It is our responsibility to ensure that he doesn’t get away with it.

*The New York Times had quite a lot to say about Lord Deighton:

Two of the contracts linked to Lord Deighton were P.P.E.-related. One, for $78 million, was awarded to Honeywell Safety Products, a subsidiary of Honeywell International, a company he holds shares in.

Lord Deighton is also a shareholder of AstraZeneca, the British pharmaceutical company that is developing a vaccine with Oxford University, and was awarded $205 million for test services.

He also holds shares in the consulting firm Accenture, which was awarded a $5.6 million contract to help develop England’s ill-fated contact tracing app and detect fraud in procurement. Another company he has a stake in, UBS, won $770,000.

Neither Lord Deighton nor the companies would divulge the size of his share holdings.

A $406,000 contract was awarded to a consulting firm, Chanzo, to help set up and run the P.P.E. procurement system, including providing a chief of staff for Lord Deighton.

Chanzo’s founder and chief executive, Jean Tomlin, is a long-time business associate of Lord Deighton, and worked with him on the Olympic committee. Ms. Tomlin is also a fellow director at Hakluyt, a corporate intelligence firm founded by former British intelligence officers, which Lord Deighton chairs.

Lady Alison Deighton, his wife, is a former director of N.M. Rothschild, which won a $770,000 contract for consulting services. Another consulting contract of the same value went to Moelis & Company, an investment bank where one senior adviser and Labour peer, Lord Charles Allen, was also on the Olympic committee board with Lord Deighton.

** The article also provides the following information on the companies it names:

PestFix said it had repurposed its business during the pandemic to supply medical P.P.E. and said the government changed its specifications after it had supplied the face masks. PPE Medpro said that it was awarded contracts based on the considerable experience and expertise of its staff. Uniserve Group said that its director had no connections to the Conservative government. Deloitte said that its U.K. arm does not give cash contributions to political parties. Ocean Footprint said it had previously sold masks to the boat-building industry. Serco said that it “took significant steps to reform itself” after the 2013 fraud scandal. Randox Laboratories did not respond to questions and Owen Paterson declined to comment. All other companies mentioned in the article either declined to comment or did not respond to questions.

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‘I’m backing Brexit!’ says Starmer. But will he take his MPs with him?

About face: Angela Rayner and Keir Starmer have performed an astonishing turnabout to support Boris Johnson’s Brexit – even though they don’t have to; it will become law anyway. Why are they insisting on tying Labour into responsibility for it?

Keir Starmer has given us yet another reason to distrust him:

Yes, that’s right. The politician who demanded that Labour pursue a policy that would put the UK through another EU referendum – and that lost the 2019 general election – has performed a complete about-face and was backing Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal before he had even read it.

That doesn’t seem very “forensic” to This Writer!

Here’s the proof:

That statement was made a matter of hours after Johnson announced that a deal had been reached; he would not have had time to read the 1,200-page agreement and its 800 pages of appendices.

It is impossible for those of us in the know not to say “we told you so”…

But the question now arises: should Labour back Johnson’s deal, that has cost hundreds of billions of pounds and promises nothing more than to make us all worse-off?

And the answer is obvious: no.

The deal will go through; the Conservatives have a very comfortable majority in the House of Commons, thanks to Starmer’s own daft election policy. It doesn’t need Labour’s support.

And of course, Starmer has outed himself as a hypocrite, considering the number of times he has told his MPs to abstain on Tory policies.

It raises once again what has become a perennial question:

Perhaps in an attempt to head off criticism, deputy leader Angela Rayner has tried to say Labour will vote for the deal, but won’t take responsibility for it – and will hold the Tories to account for broken promises:

That is not reasonable. If Labour supports the deal, then Starmer (and Rayner) take as much responsibility for it as Boris Johnson and the Tories. That’s what their vote means:

The plan confirms Starmer’s Labour as pale-blue Conservative cheerleaders:

One criticism that may strike home is that Starmer has turned the House of Commons into an imitation of the Russian Parliament, the Duma, in which the opposition party votes with Vladimir Putin on everything (apparently).

Note that Rayner says that Labour with vote for the agreement “against no deal” – but there is no possibility of that, now. The Conservatives can vote it through without Labour’s help. ‘No deal’, it seems, was nothing more than an invented bogeyman after all – a threat to hang over us so we wouldn’t compare what we are getting with what we are losing.

In Rayner’s case, it seems to have worked.

But will she – and Starmer – take the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party with them?

Chris Bryant may find it hard, for one, after his comments about Jeremy Corbyn…

Yes indeed. And it seems more trouble is brewing, according to the Telegraph:

A series of Labour MPs are set to revolt against Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to whip the party in support of Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal.

Rupa Huq, Kevin Brennan, Neil Coyle, Geraint Davies and Clive Efford were among those who criticised the deal and signalled their refusal to vote for it, according to sources present on [a briefing] call.

It is not clear whether they will vote against the deal or abstain, but who can blame them for rebelling? They’re probably thinking something similar to David Rosenberg:

Depending on what happens and how badly the public take it, This Writer thinks James Foster’s prediction may bed horrifyingly accurate:

Whatever happens, one thing must be made clear:

Keir Starmer knows what he is doing. He should be judged on that basis.

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Sunak’s daft ‘Eat Out to Die Out’ caused one in six Covid OUTBREAKS, study finds

Rishi Sunak: his plan to get people eating out over the summer by offering discounts on meals should have been called Eat Out to DIE Out.

He didn’t even help hospitality businesses very much, either.

Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak made certain that thousands more people caught Covid-19 than would otherwise have done so, with his Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

Research by the University of Warwick has shown that the initiative is likely to blame for 17 per cent of infections – one in six outbreaks – between August and early September (when it was overtaken by outbreaks linked to schools that had reopened at Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab’s insistence, we may conclude).

Even the Daily Mail has turned on the Tories over this one:

Although people had to socially distance in restaurants where the deal was offered, the virus is known to spread more easily indoors and thrives particularly in enclosed spaces.

Many people met people from other households for dinner and also used public transport to get to and from the restaurants, driving up the risk of transmission.

Research from the university suggested that between eight and 17 per cent of newly detected infection clusters could be linked to the scheme.

Areas where there was a high uptake of Eat Out to Help Out also saw a decline in new infections a week after the scheme drew to a close.

People will have died from catching the virus after taking part in Sunak’s crackpot plan.

But nobody has been asking him any hard questions!

Isn’t it time these Tories took responsibility for the fatal consequences of their decisions and left public life for good, under a cloud of shame?

Source: Eat Out to Help Out to blame for 1 in 6 new coronavirus infections | Daily Mail Online

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Highest ever number of new Covid-19 infections recorded in the UK in a single day

 Overloaded: Boris Johnson and the Tories before him de-funded the National Health Service and stripped it of its ability to fight pandemic viruses, knowing that only the poor would suffer if a crisis arose. That is exactly what has happened.

The authorities are desperate to say it’s not as extreme as it looks, as testing has increased significantly, meaning more infections are being discovered than before.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t as bad as it looks. 41,385 new infections in a single day is an astonishing amount.

And of course, not everybody is being tested every day, so undoubtedly more infections are being missed.

The number of new deaths – 357 – is a significant decrease on the highs of more than 600. It is still equivalent to more than two disasters such as plane or train crashes, though.

The fall in the number of deaths may be at least a hint that vaccination is starting to work.

But the toll on our hospitals has reached a new high point – at a time when the National Health Service is at its lowest ebb in years due to more than a decade of Conservative underfunding and the loss of staff who have been turned away by Tory underpayment policies.

Hospitals have been told to free up every possible bed – meaning other treatments and procedures will be delayed (again) – to make way for an influx of very sick patients. This increase has been worsened by the new strain of the virus and Boris Johnson’s decision to delay taking any action over it for almost four whole months.

In a six-page letter to NHS care providers on 23 December, health service chiefs said:

“With Covid-19 inpatient numbers rising in almost all parts of the country, and the new risk presented by the variant strain of the virus, you should continue to plan on the basis that we will remain in a level four incident for at least the rest of this financial year and NHS trusts should continue to safely mobilise all of the available surge capacity over the coming weeks.”

Part of the problem is that, despite the Conservative government’s insistence that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is now available, it has been denied to almost two-thirds of medics who have asked for it:

A new survey reveals that almost two-thirds of medics who responded to it have still not had the vaccine, half believe its delivery to the NHS frontline has been “ad hoc” and a third have no idea when they will be offered it.

Not only that, but hospitals are suffering their own individual emergencies, like Queen Elizabeth Hospital in London, which had to divert emergency patients to other hospitals because excessive demand by Covid-19 sufferers had caused a shortage of oxygen.

It is the latest in a string of London hospitals to declare major incidents in the past 10 days.

It’s a cascade.

Patients with other conditions are turned away because scant resources have been diverted to handle Covid-19, because Boris Johnson couldn’t be bothered to take the right precautions at the right time, Tory leaders before him systematically stripped the UK of its ability to handle virus, and long-term Conservative policy has been to deny resources to the NHS in order to fool the public into thinking a private health service would be better.

You can see as easily as I can that responsibility lies with a single group: the Conservatives.

It doesn’t change the fact that the UK faces a very clear and pressing crisis.

This Writer would urge everybody with the necessary abilities to do everything they can to help.

But whatever happens, don’t let the Tories take the credit for it.

Source: COVID-19: UK records 41,385 new coronavirus cases and 357 more deaths | UK News | Sky News

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If you think conditions in Priti Patel’s planned concentration camp are bad, you should see them in the ones she already has

Auschwitz was a concentration camp: it seems Priti Patel may have found in Covid-19 a more socially-acceptable way of wiping out her refugees than the gas chamber.

It seems a lot of people were shocked by the revelation that Priti Patel is planning to open a concentration camp in Hampshire – with all the connotations of that phrase – for foreign refugees.

If you thought that was bad, what will you think of the fact that she is already running two such camps – subjecting the inmates to squalor, indignity and the threat of Covid-19 – in south Wales and Kent.

An article in The Canary describes conditions in the Penally camp, south Wales, as “hellish”.

Camp residents complain of inadequate and poorly cooked food, no privacy, and inadequate shower and toilet facilities. They are unable to socially distance, or to take proper precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).

60% or more of the camp’s 42 toilets were not working, leaving the residents in severely unsanitary conditions. The toilets were eventually fixed but … this wasn’t the first time the toilets had been out of action. In fact: “This is the fourth time in three weeks.”

The only functional showers in Penally are shared, without any private cubicles. “A month ago they brought in caravans containing private showers, but no-one use them because they have no hot water. So they are just for show.” When residents have finished showering, they have to put on their coat straightaway to go out into the freezing cold.

There are precious few measures in place to protect against the spread of coronavirus in Penally. “Hand sanitiser and soap dispensers are often either empty or not working. Outside the canteen, there is one dispenser which is often left empty, including for three days on one occasion.” Mask wearing is only enforced within the dining area, and masks are only available on request.

A minibus of 15 new residents arrived at the camp on Wednesday 16 December. Some of the existing camp residents asked if these newcomers had been tested for coronavirus; they were told ‘It’s not your business’. “They say that we need to be careful about spreading Covid, but they put us all together in shared rooms, with not enough toilets and shared showers We eat in the same dining hall, and we wait together in the queue for food – I think they sent us here to get Corona and die.”

This is the situation in Priti Patel’s concentration camp Britain. People are sent to filthy, degrading hovels which they are forced to share with others who may have a disease that is currently killing hundreds of people in the UK every day.

And she wants to open more.

Source: ‘Every day it’s getting worse’ – a refugee calls for ‘massive protests’ over conditions at Home Office camp | The Canary