Day Fifty Seven: Monday 11th May 2020

Daily Diary: A Muddled Monday For Me.

Today has already been called “Muddle Monday,” after the confused messaging from prime minister Boris Johnson, and it has already promised to give me a headache or two about the club taking to the air again. I have an exchange of emails with the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association (BHPA) chairman, Marc Asquith. From the BHPA’s point of view they will give clubs the decision once they get the green light from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Then the decision is ours, club by club. There are eager pilots out there, straining at the bit to fly. Covid-19 might be a risk, but in a sport which has the potential to have serious, even mortal, consequences, it’s easy to see how to some the virus is a relatively small element when they consider the overall risk being taken, and anyway there are very few places indeed that are more covid-free than climbing up towards cloudbase thousands of feet above the ground.

There is a Zoom meeting this coming Friday and I’ve got to get my head around this over the next day or two. If the CAA don’t give a green light for leisure aviation to continue then there isn’t an issue, but in the general scheme of things and the restlessness of many people they might, and we’ve got to be ready. For my part, I probably won’t fly any time soon. Vicky and I have committed ourselves to isolating as the means of protecting ourselves. Sheltering from the storm.

Today I rang the pharmacist to get our repeat prescriptions. They’re there and she tells me to collect them in half an hour.

I ask if they are doing a delivery service like they did last time.

“We’re not doing staff delivery. There’s an 0800 number, where you can get a volunteer to come along….”

That poses extra layers of difficulty. Are we over seventy? No, we’re 67 and 68 respectively. Did we have any health conditions? Well, not exactly, but we’ve always had a bit of a worry after Vicky almost died a few years back, as a result of a botched operation. We don’t fit the criteria. We ‘kind of’ almost do, but not quite. We’d have to explain all that perhaps, or at least feel that we have to. Along with a subtext of feeling fraudulent, knowing there are many out there much needier and more deserving than we are.

“I’ll wear a mask and gloves and come along,” I said. It breaks the perfect isolation and compromises the shield we’ve made for ourselves, but it is the easiest course of action, and perhaps the first babystep in ending our own lockdown.

After all, the snail has to come out of his shell a little to start moving.

Then the postman comes along with a package. It’s quite big, containing four nursery planter trays, so I can now transfer the geranium seedlings that are about to leave the nursery for primary school. They’re just what the doctor ordered and the little geraniums will be rehoused in a day or two. The package is decontaminated with bleach spray and the conservatory smells like a swimming pool for a few minutes.

I head off to the pharmacy. I have a freshly sterilised mask and a pair of surgical gloves. When I get there I see the following notice:




The whole operation takes place outside and the medicines are passed out as if I’m picking up something dodgy on the black market.

In the short wait another person shows up. He too is wearing a mask and gloves. We have a brief chat, which can be paraphrased as “when will this end?” which ends when we get our medicines. An icy wind is blowing – deceptive, because it looks like t-shirt weather.

I take the medicines home and decontaminate the packaging. Then I take the car for a short run to see if it’s still working okay, having been nowhere since the start of lockdown.

I find the drive really enjoyable. It’s good to be back in that liminal space, LBC blaring through the speakers about the muddle and confusion of ‘stay alert.’

Mostly it was good just to drive and watch the world pass by,

Even if it was only to Erith and back again.

The Bigger Picture: A Muddled Monday For Britain.

As of today, Covid-19 has infected more than 4.1 million people and killed over 282,000, according to a tally by John Hopkins University. It is a cruel, ruthless disease, choosing those already less favoured in increasingly unequal societies, passing some by almost arbitrarily, yet kicking others hard who are already weakened by age and infirmity.

Yet for the most part, as if it’s trying to persuade us that it isn’t the spawn of diabolical creation, the virus spares our young.  Numerous studies have found that the virus is a mild disease for children. In one of the largest studies, conducted by doctors in Shanghai, 94 per cent of children with the virus had an asymptomatic, mild or moderate illness. A separate review by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, found that children accounted for fewer than five per cent of diagnosed Covid-19 patients globally. Of 2,572 infected children analysed by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 5.7 per cent were hospitalised, and three died.

On the diabolic scale, there are humans in our troubled, unsettled world, who are less sparing of children. Humans so gifted with the cornucopia of code genetica it elevates them to the domain of choice and free will.  Covid at least has the mitigation of being a relatively short strand of ribonucleic acid, doing what relatively short strands of ribonucleic acid do best.

But it’s that meeting of those ultimately simple and ultimately elaborate codes genetica  where the truly diabolic happens.

Because covid confounds.

Being the simplest of all life forms – so simple many argue it’s not a life form at all – its existence can be checked in the simplest way of all. By simply not allowing it to pass from one person to the next.

Being the most elaborate of life forms – so elaborate many argue they have transcended beyond the natural world – putting a stop to the existence of SARS-CoV-2 proves to be insurmountable. Not allowing it to pass from one person to the next is hampered by the elaborate world we have created for ourselves and our indulgences.

The more we wish to indulge ourselves in that elaborate world the more confounded we become.

Cue Muddle Monday.

As we locked down, a huge sector of the economy that serviced our elaborate needs, to eat out, have a bevy or two and shopped till we dropped froze in time, like the courtiers in ‘The Sleeping Beauty.’

Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing has warns, “Our industry is on the brink of collapse,” while retail footfall suffers biggest ever drop with shoppers.

Not even the dead are exempt. British funeral services group, Dignity, has said that clients seeking to bury loved ones during the pandemic were opting for simpler services, as it reported a rise in the overall deaths compared to last year, and a drop in profits.

The conflicting desires to start the escape from lockdown while at the same time controlling the spread of a virus has led to a loss of focus and direction.

For a start, largely straightforward rules about lockdown have become more complicated and in many cases, logically inconsistent, making them more difficult both to explain and enforce. For instance, Londoners are allowed to drive to the beach to sunbathe but unable to take a bus to get to one of the capital’s great parks, which is one in the eye to millions who do not have a car and rely on public transport.

Secondly, the prime minister’s messaging left the Great British public nonplussed, with a new poll finding less than a third of people saying that they know what the Government’s new ‘stay alert’ Covid-19 message is asking them to. The confusion arising from what can only be described as a ‘back to work for some’ message resulted in commuters packed on to the London Underground, while foreign secretary Dominic Raab belatedly explained they were supposed to have stayed off until Wednesday.

Many scratched their heads, trying to remember where this whole ‘Wednesday thing’ came from.

And almost instantly the Government’s lack of clear messaging around plans to ease lockdown has fuelled a rise in rule-breaking, despite lockdown spot fines rising to £100 on Wednesday.

The ‘back to work for some’ message is also met with unease, as it starts to highlight the deep inequalities in British society.

The GMB union said ONS figures indicating raised rates of deaths involving Covid-19 among men in certain occupations were “horrifying,” John Phillips, acting GMB general secretary said: The figures are horrifying, and they were drawn up before the chaos of last night’s announcement.

With the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reporting that caring, leisure and service occupations have the highest female death rate.

In other words, if you are low paid and working through the Covid-19 crisis you are more likely to die.

John Phillips went on to urge Ministers to pause any return to work until proper guidelines, advice and enforcement are in place to keep people safe – something that fails to adequately materialise in many sectors.

The same muddle applies to Britain’s borders:

  • Heathrow Airport calls on the UK government to layout its plans for reopening borders.
  • Willie Walsh, chairman of IAG, the aviation group including British Airways, Iberia and United Airlines, asks the Commons Transport Select Committee, “What about passengers coming into the UK on other forms of transport besides air travel?”
  • A reasonable question, bearing in mind that French passengers are exempt from the UK quarantine plans ‘at this stage’ of the coronavirus lockdown.
  • While migrants stranded in Greece by Covid-19 fly to the UK. A group of 50 refugees and asylum seekers flew from Greece to Britain on Monday to reunite with relatives in a transfer that had been held up by the coronavirus lockdown. The group includes 16 unaccompanied minors, Greek migration ministry officials said. Some 130 Greek nationals stranded in the UK because of the COVID-19 lockdown will be repatriated on the return flight, the ministry said.

Muddle and confusion at UK borders continue to be a continuing theme throughout the pandemic. Ironic, because ‘taking back control of Britain’s borders’ was central to the Government coming to power.

In America more than 1.3 million people have been infected, and at least 78,700 have died from Covid-19. Nearly a third of those deaths were linked to long term care homes for older adults. There have been at least 189,791 cases of Covid-19 in New York City according to the New York Times database. As of Sunday afternoon, at least 19,429 have died.

Nowhere occupied by human beings is exempt from the virus.

Hearts of government, where people closely associate for power, influence and all too often personal gain are particularly vulnerable. Like moths drawn to a flame. Vice President Mike Pence was expected back to work today after one of his top aides tested positive for Covid-19 amid fears an infection could be spreading through the White House.

Despite that, Covid-19 ‘Liberate’ Groups are finding an audience in the White House. They form a caucus of conservatives, climate change deniers, and now anti-science Covideniers.

This overlap of views is something really puzzling. It’s as if they come as a package. With other opinions you get diverse responses. What’s your favourite colour? Favourite food? Music genre? Spectator sport? And so on. Ask a handful of questions and you’d soon be identifying individuals.

Not so, it seems, with contrarian views. In for one means in for all. These aren’t opinions, but tribal markers.

Covid denial is definitely one of them. It will form a whole new cluster of takes on the pandemic, from claims that the death toll is being inflated, to the lack of importance of social distancing, mask wearing and when they become widely available, vaccines.

The denial started very early. On January 20th 2020, the WHO declared that the outbreak of the novel CV 2019, which causes the disease Covid-19, was officially a ‘public health emergency of international concern.’ At the time there were cases confirmed in 19 countries, and deaths in China had reached 170. The very next day, the pro-industry advocacy group, American Council of Science and Health (ACSH) published an article entitled, ‘Coronavirus in the US: How Bad Will It Be?’

‘Is coronavirus worse than the flu?’ it began.

‘No. Not even close.’

The ACSH is part of what President Trump has come to call the “Liberate Movement,” also known as the State Policy Network (SPN), a network of state-level conservative think tanks advancing pro-corporate agendas, which has received money, among others, the Koch, Devos and Mercer families.

Supporting corporate interests knows no bounds, even during a pandemic.

US fossil fuel companies have taken at least $50 million in taxpayer money they probably won’t have to pay back, according to a review of what Covid-19 meant for struggling small businesses, according to the investigative research group Documented and the Guardian. A total of $28 million is going to three coal mining companies, all with ties to Trump officials, bolstering a dying American industry and a fuel that scientists insist world leaders must shift away from to avoid the worst of the climate crisis.

Something stinks!

In the meantime, the virus continues its relentless path across the globe:

  • The Queen will reportedly withdraw from public life for “months.” The absence is expected to be the longest period in the Queen’s 68 year reign, during which she has stepped back from public duties.
  • India reports its biggest increase in cases as it prepares to gradually resume train services while easing its virus lockdown. On Monday, India’s government reported 4,213 new cases of Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours. It now has more than 67,000 cases, which includes 2,206 deaths. Footage showing half a dozen dead bodies lying on beds next to Covid-19 patients in hospital has horrified India and exposed how the nation’s health system is struggling, in some areas, to cope during the pandemic. The footage from Sion hospital in Mumbai showed the bodies, wrapped in black plastic, lying next to patients undergoing treatment. Families tending to the patients were also seen moving round the ward with the bodies lying nearby.
  • Informal labour may look entirely different in the post-lockdown world – and with fewer breaks, lower wages and longer hours, may involve a great deal more exploitation. This is no clearer than in India, where the lockdown enforced to fight the spread of the virus suddenly left hundreds of thousands of informal workers without their livelihoods. Experts predict that as workplaces rush to reopen and recover lost time after lockdown, these informal workers – already among the country’s most exploited – face seriously modern slavery risks. This is because informal workers by nature have no legal protection from exploitation, despite the fact that they are estimated to form close to a staggering 93 per cent of India’s total population.
  • Russia, once so eager to send support to Italy during earlier pandemic days (only a couple of months ago) has registered a fresh daily record high of new Covid-19 cases. The Government’s task force in charge of combating the outbreak said the country has registered over 11,600 new infections in the last 24 hours, more than half of them in Moscow. That has brought the nation’s total to more than 221,000 cases, including about 2,000 deaths.
  • Increase in Covid-19 infections in Germany is a cause for concern. Dynamo Dresden put team in quarantine after positive Covid-19 tests. The 2 Bundesliga team were due back in action on 16th May, but say they will not be able to participate.

Despite that, more than 130 are detained in Germany after protests against lockdown. Lockdowns are proving to be difficult options, especially in liberal democracies, where people’s personal freedoms, from the sublime to the ridiculous, have come to be cherished.

Although numbers are high it seems like the high point has passed and they are now steadily declining. The seven day average daily deaths in Britain still stands at 476, something like seven times the peak midwinter high for influenza in pervious years, and horrific when seen that way, it raises the possibility of better times ahead when we can stop battening down the hatches. The high tide mark has been passed too in other parts of Europe too, it seems.

  • Boris Johnson reveals more lockdown exit plan details as Dominic Raab announces pubs and restaurants to reopen in July. Primark is poised to reopen stores as soon as lockdown rules are lifted. Store managers are reportedly returning to branches of Primark to prepare for reopening. There is also a call for vigilance from Britain’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton. As businesses reopen and seek to recruit workers quickly in sectors such as hospitality, vulnerable workers are at risk of trafficking and exploitation. Meanwhile, a petition circulates to give parents the option not to send children back to school if they reopen in June.
  • The French government approves new health measures as it prepares to ease lockdown. Measures include collecting health data ‘without consent’ if necessary. The French have begun leaving their homes for the first time in two months without permission slips as the country starts lifting its lockdown. The reopening is somewhat chaotic, however, with mixed messages from authorities and a last-minute legal tangle for President Emmanuel Macron and his government. In Paris, crowds packed into some subway lines and train stations despite new social distancing rules. Clothing shops, hair salons and estate agencies were among businesses large and small reopening on Monday, with strict precautions to keep Covid-19 at bay.
  • Belgium is taking a major step in relaxing its Covid-19 lockdown by opening shops under strict conditions. Even still, public transport in the capital city of Brussels was hit by a strike because bus drivers did not feel safe under the current virus precautions. Authorities on Sunday permitted people to start meeting with four close relatives or friends, allowing many families to celebrate a restricted Mother’s Day.
  • Dutch schools are welcoming back students who had been forced to stay at home for two months. Schools, libraries and businesses such as hairdressers were allowed to reopen on Monday in the Netherlands on condition that they take measures to enforce social distancing. Some hairdressers opened their doors at midnight to welcome customers desperate for a trim.
  • Some fitness clubs in North Rhine-Westphalia opened shortly after midnight to let gym-starved customers build up a sweat again. Authorities agreed last week to further loosen restrictions on movement, but with a fallback clause designed to clamp down on any new covid clusters.
  • Roughly half of 47 million Spaniards are stepping into a softer version of the country’s strict confinement, beginning to socialise, shop in small establishments and enjoy a meal or a coffee in restaurants and bars with outdoor seating.
  • Greece has entered the second phase in lifting its lockdown with all remaining retail stores that had been shut down in March allowed to reopen and the final year of high school resuming classes.
  • Shopping centres, barbers shops, hairdressers and beauty salons have reopened for business across Turkey for the first time in seven weeks as the country gradually eases restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19. Turkey has recorded nearly 140,000 cases of the virus and almost 3,800 deaths attributed to Covid-19.
  • Shanghai Disneyland reopens with Covid-19 precautions.

But for all the upbeat moves an uncertain and ominous future is spelled out, as Wuhan reports its first Covid-19 cluster since the lifting of lockdown.

Finally, Captain Tom Moore is to get Freedom of the City of London in a virtual ceremony. The WWII veteran, who raised £33 million for NHS Charities Together by completing 100 laps of his garden before his hundredth birthday. It’s another honour after his promotion to Colonel.

Sources:, Desmog, Euronews, Evening Standard, France 24, Freedom United, Guardian, The i, New York Times, PA Media, Reuters, Sky News, Ozy, Times

Day Fifty Six: Sunday 10th May 2020

Daily Diary: Cracks Start Appearing.

The weather changes as a cold front comes in. The temperature has dropped from the twenties centigrade to the low tens. The sky is leaden and there’s a strong wind howling. There are not so many out on the common today, but there’s still at least two families gathering and not respecting social distancing. It seems increasingly that a part of our population has got bored with lockdown, or complacent about the threat of a deadly virus. There’s a very selfish thread that’s come to run through our society. It started with Thatcher and has grown step by step ever since.

That was part of that conversation with Cathy. An observation by her daughter Edie, now a young woman of university age. To what extent we have become a culture of self-absorption is hard to say:

“We’ve become an Instagram culture. Everybody posing as if they’re desperate to be glamorous. But inside there’s nothing.”

And I wonder whether our culture has descended into being the epitome of self-centredness. Because being self-centred is not to care about being the cipher, the conduit by which a deadly virus can reach a hitherto ‘safe’ person who will become susceptible to it, even mortally so.

I’ve watched these cracks appearing. On the TV, in the news, out of my front window. The police are almost powerless to stop the civil disobedience, not because of the righteousness of its cause, but the extent to which it has already been eroded.

I feel that the shift of message from “stay at home” to something much more nebulous like “stay alert” is a worrying development.

The Swedes had registered that their population was well-behaved, would apply self-restraint and would act responsibly. I’m not at all sure that that’s true of a sizeable proportion of we Brits. In the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak there were reports of British holidaymakers in Spain, wandering the streets during lockdown, singing to the Conga tune, “We have got the virus! We have got the virus! Duh-dah-dee-dah! Duh-dah-dee-dah!” before they were moved on by Spanish police.

To me it’s the final part of a process by which the British myth of refinement and restraint, as exhibited by David Niven, Michael Howard and the like, has been well and truly exploded. Like with most countries there’s a huge, vulgar underbelly to Britain that’s not pretty to behold, and rallied politically it has created something very ugly indeed. Boris Johnson champions that vulgar upswell, as does Trump in America. In Corona Days such behaviour serves no one well.

I guess we’ve lost discipline, or maybe the capacity for restraint, and those forces have been indulged over the last four years. I remember as a teacher that if you gave way to such forces in the classroom little progress would be made by anyone. It is that loss of discipline which means we have politicians – and I say that rather than leaders – who are more focused on playing to the gallery than keeping to structure and rules.

Next week I’ll have to address those pressures and social forces as fellow flyers will follow the same relentless zeitgeist. Reopening the hills is going to be tricky, even though it’s not a patch on reopening society.

It’s a government wanting to be seen to be doing stuff. A bit like the kid who pretends s/he’s working whenever the teacher looks their way. But, as a result, it’s a shambles. Testing is all about numbers, as if we’re meant to be impressed by big figures rather than a strategy. Because we must test, test and test again, and not allow anyone to start up again until there’s an all-clear. The testing should be phased and systematic – it’s all over the place at the moment, and opening sectors should follow our capacity to test and check before they open up. Otherwise Covid-19 runs rampant and those in charge are little more than headless chickens, more intent on lying to us all, rather than telling us straight.

In the garden things are progressing. The kids’ garden cress ended their days in an egg sandwich. I save some cornflowers and mixed annuals, and the geraniums are getting to the point where they’ll be out of the propagator and into their first pot, that have been reused after containing yogurt.

Things move on.

The Bigger Picture: Your Country Needs Lerts.

It was a trope long before people used the word trope.

A meme before the concept was coined.

“Be alert!” it said. “Your country needs lerts!”

I remember the joke on one of those anarcho-hippy badges, next door to “Don’t vote – It only encourages them,” and escorted by that yellow smiley face that evolved into the first emoji.

So I can understand why the sudden change of slogan to “stay alert,” evoked a certain cynicism, as far as I was concerned. What I didn’t fully grasp was that others without my particular and occasionally somewhat quirky life history shared the same reaction.

Stay alert? Was keeping an eye out for the virus a bit like collecting Pokémon characters? It didn’t make sense to me and others, it seemed.

So as Boris Johnson prepares to address the nation on his revised lockdown plan, with its five step Covid-19 alert levels, mirroring terror threat levels, and the new ‘stay alert’ slogan is about to be rolled out, questions are asked.

The Liberal Democrats have demanded Boris Johnson ‘publishes evidence’ for ‘stay alert’ slogan. Changing the slogan now, while in practice keeping the lockdown in place, makes the police’s job near-impossible and may cause considerable alarm. Ministers risk sowing confusion and losing public trust with this muddled communications strategy and lack of transparency. While Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon rejects the slogan as a backlash grows.

The police, who have to enforce this, are far from happy with the slogan and the pandemic response in general which they describe as “wishy washy.” They have just had to deal with the May Day Bank Holiday, where fine weather has led to crowded parks and beaches. In London’s parks people gather in the hundreds, many picnicking on pizzas, beer and wine.

The blasé attitude is in total contrast to the horrors of those hospitalised with Covid-19, and today 268 Brits will die from the disease. A senior police officer tweets:

“A month ago on a ventilator and in a coma, I started to breathe for myself! I am v disturbed by the increasingly blasé way ppl are treating the lockdown. With lack of answers around immunity, my family and I are going to remain shielding. I can’t go through that again. #Covid19.”

And many covid deaths in care homes are still unrecorded. It’s a hidden calamity.

Part of the problem is that we are still familiarising ourselves with the disease. In contrast to influenza – flu – which has been characterised as “an unvarying disease caused by a varying virus,” because of its tendency to mutate annually yet still produce the same symptoms of fever, malaise, headaches, muscular aches and coughing in pretty much all sufferers, Covid-19 by comparison, because it travels so deep into the lungs can be carried in the bloodstream to other organs, such as the intestines, heart, kidneys and even the extremities such as ‘covid toe.’

It could be because the ACE2 cell receptors that the novel coronavirus seeks out and bids to are found in these other parts of the body, although some suggest that our very familiarity with the flu virus means we largely take it for granted and don’t examine the virus’ behaviour too closely any more.

Furthermore, many who become infected by Covid-19 become asymptomatic, or largely asymptomatic. It’s in those who only partially express symptoms that the disease expresses itself in unexpectedly, such as a gastro-intestinal complaint.

That in turn reveals what a number of doctors have described as a “fatal flaw” at the heart of the new NHS covid test and trace. By concentrating solely on cough and temperature it misses a number of other symptoms.

Britain has a government that at senior level has only a rudimentary grounding of science. In senior ministerial posts there isn’t one who has a university degree in the sciences. What counts is that there was a lack of full grasp of the significance of evidence – that somehow basic facts could be counterbalanced by political messaging. It’s a way of seeing the world and ways of seeing the world are moulded by education and the echo chamber people find themselves in.

And science barely enters that echo chamber where the key players are barely past the first grade.

In connection with that, Sir David Spiegelhalter, professor of the Public Understanding said it was “extraordinary” how the Government could not say how many people have been infected with Covid-19. He claimed that Number 10’s statistics are “not trustworthy” and that it is “number theatre co-ordinated by Number 10’s communications team.” He added, “I think it’s extraordinary that we’ve had to wait for this long for this most basic information and I think the one bit of criticism I am willing to make is the fact that …… development of testing has been delayed.”

Science has a habit of creating inconvenient truths. We’ve seen that with the health risks of smoking pitched against the commercial interests of the tobacco companies, or the contribution fossil fuels make towards global warming, now sanitised to climate change, a slightly more ambiguous term that has given wriggle-room to equivocators.

The same is rapidly becoming true for Covid-19 and the practical steps that need to be taken to control its spread.

Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday, described the lockdown as “mass house arrest” and identified Niall Ferguson as being “one of those largely responsible for the original panic.”

Niall Ferguson, vilified for being foolish enough to break lockdown rules to continue an affair with a married woman, becomes personally vulnerable to a lascivious press. In many ways that’s to be understood. But his science becomes vilified too.

A few days after Peter Hitchens’ article, the Wall Street Journal published an article by two British commentators that argued, “the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically demonstrated the limits of scientific modelling to predict the future.” It singled out Ferguson’s work and complained that “reasonable people might wonder whether something made with a 13 year-old undocumented computer code should be used to justify shutting down the economy.” Bizarrely, this article was written by Benny Peizer and Andrew Montford, the director and deputy director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which was set up by Nigel Lawson in 2009 to lobby against climate change policies. The foundation has a track record of attempting to discredit climate change models that show rising greenhouse gas levels risk warming the world to dangerous levels. The promoters of climate change denial, which includes some newspapers, are well used to attacking scientists they do not like.

It’s an ugly spectacle of kicking a man when he’s down

And putting the boot into his scientific work while at it.

It stinks.

Also not smelling of roses, the UK Government has announced what might be the largest handover of patient data to private corporations in history. American tech giants Amazon, Microsoft and Google, plus controversial AI firms Palantir and Faculty, “are now assisting the NHS in tracking hospital resources” and in providing “a single source of truth” about the epidemic, to stem its spread.

Faculty, an AI start-up, is headed by Mark Warner, the brother of Ben Warner, who ran the controversial data operation for the Vote Leave campaign. Meanwhile Palantir, funded by Silicon Valley billionaire and close Trump ally, Peter Thiel, is a data mining firm best known for supporting the CIA’s counter-insurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Big technology companies could use the pandemic to gain a foothold in the UK’s health service. A number getting unprecedented access to confidential patient data, such as test results and NHS 111 calls, after winning deals with the NHS to help tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. NHS X, the health service’s digital arm, insists that the access will be time-limited, subject to data-protection rules and only for specific purposes. But yet again there’s been a lack of transparency in awarding the deals and that once the health crisis is over, potentially placing the companies at a commercial advantage.

From America there are four disconnected news stories today:

  • Obama calls Trump’s Covid-19 response a “chaotic disaster” in a private call.
  • Dr Anthony Fauci and the heads of CDC and FDA will isolate themselves and mostly work from home because of potential exposure to the virus. In the latest sign of warning that the coronavirus could be spreading through the senior ranks of the Trump administration, three top public health officials have begun partial or full self-quarantine for two weeks after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
  • African Americans are dying from Covid-19 at a disproportionately high rate, and one of the culprits is medical racism.
  • Tesla sues California county over plant closure.

In the new reality there are clear skies, family time and no more commuting. For some there is this dystopian covid honeymoon, a lockdown they don’t want to end.

But it’s not true for everyone, as nursing leaders ask the public to shine a light from their window on Tuesday night. We choose a large and lifelike LED candle.

The reason why people break travel restrictions would seem strange at other times, but they make a strange kind of sense, as police report drivers caught driving hundreds of miles to buy extras to make lockdown more bearable, such as puppies and speakers.

Elsewhere across the world, Russia celebrates Victory Day as lockdown leaves Moscow deserted. Russia’s capital resembled a ghost town on this Victory Day, with traditional military parades and lavish celebrations postponed until 24th June. President Lukashenko of neighbouring Belarus has dismissed concerns about Covid-19 as mass “psychosis” and recommended that citizens enjoy a traditional sauna or drink vodka “to poison the virus.” Thousands attend the Belarus Victory Day parade.

France plans to reopen its schools tomorrow, May 11th, while most of its neighbouring countries continue their closures. Some say that it is premature, but teachers are becoming concerned that closures will prove to be to be catastrophic for an entire generation. There are fears that when it comes to education, the pandemic will prove to be an incubator for inequalities?

Elsewhere in France, strict restrictions continue, such as social distancing preparations at Paris Gare du Nord, where new restrictive markings have been installed to help commuters stick to the rules.

If there is a spotlight on how the pandemic might be controlled then it might well shine on South Korea. Although President Moon Jae-in was urging calm after a 29 year old man triggered an outbreak following visiting three nightclubs in the Itaewon district of Seoul the country has maintained a good record so far when it comes to controlling the spread of the virus. Comparing South Korea to the UK, it’s 256 deaths set against 31,855, or put another way 5 deaths per million population compared to 475.

It’s the difference between a country that knows what it’s doing compared to one that is stumbling around in the dark – it is that shocking.

To be fair, South Korea’s greater success in responding to the novel coronavirus has arisen from its ability to apply lessons learned during previous outbreaks, especially the country’s MERS coronavirus outbreak in 2015, which resulted in 186 cases and 38 deaths.

The country’s legislature created the legal foundation for a comprehensive strategy for contact tracing—whereby anyone who has interacted with an infected person is traced and placed in quarantine. Amendments explicitly authorized health authorities to request patients’ transaction history from credit card companies and location data from mobile phone carriers and to release the reconstructed movements in the form of anonymous “travel logs” so people could learn the times and places where they might have been exposed.

Those learned lessons were put to the test when an early rise in cases that threatened to spiral out of control. Hundreds were reported each day, peaking at 909 cases on February 29 with most associated with a religious sect in the city of Daegu. The strategy also managed to snuff out several subsequent coronavirus clusters at churches, computer gaming cafes, and a call centre.

This rigorous approach to testing, tracing and isolating, along with widespread acceptance of state data collection that invades patient privacy more than would be accepted in most western democracies – 78 percent of 1,000 poll respondents agreed that human rights protections should be eased to strengthen virus containment efforts. Importance to was collective behaviour. Experience with past outbreaks also meant people were quick to stay at home and wear masks in public even before the government began issuing formal guidelines.

So by April 15, South Korea had the ability to safely hold a national election, in which 29 million people participated. Voters wore masks and gloves; polling centres took everyone’s temperature and separated anyone with a fever.

No cases have been traced to that election.

South Korea also managed to enlist the private sector, and a generally well-advanced biotech sector. Plans were well in place by the end of January and a month later the nation was running more than 10,000 tests daily.

On April 30, South Korea reported just four cases, all of them travellers arriving from abroad, marking the first day with zero local infections in two and a half months. As case numbers have continued to fall, the government has cautiously relaxed its guidelines, while signalling a shift to “everyday quarantine” measures, such as wearing masks and temperature checks at schools.

Officials have started to worry that the success has led to people’s attitudes relaxing, leading complacency and a second wave of infections. The Itaewon outbreak has heightened those fears, but the government has already responded aggressively, tracing and testing thousands of people in a matter of days.

It’s easy to attribute relative success to South Korea being a technologically advanced nation, both in its communications and biotech, but the root lies more in good organisation, rigour and public compliance. Both Vietnam and the Indian state of Kerala curbed Covid-19 on the cheap. They are not technologically advanced, as South Korea is.

But they do have quick and efficient public health systems, strict rules and public compliance.

They succeed where more liberal advanced countries struggle.

Finally, I get this update from the charity Cancer Research:

  • We’re fighting viruses with viruses. In our Cardiff lab, Dr Alan Parker’s team looks at how we can pit one threat against another and use viruses to destroy cancer cells. They realised that the technique they used to help the immune system recognise cancer cells can also be used to train the immune system to recognise and destroy the Covid-19 virus. So now they’re looking into the exciting prospect of whether fighting the virus with another virus could lead to a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • We’re making hundreds of facemasks for NHS workers. One of our scientists, Steve Bagley, normally works with microscopes and X-ray machinery to analyse cancer cells. He’s now repurposed a 3D printer at our Manchester Institute to produce plastic headbands, and he’s set to make as many protective facemasks as he can for NHS frontline staff.
  • We’ve created a Covid-19 testing facility for local hospitals. The Francis Crick Institute has been temporarily transformed into a Covid-19 testing facility to help combat the spread of the infection. We’re using our resources to create a screening platform for patients and healthcare workers. Scientists are keeping the facility running for 24 hours a day, using robots to analyse thousands of samples.

Knowing the seriousness with which we always look at cancer, the degree to which it has had to step back for Covid-19 shows what a serious threat this virus presents.


Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Birmingham Mail, Cancer Research UK, Care2, Clean Technica, CNN, Economist, Euronews, Evening Standard, Guardian, Mirror, National Geographic, NBC News, Newsweek, New York Times, Open Democracy, PA Media, Sky News, Telegraph, Twitter, Vox, Washington Post.

Day Fifty Five: Saturday 9th May 2020

Daily Diary: Street Talk.

The weather forecast says this beautiful warm spell ends today. I take the opportunity to tidy the front garden and trim the hedge. It takes a couple of hours all in, and that includes a conversation with Harry, our Nepalese neighbour three doors to the west and Cathy, who’s next but one the other way. With Harry, it’s about the progress of the virus and our country’s inability to have got a grip on the situation. He’s well up on the story. He had been to Kathmandu in January and said that Covid-19 was virtually nonexistent there. Most countries appear to be more ahead of the game than we are. Most seemed to have been able to lock down, shut everything down. In Britain we pfaffed around, prevaricated and didn’t have a grip at all.
With Cathy it was more about yesterday’s celebration. The street round the corner had a street party. It all started sensibly enough, with people staying in their front gardens, raising a glass and cheering VE Day, but then it sank into rampant disorder. I heard it while I was writing. It was far too loud to have been one or even two families. Children shrieking, men shouting, dogs barking to Glenn Miller and his forties contemporaries. It was a bit loud, but live and let live – far be it for me to become one in a growing army of coronasnitchers. Cathy, on the other hand, did go and take a look.

“It started alright,” said Cathy. “Folks drinking in their front gardens. But as they got pissed all of that just broke down. Out there in the middle street they were clowning around, hugging – even group hugging. There were even two blokes who were play-wrestling.”

There were people on TV news reports dancing the conga.

“You just wait,” Cathy said. “There’ll be a spike a couple of weeks from now.”

Looking out at the common and seeing a group of teenagers – seven in all – hanging about and flirting. No masks. Cathy could well be right.

One thing’s for sure. With our atrocious death-from-covid figures and our devil-may-care attitude – at least from some – it’s hard to be proud to be British.

The Bigger Picture: Addicted To A Bloody Good Story

We’re a species addicted to stories, of storytellers and addicted listeners. Without a story each of our days becomes a punctuated nihilistic experience. We need a narrative. Perhaps moreso than truth itself, because truth needs analysis and understanding. Narratives on the other hand are pre-digested.

Junk food for the mind.

Easy to digest.

And as we become increasingly polished in our capacity to communicate it’s not just that stories become universally disseminated but they also become more believable, particularly to those who believe, rightly so, that the machinery of government is more on the side of the wealthy and powerful, who have much greater ease of access to decision-makers and lawmakers, than it is on theirs.

That makes the government a dark villain and in a culture that often tries to actualise comic strip fantasy worlds such as the Marvel Universe and blends fantasy with reality in Facebook’s metaverse, dark villains do what dark villains do – dark villainy. Think of something bad and you can expect your dark villain to be doing it.

That’s not to say that governments don’t behave darkly at times. History’s pretty unequivocal in letting us know they do. But there’s nuance that’s lost when narratives create dark villains, simply to make the story better.

What we can so easily fail to realise is that in the jungle of our internet-driven twenty first century culture, stories compete with each other, memes in a process of natural selection. The truest don’t necessarily survive any more than a male bird of paradise’s tail demonstrates its fitness to fly.

So a lie, a beautiful lie, a fantastic lie can prevail over a less exotic, less interesting truth.

The pandemic’s rich tapestry of complex bioscience and even more complex human psychology in the face of mortal fear has the capacity to draw all sorts of narratives, the most notable recent story going viral across the internet being ‘Plandemic.’

‘Plandemic’ creates an alternative world view of the wicked and powerful conspiring to control others through their fears, promoting misinformation about vaccines, the laboratory origins of the virus, hospital profits, hydroxychloroquine, and face masks.

Jonathan Swift, author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and a shrewd observer of human nature, wrote over three hundred years ago:

“Besides, as the vilest Writer has his Readers, so the greatest Liar has his Believers; and it often happens, that if a Lie be believ’d only for an Hour, it has done its Work, and there is no farther occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it; so that when Men come to be undeceiv’d, it is too late; the Jest is over, and the Tale has had its Effect…”

We might fool ourselves into thinking we are more sophisticated nowadays by rebranding it as social psychology but at its core human nature hardly changes over time.

Mark Twain is credited with rephrasing the view:

“A lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on.”

In the era of the internet and instant mass communication, the truth can barely manage to put on a sock.

The truth is that the pandemic brings with it extremes of anxiety and uncertainty. That includes scientists, doctors, national leaders and others we ordinarily look to for answers. There are unknowns, even the unknown unknowns, as former US Secretary of State, Donald Rumsfeld, once said. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. People want answers. Conspiracy theories can be comforting, and if they are shaped into a professional and persuasively crafted narrative using those conventions people already associate with factual documentaries, they can reassure.

But false narratives colliding with real events creates a fog.

And fog disorientates.

Which President Trump exploits as he gambles on reopening America.

“You can’t ask a virus for a truce,” tweeted Jeremy Konyndyk in response, a key player in the US response to Ebola in 2014, wrote on Twitter. Trump, he added, was “surrendering to the virus rather than fighting it”.

Nevertheless, with the divine wisdom that only comes to those appointed by the gods to lead the rest of us, mere mortals that we are, Trump announces that Covid-19 will disappear without a vaccine, despite his more earthly and scientifically grounded adviser Anthony Fauci saying the opposite.

Do not contradict those with wisdom handed down by the gods. They can be vengeful.

As Rick Bright, immunologist, vaccine researcher, and public health official found out, when he was removed from a key advisory post in retaliation for whistleblowing its handling of the pandemic so far, not least the obsession with the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine. The Office of Special Counsel believes the White House whistleblower, Rick Bright, was likely retaliated against by the Trump administration, his lawyers said in a statement on Friday, and the agency recommended that Bright be allowed to resume his previous job duties while his whistleblower complaint is investigated.

And do not question their ability to rise above the viral terror consuming lesser beings.

Asked why President Trump didn’t wear a mask while honouring World War II veterans in their 90s – just a day after one of his aides tested positive for Covid-19 – press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “They made the choice to come here.”

There seems to be a connection between leaders who believe they have a special destiny gifted by the gods and their failure to engage with the stark ultra-reality Covid-19 brings. It’s easy to imagine British PM Boris Johnson having such a view of his destiny, a combination of once telling his sister he wanted to be “World King” and a grounding in classical literature – one of his party pieces is to recite passages from the Iliad in ancient Greek.

Perhaps those who believe that their dream of destiny led to their success are the rare exception in the same way that lottery winners believe that they were fated to win a fortune. Delusions confirmed by the reality of the world they stumbled into. For the rest of us such delusions fade in the mismatch.

Sometimes I think that Boris Johnson does have a destiny, but in the way that so many Greek myths and legends have it’s a destiny with a twist. That he reaches the pinnacle of his worldly ambitions, only to discover that he is utterly unsuitable for the role. Like Midas turning his beloved daughter to gold.

And that unsuitability reveals itself (this time) with the world reacting to Britain’s ‘incomprehensible’ response to Covid-19, its botched testing and care home crisis. As Britain this week recorded the highest death rate in Europe – and the second highest in the world after the US – an incredulous foreign press described the situation using colourful invective: it is a ‘shambles,’ a ‘nightmare,’ reflecting ‘negligence,’ ‘complacency’ and ‘stupidity.’

In Greece the left wing daily Ethnos described the Prime Minister as “more deadly than the coronavirus,” and warned of the perils that “incompetent leaders,” such as Mr Johnson bring when “at the helm at a time of such emergency.”

While in Australia The Sydney Morning Herald, the country’s oldest newspaper, ran a feature headed, “Biggest failure in a generation: Where did Britain go wrong?” that described the UK response as a “series of deadly mistakes and miscalculations.”

And even in America, arguablythe only country that is seen to have blundered more than Britain, but that’s not stopped its critics, with CNN asking, “Where did it go wrong for the UK with coronavirus.”

It’s not as if there wasn’t prior warning that we were unprepared for a pandemic. The analysis, codenamed Cygnus, was based on a 2016 simulation of a flu pandemic involving all levels of national, regional and local government, police and other organisations.

One of Boris Johnson’s major offers to the country was to replace a regional purpose as a member state of the European Union with ‘Global Britain’ following Brexit. What’s actually happened is that the Brexit journey has stirred up the rise of isolationism in the Conservative party he leads. Britain is starting to look like a very lonely little country. The British are about to discover that ‘splendid isolation’ the Victorians once celebrated is less glorious when the solitude is not chosen as an instrument of power, but is imposed by the world’s indifference.

But even isolation can’t be managed as the country’s borders remain open to an encroaching pandemic. Shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandi, accuses the Government of mixed messages over arrivals and the border staff union demands clarity on quarantine plans.

The country’s a covid-sieve!

With some passing thanks to Edward Lear:

And everyone said, who saw them go.

“Oh won’t they soon be upset, you know!

For the sky is dark and the voyage long,

And happen what may, it’s extremely wrong

In a sieve to sail so fast!”

Far and few, few and far,

Are the lands where the Jumbled Brits live;

With vaguest hope and without half a clue,

They were all at sea in a sieve.

Part of the solution is identifying who’s infected with Covid-19, and it is a process that demands more rigour than the UK government is either willing or able to muster. First of all it needs to worry through a number of questions.

Dr. Angela Caliendo, Secretary for the IDSA Board of Directors and Executive Vice Chair of the Department of Medicine at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University, told CNN about antibody tests:

“We don’t have enough information about the performance of these antibody tests to know ideally how to use them. We need to understand if the test is accurate and you have antibodies what does that mean? Does it mean you’re protected from future infection? We don’t know that. We don’t know if this means you are no longer infectious.”

The porn industry has a lot to teach us about safety in the Covid-19 era. Lessons have been learned from surviving HIV, along with the experience of coping with STDs. “You’ll have to keep testing, maybe every ten days. We need simpler tests that people can just do at home,” said epidemiologist Elizabeth Halloran, who envisions a low-cost ’10 pack’ of tests for home use. “We can’t just sit around for 18 months waiting for a vaccine. We have to find a way out without pharmaceuticals and that’s repeat testing, taking people out of circulation, and then contact-tracing, so it’s an interesting analogy.”

Testing has got to be central to the long haul, along with social distancing measures. Vaccination programmes are many months ahead, even with the speed of their development, and only when vaccinations became worldwide. It took decades for the world to eradicate smallpox, and it wasn’t just a matter of supply, logistics and overcoming vaccine hesitancy, world unity mattered just as much.

As if to add to the challenge, in the U.S. routine vaccination against childhood diseases has appeared to have declined dramatically in March and April.

Meanwhile, the backlog

What’s next? Crunch time for labs. People who have been able to manage their non-covid medical problems over the past few months will eventually come back to the hospital, for the elective surgeries they may have to be postponed. When they do, that will strain hospital labs.

“The clinical labs are going to get really busy again,” Doctor Caliendo said. “And they won’t have as many resources to devote to Covid-19 when surgery opens up and we get back to what we call our previous normal.”

Some other medical stories about the pandemic:

  • Covid-19 takes a disproportionate toll on Sweden’s immigrant community, with five per cent of cases, yet only one per cent of the population.
  • Covid in your eyes: the risk is higher due to the strength of the strain. Researchers based in Hong Kong say that Covid-19 infection via the eyes is a greater risk than before because it is a stronger strain.
  • While Gilead Sciences, manufacturer of remdesivir, is targeted by hackers linked to Iran.

In the meantime, covid creates havoc in the world economic system. It’s estimated the pandemic could cost UK banks £25 billion, while in the US the unemployment rate hit 14.7 per cent and over twenty million jobs were lost in April. Devastation not seen since the Great Depression.

Worldwide, it spells the beginning of deglobalisation. Covid-19 exposes the weaknesses of what has been a growing dependency on international supply chains for decades. In a pandemic even the most basic – especially the most basic – of medical supplies is an existential need and Western nations have found themselves being too reliant on other distant countries, especially China, with whom distrust and friction has been growing. Production security is growing more important than efficiency.

Yet some global traders are doing well. Amazon has received a $13 million order from the US government. It’s probably the biggest Amazon haul of all time as Uncle Sam snaps up a bumper order of thermometers, ready for lockdown to end.

There are even benefits the new reality brings to the little guy, like you or me. “Book now, decide later,” is the next big trend in travel. Thanks to new flexible cancellation policies, there’s never been a better time to bag a holiday bargain on the beach.

If you’re willing to chance it.

Foremost in our minds is a desire for lockdown to end. Not just so that we can bag that holiday on the beach, but also that there are looming challenges in the post-covid world. How the pandemic will end remains unclear. We are sure that vaccines will play a critical part, but developments are still in their infancy. Will it simply go, once everyone is vaccinated? Will herd immunity be achieved? Will it simply just go away and leave us alone?

Who knows, but what is for sure is that  war, terrorism, poverty, inequality, flooding, heatwaves and epic conflagrations lie in our future. The pandemic might seem to be all-consuming, but it isn’t everything, and the decisions we make in the coming weeks and months are critical.

So far, the world’s food system has so far weathered the challenge of Covid-19. But things could still go awry.

We don’t know the path we’ll walk down, or even the reasons why we’ll choose it. Or if selfishness will prevail over wisdom, good sense and survival.

Climate advisers in UK must invest in the green economy post- pandemic. We cannot go back to the way things were. Once the pandemic passes, the money earmarked for economic recovery must help to lower emissions too.

When it comes to beyond the watershed, the green shoots are already appearing.

World cities are becoming bike-first. First Paris, then Milan, and now London. Temporary bike routes are springing up in record time to meet demand as Europeans return to work. It’s good news that city leaders want to make them permanent.

The next phase of lockdown is becoming clearer. The British Government has indicated it will reopen garden centres, encourage communities to use bikes and potentially quarantine foreign visitors for 14 days. Plans to reopen schools on June 1st are less likely in England and not happening at all in Wales, as unions challenge their safety and demand key tests.

Worldwide,China is happy to fill the leadership vacuum left by the US. In the global jostling amid the coronavirus crisis, Beijing is extending its influence while US President Trump continues to squander America’s leadership role. The pandemic could start the beginning of a new Chinese era.

It is a conflict of hegemonies between China and America.

With the World Health Organisation caught in the middle, barely up to the challenge, not so much due to its own shortcomings, but its powerlessness to intervene in the clash of the behemoths. It is the most important authority in the global battle against the coronavirus. But doubts about the WHO’s leadership are growing, and many wonder if Director Tedros up to the task?

Across the world the stories continue:

  • Countries across Europe are marking the 75th anniversary of the Nazi regime’s surrender as best they can, while most of the Old Continent remains under lockdown.
  • Bill Gates donated more than Australia, Norway and Spain. When it comes to funding vaccines and treatments for Covid-19. If the Gates Foundation were a country it would be rated 7th, putting a lot of nations to shame.
  • Melinda Gates slams the Trump administration response to Covid-19. “It’s chaos,” Melinda Gates said, the “50 home-grown solutions” that have been cropping up across the nation’s states “just shouldn’t be.” Giving an example of what she believes to be an effective approach in fighting the virus, she attended  Giving an example of what she believes to be an effective approach in fighting the virus, she alluded to Chancellor Merkel’s leadership in Germany, noting that a strong national approach, and one based in science, is allowing the country to slowly start to reopen now. “That’s the leadership we should expect as citizens in this country, and we’re not getting,” she said.
  • The pandemic is the chance to revamp India’s pharmaceutical industry. Companies could switch from primarily making generics to producing higher margin licensed drugs.
  • Ireland raised $3 million for Native Americans hit by Covid-19. In 1847, various Native Americans, including the Choctaw people, donated $190 (equivalent to $5,000 today) to Ireland as the country was suffering from the Great Famine or Hunger, during which one million died. Now thousands of Irish are repaying the favour as Covid-19 hits the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.
  • “We are invisible,” say Greek artists as they struggle for state aid amid the pandemic.
  • Brazil is deploying troops to protect the Amazon during the pandemic. Deforestation surged by 51 per cent in Brazil between January and March as environmental regulations have been loosened and forest fires have spread.
  • A 97 year old Russian World War II veteran is hoping to replicate the fundraising prowess achieved in the UK by Captain Tom Moore and assist in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic in her country. Zinaida Korneva said she was spurred into action after watching a video of Tom Moore who raised nearly £33 million for charity last month by walking 100 laps around his garden in the lead-up to his 100th birthday. Instead of walking, Korneva has launched a You Tube channel with videos in which she recaps her trials as a Red Army soldier in the Stalingrad region.

Finally, Forbes reports eight under-18 young trailblazers who have stepped up during the pandemic.

  • Oscar Koivisto: building a grocery delivery robot.
  • Eric Kim: making masks for the hearing impaired.
  • Lionel Billingsley: innovating ventilator design with robotics know-how.
  • Andrew Wong: 3-D printing face shields.
  • Rafael Velasquez: coaching basketball virtually.
  • Erin and Aidan Finn: tutoring students pro-bono.
  • Quinn Callander: making masks more comfortable.
  • Tieekay Kowalewski: building phone mounts for hands-free telehealth.

It’s a message that the post-pandemic world will belong to the young, who are as innovative and energetic as the young always have been. It is their minds in particular that are being shaped by the maelstrom of current events and it is from their world view that the paradigm shifts taking us all into a new and different future will take place.

It is easy to view this through rose-tinted glasses. There are many in the old guard – the likes of Trump, Xi, Putin, Johnson and many more who will do all they can to preserve an old order formed before the first SARS-CoV-2 took on a human immune system.

And won.


Associated Press, Der Spiegel, Economist, Euronews, Evening Standard, Forbes, France 24, Global Citizen, Guardian, Huffington Post, iNews, New York Times, Reuters, STAT, Washington Post, Wikipedia, Yahoo Finance.