Message for Joanne Snowdon (cc to Gerald Vernon-Jackson) – Civic Offices Portsmouth

Dear Joanne,

On the basis of correspondence received from your offices about midway during the present lock-down, which has meanwhile been extended, I must conclude it appears that I may be experiencing a repeat of what happened two years ago at around the same time. (An announcement of full cancellation followed by an announcement of increase.)

Because of the lock-down, I can’t stop by and there is little or nothing else I can do with regards to this other than post this message here.

Can you check and keep an eye on this, please? Thanks. I appreciate it.

Stay well.

 

Is my e-mail working properly?

For the past, oh, I don’t know how many years, I have rarely gotten responses to my e-mails and I often don’t get “message received/read receipts”. This includes e-mail to people I have worked with for decades and to old friends.

(My situation in England is often such that my means of communication are extremely limited and e-mail is often the only way I have to reach people.)

 

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That Kern County Dr Erickson who talks about COVID-19 on YouTube

Update 3 May 2020: YouTube has meanwhile removed the two doctors’ “presser”. YouTube also sometimes deletes videos and channels when it shouldn’t. This time, I am very pleased that it did.

To my dismay, I had also received these doctors’ rubbish as news in an email a few days after I posted the stuff below. (If you subscribe to news media other people follow, people whose views may not overlap with your own, you get a much better idea of what is out there, what people outside of your own circles are thinking.) So I emailed them.

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COVID-19 resources at US National Academy of Sciences and elsewhere:

First of all, here are two living documents elsewhere:

https://rega.kuleuven.be/if/pdf_corona

https://covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/

Here are some resources at the US National Academy of Sciences:

https://t.co/ezodPowbg6 (lab testing)
https://t.co/QHR4Gjborg (effectiveness of fabric masks)
https://t.co/iDArCYuk99 (viral shedding)
https://t.co/19VZuy0Oz5 (effects of temperature etc)
https://t.co/djGokzK7Eg (bioaerosol spread)
https://t.co/pwmYVxfX38 (stability on surfaces)

Apprentice Johnson, you are fired!

“Ministers declare the NHS Nightingale project a great success”, but staff tell The Independent’s health correspondent Shaun Lintern they want to do more – and they fear prominent PR is not helping.”

We’ve now also had the cheerful optimism beyond what is medically rational about a delayed shipment of gear from Turkey to protect frontline NHS staff against corona virus that apparently contained only 32,000 gowns. Worth several hours of protection.

And now US President Donald Trump has suggested injecting disinfectant may be a good treatment for COVID-19 patients.

With Boris Johnson sharing the optimism of Trump and wanting to cooperate with him closely on tackling the corona virus crisis, we should all be afraid, very afraid.

In spite of having all the information that was coming from China, the UK took TWICE AS LONG to respond effectively than China. Because on 3 February 2020, ten days after the lock-down began in Wuhan, Boris Johnson declared very loudly that he did not feel a need to respond strongly and swiftly to the virus. He said that imposing a lock-down went “beyond what is medically rational”.

Apprentice Johnson, you are fired!

Okay, now I can retire to Checkers

The UK government is finally really catching up with the information I have had on my website for… I don’t know how long!

It’s not rocket science! It’s all practical common sense. You do not need the latest minute scientific details before you can start applying plain common sense.

But has it updated the information for those who are advised to shield or is that still many weeks out of date?

Let’s check.

No, it has not been updated.

Okay, no retirement for me yet, then.

(I’ve meanwhile provided my criticisms to .gov.uk.)

 

About politicians failing to lead (sad parody)

I duct-taped this together today. I hope that YouTube won’t take it down. I have a shorter version, but the music is so cheerful and that’s what we all need lots of. And I didn’t want to leave any of the names out.

I was both crying and laughing while I made this. See for yourself. You’ll have to watch to the 3-minute point to get it.

There was more or different stuff that I could have added such as Trump having called pharmaceutical companies, “big ones with offices in London”, and them having “contacted all of Boris’s doctors” and doctors standing ready to help the doctors in London and “we’re getting more than we ever bargained for”, but hey, it’s all obvious anyway.

And here is a shorter, tweetable version:

The corona virus crisis: My message to the police in the UK

In this video, I ask British police to be understanding toward us when enforcing the social distancing rules because, in spite of the fact that the lock-down resembles being imprisoned to some degree, we haven’t actually done anything wrong.

Police officers should also comply with the rules themselves.

Why governments in the west have responded the way they have

A friend of mine in Florida responded that she had really enjoyed listening to this. That is a great compliment, coming from her. She is a microbiologist who used to work at the HRS Sarasota County Public Health Unit (now retired). I remember a fierce discussion we had when I was setting up some lab experiments of my own and wanted to add a guaranteed abiotic control.

UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities on the new eugenics

This morning, Michael Cook’s newsletter BioEdge pointed out an assessment by Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities at the United Nations.

Here is that article:
https://www.bioedge.org/bioethics/un-official-criticizes-liberal-eugenics/13401

And here is the report (PDF) by the Special Rapporteur:
https://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/43/41&Lang=E

Here it is as a Word file:
https://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/GetFile?OpenAgent&DS=A/HRC/43/41&Lang=E&Type=DOC

I haven’t read her report yet, but her views appear to overlap with mine.

Thoughts about the corona virus crisis

This video is a slide show with some thoughts on the corona virus crisis. It has no sound and is not synchronized with the written text, so you may want to pause the video from time to time to read the lower lines. Sorry about that.

I’ll probably make another video later, a real one, with head shots and spoken text.

Why I am continuing to wear a mask when I go to the shops

It’s getting warmer now and that makes it a lot harder.

I am not wearing it every time I pop out.

But me wearing a mask reminds people that this virus – which we cannot see – is not gone yet.

It reminds me, too. It’s so easy to forget all about it, particularly when it’s nice and sunny out there.

And it reminds me of what healthcare workers put up with.

And I urge innovators and inventors to come up with solutions.

Just one trip to the supermarket and Boots this afternoon landed me with burning marks in my face from the mask.

We’ve all seen the photos of hospital staff with angry red welts in their faces.

What’s the skin-friendly solution, folks?

Guardian editor’s Twitter account hacked (and 5G)

A Twitter account appearing to be in the name of a technology editor for The Guardian just accused me of spreading lies about (corona virus and) 5G. WTF?!

I was utterly totally flabbergasted – and angry – until I realised that this was typical troll-like behaviour and that account apparently got hacked.

So I blocked the account and reported it to Twitter as hacked.

It’s amazing how quick I was to assume that the tweets from that account were genuine.

The only thing I have done is say that a lack of good information / understanding provided by governments about why people were suddenly no longer allowed to shake hands and told to wash hands all the time may have led some people to assume or conclude that something was getting onto their hands through their phones, in the letter I sent to the Evening Standard.

Confusion about biological viruses versus IT-related viruses might have caused such a misunderstanding. As this new virus emerged more or less at the same time that 5G is being rolled out…

Logical reasoning is not only what WE think is logical reasoning.

I learned that from quaker parrots.

An apple can look like a big intimidating object to a small bird.

Then cutting off a slice of that apple and give it to the apple-loving bird might make a human conclude that as the slice is okay, the apple has to be okay too, but we humans do that on the basis of knowing that the apple is okay.

For a bird that has no prior experience with whole apples, the conclusion that the slice – maybe only that particular slice – might not be good is actually also logical, isn’t it?

Logical reasoning is easy – i.e. limited because it can arrive at one conclusion only – if you already have the answer that you want to arrive at.

If you don’t possess all the answers yet, you might draw different conclusions.

Fortunately, the bird in question also had a terrific sense of humour and often poked fun at me. I learned a lot from her about the arrogance of humans.

 

 

And we have a posterboy !

Boris Johnson is in hospital (and to my surprise, I managed to tweet the news before most of the UK news sites posted it because a financial news popup on my screen beat them to it).

I wish him and his pregnant partner well. Of course I do!

The good news?

He may now become the posterboy for making people take this thing seriously and stop assuming that only “dumb people in other countries” and “old folks” get knocked down by it.

This is no time for cavalier attitudes, unless it is the kind of attitude that Captain Crozier displayed. He is the kind of hero we need now.

And the kind of heroes who work and volunteer on the front lines of all care as well as the people who continue to deliver postal mail, who are at work at the supermarkets, supply them with stock and all the others who continue to keep as many things working as possible.

 

 

Disaster and emergency planning

Did western governments really have no plans to deal with this emergency at all?

GCHQ. Source: Wikipedia.

Yet we regularly hear about bioterrorism threats… Should I conclude that there is not really such a massive threat – no, not really – because if there was, there would have been plans in place? Was it only used to gain votes by scaring voters?

I am ASTONISHED that there seems to have been zero preparedness for dealing with events like this new corona virus.

Not only do too many politicians appear to have assumed that the Chinese (and the people in other Asian countries) were being stupid… They had no scripts and had no information on the shelves to tell the public about what was going on.

While corona viruses don’t all behave the exact same way and some facts only become clear after a while, governments could have given clear general information about how corona viruses tend to spread.

Instead we heard:

  • “Wash your hands.” So these viruses are excreted by hands, perhaps from fingertips or from sweaty hands? (No!) It’s bound to have made many people assume that as long as they were washing their hands or wearing gloves, they couldn’t get or transmit the virus.
  • “I’ve just been to a hospital that had several corona virus patients and I shook hands with all of them.” (Said by Boris Johnson at a press conference on 3 March 2020.) So people are just being silly, there is no real health danger, and the Chinese are overreacting and being stupid?
  • “Be wary of people who cough. Or sneeze.” But talking and laughing spread these droplets as well! This is general, very basic knowledge. It was not available??? Really???
  • “Stay inside.” This must have caused confusion all over because now it sounds like it’s something in the air, maybe like radioactivity. Or air pollution. (Or maybe something that only posh people who exa-cise get?)

What the hell is the public supposed to think and do on the basis of all this?

Clear general information could have been provided, with a note that more details would be added later.

We didn’t know, for example, whether our pets could become ill as well, whether they could spread the virus too. If so, might it be only dogs? Or cats too, or both? We didn’t have that kind of detail yet.

But we did have the kind of detail that said: IT IS SPREAD FROM HUMAN TO HUMAN because that was clear enough to conclude from what was happening in China. COVID-19 is caused by a corona virus, so it was likely to spread like other corona viruses like the flu and the common cold. We know how they spread among us.

And, with hindsight, I say: It seemed to be highly infectious, so the possibility that asymptomatic people were spreading the virus too should have been identified early on.

(Instead, we in the west must have assumed that Asians were just being really really stupid and coughing and spitting in each other’s faces?)

I was and remain quite flabbergasted to see that my own information which was mostly pulled out of my hat (head) and from the internet has been much more complete and accurate – earlier – than what the western world’s leaders had. How on earth can this be???

A long time ago, I was a member of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), for about ten years, but I certainly do not consider myself a microbiologist or virologist. I know very little. I consider myself completely out of touch these days.

So how come I – with near-zero financial resources and no staff – appear to know and understand so much more than the western’s world’s top leaders?

Last night, I saw an American governor (Georgia’s Brian Kemp) state that he had no idea – until yesterday – that asymptomatic people can spread the virus. I’ve known that for what feels like weeks. Ten days? Two weeks?

I also note that many Asian countries have actually been doing well relative to the west, in spite of all the blaming that some politicians are doing. China is sending medical teams to help all over the world, also to the UK.

Taiwan continues to be dismissed and excluded (by the WHO; no exchange of information is formally taking place). Taiwan learned a heck of a lot from SARS (also called SARS-CoV or SARS-CoV-1) in 2002-2004 and it remembered and applied those lessons.

In theory, we in the west had access to that information too. We saw what happened in Taiwan back then, didn’t we?

Is it the decision-making that takes too long? But that too would point in the direction of a lack of preparedness.

People!

We need to change a few more things than starting to respect non-human animals more so that we stop making ourselves ill with diseases that come from what is essentially animal abuse.

The lock-down in Wuhan, China started on 23 January 2020… And the west knew about it.

There are lessons to be learned, on all sides.

It seems weird to be saying all that from the sidelines.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/23/how-coronavirus-advice-from-boris-johnson-has-changed

But this here, this too, seems to be saying that leadership is “not done”:

“Coronavirus: US Navy removes Captain Brett Crozier who raised alarm”

“The commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt has been removed after saying the US Navy was not doing enough to halt a coronavirus outbreak on board the aircraft carrier.”

 

Why are British police officers considered immune?

One of the strangest things about the corona virus crisis is that police officers do not apply distancing, do not wear masks, do not use sanitising gel or gloves and behave as if police officers are 100% immune.

That is, if they are modifying their behaviours to take the infection risk into account with regard to themselves (and us), then I haven’t seen a shred of evidence of it yet.

(photo not related to corona virus situation)

Not only does it put them at risk, and us, it also creates inadvertent resentment, particularly if you combine it with some of the overzealous activity we saw until somebody told them to stop doing that. (Except, then they tackled Marie Dinou and locked her up for two days: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/coronavirus-fine-police-lockdown-travel-newcastle-marie-dinou-a9444186.html)

When I see photos of cops standing around as if nothing has changed, I automatically feel anger welling up in me.

It comes out of nowhere.

I think it’s because them standing around pretending they are immune while were stuck in our homes, often living in limited conditions as a result, feels thoroughly unfair.

Plus it somehow makes it feel as if they are our jailers.

We’ve done nothing wrong.

So that makes it feel doubly unfair and that can create resentment.

These are two strong arguments for changing this:
– For health reasons (to protect the officers too);
– To prevent resentment from citizens down the line.

Because if we end up being stuck in our homes for many more weeks or months down the line, many people may become increasingly frustrated.

Solidarity helps. We are all in this together. Police officers are NOT immune against the virus.

How to wear a face mask in combination with glasses

Many more of us will soon be wearing simple face masks, in view of this https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52126735

When we wear them, it help protect others.

I happened to have some left from a DIY job. When I first tried mine on, my glasses – for distance – fogged up completely.

I searched the web on the problem and fiddled a bit and discovered that in my case, I need to let the glasses rest on the metal strip instead of on the bridge of my nose, so at a slightly greater distance, but that works fine.

(Yes, my glasses are very old. Does it show?)

Low trust in UK government: Debunking needed

Note: this is about right now. This is not to say that I applaud this government and its approach, not at all.

The UK government has lied a lot in the past ten years and also often sucks at communicating well. That is causing some problems now, I noticed on Twitter.

There are 12,000 ventilators” followed by “8,000 within the NHS” does not by definition mean that the government is lying but may mean that its communication skills are not up to par.

It could mean:

  • 4,000 on the way to the NHS;
  • 4,000 within the Navy, Army, Air Force, private facilities and also some on the way to the NHS;
  • etc.

Something similar is going on with COVID-19 tests and reagents. It is very hard to find info in the UK as it is a low-transparency country. (I for example found detailed information about a local water treatment facility (Budd’s Farm) in the Netherlands some years ago, but was unable to find much about it in the UK.)

I looked into it, found some info on the CDC site, spotted the name Roche, and remembered something I had read in the Dutch news. The Netherlands is much more transparent than the UK, so I looked into that angle.

It may also be helpful to keep in mind that the Netherlands is a highly egalitarian country. A lot of the wheeling and dealing that goes on in the UK would not be permitted in the Netherlands. (I am not saying that none goes on there.)

Roche makes a lot of the equipment needed for the tests and that equipment requires certain chemicals to run. Roche also manufactures the required lysis buffer and was briefly not able to keep up with global demand.

It initially was not willing to share the secret “recipe” either. It did later release it after all, but it is actually not that easy to make so it cannot simply be made by anyone and has to involve certification of the labs who make the stuff. Roche currently is able to keep up with demand again, so I understand.

In addition, the Dutch health minister, too, mentioned shortages in other test-related materials on 27 March.

(The UK government specifically mentioned a shortage of swabs.)

Main source (a reliable Dutch newspaper): https://www.trouw.nl/zorg/farmaceut-roche-deelt-toch-het-recept-voor-coronatests~bdb6a844/

I am assuming that the UK is using the same test as the Netherlands or a very similar test (which is also likely the same as the US is using). (I have a report – collection of international information – from a Belgian university in my pc that probably has details on that; I will see what it says and add that info later.)

Conclusion: The UK government for once appears to be NOT LYING.

The information given by the UK government appears to match the information available in the Netherlands.

(The – possibly inadvertent – spin in the UK currently appears to be coming from… Labour?, I say tentatively, on the basis of the tweets that I saw.)

(As I have posted some tweets from Tory MPs in the past, I should also do it with tweets from other MPs. I have no idea what was said during Newsnight)


From the “living paper” report in my pc (“Overview of information available to support the development of medical countermeasures and interventions against COVID-19” by Martine Denis, Valerie Vandeweerd, Diane Van der Vliet, version 23 March 2020):

“Testing methods
A list of assays commercially available for diagnosis of COVID-19 is updated by FIND (https://www.finddx.org/covid-19/). Assays that are still in development stage are also presented.”

The report has a lot more information on testing, but does not state details on which country is using which tests and protocols. If you click on the above link, however, you’ll find a lot of information that indicates that Covid-19 testing requires rigid procedures to be able to work. In other words, ramping up capacity is likely not as simple as some MPs think it is.

(For comparison: You wouldn’t want a sloppy pregnancy test that is often wrong either.)

Triage, bias and Covid-19

I am currently watching “When They See Us” on Netflix (which I signed up for for a month and which will expire in a few days and I won’t renew it). It is based on real events and contains some vintage Trump. It is about bias and how it can ruin people’s lives.

This morning, I signed up for an online seminar to do with “Disability, Health, Law, and Bioethics”.

Triage and Covid-19. How can you be as fair as possible? By applying non-discrimination. By being as random as possible.

Just like it is not fair to rule against pregnant women because they require more care, it is not fair to rule against people with disabilities and other health challenges in addition to Covid-19.

Unless it is on purely medical grounds.

What do I mean by the latter? An extreme example is that there is no point in treating a dead person for Covid-19. The only rule would have to be whether a treatment would make sense, medically speaking. That’s likely easy enough to determine is still much easier to type than to do. (I have to define this.)

That a situation might be more complicated should not play a role.

If you were to apply such a biased rule with regard to disabled people, you would also have to apply that rule with regard to pregnant women. (Otherwise you are clearly discriminating against disabled people. That would even be illegal, wouldn’t it?)

But there is not enough staff and there are not enough mechanical ventilators.

So what do you do?

First come, first served. It is the only thing that makes sense.

Because it is more or less random.

You could argue that this would disadvantage the person whose spouse’s car broke down on the way to the hospital. Socioeconomic circumstances are a great discriminator, unfortunately.

Then I thought about it some more.

Well-to-do people generally go to – have access to – different hospitals and health-care providers.

And when I think about disabled people being at a disadvantage because they may for example take more time to get into a car, well, they also tend to have people around them who can assist, even now (I should damn well hope so!), while, say, the dad with two kids also has to manage the kids and get his seriously ill wife into the car.

So that probably more or less evened out.

If an ambulance is called, the process is the same regardless of who the patient is (or damn well should be).

There is the factor of distance to a hospital, but you could get stuck behind an accident in traffic a block from the hospital or have very light traffic from further away. That’s likely more or less random.

Plus, in most places, traffic is light right now.

Seems to me that “first come, first served” and then, while in hospital, those who require a ventilator first get one first.

Nobody should be taken off a vent purely to make way for someone else.

Also, because taking someone off a vent would have meant that the effort spent on the person who gets taken off the ventilator would likely go to waste.

That would not be an efficient use of resources.

(I know that having been on a vent for a while can help a person, but he or she should only be taken off the vent for medical reasons that only have to do with the person in question.)

The only fair way to triage people is severity of complaints, randomly. Skin color or disability or nationality or hair color and even age should have nothing to do with it.

I feel some protest in me when I think about the age factor. That comes from some bias in me.

Shouldn’t a 75-year-old make way for a 36-year-old if they have the same severity of complaints?

I notice that bias, with interest and surprise, and then I override it.

No. That would be discrimination.

And that would not be fair.

(If the older person in question makes that choice and states that he or she does not want the ventilator and states that it should go to someone else, that’s a different matter.)

Severity of complaints and “first come, first served” should be the only principles to base triage on.

I see no other way to keep triage fair.