Is the DVLA in chaos?

After I did some more googling after I posted the information below (beyond the more tag), I suddenly found this!

“To make it easier for drivers who need to update their photocard licence with a new photograph at the end of the 10 years validity, photocard driving licences that expire between 1 February 2020 and 31 August 2020 will be automatically extended for a period of 7 months from the date of expiry.”

How come DVLA on Twitter was not aware of this?

How come this information did not show up before or during the online renewal procedure?

And how come the post office was not aware of this either? My license got snipped with scissors and discarded and I was told that as of the next day, I would be breaking the law if I drove.

(For many people, their driving licence is their main ID.)

How come that apparently this information is not that easy to find on the web? (Failure to submit to the search engines at the time? But then, it is not that easy to find on the DVLA website either.

Was the information announced retroactively, such as on 4 June, perhaps? https://www.gov.uk/guidance/dvla-coronavirus-covid-19-update#history)

(By the way, it also explains why I didn’t get the renewal reminder. Sorry anonymous.)

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Need a face mask for in public transport?

If you need a simple face cover for use in public transport or because you are looking after someone who is medically vulnerable to COVID-19, and aren’t able to make your own fabric mask, you could get one of these washable face masks with replaceable filter from Vistaprint.

They are not manufactured to any medical standard. The designs are a bit dull; this white one with the drawn hearts on it may be the nicest, but there is also for example a light blue one with smilies and a dark blue one with dinosaurs. They cost £17 and a pack of 10 filters cost £6 and delivery is free (checked on 8 May 2020). No, I don’t get a commission. https://www.vistaprint.co.uk/masks/

Calling my attackers from Woolston (2007)

Britain is often a true haven of intolerance, yet it sees itself as the opposite, just like it touts itself as a human rights champion to the rest of the world but does little – if anything – to uphold them within Britain. Many law professors agree on that.

Human rights are not some silly wishy-washy concept for the soft-hearted. They are laid down in laws. That means that if you violate someone else’s human rights, it can land you in court. You too have the right to make a living, have a family, engage in hobbies, celebrate Christmas, go to school, own things that you bought, go for a jog in the sunshine and so on. This is all part of your human rights.

What follows is also a human rights story, a story of the violation of my right to work and to sit on a bench in the sunshine. Continue reading

Excellent COVID-19 resource for decisionmakers at various levels

I started attending various webinars some time ago, like lots of people, and like lots of people, I also got a little webinar fatigue at times.

A great series continues to be organised by the National Academy of Medicine and the American Public Health Association in the US, looking into many topics such as the science of the virus, finding vaccines, health inequalities and so on.

Today’s session, on mitigating direct and indirect impacts in the coming months, was excellent for decisionmakers at all levels – also in the UK! – because it addressed a lot of practical aspects and many angles of the pandemic.

It mentioned the need to provide free wifi, talked about telehealth (telemedicine) and developments expected to take a decade suddenly being realised in a mere three weeks, about the complications food deserts pose, about the politicizing of the pandemic, about how to cope with emergencies such as hurricanes and related evacuations, how to remedy the impact the pandemic is having on non-Covid-related healthcare (such as people with heart attacks not seeking help out of fear of catching the virus), the healthcare clinics getting into financial difficulties as a result (as, I think, we saw earlier with those two doctors in California who owned a small chain of facilities and saw their turnover drop so dramatically that they resorted to unorthodox action), the challenge and need to communicate well and perhaps have ambassadors explain the purpose and reasoning behind social distancing, the massive impact social distancing has on the infection rate and the risk of people that people will no longer observe distancing when lockdowns are relaxed and developing a false sense of safety, and so on and so forth.

Here is a link for a model (simulator) that people can play with to explore the effects of lifting lockdowns: https://budgetmodel.wharton.upenn.edu/

The video recording of the webinar will be online soon, at covid19conversations.org:
https://covid19conversations.org/webinars/summer.

The slides have already been uploaded, but not all presenters used slides and the Q&A of course is not online yet either. I’ll post the unedited transcript below.

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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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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 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.

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.)

Why is the ICU survival rate so low in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Why is the ICU survival rate for Covid-19 patients so low in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

It’s been reported as 50%, here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/mar/28/coronavirus-intensive-care-uk-patients-50-per-cent-survival-rate

Note that this article was amended on 30 March, saying that it may not be accurate, however.

Dr. David Price at the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City – which currently takes in almost exclusively Covid-19 patients – reported a week ago that the majority of the ICU patients there get to go home, here:
https://vimeo.com/399733860

If accurate, what does the difference reflect?

  1. The difference in socio-economics between these three countries in the UK (extensive poverty) on the one hand and NYC on the other hand?
  2. That only the most serious cases are going to the ICU over here?
  3. A higher level of specialization at that hospital in New York? (Better doctors or better practices at the hospital as it is a university hospital?)
  4. Dr. Price not having the actual numbers for his hospital?
  5. Does that hospital only treat patients from a certain segment of the population, and do they tend to be fitter and better-nourished?
  6. Something else? If so, what?

Let’s take a closer look at what the Weill Cornell Medical Center is.

Reason number 3 is my guess. Possibly in combination with reason number 5.

I looked at the insurance packages but I don’t know enough about how this works to be able to assess it.

If it’s only reason number 3 that causes the difference, then theoretically, there is room for improvement over here as the standards, theoretically, could be raised.

But we all know what’s been happening in the past 10 years of Tory reign and so there likely is no room at the moment. Or am I being too biased now?

As we just had a team of Chinese medical specialist arrive in the UK, it still looks like reason number 3 may be the main reason. That we don’t know enough and  that we can still raise our standards. That would be good news, then.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

(Tweet has video.)

China also sent such teams to Italy and Iraq and maybe even more countries.

And then there is this (from 9 hours ago):
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-52066105/coronavirus-us-death-rates-v-china-italy-and-south-korea

“The US has seen its cases spike dramatically in recent days and these graphs show what could be in store.”

So it’s also possible that the Weill Cornell Medical Center was still in the beginning of the developments at the time, that it had not seen the worst cases yet.

And also, while the death rates in other countries have slowed down, the death rate in the US sped up. So for some reason, the death rate may have been slower there at first.

Of course, every number has to be followed by “that we know of” because some countries do a lot more testing, which means that in some countries, many mild cases go undetected and aren’t counted, which could make their death rate look higher.

Covid-19-related deaths of people who weren’t tested likely don’t count either, so countries that are finding a lot of the deceased at home may only appear to have a lower death rate.

Note that “death rate” is not the same as “ICU survival rate”.

This was followed by this, a few hours later:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/31/england-and-wales-coronavirus-death-toll-40-higher-than-previously-stated

One in four deaths are occurring at home, it said, and England and Wales initially had not counted those deaths.

7 days of isolation or 14 days?

That depends on the virus load you’ve been exposed to, so on the incubation period, on how soon you’d start manifesting symptoms (or maybe also on how soon symptoms would either progress or abate if you appear to have symptoms).

So for medical professionals, who get exposed to a lot of the virus, the self-isolation period is 7 days. For people who maybe were exposed to one person with mild symptoms, it’s 14 days.

Because if the latter got infected, there would be very little of the virus in their body and it would take some time for the virus to replicate into great numbers and overwhelm the body.

Does that make sense?

 

Robbery/sexual assault alert! Lockdown-related.

As my asswipe hacker(s)/stalker(s) were at it again, I left the place this evening. I mean, what on earth could I still do? Kill myself on the spot, or what?

I had intended to spend the night on a bench because I am sick of this vicious destructive shit in my own home. But I decided that the asswipe person in question is not worth getting that cold over and went on a walk instead. (That’s allowed as it counts as exercise for me and I don’t think that anyone came as close as within 5 metres of me.)

Right after that, I spotted a guy who was behaving very oddly. He was on the lookout for something. But what? He suddenly started walking, then spotted me and veered toward me to as if to check something or test something. My response? My age? My bag?

So I kept my eyes on him and fucking hell, he was following a woman, so I stayed on his tail. He kept looking behind him, too.

At some point, I saw him cross the road and I thought that that was the end of it and I slowed down, but no, he was merely taking a detour, so I sped up again.

As I came closer, I saw that there was a police car there with four officers standing around it, scratching their balls, as usual. So that was likely why the guy had crossed the road.

I kept on his tail, but by then I was too far behind and I lost both him and the woman after they went around a corner. I looked around for a while and listened for screams and the like, but saw and heard nothing that was off.

I initially thought that the danger was sexual assault but it could as well have been robbery. Or both.

Very few people around right now. Makes it easier to corner someone with nobody noticing.

I did spot a burglary on my way back (of the local LibDem office), but hey, burglary? That is 100% okay in Portsmouth. You’re a villain if you dare report a break-in.

Women, be alert! Because you have to fend for yourself. Nobody will come to your aid. Nobody will stand up for you. That’s just how it is.

With so many people losing their income, there have to be quite a few desperate people out there, but circumstances like this lockdown can also encourage more sinister elements, of course.

(I was still fuming over the hacking incident when I came home. I don’t like being messed with in my own home. It makes me feel violated – stepped on – and not safe.)

How can we support supermarket staff? Etc

Yesterday, I read on Twitter that a guy made someone at a Coop checkout burst into tears just because he thanked the person.

On Friday, the initial flash of emotion on the person’s face surprised me when I said “Stay well” to someone at a reception desk somewhere else. That too made me think few people had been expressing concerns for the people behind that counter.

I am often not great at it either.

Earlier this week, at Aldi, I thought I saw some tension in the person at the checkout, not surprisingly. I wish I could do something about that. When I got home, I noticed that one of the products I had bought had some substance on them and it took me a while to realize that the person at the checkout likely had been using a lot of hand sanitizer.

Although that helps, I don’t think it is enough and there is also the important task of doing things for the sole purpose of reassuring staff (making them feel protected) to help keep their stress levels down.

It kept bothering me.

I looked into what was happening in the Netherlands and read that screens had been placed around some checkout counters at DIY stores, though I haven’t been able to find any photos of it yet. Possibly, this was done to maintain the recommended distance (which protects people against this spray of tiny droplets of saliva when we speak).

(Update: When I looked into it some more just now, I saw that the Albert Heijn supermarket chain will be placing acrylic screens.)(Not sure if this is for the entire chain.)

(Update: I also found a video of a Dutch DIY store placing screens and staff saying they are really happy about that: https://www.nhnieuws.nl/nieuws/264087/spuugsschotten-moeten-caissieres-wormerveer-tegen-het-coronavirus-beschermen)

I think that placing any kind of larger screen around the people operating the checkouts might go a long way toward keeping their stress levels down. (In some supermarkets, the distance between them and the customers is smaller than at others.)

Such a screen could be acrylic (or wood or maybe even cardboard, with a small opening that might be covered with plastic, but even not covering it up but having a screen should already help protect checkout staff somewhat from the teenie tiny small droplets that fly from our mouths when we speak).

Having them wear gloves that they discard during breaks, into bins that have bags in them (liners) and then using new ones might be good but they’d go through a lot of gloves that way. But it would work as a physical reminder for them to stop them from touching their faces, which happens so automatically. (I too constantly catch myself doing things I know I shouldn’t be doing.)

Signs at counters – such as at Royal Mail – need to be at face height for standing people because we look at people first and only notice signs placed on the counter later. (But the signs on the counter may need to stay in place, too, for anyone who uses a wheelchair or mobility scooter.)

If you are working checkouts, also consider doing anything that stops your hair from falling into your face if you’d then automatically would want to push the hair out of your face – and touch your face at the same time.

And if you go to the supermarket, don’t use cash to pay if you can help it so that the cashiers don’t need to touch money.

To help protect supermarket staff. To help make them feel safer.

After customers leave the supermarket, they too should take care and for instance wash hands when they get home, but they’re already doing that, I am sure.

Regular cleaning of the self-checkout tills – to protect staff – is needed as well, but I am sure that that is already being done.

Particularly key people (management, local government) have to start doing things that will feel like total paranoia to them to protect themselves because so many people rely on them in so many ways.

Government officials and key managers may want to look into n-acetyl cysteine and assess whether it might help keep them maintain more functionality should they become infected, even though there are no data on this yet. See for example:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0882401017300505

While I am typing this, it feels like I am exaggerating, being totally over the top, but I only need to remind myself of Northern Italy to realise… no, I am not and the only thing that seems to have been able to stop (which may be merely “slow it down enough”?) the virus is to shut down all contact, the way it happened in China. (What that means for the long term is hard to tell. Delayed peaks, the virus coming back later and all that.)

Yes, I am bored as I have nothing else to do (which goes with my life in England at just about any time) and I like looking for solutions. And, also, I am furious about the weather gods having dropped the temperatures. At least it’s sunny. That’s something.