Just watching the News here. The main items, of course, are UK news.

Boris Johnson.

They knew about him before he became mayor of London. They certainly knew about him afterwards. Like his cousin in the US, former advisors made small fortunes with their revelations. Unable to grasp the detail. A bit of a buffoon.

But he has charisma. Oh, the applause he received when he promised to lie in front of the bulldozers if they started digging at Heathrow Airport.

When he happened to campaign on the right side in the Brexit referendum (and it was a margin call) he became impossible to ignore. He was promoted to the cabinet, and was a part of the government which… approved the new runway at Heathrow. But no matter, talk is cheap. Say one thing, do another. Talk is cheap.

But he has charisma. Conservative MPs elected him their leader. He has charisma. He unified the party. With a straightforward message on delivering Brexit, he won a General Election. Decisively. He has charisma. He’s now trying to row back on the original Brexit agreement, but no matter. Talk is cheap.

COVID. Takes us all by surprise. We appreciate the value of Test and Trace. We will test some more. 10,000 per day, by the end of the month. We miss that target. So we increase the target to 25,000. We miss that target, too. Early on, Johnson promises a “world-beating” Tracing App. Nothing materialises, world-beating or otherwise. But no matter, talk is cheap. But over the months, testing increases, quickly at first, but more slowly between May – September. The “second wave” has been promised since July.

Testing is being shown as woefully inadequate. “Nobody could have predicted the need”, says a Johnson supporter. “We predicted it in March”, say the WHO. But no matter, talk is cheap.

But it is worldwide. Peru’s president: we will defeat the virus. Echoes of Winston Churchill. I bet their public love them for it.

Now tell us how. Talk is cheap. India has a says it has a refreshingly low death rate. Because it isn’t counting them all. Talk is cheap.

Beats Me

I’ve seen a few posts in recent days which strike me as weird.

One post, the other day, was a grandparent wishing to meet with their grandchild, just before their country’s rules on meeting people became stricter.

The other thing was posted by Caramel overnight, who came out of work Saturday to see people dressed up as if going to a party. Turns out, they were going to a party – our country too has introduced tighter rules about gatherings, and these people were getting together in order to beat the deadline. I should add that Caramel’s sentiment was that this was a bad idea, and I’m with her 100%.

I can see why our government is saying “we must do this” (e.g. wearing a mask) and then adding “but by the way, we will only make it compulsory next Tuesday”. It is to give people time to prepare.

The virus is not going to behave one way until midnight Monday, then start behaving differently on the stroke of midnight. Those future deadlines are to give us time to adjust to it, not the other way around.

So given that there will be no discernible difference in the harmfulness of the virus in just those few days between the announcement and the enforcement, shouldn’t we be trying (as best we can) to meet the new requirements as soon as possible?

It just seems dumb to me. A new rule is coming in Tuesday so let’s make sure we all meet up Saturday. Is the virus aware of days of the week?

Incidentally, my own village has been virus-free for 3 months, yet on Monday four new cases were reported. I realise that four cases probably represents a single household, and there are maybe 1,000 households in our village, but I cancelled my coffee this week, just in case. Not only is it most likely riskier for me, it’s riskier for my buddy, also. I’m not too hung up on exactly what the UK’s new rules are – my own rule is just to be in close contact with my wife only, which probably covers my bases. I still worry a bit about who she’s in contact with, but generally, she’s pretty sensible too.

End of an Error

My local Age UK announced a while ago that they would be stopping the reassurance calls I have been making at the end of August, so I just made my last batch today. It isn’t surprising really – a lot of their “regular activities” were placed on hold during lockdown and they must be anxious to get them rolling again.

Most of the clients enjoyed the contact, but do not feel that they needed the calls. In fact, most of them have felt this way from the very start. Frankly, they have their shit together far better than a lot of others. A couple, I will continue to speak to every week. They seem quite vulnerable, just living life. It’s reassuring, that most people have assessed whether they want the service based on their need, rather than just taking it because it is available.

The pandemic has brought into focus just how much people will get into scrapes anyhow, regardless of COVID. One of my clients went out in their scooter the other week, hit a pothole and tumbled out. She was black and blue. COVID complicated things because she was then anxious about seeking treatment, but this might have happened anyway.

So, many of the clients have been pretty-much self-sufficient. I can’t help thinking it is just as well, because the charity has been slimmed so much in recent years, all we can really offer is signposting. You’re running short of groceries? Call this volunteer hub. You’re having panic attacks? Call this number. That side of things is immensely frustrating, knowing how little I can actually do.

The good news is that every one of the people I have started speaking to in March is still here. There are still little clusters in the UK – a half-dozen here and there, so we’re not quite out of the woods yet, but it’s a far cry from those heady days of April and May.

One thing that I have been noticing, have any of you seen the same? Cases are increasing again the the UK (there were 1,184 new cases here yesterday), but the number of deaths is comparatively low (16 yesterday, and normally it is single digits these days). My friends (also number-watchers) have noticed this too, and we’ve been speculating why this might be. One theory coming from some doctors in the Far East is that the virus has mutated into something less lethal. A virus, after all, has messed up bigtime if it causes its host to die. Let’s hope so.

Update #3 – Am I being Unreasonable?

Hot on the heels of my earlier update, I was looking to find the info from other sources. I want to share this link far and wide:

This only has information for England, I’m afraid. But:

  • The page displays a map. The map allows you to zoom in and out, and move around. A bit like Google.
  • You can also type in your post code. It needs to be the full postcode. AB1 2CD. That will take you to your location on the map.
  • In the top-left corner, there is also an icon, “go to my current location”, if your device supports it.
  • Left-click on the map. A little box pops up.
  • The box contains the location’s MSOA. I had no idea what that is. Middle Super Output Area, apparently. Some kind on unitary authority which I have never heard of, in all my 50-odd years. Looks like it is roughly equivalent to the “wards” we have at election time. So quite detailed. My MSOA covers mine and the next village, better focussed that I thought I could achieve.
  • The other thing this box tells you is the number of confirmed cases this last week. Exactly what I wanted to know. They update the map daily, and so “the last week” just rolls and rolls.

I guess the first thing I need to do is to follow this map, and see whether it agrees with the numbers I trust. The source is the UK Government, same source as my other info, so I’m hopeful. At the same time, I’m aware that the entire UK had 1,000 new cases yesterday. That’s a lot of cases.

If the map is good, however, the prognosis looks good outside of London and Birmingham – our biggest cities. My little area is showing zero cases this last week. Most areas are showing zero.

My main aim of this was to find local data, and I believe I have found that now. Although the hospital have been no help whatever, I’m just gonna drop the FoI request. They could have saved me a lot of time by pointing me here, but I have the result I was looking for.

Update #2: Am I Being Unreasonable?

I’m aware this is becoming a chain, so I’ll try to keep this short. No responses in six weeks, then two within a day!

As a very brief recap, I have asked for information such as the number of COVID tests, number of positives, performed by my local hospital. They will not disclose these numbers.

The first response, Tuesday afternoon, I posted about below. I replied immediately (words to the effect) that I did not believe that they did not keep numbers. Partly, this reply was for legal reasons – the FoI Law here requires that my next step was to complain to the hospital itself about the decision, and to ask them to reconsider.

To my surprise, I received another message first thing Wednesday morning. It seemed they did have the information I was looking for (of course they did), but they hinted they had a problem with the timeline that I specified.

I had requested regular updates, nominally weekly, starting asap, until our government declares an end to the pandemic in the UK. Other agencies now release data weekly, so I didn’t think this was unreasonable.

I rather think that they were expecting firm start and end dates, you know, give me the data between 1st August and 31st August. But how can I specify a firm date? How do I know when this will end? At the very end of their response, they seemed to acknowledge that I was requesting a commitment to publish ongoing information, and I can’t help thinking that this is their problem.

So Wednesday morning I fired off a non-legal message. I just wanted to establish whether they would be prepared to release any information as a one-off. To be clear on whether their problem was actually in the ongoing updates of the numbers. I offered to work with them.

I am awaiting their response. It’s entirely likely I will not get one, but I have to give them the chance to respond.

Next Steps

I’ll approach the information agency. I’ve jumped through all the necessary hoops now, so can approach them directly. They say they can adjudicate, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they had no teeth.

I have to be prepared, though, for the FoI agency to side with the hospital. The act seems to be aimed at publication of one-off information, whereas I’m looking for regular updates.

The other option is that I could be a real pain in the ass, and submit a bunch of fresh requests, one per week. It seems daft to submit a cluster of these things, where just one should do, but these things are only emails, after all.

This is so much harder than it needs to be.