Schools will grind to a halt

The COVID Diaries – 163 14th September

The government has been warned that schools in England will grind to a halt this autumn because of difficulties in obtaining coronavirus tests when staff and students are forced to stay home following a suspected case.

Thousands of headteachers have written to the education secretary warning of “partial rolling closures” of schools and disruption to pupils’ catch-up studies, because of serious staff shortages just days into the new term.

In some cases, staff have been unable to find any test slots available for days or have been offered tests at sites more than 100 miles away. When they do get a test, it can take days for results to come through.

Testing programme in chaos?

The COVID Diaries – 162 13th September

The Independent has reported today:

“The UK’s coronavirus testing programme is struggling to clear a backlog of 185,000 tests, according to leaked data from the Department of Health and Social Care.

“Swabs are being sent to laboratories in Italy and Germany because of the delays in processing – with three quarters taking longer than the government’s target of 24 hours, the documents show.

“Large numbers of tests are also being returned “void” due to problems such as “leaked samples”. On one day last week 4.3 per cent, or more than 6,570, were binned.

“The Sunday Times said the testing documents marked “Official: sensitive” revealed the government’s testing programme had been hit by “chaos” in supply chains despite boasting of a capacity of more than 350,000 tests a day.”

Hospitals stress test

The COVID Diaries – 161 12th September

English hospital admissions have begun to climb and hospitals are conducting “major incident” stress tests on wards to check if they are ready for a second wave of Covid-19.

Coronavirus cases have been doubling roughly every seven days and there are signs the increase is beginning to filter through to hospitals.

Last Wednesday, 136 patients were admitted in England, twice as many as on any day in the previous week.

Coronavirus cases doubling every week

The COVID Diaries – 160 11th September

Coronavirus cases are doubling almost every week in England, and Birmingham has become the latest local authority to announce a tightening of lockdown measures. Meanwhile health officials flagged “worrying signs” of infections in elderly people.

Following signs of rapid acceleration in the number of virus infections, the former UK government chief scientific adviser Sir David King urged ministers to improve the NHS test-and-trace system. He said England was on a “knife-edge”.

King’s warning came as the latest figures showed another huge surge in UK positive cases on Friday – up to 3,539, compared with 1,940 a week ago.

Tories revolting?

The COVID Diaries – 159 10th September

The Independent has reported:

“The strongly pro-Brexit Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin has expressed concern about the Government’s plans to override key elements of the Withdrawal Agreement.

“Sir Bernard, the leader of the Tory European Research Group, said the admission by ministers that provisions in the Internal Market Bill breached international law had been “very surprising”.

“The Prime Minister should be more mindful of the reputational damage of playing such hardball when there’s really no consensus from the country to go about breaking international agreements,” he told LBC radio. For Labour, shadow cabinet office minister Rachel Reeve said: “The Government promised the British people they would deliver their ‘oven-ready’ deal but just months later they are seeking to undo it, squandering valuable time and losing focus during a pandemic.”

Trump misled America about virus

The COVID Diaries – 158 9th September

President Donald Trump knew as early as February that coronavirus was a deadly threat, and was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

But, despite this he repeatedly downplayed the virus as being no more dangerous than the flu.

The revelation is one of many in journalist Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, “Rage”, for which Trump granted Woodward a series of interviews. 

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said to Woodward in February. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

Government to break international law?

The COVID Diaries – 157 8th September

The Guardian has reported:

“Senior Conservative MPs and a raft of legal experts have urged the government not to go ahead with plans to drive through a change to the Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland after a minister conceded it would break international law.

“The remarkable admission by Brandon Lewis, secretary of state for Northern Ireland, followed the resignation of the most senior legal civil servant and has raised questions over the future of justice secretary, Robert Buckland, and attorney general, Suella Braverman, both of whom have taken oaths to uphold the rule of law.

“Their positions were put in the spotlight after the departure of Sir Jonathan Jones, who is understood to have become exasperated that ministers intended to ignore his advice that any changes to the new internal market bill would likely be illegal.”

Has the government lost control?

The COVID diares – 156 6th September

With the UK today recording almost 3,000 people as testing positive for Covid-19 there is growing concern the government has lost control of the epidemic just as people are returning to work and universities prepare to reopen.

Today’s figure is a 50% increase in a single day and the highest daily total since May.

 “They’ve lost control of the virus,” said Prof Gabriel Scally, a former NHS regional director of public health for the south-west. “It’s no longer small outbreaks they can stamp on. It’s become endemic in our poorest communities and this is the result. It’s extraordinarily worrying when schools are opening and universities are going to be going back.”

No deal likely

The COVID Diaries – 155 5th September

With negotiations deadlocked, the chances of Britain having no deal in place with the European Union when the current transition period ends are increasing significantly. The EU parliament has dashed hopes that negotiators could be given more time to avert a no-deal by drawing a red line on an extension to talks.

Bernd Lange, the German MEP who chairs the parliament’s international trade committee, warned “a deal has to be done before 31 October”.

Negotiators are due to meet in London next week for their eighth round of talks, but both sides have suggested the prospect of any serious movement is remote.

This week, the government was warned by freight operators of the potential for border chaos in January, with supermarket supply chains expected to be hit if issues cannot be sorted in four months’ time.

Trump called fallen soldiers “suckers” and “losers”

The COVID Diaries 154 – 4th September

There has been outrage in the United States as former members of President Donald Trump’s administration confirmed details of a bombshell report in which Trump referred to fallen soldiers as “suckers” and “losers”.

The Atlantic magazine ran a story on Thursday based on four sources close to the president who said Trump cancelled a visit to pay respects at an American military cemetery outside Paris in 2018 because he thought the dead soldiers were “losers” and “suckers” and he did not want the rain to mess up his hair.