Test and trace and – wait, what?

So let me get this straight:

We have “world-beating” Test and Trace. We were hoping they’d focus on curing us, but they went for beating instead. Obvs.

But on most days since we claimed 100,000 tests in a day (which was a lie) only around 70,000 tests have been done. And they’re counting each person tested as 2 distinct tests: one for the nose, one for the throat. 

So when they say 70,000 tests done, they mean 35,000 people tested.

At this rate is will take nearly 2000 days to test everyone in Britain once. That’s not far off 6 years.

But we don’t need to test everyone.

We can beat the disease if we trace people who come into contact with someone infected, and then isolate them.

But our tracing app isn’t ready. And the isolation is voluntary, and can be ignored if you have kids. We just proved that.

And the project lead (married to a Tory MP, natch) says it won’t be ready by deadline.

And when it is ready, it only works if millions use it. But to use it, you have to trust the govt with your data.

But the govt is essentially run by an unelected, unsackable vandal, who was found in contempt of Parliament cos he refused to be questioned about his role in the Cambridge Analytica data theft and misuse scandal.

So not many people trust the app.

But another app was available, free.

And it was built by the guys who actually made your phone, so they know what they’re doing.

But that one didn’t collect mountains of personal data and share it with the people who literally broke data law on a massive scale. And it didn’t have a policy that said all data could be obtained and used for – and I’m not joking here – 20 years. And shared with a private company.

So we had to pay an Tory MP’s wife to do our own. At a cost of £3.9m. Which is the biggest spend on a contact app anywhere in the world. And the Google-Apple API is free.

And not just any Tory MP’s wife, but one at the centre of a previous massive data screw-up.

And sure, most app developers (and I am one, so shut up) know the app used successfully all over the world simply uses a phone’s existing functions. Almost nothing new needed to be developed. So most experts agree a good app for the UK could be built by a team of 15 good people in about 2 weeks.

It’s now 5 months since WHO said contact tracing was vital and urgent. Check my maths, but I think that’s more than 2 weeks.

Anyway, I’m sure it’ll be ready soon. And trustworthy. 

But until then, it’s ok, cos we just have to follow the rules.

But the rules were broken by the same unelected, unsackable guy I mentioned before. So … fuck the rules, right?

But possibly none of that matters, cos we’ll just manually track everyone you come into contact with.

But the incubation period can be 2 weeks. And in that time you might sit within 2 metres of 1000 people on public transport.

So we’re going to [deep breath] manually track them all down. You don’t know who they are, but if you fall ill, tell us which train station you’ve been in, and we’ll find everyone who was there.

That’s gonna need a lot of training!

But we didn’t even start employing tracing staff until 2 weeks ago, never mind training them. And they’re being asked to do this at home on their own computers. And the basic infrastructure doesn’t work.

2 weeks training. No resources. Identify and call 1000 people who were in Leeds train station a fortnight ago, with absolutely no clues whatsoever.

Sounds like a crazy risk.

But we wouldn’t take crazy risks with everybody’s life unless we had a proper plan. Would we?

Hold on, wait what?? Shops and schools are opening, and you now can throw a barbecue?

Yep.

But you might also stop asking about Dominic Cummings, and that is more important than anything.

We have 65000 excess deaths, which is officially the 2nd highest deaths-per-capita in the world.

These guys are in charge, and the nation’s faces and palms are about to wear out.

Facepalming

What Boris Johnson should have said

I can’t stop thinking about the speech a Prime Minister should have made. So I wrote one.

Good evening.

I speak to you now in the midst of the greatest crisis in my lifetime. Each of us faces challenges we never envisaged, as does the government.

Life is difficult, and may remain so for a long time.

It is natural that you should wish things to return to normal.

Tonight I want to explain our plan for recovery.

Before I begin, I feel it’s fair to warn the nation: the plan will not go smoothly. Many challenges lie ahead, and there will be times the plan needs to be amended or even temporarily reversed.

My government will communicate this to you as best we can.

Like each of you, we want to lift the lockdown. But we must only do that when it is safe to do so.

And that means we must take careful steps.

From this week, I will instruct our military to prepare workplaces in vital industries for a return to work.

The army will help to install distancing measures in manufacturers of PPE and facemasks, and in their supply chains.

This may take time, as materials need to be sourced or imported. We will move as quickly as we can, but we must protect lives.

But once safety measures are in place, we will ask that sector to return to work. Their first task will be to provide safety equipment for the next sector of our economy that we will return to normal work.

It is vital that we continue to feed and care for ourselves. So the first sectors to be supported into work will be food production and transportation, and healthcare.

Each week, we will assess the progress of the disease, and the progress of our capacity to change workplaces and social spaces.

And as we make progress, we will give support to a new sector to return to normal work.

As a sector returns to work, the treasury will gradually reduce the furlough support for that sector. In the first month, employees will receive 66% of their salary from the taxpayer. In the second month, 33%.

This will support businesses, and allow them to place orders and invest. We urge business to do this. And therefore, we will suspend any share buy-backs and bonuses until 2022. Business must help to kick-start the economy, not simply reward shareholders.

We will also stop any support whatsoever for businesses which do not pay a fair rate of tax in the UK. This extends not only to direct support for business, but also to the other measures I announce today. Unless a business pays at least 20% of its income in tax, it will receive no support from government.

We feel this is a fair way to restart the economy.

But we must also consider families, and the burden the restrictions have had. And we must consider safe ways to begin to return to normality.

To begin with, we must consider schools. We cannot ask parents to return to work if there is no school provision. So the next sector we will support back into normality will be schools. I will return to this subject in a moment.

It will also be impossible to return to normal work unless there is a way to travel there in safety.

Therefore my government will enforce more flexible working for every workplace in the country. From next week we will launch a website where each business can apply for working hours.

Most workplaces now start at 9am, but as long as we need to enforce social distancing, businesses will now start from 8am to 11am.

This means the pressure on transport during each hour will be reduced to 25% of its current rate, making it easier to maintain distancing on busy public transport.

Employees will be given passes to allow travel to begin only during their allocated period. We hope this is a temporary measure, and full freedoms will return as we beat the disease.

We will also immediately assist manufacturers of bicycles to increase production, and will provide grants to businesses to help them to fund the purchase of cycles for their employees, as soon as they are ready. We hope they will be ready in time for each new industry to return to normal.

And we encourage everybody who can cycle to work to do that, rather than overload public transport.

And of course, if it is possible to work from home, we ask businesses to continue to do that.

These measures, combined, should make it possible to travel safely to work. And they will benefit the environment and health of the nation, as people cycle more than they drive.

I spoke of schools earlier. Obviously, flexible working hours means schools must be open for longer periods, as parents drop off children earlier and collect them later.

Therefore I will immediately reverse cuts to school budgets. We will immediately offer employment to tens of thousands of Classroom Support Assistants, and task local councils with setting up before- and after-school clubs.

I have spoken of safety, healthcare, education and travel. And as time progresses, my government will give as much notice as possible to the other sectors of our economy, allowing them to plan a safe return to work.

Now I turn to our lives at home.

Lockdown has been difficult for all of us. I hope we can begin to relieve that difficulty at once.

From next week, my government will send wristbands to every household, granting them times during which they may exercise freely. Each household will have three 1 hour periods per day for exercise and safe socialising.

You must still observe social distancing from everybody who is not in your household. Until a vaccine is available, social distancing is still the only way to reduce death.

This process will take time. There are people who want us to move faster.

But as Prime Minister, my primary responsibility is for the lives and safety of people of this country. I will only lift restrictions as it is safe to do so.

And if we find our plan leads to rising infections, we will reverse it. We must all accept that this is a necessary inconvenience. I wish to restore freedoms, but at the right speed, and in the right order, so each new freedom doesn’t cost lives.

It is said that in war, the first casualty is truth.

And this is a war.

But unlike any previous war, we cannot fool this enemy with misinformation.

Our chief weapon is science. And science demands truth and honesty.

So we must be honest. We must be honest to ourselves, and in the messages we share online.

And both myself and my government must be honest.

So in all candour: mistakes have been made. Nobody alive has led a government through anything like this. There is no experience to call upon.

It is right that we should own up to mistakes, so you know to trust us in future.

I apologise for the things my government has got wrong.

I cannot guarantee we will get everything right in future. Much is still unknown.

But we do know this: our nation, like much of the world, faces huge challenges that will last for many years.

These will not only be health challenges. They will be economic, social, and environmental.

As we make increasing progress against the immediate health crisis, we will have more time to focus on the future.

I plan to ask governments across the world to work as one, to find imaginative and bold solutions to the problems we face.

Problems of mass unemployment, large state debts, vanishing industries, automation destroying jobs, and the environment.

We must reimagine global trade for a greener future.

Fortunately, much work has already been done. There are promising ideas that all nations have, until now, been too timid to embrace.

Nobody wished for Coronavirus. It has caused untold grief as it swept across the planet.

But in its wake I see opportunities to imagine a better world.

Nothing we achieve can relieve the heartache of those bereaved by this terrible disease.

But it is possible to see a more hopeful, more just, more sustainable world beyond.

The ideas we were once dismissed as utopian now seem more achievable than ever.

It may seem too soon to talk of these things. But we have an opportunity to plan the future we want.

Just as a return to a thriving economy and a safe society requires a careful steps, so the long-term plan for a planet after the pandemic requires careful steps.

We must accept that the world we regarded as normal may be gone forever. Normal may be a place we can never return to.

But we have before us a choice for something better. Safer. Kinder. More sustainable. More enriching.

The times now are dark. But we must all hope and plan for a brighter future.

I pledge that my government and I, together with the leaders of other parties, industries, unions and nations, will work to create that future, and return to you the freedoms and security you and your families deserve.

Thank you, and good night.

FiveQuidFoodBank

Today is #WorldKindnessDay, and what an absolutely terrible thing it is.

Today, on World Kindness Day, 590,000 Britons rely on Foodbanks, and I just spent £19 on a bottle of wine for the weekend.

I probably deserve to be slapped more than any living human. After reading parts of this, you may decide I need to be kicked too. Form an orderly queue.

But if you’re a typical Briton, you probably just spent £3.50 at Costa, and maybe another couple of quid on a blueberry muffin to nibble. You probably do it daily. Five quid, just for a comfortable lunch for yourself.

Maybe another couple of quid for a chocolate bar on the way home, or a beer after work.

£3 to upgrade your Netflix to a very marginally higher resolution.

£20 a month on coffee pods that taste pretty indistinguishable from coffee from a jar, but have the added advantage of make your kitchen worktop smaller and less useful.

None of these things make you a bad person. They don’t make you unkind. They are normal – certainly more normal than a £19 bottle of wine.

These are the tiny things we do to make life feel better. Most of us don’t even think about it: we pitch our small extravagances to our own budget, and whether it’s a blueberry muffin or a bottle of Dom Bouchie Chatellier Pouilly Fume, we make ourselves believe it is normal and fair. We don’t think about it until somebody makes us.

Sorry: I’m here to make you. The eternally wonderful Michael Carty made me think about it, the bastard, and now I’m passing on the misery. Happy World Kindness Day.

This year, in the world’s 7th richest economy, just one of the many charities for the poor will hand out 1.2 million food parcels for families who can’t afford to feed themselves.

That’s just one provider. There are hundreds doing this work. There are millions dependent on it. You don’t know them, cos they can’t afford WiFi and they don’t have phones. They don’t pop into the pub and tell you about it. They aren’t in your office. They aren’t at your child’s recital. They aren’t visible in your social circle, because they have so little that even food is often beyond them.

And, by extension, food is beyond their children too.

But it’s not just food. That’s the urgent need, of course: but those who find themselves experiencing the sharp end of austerity politics also need the small comforts that make life bearable.

They need a toothbrush and a comb. Tampons. New socks without holes in them, and maybe some handwash. Their kids need a selection box at Christmas, and a toy.

You may sit in your warm home with your clean clothes and your brushed teeth, and protest that a selection box for a child in abject poverty isn’t a need, but if you think that, you’re a monster.

We have to help. Stop arguing: we just do. These are human beings.

Two years ago I was working in an office with 150 people, and on the way into work I read in the paper about the urgent need for donations to the local foodbank.

Almost all of my colleagues were on higher than average wages. It was an IT business, and every person there was lucky to be born with whatever the hell it is that makes IT people operate the way we do: a hundred years ago we would have been useless to man and beast, but by 2017 we were being showered with money for pushing a few bits of data around in a computer.

And it sort of sickened me. I sickened myself, with my posh wine and decent shoes; and although I was taking a bus to work, and hadn’t had a holiday for 2 years, I knew without doubt I could afford to give.

So I decided to cause some trouble. I briefly considered going via the official HR channels, but I knew it would take a month, and Christmas was coming, and I thought: sod it. I bypassed official channels, sent a direct email to every employee telling them that I was coming to their desk at 11am, and they had better give me £5 each for a foodbank, or I wanted to know why.

I got really bollocked. I can’t even tell you how bollocked I got.

But I also got £980 in cash, in one morning, from a bunch of genuinely generous and thoughtful people. Many gave £20. One guy gave £68, as I remember, which was every single penny of cash he had on him.

I sent £800 of the takings to The Trussell Trust and, with a couple of sympathetic colleagues (none of whom were from the HR Dept), I borrowed a van, took it to the nearby Tesco, and bought an absolutely huge amount of stuff, which I delivered to a church hall in Macclesfield, then left before it got embarrassing.

You wouldn’t believe how much you can buy for a fiver. I’m the sort of pretentious arsehole who spends £19 on a bottle of wine, and I have to confess that it’s been several years since I’ve looked at the price of any item I bought in a supermarket. I’m extremely lucky. I know I am. But this time I got close, looked hard, and found every bargain I could.

Even in Tesco – and I’m sure there are cheaper places – for £5 I could buy either:

  • 22 tins of beans
  • 10 tubes of toothpaste
  • 15 packets of chocolate buttons
  • 10 bottles of washing up liquid
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • Or 8 kilograms – I mean it – 8 kilograms of pasta

A fiver isn’t much. OK, I admit it: it might be a lot for you. It’s a lot for millions of us. But for me it’s not much. I know I sound like a complete dick, and I’m prepared to take all the mocking you want to dole out.

But for almost everybody, a fiver isn’t much. Not between now and Christmas, when the need becomes greatest.

This is why the charming, delightful and spectacularly irritating prick in my conscience Michael Carty is running #fivequidfoodbank.

So please, forego the Costa and blueberry muffin. Do without a chocolate bar on a couple of nights. Buy cheaper wine, cos you’re a bloody working-class knob from East Manchester, and can’t tell the difference, so who the hell do you think you’re kidding.

And spend that money on those in desperate need.

Today is World Kindness Day. And it’s awful that we need to be reminded. And it’s awful that it’s only one day.

But today, for one day, be kind.

#FiveQuidFoodbank