Covid-19 - the science and the absurdities.

Also - Folk dancing, folk festivals and the Corona Virus - updated 7 April 2020.

The key point that was almost ignored by mainstream media in the early days (February and March 2020) is that the whole coronavirus pandemic was PREDICTED and need never have occurred had politicians and other inadequate people listened to the scientists who (following SARS and MERS) foresaw that the next animal - human virus transmission would occur as a consequence of the extensive abuse of wildlife that occurs world-wide but especially in Asia. Links are given below.

Two of the countries arguably most to blame are China and Thailand - as is explained below.

It is politically incorrect to call Covid-19 the Wuhan virus or the Chinese virus. But it is logically and factually correct. It is also correct to say that the whole problem could so easily (and cheaply) have been avoided. The lasting effects of the pandemic are likely to include a large extension of the Police State, especially via electronic surveillance. This will apply both in the UK and elsewhere. The worst excesses may occur in countries that already have authoritarian governments - especially China and Russia.

Whilst about 80% of the deaths from Covid-19 are in people who would probably have died anyway within a year (owing to old age and/or underlying chronic or acute illnesses) many of the deaths in younger people may be linked to unhealthy diets and/or lifestyles - in a nutshell they are unfit and/or overweight and suffer from diabetes, obesity and other often preventable conditions. This is turn means that their heart and lungs may already be 'overloaded' or otherwise compromised and therefore less able to deal with a virus infection. A few may not have known they had some underlying weakness. Overall however, successive governments and their inadequate health ministers have in effect presided over a National Sickness Service (rather than a National Health Service). Their failure to address poor dietary and exercise habits have contributed to many Covid-19 deaths and to much of the multi-billion pound economic dislocation caused by the weeks of 'lockdown'. It might have been much less expensive to ensure that the nation was both physically fit and properly fed!

If you find the content here interesting, please pass this page to your contacts. Many scientific references are given below - I'm not expecting you either to understand them all or indeed to agree with them all! The link is

There are probably millions of references to the new corona virus on the internet. Here are some that I considered were among the most lucid and credible during the early days of the pandemic.

Part of my scientific career within government brushed up against epidemiology and health economics, including calculations of preventable premature deaths, so I know the basics.

Amidst all the over-reaction and incompetent policies of some governments it is necessary to keep a sense of perspective - and to retain some humour. Covid-19 is nothing like as severe an illness as it might have been, and from that we should learn some serious lessons for the future management of the Earth, and especially how we treat animals and the environment.

Will people and especially corrupt governments take heed? I doubt it.

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Other sections of this website are devoted to aspects of folk dancing in the UK - one of my hobbies over the last 20 years. At an early stage of the coronavirus outbreak, it was clear that local folk dance clubs should close for an extended period. Folk festivals were markedly slower to respond: they had (and have) far more to lose by postponing their events for a year (or maybe more). Almost as an aside, there is some discussion of the importance of 'social distancing' as applied to folk dance and similar 'close contact' events, and in the context of the risk from 'super-spreaders' of the virus. Folk dancing is an excellent way to keep fit - but sadly it has, for a while, become an especially dangerous hobby.

Please notify any errors or broken links to the author - stevewozniak42 (AT)

The earliest Lancet article suggested that everything possible should be done to avoid spreading the virus to areas and communities that were are unaffected. Once just about everywhere became affected, then the rationale for avoiding travel would be reduced. An early BBC reference is here.

Somewhat late in the day (having wasted at least a week of valuable time toying with the idea of herd immunity), the UK government switched to a 'delay strategy' - in effect trying to buy time to boost NHS resources and to cover up their own incompetence. The UK needed to avoid the red line on the graph in the Lancet article - achieving this would be expected to lower the death rate even if the total number of cases were to be the same, because cases needing ICU (and ventilators) might occur over a longer period. The blue curve is for severe population distancing (lock-down).

Early statements from the UK government sought to give reassurance about any possible pandemic: for example:

Diagnosis and analysis (UK government, (3 March 2020)

The UK is one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for this new disease. Healthcare professionals who are contacted by a patient with symptoms following travel to an affected area have been advised to submit samples to Public Health England (PHE) for testing. Individuals should be treated in isolation.

After the experience of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, PHE developed a series of diagnostic tests to detect any member of the family of coronaviruses. These have been used for several years, and were able to detect the first UK case of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012.

With the first reported publication of the genome sequence of a 2019 novel coronavirus, PHE was able to rapidly develop further specific tests for this virus, working with WHO and global network of laboratories.

When a clinician suspects novel coronavirus (COVID-19), they take samples from the nose, throat and deeper respiratory samples, package and send them safely to PHE Colindale. PHE can provide a laboratory result from this specific virus on the same working day.

PHE also has the capability to sequence the viral genome and compare this to published sequences from China, if a case occurs. This will provide valuable information on any mutations in the virus over time and allow an improved understanding of how it spreads.

This early stance was altered when Professor Ferguson's early predictions found that the mitigation strategy, as they called it – or scenario 1 – that the government had just announced would lead to 260,000 deaths in the UK - and (critically) occurring over a short period of time. That would be not just deaths from the virus, but from other illnesses that the NHS would be too hard-pressed to treat. This led directly to adoption of the suppression or delay strategy - lockdown for several weeks at a time and with the attendant horrendous economic implications. There was also emphasis on PHE as the sole testing facility - something that was to be overturned within a few weeks, and with PHE being severely criticised for 'playing power politics'.

As analysis of events started to unfold in early April 2020, the role that China played became more heavily criticised - because of their delays in notifying WHO of the progress of the disease, other countries, including the UK were slow to initiate defensive programs. Indeed, it has even been suggested that China deliberately allowed flights to continue in and out of Wuhan airport for several weeks after they knew of the human to human transmission of the virus - as a deliberate ploy to ensure that Covid-19, as it later became known, did not remain a problem for China alone.

Predictably, some UK politicians argued for a 'day of reckoning' with China but this is unlikely to happen for one simple reason - China is now the 'workshop of the world'. It produces a vast quantity of cheap consumer goods for the major economies of the world. All the pollution and carbon emissions associated with the manufacturing processes are within China and do not therefore count within simplistic calculations of carbon budgets of western countries - whose governments claim to be abiding by limits set down by the Paris Accord and similar 'carbon reduction' schemes. If manufacturing of all these goods were to brought back to within European countries the true emissions associated with consumerist western lifestyles would be exposed. A webpage dealing with carbon emissions associated with travel to folk dancing events is here - and once again there are many pitfalls along the road to understanding. Simple calculations can give misleading answers.

Authoritative videos and interviews featuring leading scientists and doctors.

The first video or interview that struck me as being particularly authoritative was by Dr Richard Hatchett  CEO of the CEPI in the USA.   Link to CEPI.

Of particular note is his clear explanation of the difference between personal risk (or personal perceived risk) and societal risk, something that, weeks later, the UK government finally accepted. However, probably somewhat too late, they tried to emphasise the importance of social distancing to avoid the NHS being overwhelmed by thousands of dying older people. Most of these people might have died anyway of course during the ensuing few years - but not all within a few weeks or months.

However, Dr Hatchett put forward a rather optimistic assessment of the present generations of 'The British People'. Many people did indeed show a little of the 'blitz spirit' by volunteering to help during March/April 2020, but others indulged in panic buying or tried to engineer scams and other money making schemes.

Later data tended to show that the coronavirus was less deadly than Dr Hatchett had calculated - because it later became apparent that many more people may have been become infected but remained asymptomatic (showing no symptoms).

Another (much later) video of around 5 April 2020 was again on Channel 4 news  (which has gained plaudits for its calm style of interviewing - ask a question then let an expert take his time in answering.) Here a critical care consultant in Wales talks about the care that NHS hospitals can give patients and the ethical and emotional issues that arise for medical staff. Highly rated viewing - and emphasising that the NHS was at this time running close to capacity in terms of ICU beds and the staff needed to look after very ill patients.

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Wet Meat Markets - the real cause of the pandemic - one that should have been addressed by the world years ago.

A few video reports centre attention on the real cause of the pandemic - the appalling and longstanding practice (in South Asian countries and China in particular) of having vast open air 'wet meat markets' where a variety of often smuggled and exotic wildlife is either sold or slaughtered 'on the spot' for sale to buyers who believe that (for example) stewed tiger pups can endow them with enhanced sexual potency. This is a baby African Serval Cat. Its mother was probably shot. Many websites exist to trade in exotic species. The USA is a major market for 'exotic' pets - one example centred upon lions and tigers is well known.

The term 'wet markets' derives from all the blood and excreta from so many species running off the chopping boards and into the gutters. These areas have been described as a petri dish for pathogens - and ideal for spreading bacteria and viruses from one species to another.

Much of the illicit wildlife trade in the world is centred not only on these markets (some of which span several square miles in area apparently) but on the criminal gangs who supply not only these markets but the world-wide 'pet' trade in endangered species, often servicing wealthy clients in 'developed' countries. Two references out of the dozens available. The pangolin is the world's most trafficked mammal - for its scales.

General discussion of wet meat markets, and the end of life for one small grouper, far removed from the fish counter at your local Waitrose! Groupers are a major food fish. Some types can grow to over 350kg.  Eating fish is probably a safe way of obtaining protein - certainly safer than 'bush meat'.

In early April 2020 The Washington Post published one of the first 'mainstream' articles highlighting the importance of the animal trade in having caused Covid-19 - and at this time world-wide deaths were only 65,000. A more lethal new type of virus might easily have killed 650,000 within a couple of months - a point that needs to be much more widely appreciated because the coronavirus mortality rate is probably much less than 1%.

Adapted from Washington Post article, 5 April 2020:

Wild animals have always had viruses. But a global wildlife trade worth billions of dollars, agricultural intensification, deforestation and urbanisation are bringing people closer to animals, giving their viruses more chances to infect us. Most fail or succeed on small scales. Very few, like SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus, triumph, aided by a supremely interconnected human population that can transport a pathogen around the world.

Many disease researchers say the coronavirus pandemic must be taken as a deadly warning. That means thinking of animals as partners whose health and habitats should be protected to stave off the next global outbreak.

“Pandemics as a whole are increasing in frequency,” said Peter Daszak, a disease ecologist who is president of EcoHealth Alliance, a public health organisation that studies emerging diseases. “It’s caused by what we do to the environment.....”

Late last year, a horseshoe bat coronavirus is thought to have leaped in China, scientists say, where commerce in exotic animals is driven by luxury tastes in game and demand for parts used for medicinal purposes.

At a “wet market” in Wuhan linked to an early cluster of coronavirus cases, at least one store sold creatures including wolf cubs and masked palm civets for consumption. Such markets, experts say, feature stressed and ill animals stacked in cages, bodily fluids sprinkling down, as well as butchering — prime conditions for viral spillover.

The Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups have called on countries to prohibit the trade in wild animals for food and close wet markets. Anthony S. Fauci, the USA's top infectious-diseases expert said that the world community should pressure China and other nations that host such markets to shut them down.

“It just boggles my mind how, when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut it down.”

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Undercover journalists visited a wet meat market in Thailand ("a torture chamber and a filthy laboratory all mixed into one") (the first two pictures are from their youtube video)

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Chinese dog meat market.

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Wildlife market in Libreville, Gabon

An excellent BBC article on the wildlife trade
by journalist Helen Briggs, April 2020.

The Chinese will eat anything that moves, except tables and chairs."

If there is one lesson to be learned from the economic damage that is and will be caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it is that vastly more enforcement is necessary of the illicit wildlife trade (much of it linked to organised crime). The associated encouragement of large scale wildlife farming that mixes up so many species from different parts of the world also needs to stop. The Chinese Government is primarily responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic. It was all predicted years ago by Professor Osterholm (see next section), and other experts and animal rights campaigners.

Secondly, people as a species need to travel and mix far less - and if this means reducing the tourism industry by 90% then it would be a good outcome for both the world and for many 'tourist' sites themselves. Many tourist sites and especially Venice saw a vast improvement in their local environment during 2020 - and the world benefited from much reduced carbon emissions.

Once the pandemic is under control, neither of these issues is likely to be addressed by governments keen to see a return to 'normality' and 'economic growth' irrespective (as usual) of the environmental consequences.

Nevertheless, there were some reports that China's alleged attempt to hide the true scale of its own death rate from Covid-19 might result in a backlash against its leaders.

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Professor Michael Osterholm of Minnesota University

One lengthy interview from the USA combines all the key elements - and also is worth watching both for the discussion of Lyme's Disease and also the role of prion proteins in causing so called 'mad cow disease'. The interview is one and a half hours long (you need to skip the adverts and tolerate the style of interviewing!) but it is well worth watching.

Professor Michael Osterholm of Minnesota University in the USA is not only a world expert and advisor to five US presidents, he also recently published a book in which he predicted the Covid-19 pandemic, (or something very similar). He also predicted that it would likely start in China.

Prof. Osterholm places less emphasis on stopping the wildlife trade (arguing that it is perhaps impossible and that 'people have to eat') but more on developing vaccines (allied to his own fields of expertise!). Far better surely to avoid the risk of yet another and maybe more deadly virus by closing these wildlife markets as soon as possible. Apart from that one point, it is difficult to argue with any of his statements.

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Modelling work (the theoretical basis of epidemiology) and implications for folk dance events.

In the UK, modelling work is in part centred at Imperial College under a group led by Professor Neil Ferguson. There is another group in Oxford.

Neil Ferguson's published paper of 16 March 2020 was swiftly condemned in one or two key areas on 17 March by scientists from the USA: their criticism aligned with my own intuitive reasoning of the possible importance of folk dance events in spreading the virus, and centred upon what the authors called the 'fat tail distribution' in the model. Their paper can be accessed here - an extract is shown opposite.

My own concern centred on the close proximity of dozens or hundreds of dancers all holding hands with each other and being in very close proximity often in crowded venues and for several hours. Both the degree and proximity of contact would be much greater than in a theatre or a placid church service, for example. In large outdoor marquees (like the Ham at Sidmouth FolkWeek for example) 1200 people are crammed together for a couple of hours in stifling conditions, and to get to their seats they hold onto numerous plastic chair backs, on which viruses may live for a short while? (FolkWeek 2020 was cancelled in late March.)

Such gatherings could arguably lead to 'super-spreading' events where one infected person (who may not be showing any symptoms of the disease) can infect tens or hundreds of people - who then will return home from the event.

One possible 'super-spreader' event in India was reported here. A crowded folk dance event anywhere in the world has obvious parallels.

Images - a paragraph from Prof. Ferguson's report (16 March 2020), criticism of the Ferguson paper having missed some key points, and a typical ceilidh in the UK. Folk festival ceilidhs can be more (or sometimes less) crowded! Hundreds of people, many in a vulnerable age range, can be mixed together, and for several hours. It is great fun and more people should take up the hobby - but not during the pandemic!

Other criticism of Prof. Ferguson's paper, by Tomas Pueyo in the USA, is discussed below also: The hammer and the dance.

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Mass gathering events of this type are said to have been partly responsible for the huge number of cases in Italy and Spain - one event being a rally of feminists on International Women's Day (8 March 2020, well into the serious phase of Covid-19) and that might have attracted many young nurses!

According to my contacts, this event is now being seen as possibly a key factor in some clusters.  Other references are below - I'll maybe do translations later!

Italy in particular suffered from having many medical staff infected.

Some graphics showing the importance of the R0 parameter in epidemiology - superbly presented and free to view. From The Washington Post.

An inadequate discussion of super-spreaders - there are two issues - the infectivity of a specific person and the number of people in any closely connected group who mix intimately together.

A report of 40,000 people being quarantined because of one 'super-spreader'.

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Super-spreading events and people.

The view from Italy:

I’m with you on this one Steve - I think Ferguson’s talkin' bullshit.

Off the top of head just as examples (Madrid Feminists aside) the biggest outbreaks so far in Lazio (Fondi)* & Catalunya (Igualada) were both started when just 1 infected person mingled with others (in the former the granddad of someone who came down from Lombardy to a carnival party for 80 elderly – which I’d bet serious money involved the gentle "ballo liscio" dancing senior Italians much enjoy, in the latter a leaving dinner for a co-worker attended by 80 hospital staff). Hardly mass gatherings, but deadly nonetheless.

It has been argued that the decision to hold the 8 March Feminists’ Strike rally in Madrid (120,000 participants – skewed heavily towards the female-left-liberal leaning & I’d confidently guess more likely to be overly representative of healthcare workers in addition to madrilenos) may have been a monumental mistake.

Contrarian and other interesting views - and China covering up the facts.

Not all scientists agree with the analysis to date or with the social distancing measures. Among these are the following - ones I found interesting!

John P.A. Ioannidis - an article from USA, this argues that we have a fiasco in the making - as we are making decisions without reliable data.

A very interesting article, again from the USA and by Tomas Pueyo: The hammer and the dance. this article is a 'must read' for its range of analysis and data presentation. In criticising Professor Ferguson's paper (from Imperial College 16 March), Pueyo states when he discusses the possibility of severe long term lockdowns:

"But this doesn't need to be so. This paper (by Ferguson) , driving policy today, has been brutally criticised for core flaws: They ignore contact tracing (at the core of policies in South Korea, China or Singapore among others) or travel restrictions (critical in China), ignore the impact of big crowds…

An opposing view from a Swiss doctor - well argued.

One of many youtube videos by a hospital doctor in the UK - arguing here to let fevers rip - they are part of the bodies response to an infection. Very highly rated by many viewers. In another of these videos Dr John Campbell praises Taiwan for its prompt and effective action against the virus - actions that he notes wryly were probably the result of the Taiwanese having no trust whatever in their Chinese neighbours.

Many scientists from the UK signed an early open letter demanding more government action - 14 March 2020.

John Hopkins university summary of world-wide number of cases, regularly updated.

Of the smaller countries, Iceland instituted a large testing protocol and maintained some 'social mobility' in contrast to the severe 'lock-down' protocols seen in Italy, Spain and (somewhat later than was advised) in the UK. Critically, had China released data to the WHO when it should have done, many western countries might have avoided both severe lockdown and all the associated economic consequences. It is probably too extreme to argue that this was always the Chinese master plan. There is an excellent video Sky News report centred on China having failed promptly to notify early cases to the WHO. Later an altruistic Chinese doctor who did much to notify early the spread of the disease disappeared - presumed she was either imprisoned (maybe for life), taken away for 're-education' or maybe even killed.

As a seasoned career civil servant England's deputy chief medical officer of health Dr Jenny Harries will be an expert at avoiding answering awkward questions.

On 30 March 2020 speaking on the 8am BBC R4 news, she several times side-stepped a question about the privacy implications of using mobile phone tracking to undertake in the UK what had been done in China, Taiwan, and South Korea especially.

These governments had been open about their abilities to track the whereabouts of every citizen in real time using mobile phone masts. The UK also (no doubt) has the technology but clearly didn't want to admit it.

It was obvious to anyone who has worked in the UK Civil Service that Dr Harries was here reading from a carefully prepared script during her radio interview - a script prepared for her in part probably by the security services or cabinet office.

The single most important and lasting consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic will probably be an enhanced capability for repressive governments world-wide (and including in the UK) to track every citizen all of the time and to know with whom everyone has been meeting. The only option will be leave your phone at home - but this is already illegal in China? Privacy implications have already been discussed, for example here within a BBC report.

The extensive use of facial recognition cameras in Russia has also been reported by the BBC.

For the moment, the impartiality of the BBC is assured and it is still allowed to report these concerns!

People like Dr Harries are also arguably responsible in part for the appalling incidence of poor diet and lack of overall fitness amongst large numbers of UK citizens For years officials and governments have paid lip service to the processed food industry - where sale of often sugar rich junk food brings easy profits. Poor underlying health is one factor in many of the deaths from Covid-19.

Dr Jenny Harries also said it could be six months before life in the UK returns to "normal" and encouraged us in the interim to 'keep fit'! Bit late for that maybe?

Presumably by 'normal' she meant eating the grossly unhealthy diet that has become a way of life (and death) for a large fraction of the population and that government for all its sanctimonious platitudes does so little to discourage?

On 30 March also, retired Supreme Court judge, Lord Sumption, warned against the development of a Police State as a response to the Covid-19 crisis.

"Draconian police crackdowns on motorists and walkers during the Covid-19 outbreak are “disgraceful”, a former Supreme Court judge said this afternoon.

Lord Sumption said that the UK was in danger of becoming a “police state” if other forces mirrored the recent approach of Derbyshire police as he warned of forces becoming a “disciplined hierarchy” operating at the command of ministers.

The East Midlands force has been criticised for monitoring walkers with drones and dumping black dye into a popular scenic lagoon to discourage people from travelling. Much of the press coverage of these topics dates from 30 and 31 March 2020.

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Policing in the UK - a walk in the park, forever ticking boxes or just seeking publicity?

It is surprising how many police officers can be deployed when there is either publicity or kudos from government ministers in the offing. Here two women from Avon and Somerset Police are speaking to a dog walker who was doing no harm whatsoever. Many police forces were severely criticised for their officious interpretation of government guidance during the early phases of the Covid -19 'lockdown' of March 2020.

In more normal times, drug dealers operate outside school gates with impunity (and the police ignore parents repeated demands for action), gangs terrorise estates and internet and other fraud runs at around £100 billion per year. Virtually no action is taken against criminal bosses and scammers who operate largely outside the reach of the law. For many years, police ignored what internally they termed 'Paki-shagging' - the organised sexual abuse of vulnerable white girls by men of largely Pakistani origin. Instead, they wasted tens of millions of pounds in laughable enquiries into sex abuse where there was no evidence whatever - again seeking publicity for themselves.

In nearby Exmouth (I live in Sidmouth) a self employed gardener was instructed by police in March 2020 to stop his employment and go home - despite that he had a group of existing clients who were all prepared to socially isolate and not to have any close contact with him - including leaving money (which could be washed to remove any possible virus contamination!) on their doorsteps.

The thuggish actions of especially junior Metropolitan Police officers during the Miners' Strike of 1984/85 defined UK policing for a generation - I can still recall the television pictures of police thugs (bussed up from London) waving their overtime pay slips in the faces of miners who were fighting for their livelihoods. In 1984/85 also the police acted without legal authority to prevent travel in the UK and severely damaged many cars and other vehicles with impunity.

Later, in 1989 and through several enquires right up to 2014 and 2016, both police and government successfully covered up the failings of the police that led directly to 96 fatalities at Hillsborough. Hillsborough is one of the most comprehensively documented examples of the self serving institutional dishonesty that is arguably still present throughout UK police forces.

There was much publicity about a bungled prosecution brought against a woman arrested at a train station - and found guilty of all charges in her absence. Little surprise that the dullards of the British Transport Police were involved - another and quite famous example of their ineptitude has been on this website for years.

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A cartoon from the Daily Telegraph 3 April 2020.

One set of calculations for the optimum' period of lockdown was published by Professor Philip Thomas of Bristol University. It is an interesting, fascinating and informative scientific paper even if you can't get your head around the mathematics.

There are many ways to calculate the 'worth' of a life (or more correctly the value of a year of life extension) and answers range from millions of dollars if you are a rich American down to 29 pence - the cost of a rehydration kit for children suffering from 'third world' diseases such a typhoid. This can make the difference between death and maybe 40 years of useful life. I used to lecture on these topics many years ago!

In my even younger days, when I was a government energy scientist, we were busy calculating the optimum thickness of insulation for buildings - one factor was the 'excess' deaths that occurred in a harsh UK winter (about 30,000 of them) compared to countries such as Sweden where winters and insulation of buildings were taken more seriously. All great fun if you understand marginal cost benefit calculations - which some government ministers appear never to have comprehended. I also recall that, back in the 1980s, about 30,000 children died every DAY in Africa from malnutrition. I have no idea of the current figure.

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Ingenious designs for medical ventilators - including from Dyson and other large companies. Some of the 'DIY' and 'open source' designs nevertheless might be very valuable for developing countries, as might the CPAP designs some developed via the NHS in the UK.

A very readable article by George Monbiot outlining many of the 'community initiatives' that have been spawned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Using a car windscreen motor

another approach.

Oxford University model

an open source (free to copy) design

It seems rather telling that while these designs can apparently be produced within a couple of weeks the usual time-scale for product design is several years and the costs are typically 10 to 50 times that of units that may work quite reasonably, except maybe for the patients who are very seriously ill!

Religious nutcases and despotic politicians - and one or two contrary examples.

In any subject or discussion there are the religious nutcases - people who believe either they will be protected from infection, or that the pandemic is divine intervention, or that the solution for the world lies within their specific ideology. There is also an ample supply of idiot or despotic politicians. I can still remember explaining to a group of MPs about 40 years ago why the overall efficiency of a typical coal fired power station was only about 35%. One of them suggested they needed to look into repealing the second law of thermodynamics.

Coinciding with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro urged women to have six children "for the good of the country". He was appearing at a televised event promoting a national women's healthcare plan!

At about the same time, he was also indicted by the USA in connection with money laundering and drugs supply (narco-terrorism) - and with a $15 million reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction. All part of the power-play of world politics!

Most problems in the world - medical and environmental have their origins at least in part in religion and its worship of surplus human breeding - so this further contribution by Nicolás Maduro was most welcome.

The best riposte to religion is perhaps humour, but in countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran you'd get 5000 lashes, and maybe 20 years of hard labour followed by a grisly death for this series of sketches by Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr Bean).

Yet there are many examples of religious people who do good in their local communities. This is one poignant example from Italy, at the height of their coronavirus crisis towards the end of March 2020.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic there can perhaps be no finer example in the UK of 'good works' being done by an already well established Christian charity - His Church based in Lincolnshire

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In mid March 2020 the attorney general of Texas issued a legal opinion deeming gun stores "essential services" during the pandemic.

It was earlier reported that firearm shops across the US saw soaring sales thanks to Covid-19

Gun sales and ownership in the USA is strongly linked to the fundamentalist or evangelical Christian beliefs of millions of many middle class and 'Hill-Billy' gun-toting types of  Americans - as indeed is the anti-abortion movement.

These people believe not only that they have a God-given right to their affluent and environmentally destructive lifestyles, and including killing as many animals as possible for sport, they also worship surplus human breeding - as if the world didn't have more than enough people already.

There were many subsequent reports of soaring gun sales.

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Religious nutcases come in many forms in the USA - Mike DeWine the Ohio State Governor has 8 children. A long time Republican, he recently signed into law a piece of legislation that would have criminalised doctors for not performing what is an impossible medical procedure - re-implantation of a foetus after a medically necessary abortion!

Maybe the USA deserves to experience a dose of reality with upwards of 200,000 deaths from Covid-19. Those who do die may largely be victims of an inadequate health care system.

In this photograph DeWine is surrounded by a group of anti-abortion activists and fellow sanctimonious politicians. The USA seemingly has an unending supply of evangelical nutcases, one example here of a woman allied to Donald Trump.

DeWine has been credited with being one of the first US Governors to take early action to prevent the spread of Covid-19 by closing schools etc - in advance of pronouncements by Donald Trump.

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As an aside, it has been argued that Christian persecution of cats (especially black ones) may have in part been responsible for the Black Death in Europe in the Middle Ages. So many cats were burned to death or otherwise mercilessly killed on the orders of the Catholic Church that the rat population was enabled to expand.

Crucifixion of cats is still apparently a feature of the Christian religion in some of the more backward countries of Africa.

In China they still just boil cats and dogs alive in some rural areas - it is said to improve the flavour of the meat.

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has laughed off the suggestion that his country should try to stem the spread of the coronavirus, because he couldn't see the virus "flying around".

Speaking to a TV reporter at an indoor ice hockey match, he also claimed that crowds at the match were fine because the coldness of the stadium would prevent the virus from spreading.

There is no evidence that this could be the case and the coronavirus cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Unlike most of Europe, Belarus has not placed any restrictions on sports events.

"There are no viruses here," Mr Lukashenko said. "You haven't seen them flying around, have you? I don't see them either! This is a fridge.

Sport, particularly the ice, this fridge here, that's the best antiviral cure!"

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One of the most repressive states in the world is Turkmenistan.

Many experts were concerned its government might be hiding the truth, which could disrupt attempts to end the pandemic.

While the world battled coronavirus and more and more countries locked down their populations, Turkmenistan held a mass cycling rally to mark World Health Day. Use of the word 'coronavirus' was banned.

People wearing face masks or talking about the virus were even liable to
be arrested by undercover police, RSF says.

Turkmenistan is one of the world's most closed-off countries. The government has an absolute monopoly of the media and foreign news websites are blocked.

The country has so far reported no cases of the virus. Neighbouring
Iran, meanwhile, had reported more than 47,000.

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On 5 March 2020 it was reported from Iran that holy shrine lickers could face prison - people had been licking religious artefacts believing that this would ward off the virus. Even the authorities in Iran were forced to concede the practice would likely spread the disease rather than provide protection.

Iran has been reported to have dug large mass graves (evidence from satellite pictures). However, governments in that part of the world do that sort of thing routinely! It is widely thought that Iran has not been reporting the full scale of local infection with Covid-19, and there continues to be much suspicion about China also.

Thailand’s controversial king has been self-isolating in a luxury hotel in the Alpine resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen with his entourage.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn is said to have booked the entire Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl after the four-star hotel received “special permission” from the district council.

The king’s entourage included a “harem” of 20 concubines and numerous servants. it was unclear if his four wives were living in the hotel with the rest of the group.

Guesthouses and hotels in the region were ordered to close due to the coronavirus crisis, but a spokesperson for the district council said the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl was an exception because “the guests are a single, homogenous group of people”.

However, 119 members of the entourage had been reportedly sent back to Thailand on suspicions they contracted the highly contagious respiratory disease.

News of their king's apparent self-isolation in a luxury location was met with anger by thousands of Thai people, who risked breaking the country’s lèse-majesté laws by criticising him online. Under the laws, anyone who insults or criticises the monarchy can be imprisoned for up to 15 years.

(Adapted from an article in The Independent by Kate Ng.)

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History and prognosis for pandemics: the importance of testing.

The history of pandemics in a useful chart:

The importance of testing (report about Italy from Irish Times !!)

The importance of acting early - the wasted weeks in China owing to political suppression.

Similarly in South Korea:

And an early stark warning from Italy (10 March) predicting the collapse of the health system.

Woman kissing her dog at Crufts - an event that was not cancelled despite starting on 5 March 2020 when coronavirus was well established. Billed as the world's greatest dog show it seems primarily to be an opportunity for people to exhibit their own curious behaviours.

Crufts was probably not much of a risk because people to people contact was limited.

However, Crufts is another example of misuse of animals by humans - many 'designer' breeds have inherent breathing or feeding problems because of the extent to which stupid people have sought to 'perfect' them.

Like the wet markets of Africa and Asia, the rich people who profit from these obscenities need to find another way to make a living - by doing some work perhaps?

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A medical detective dog being trained to detect disease in humans by sensing odours.

Some sniffer dogs used at airports to detect importation of illegal drugs are so accomplished that criminal gangs apparently put a price on their heads.

It is hoped the dogs – which are already used to sniff out cancer, Parkinsons and low blood pressure – will soon be deployed to the front line in the battle against Covid-19.

Charity Medical Detection Dogs, based in Milton Keynes, is working with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University on the project.

Experts believe the dogs could be trained to detect the disease in as little as six weeks to provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis.

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AND FINALLY - Wash your hands!!  (Rowan Atkinson sketch)

Longer version of the same sketch.

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