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Coronacrisis: Bonfire of the Vanities
‘As prospects diminish, As nightmares swell
Some pray for heaven, While we live in hell’

 

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle predicts 66,000 UK deaths from Covid-19 by August, with a peak of nearly 3,000 a day, based on a steep climb in daily deaths early in the outbreak.

We will be the worst affected country in Europe, accounting for more than 40% of total deaths across the continent.

The analysts also claim discussions over ‘herd immunity’ led to a delay in the UK introducing physical distancing measures, which were brought in from 23rd March in England when the coronavirus daily death toll was 54.

Portugal, by comparison, had just one confirmed death when distancing measures were imposed.

The institute expects the peak to be reached on the 17th April, and

  • We will need more than 102,000 hospital beds, there are nearly 18,000 available, meaning a shortfall of 85,000.
  • In intensive care we will need 24,500 intensive beds will be needed and 799 are available

So much then for ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives’.

Which is a statement so  mired in hypocrisy it makes me shudder, this from a government that has spent 10-years doing the exact opposite of ordering us to protect the NHS.

a statement so mired in hypocrisy it makes me shudder, this from a government that has spent 10-years doing the exact opposite

In fact, the Tory-led coalition was so little trusted with the NHS that David Cameron had to create his own slogan in 2011 to reassure the public: ‘The NHS is safe in our hands’.

In the years since then the number of NHS hospital beds had fallen dramatically, and we were short of an estimated 43,000 nurses.

In addition to the general neglect, there was also the unnoticed sell-off of parts of the NHS.

In 2013 the government sold 80% of the state-owned blood plasma supplier to the US private equity firm Bain Capital for $200m.

They did this is even though more than 4,500 haemophiliacs became infected with hepatitis and HIV in the 1970s and 1980s after being poisoned with blood products brought on the cheap from overseas.

In 2016 Britain’s plasma supplier was sold on by Bain Capital to a Chinese company for £820m (along with the government’s remaining 20% stake).

Rather than protecting the NHS, the Tories flogged it like a cash cow.

‘These tears can never dry
A judgment made can never bend..’

Johnson and his colleagues talk with pride about ‘our NHS’ and its heroic workers, when it was him and his colleagues who voted against scrapping the 1% pay-rise cap for NHS nurses in 2017, and was a member of the government that cheered when a pay rise for nurses was blocked.

Now they are reducing the NHS to an emotional punchbag

The whole ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives’ is simply making the NHS into a tool for their devious purposes, just as the Vote Leave campaign of 2016 did.

Then it was, ‘We send the EU £350million a week, let’s fund our NHS instead.’ (A figure that he later revised downwards by £100m).

Now they are reducing the NHS to an emotional punchbag, moving on from bribing us with what can be added to the NHS, to threatening us with what we can lose.

Not only are they breathtakingly cynical, there is also their handling of the crisis; the UK death toll is currently higher than Italy’s at the same stage, Also, at this point Italy had begun to flatten its curve while in Britain the line keeps rising, the number of deaths doubling every three days.

the UK death toll is currently higher than Italy’s at the same stage

The issue seems to centre around the government’s flirtation with herd immunity, which was spelled out explicitly by the chief scientific adviser as recently as 13 March.

Perhaps it was some form of eugenics, designed to deal with the weakest in society and create a master-race?

One can only wonder what would have happened had we not delayed the national lockdown 10-days? Could that that time could have been devoted to testing.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary admitted that we lag Germany in this area as we do not have the diagnostic industry the Germans have built up over 70-years. It’s hard to take any confidence from statements likes that.

the dreadful failure to equip doctors and nurses with the protective kit they need

There seems also to be very mixed messages from government; on one hand we had the PM endorsing the message delivered by the head of the World Health Organization that the way to fight the virus was ‘test, test, test’.

Then we had the deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tams on TV arguing that testing was ‘a bit of a side issue,’ compared with slowing the rate of new infections via physical distancing.

Then, if all this wasn’t enough, we have the dreadful failure to equip doctors and nurses with the protective kit they need. It is reported that hospitals are turning to suppliers of medical fetish gear for essential masks and scrubs.

If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny. ‘I say’, where is Leslie Phillips when you need him?

‘Thrash me crash me
Beat me till I fall
I wanna be a victim
For you all…’

I do not want to dwell on the economic consequences in this piece, but there was an article that interested me, written by economists far more learned than me.

They suggested, not unreasonably, that the UK and many other European countries are already in a depression; depression was defined as being even worse than a recession, as a sustained, long-term downturn in economic activity in one or more economies.

If 12-years isn’t a depression, I have no idea what is?

I take some exception to this, many in society have only just started to catch-up with where they were pre-2008. If 12-years isn’t a depression, I have no idea what is?

The stock market has ceased to become a meaningful indicator of anything, stocks are 20% up since the low a few weeks ago. Markets and reality are totally disconnected. At some point the growing awareness of the potential consequences will mean that this market euphoria cannot last.

However, in summary, I am determined to finish on a high note.

As I have written before, this crisis provides opportunity, and we must learn from past mistakes.

The financial crisis of 2008, whilst it differed in the fact that it was man-made, was resolved poorly.

Although the global reaction meant that banks and financial institutions were restored to pre-crash normality, it was done at great cost to the public and, in a misguided attempt to balance the books government spending on public services across the world was slashed.

Whilst you might expect a global pandemic would lead to greater internationalism, we are seeing the opposite with countries turning inwards

  • In the US, President Trump has tried hard to brand the new coronavirus as inherently ‘Chinese’, and to use the pandemic as a pretext for tightening borders and accepting fewer asylum seekers
  • Republican officials, think-tanks and media outlets have claimed or implied that Covid-19 is a man-made Chinese bioweapon.
  • In turn, some Chinese officials have pushed the conspiracy theory that the outbreak came to China by way of American soldiers.
  • In Europe, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, recently announced: ‘We are fighting a two-front war: one front is called migration, and the other one belongs to the coronavirus. There is a logical connection between the two, as both spread with movement.’

There is no truer statement, than we are all in this together. Unless, of course, you are a celebrity, politician, or another type of morally bankrupt but financially loaded individual.

This is the time to think the previously unthinkable

This is the time to think the previously unthinkable, ‘whatever it takes’ is the mantra of the chancellor.

Ideas that previously not even Jeremy Corbyn would have considered are now seen as acceptable. Perhaps, this is the time for changes that wouldn’t have even been dreamt of 3-months ago.

No longer is politics subject to yesterdays conventions, expansive government intervention is now a feasible solution.

Free market solutions, ones which give large roles to corporations motivated by profit rather than the public good seem old hat.

The spread of the virus has seen government commit trillions in just a few days, the question of what was feasible is now vastly different.

Today’s task is not to fight the virus in order to return to business as usual, because that wasn’t working. The goal is to fight the virus, and to transform business as usual into something more meaningful for ALL of society.

‘When I hope
Yes I hope
You don’t say it’s alright be strong
‘Cos I can’t see it any other way
Now I know it’s wrong…’

 

This article, the Bonfire of the Vanities, is dedicated to my late aunt who succumbed to the virus on Wednesday.

May you rest in peace.

 

A powerful piece from the heart this week, and how could you fail to be moved by its dedication; our thoughts are with Philip and his family.

The levels of public support and gratitude being expressed for front line NHS staff and all key workers is heartwarming; however, the evidence as presented suggests that the UK’s state of relative unpreparedness. and therefore the likelihood that the final death toll will be greater than could have been the case, is as a direct result of a decade of Tory underfunding.

That some of those applauding NHS heroes on their doorsteps also cheered when nurses’ pay requests were denied in 2017 is grotesque; if the shortfall in resources is as great as presented, the consequences could be horrific.

Yet, despite all of the global bile and recriminations, Philip still voices his optimism that this is the opportunity to re-set and make the world a better and kinder place; a measure of how things have changed since this column was conceived to chart the UK’s exit from the EU, I have just confirmed a suspicion – a search for ‘Brexit’ returned no instances.

Four hard-hitting tracks this week that fit perfectly with the piece; electronic entries only this week please to the usual address, and add a ‘delivery receipt’ to be assured it has landed.

First up ‘an old favourite of mine making a welcome return. 1-pt for the band, 4 for the song’ if you got to Echo And The Bunnymen’ and the powerful and totally apt ‘The Disease’

Next ‘the master returns’ with a ‘track that often gets overlooked’ 3-pts for David Bowie and ‘Cat People (Putting out the Fire) – for Inglourious Basterds everywhere.

Thirdly – ‘There was only ever one song to use for this disgrace. It’s your Easter present, but only 1-pt’. Very funny, and the solitary point I’ll claim this week – the gorgeous and much lamented Poly Styrene and X-Ray Spex with ‘Oh Bondage up Yours!’.

Finally ‘a band often overlooked, but a truly great song. 1-pt for the band, 3-pts for the song’ Wah! with ‘Hope’.

‘Hope’ – just four letters, but a massive word; that Philip ended on an optimistic note, despite having suffered such a recent loss is inspirational. 

I’d like to share the words of the late, great Andy Ripley with him, which may offer some comfort:

Dare we hope? We dare.

Can we hope? We can.

Should we hope? We must.

We must, because to do otherwise is to waste the most precious of gifts, given so freely by God to all of us. So when we do die, it will be with hope and it will be easy and our hearts will not be broken.

Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

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