Covid-19 Archive

Podcast script - Sunday, May 24, 2020

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Good Morning Chelveston, Caldecott and Chelston Rise it’s Sunday 24th May and this is Adrian Dale with the daily podcast. Indeed, this is the 64th podcast that I’ve recorded since the emergency started. But I was sincerely hoping that they wouldn’t be needed by now, and that I wouldn’t have to feed the communications machine every day. Each of the daily briefings takes at least 3 hours to write, record and edit. So let’s say it keeps me busy!

But there is still evidence that people listen and value them. On Friday, we had technical gremlins and lots of people commented that they were unable to get the podcast on time.

At 6:03 yesterday morning, Pete the Wurzle Rawlins, sent me a tongue in cheek message wondering why I hadn’t published yet, was I slacking at the weekend. Actually Pete, it was already live by then but I don’t publish the link to WhatsApp until the newsletter is complete. And that was 3 just minutes later. Normally, I aim to do it by 06:30.

Which was just on time for Fiona Cole who came back at 06:38 with “Well done Adrian, may these podcasts remain” – which of course is welcome feedback but clearly means I have to keep going.

Vanessa chipped in with support for the idea that clear, honest and direct communications are essential in all parts of Village life, not just this emergency.

But Michelle lit the blue touch paper by suggesting that I should run for Prime Minister. A whole flurry of chat followed in which the idea of job swap with Boris was proposed. No thank you – I am a grass cutter.

But Allen was concerned that my podcasts are perhaps a bit too political and that with hindsight it is easy to criticise. This is a very fair point and I but I would like to respond.

You see I have no political allegiance at all, I cannot stand partisan politics, I think it gets in the way of good governance. In my time in this Parish I have voted for a candidate from all three of the major political parties in the Parliamentary elections over the years. I want my MP to represent me when local matters need to be raised to a higher level. So at each election I contact the candidates and try to find out how they think and work and what their local knowledge is. I choose the candidate that is able to engage well and survive my cross examination.

At the last election, two of the (unsuccessful) candidates didn’t even respond to my request for a dialogue. One didn’t even give me contact details and I had to hunt them down, much to their surprise.

I wouldn’t necessarily be a drinking buddy of our present MP, Peter Bone, but I respect the fact that he doesn’t toe the party line at all, and he does make every attempt to bring the needs of our constituency to the attention of the Government. If I contact him, he responds immediately. He has been highly critical of the Government previously, but has been noticeably quiet during this crisis.

My criticism of the present Government approach is based on observation and facts, not politics. We have the second highest death rate in the world. And so far this pandemic has cost us over £2,000 for every man woman and child in the Country, all borrowed.

Our strategy for dealing with the pandemic has never been properly articulated and our tactics seem to change daily depending on the pressures faced by ministers during their media interrogations. One minute there was a blanket quarantine exemption for people from France. Next there wasn’t. On Friday strict quarantine rules, spot checks and fines were announced. But yesterday it was suggested that the Government is negotiating special exemptions for prominent sports stars or teams to allow the summer sporting events to go ahead.

The question of my 20/20 hindsight is important. But actually my criticisms are not new, I have just kept quieter until now. Two things chilled me to the bone in the early days of the crisis.

The first was the decision to allow the Cheltenham Race Festival to go head on the 10th March. This decision was taken, even though the Irish Government had already cancelled all St Patrick’s day celebrations on scientific advice. I watched the Irish Ambassador on TV with tears in his eyes looking at the Cheltenham crowds and wondering if we had lost our collective marbles. He knew that many of the race goers would be Irish and might be taking the virus home with them. He was right. 250,000 people attended the festival and it was the biggest super spreader event of the pandemic. Race goers took the virus back to every corner of the UK. It was at that point we lost control.

My second concern was to watch the hand washing campaign unfold at the beginning of March and then keep going without change. Lynne and I couldn’t understand it. Covid-19 is a coronavirus. The common cold can be caused by corona viruses. No amount of hand washing will protect you if you are in the room with someone who has a cold, or perhaps on a train or aeroplane. How many of you have come back from a hot summer holiday with a cold caught on the plane from someone snuffling several rows away? Corona viruses are mainly passed person to person in the air, not on surfaces. In fact yesterday the Centre for Disease Control in America published a report saying that the risks of catching Covid-19 from surfaces had been vastly overstated.

But surely other countries made the same mistakes. Well yes they did, the USA, Italy, Spain and France. But look at Vietnam, China, South Korea, Singapore. Why did they get it right? Surely they had scientific advisers too?

The answer is surprisingly simple. All these countries had suffered 3 previous coronavirus epidemics. SARS1, SARS2 and MERS, all respiratory syndromes. This time when they got a sniff of the cause, they made the wearing of masks mandatory, they tracked traced and quarantined every victim and they locked down cities when the first trace of infection was found. They had a well rehearsed epidemic plan.

Surely the UK had an epidemic plan? Oh yes indeed, it is dated 2014 and was rehearsed in an exercise 2016. It is called the Pandemic Influenza Response Plan. This is the plan the Government used in the early stages of the epidemic. But did you notice the flaw here? It was a pandemic plan for influenza – and not for a coronavirus. Unfortunately, they are completely different diseases and behave differently. We did precisely the wrong things at the crucial point. And I am not saying this with hindsight, it was obvious from the get go.

Don’t ask me why or how, but the people advising our Gold Commander Boris, put a plan into action which was completely inappropriate, and now we are paying the price.

So what are we doing in the Village to deal with this? Well we are beginning the long term planning for the re-opening of our facilities, the Village Hall, the Church and the Pub. But believe me we will be doing this very carefully. We’ll research all best practice, all precautions and we will publish the plan for each venue before anything happens. I want everyone to look at the plans and to use our collective insight to decide if we are happy as a community.

As I said I am not interested in National politics, I only care about this Village and what will keep us safe.

Thank you.

Thank you