Covid-19 Archive

Podcast script - Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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Good Morning Chelveston, Caldecott and Chelston Rise it’s Tuesday 26th May and this is Adrian Dale with the daily podcast.

Thank you for the feedback on yesterday’s podcast. Universal and regular testing is certainly a big idea and very challenging, but we have to find a way out of this mess. Sometimes, incremental piece meal solutions are just not the way to go.

James Bird suggested an interesting addition to the proposed system. He thinks we should colour code each postcode area with red, amber green to show the level of endemic infection in that area. People who are Covid secure, wouldn’t even consider travelling into a red zone. And anyone who has been in a red zone would need a virus test before entering any establishment in a green zone. Nice tweak James!

Now of course none of this is easy and will involve some huge civil liberties questions. However, even the current tracking approach being trialled on the Isle of Wight has its critics. In spite of huge sums being invested in it, I was sceptical from the start. It has huge behavioural flaws.

Firstly, it requires 60% of residents to download the app for it to be viable. Then it also needs these residents to agree to their Bluetooth signal being switched on. Unfortunately, most security advisories suggest exactly the opposite, never have BlueTooth switched on unless you need it. Finally, it needs an affected person to admit to feeling ill and then to request a test. Only when this test comes back positive do people who met them and came near them get alerted. During this intervening delay – how many more will be infected?

Now let’s think about privacy a bit more. If you are having an illicit affair, or you are a drug dealing nefarious low life. How likely are you to come into contact with infected people. Yep, obviously very likely. And how likely are you to download a tracking app. Yep obviously very unlikely.

So with this solution there is NO direct benefit for the individual who downloads the app and gives away their data. Everyone else gets the potential benefit. In fact there is a disincentive for risky people to participate. They don’t want to get found out.

So the highest risk category of infected people won’t be part of the network anyway.

What’s in it for me, is always the key driver for human behaviour. This project will fail as there is no immediate benefit for the risky participant.

Actually, the early evidence on this trial is not good. They’ve realised that many of the elderly population on the Isle of Wight don’t have smart phones – gosh, I didn’t see that coming, did you? Then it has just been realised that there are only 173 infections on the Isle of Wight at the moment. So the chances of bumping into them anyway are pretty low. Then it turns out that large numbers of people in Southampton have actually downloaded the app, so the results will be skewed anyway. So we have a big trial going on with absolutely no chance of producing useful data. Who thought this up exactly?

Rachael, Penty, Shirley Russen and others also gave the virus passport ideas the thumbs up – “thinking outside the box” Shirley said. And let’s get Peter Bone involved. Unfortunately Shirely, Peter Bone may be the listening MP, but he’s also a thorn in Boris’ side and I doubt anyone will listen to him.

I had a lovely email from residents from outside the Parish (ok let’s admit it, James Birds’ parents again). They liked the virus passport ideas and were intrigued that a humble grass cutter from Chelson-cum-Cawcud had come up with them.

Ok folks I have a small confession. I am indeed a grass cutter, but perhaps not quite so humble as I doth protest. I do have form.

I am a grass cutter because I can be. I walk the verges of our Parish 24 hours a week mowing and litter picking. It is hard physical work but actually a great privilege. I’ve hinted before that I was privileged to retired very early and have paid it back doing community service in hi-viz ever since.

In my working life I was a consultant, trouble shooter and adviser for many years. I worked for the NHS, for several police forces and for many of the Government Departments. The Cabinet Office, the Treasury, Department of Health, Department for Education, the Foreign and Commonwealth office and so on.

My role was usually to speak truth to power. It was my job to solve tricky problems and to stamp out crack pot pet projects. Very often senior people would have brainwaves which their staff knew were bonkers. Unfortunately, they couldn’t say so and still keep a job. So they’d call me in to explain in words of one syllable why the latest project was a disaster waiting to happen.

The usual problem is Government is that officials and ministers love diving in and solving problems that are presented to them. Unfortunately, they are often presented with the wrong problem to solve, but still they dive in.

My job was to spot bonkers projects and then strangle them before they got off the ground. The trick was to do this whilst leaving egos intact.

In the present emergency, everyone is focussed on making venues Covid-19 secure through hygiene and social distancing. However, all it takes is a small group of idiots flouting the rules, and the rest of our efforts are meaningless.

Buildings aren’t the problem, infected people are. So it stands to reason that our efforts should be aimed at disinfecting people not buildings. If infected people aren’t allowed in buildings, then there is an incentive to every individual to get tested and to stay virus free. If you knew you would be barred from the next football match if you got infected, you’d make damned sure that you’d keep your distance from others during the week.

At the moment, the chances of accidental infection are falling quickly and the young in particular know that they are very unlikely to be badly infected or die. So there really is no incentive to stop them bending or breaking the rules.

I talked it all through with my youngest son in Cambridge yesterday. It was fascinating to see how they think completely differently. Jesus Green in Cambridge was full of large groups doing socially distanced picnics or BBQs. He was surprised that no officials were out breaking them all up. But then again, what was the issue, everyone was 2 metres apart. When I explained that 2 metres was an arbitrary number based on 1930s evidence he was shocked. They’ve been doing everything possible to maintain a 2 metre ish assuming it conferred the protection of the gospel, even if it was technically against the rules.

So the simplistic rules designed to protect us are indeed breaking down. And the Dominic Cummings fiasco will make it worse.

And meanwhile the vulnerable are still locked away and have no assurance the next person they meet is not infected.

Something really isn’t right here but I am not going to get back in the saddle to solve it. Someone has to keep those verges cut.

So over to you – spread the idea, post it, lobby people you know. We have an absolute right to be protected from the infected. Why should the responsible citizen be playing Russian Roulette every time they go out? Why are the irresponsible having fun out our expense?

Thank you