Covid-19 Archive

Podcast script - Wednesday, May 27, 2020

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Good Morning Chelveston, Caldecott and Chelston Rise itís Wednesday 27th May and this is Vladimir Putin with the daily podcast.

Lots of feedback came in about yesterdayís musing from the not so humble grass cutter. Pat Albon listened to my previous life and wondered whether I was in fact the Dominic Cummings of my day. Well I might look like him Pat, but thatís definitely not me. Dominic Cummings is a SPAD. That isnít an insult, itís a job title. He is a politically appointed Special Adviser. I would never have taken a political appointment.

I was usually contracted by civil servants as an anti-SPAD missile. You see civil servants are duty bound to serve the Government of the day. The comedies Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister were called that for a reason. A civil servant can argue a case, but ultimately must say YES if a minister decrees it, unless it is against the law.

So people like me, and there were many of us, were brought in when the answer should be No. I had lots of battles with SPADs. They would threaten to sack me Ė they couldnít because I wasnít employed by them or their Ministers. They would tell me I would never work in Government again, which was brilliant. Firstly, they had no powers to say this, and secondly when word got round that you had beaten a SPAD, people would be queuing at the door to buy your services for the next row.

Pete Rawlins suggested that I should actually be called Vladimir Putin, which was much closer to the mark. Sometimes, if a project was particularly problematic, my colleagues and I would be appointed to take over. Our brief was to get things back on track or kill the beast quickly.

We would start by suspending all of the committees that were running the project. (Thereís a clue by the way, who ever heard of a committee running a project?)

We then ran a ďStar ChamberĒ inquisition process. All the key officials would be interrogated by a group of industry experts. They had to work without advisers and without notes. If they could survive 2 hours of interrogation, then their part of the project was probably sound. If they failed, they were sent away to be rebriefed. If it was a close call, one of us would call them up and work with them to sort things out.

They would then come back for a second interrogation. If they failed, then there wasnít a third chance. I would press the red button, the floor would open up and they would fall into a pit of alligators to be eaten.

OK so the last bit is wishful thinking. But it would have been so much easier than the HR processes we had to follow to sack the people who had failed.

Dave Pannell wondered why we couldnít send the virus passport ideas directly into Government. The problem is Dave that I have over simplified things slightly and the vested interests would leap on the obvious problems and sink the plan. Their reputations are at stake, and they need to be protected.

A focus on developing rigorous testing should have been in place months ago and it will get harder to implement each day that goes by. Testing has always been the key, in various forms even before the technology was available, but the Government abandoned the emphasis on testing in week 3. That was the time, when all the national resources should have been focussed on developing innovative rapid testing regimes. Instead, the brightest minds in the country were focussed on building novel ventilators and building Nightingale hospitals, both of which were admissions of our policy failures. We were trying to solve the symptoms and not the cause. And ask yourself how many Nightingale beds were used, and how many of the ventilators saw action?

The logistics of producing and administering 60 million tests a week are huge, but they are not insoluble. But first we need a plan to target our testing capability where it makes the biggest difference. Then we can build capacity and extend the testing to everyone.

I do still have contacts and have many anonymous NHS sources. One of these sources has told me that some front line NHS staff are now being tested at last, but only weekly. Well thatís a start.

Unfortunately, the results arenít then returned for 2 weeks. It takes that long for the administrative wheels to turn. So these front line workers continue to work for 2 weeks with vulnerable patients before they discover they are Covid-19 positive. Who thought that through then?

What I donít understand is how one of our Village families was given the all clear less than 72 hours after sending a swab in to be tested, and this included the postal delay. So it would be quicker for our NHS staff to fake symptoms on the Covid-Joe app. They would then be sent a test as a priority and the results would be expedited. The lunatics really have taken over the asylum.

Iíd be happy with baby steps towards Universal testing. We need to get the dentists, podiatrists, and clinic nurses back to work quickly. So letís start there. Then perhaps teachers and transport and supermarket workers. Then we can expand to hairdressers and beauticians, and so on. The longer we delay, the longer our vulnerable stay locked up.

In Wuhan, China, a new cluster of cases has recently emerged, when they thought they were virus free. The authorities have undertaken to test all 11 million residents in 10 days. They are falling behind at the moment, but are learning quickly as they understand the importance of chasing down every last infection.

This is a clear signpost that regular testing is the key and we must gear up for it. You canít fight an enemy you canít see.

It might be impossible today, but that is what bold goals are for, to solve the biggest problems. Imagine a test kit that was as simple to use as a pregnancy testing kit, or the kits used by every diabetic several times a day. Years ago, both of these tests would have taken a couple of weeks to come through with results. Now it is minutes. Surely that is a target for urgent research, that should have started three months ago?

The good news is that in some laboratory somewhere, there is an entrepreneurial scientist working on this no-brainer idea. The big challenge is to create the policy framework where this answer is welcomed when it arrives.

That needs a powerful aspirational statement from the Prime Minister to set the direction. Churchill said Ė We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. and we did this all, and we won.

It is no different now Ė we must hunt down this virus wherever it is and eradicate it. Living with this virus is simply not an option. This must be our long term goal so that our vulnerable can once more be free to resume their lives without fear.

Thank you