Blog Archive

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

My Daily Blog June 2020

Monday June 1st - LD 70

So now we are in June, the 70th day of the lockdown. But I have realised that since the lockdown eases gradually, when will it officially finish?

For me that will be when we can hug our family and when we are free to travel overseas and return home without quarantine.

Black Lives Matter Rioting and Demonstrations across 70 US Cities

George Floyd, a black petty criminal, was handcuffed by some big white policemen in Minneapolis. One of them then sat on his neck, preventing him from breathing for 5 minutes. He died. Unfortunately this is a scene that has been repeated across the USA. Black small time criminals or innocent victims murdered by police as they arrested them.

Mistakes happen, particularly in policing dangerous incidents. But the real tragedy is that this pattern is repeated over the years without the US administration taking serious steps to stop it. I have sympathy with the demonstrators but not the rioters. This is not an excuse to loot and damage property. However, as usual, Trump's reaction is just making the situation worse. By threatening to send in the army his sympathies appear to lie with white extremists. To calm things, he should take measures to punish the police and administrators involved and make changes to prevent this happening again.

Tuesday June 2nd - LD 71

I placed the last food order for my street today. As things slowly return to a new normal and we are allowed out and the shops open, the number of people using the service has been declining. After 11 weeks, I decided to stop it. The final order value was £336 with 7 people placing orders. At its peak, the value was over £500 with at least 10 orders each week. I will be suggesting to my neighbours that they start placing their orders directly with the suppliers, most of whom will continue to deliver.

Over 35,000 unnecessary Deaths

According to French eminent mathematician Laurent Lafforgue, if lockdown had started 10 days earlier, the death rate would have been 90% lower. He explained the maths and how every extra day of delay contributed to an exponential rise in the number of deaths. I can't tell you how much this upsets me as we knew back then that we were locking down too late. On March 21st, two days before Boris Johnson called for the lockdown, I wrote this in my blog:

"Feeling increasingly anxious now as I watch the death curve in the UK rise rapidly, mirroring what happened in Italy a week or two back. And still the government fails to act and legislate on people staying at home. Parks, high streets and public places are still teaming with people by all accounts. This is a huge stick of dynamite with a long lit fuse. The government is not acting to put it out. It makes me sick to think that thousands of people around me will soon be dying when we could have avoided the worst by acting like Singapore, Hong Kong and others. We watched it roll out in China and instead of learning the lessons and acting we have done too little too late. It's very sickening."

So instead of acting early and ending up with a few thousand deaths from covid-19, we are now at around 40,000, making the UK not just the sick man of Europe, but of the world. 

Shame on this government.

Wednesday June 3rd - LD 72

It's not over yet

Apparently there are still thousands new cases of covid-19 every day according to the government figures. This is too high. We are in trouble. UK has now overtaken Italy and Spain to have the highest number of deaths per million of anywhere except Belgium.

With the holiday season about to start, the government has just confirmed that there will be a 2 week quarantine for all people arriving into the Uk apart from people from Ireland. I am not really sure why they are doing this now, given that millions have been flying in since the start of this. And some of those millions will be the ones who brought the virus in to the UK in the first place.  

Just one new death in Ireland and one in Spain in the last 24 hours. 359 in the UK. It's not over yet.

Thursday June 4th - LD 73

Today I was interviewed by the BBC

I am an Ambassador for the Crowdless App and today I did an interview for BBC Radio Oxford and the local BBC TV as they wanted to talk to a user of the app.

The radio interview was straight-forward; they called me at 8.40 this morning and patched me into the live interview. I answered a couple of questions and that was it.

I showed how Crowdless works

The TV interview was more involved. The cameraman Jono, and the interviewer Jess, turned up at my house in a car and their van which contained an edit suite. We did the interview and filming in my back garden and then they filmed me driving down to Tesco and going in the front door. They put a go-pro cam in my car.

My BBC interview

The programme was edited down to a couple of minutes to include Alex, the company CEO, a representative from The Oxford Foundry which is co-funding the app development and me, and went out on BBC 1 in the local news slot at 6.30pm. It was all very professional and hopefully will get more people using Crowdless.

Friday June 5th - LD 74

I had a few local reactions to my BBC second of fame. I had to explain that I am testing and promoting Crowdless for free as I think it is of such huge benefit to society. But it needs lots of users to work best.

Only 4 of the Top 10 most read stories on the BBC website involved coronavirus. The others are about George Floyd and rioting in the USA, Madeleine McCann and businesses going into administration. Are we staring to see Coronavirus fatigue?

Saturday June 6th - LD 75

Apparently British Airways (IAG) is considering taking legal action against the government's decision to impose a 14 day quarantine period on most people entering the country. It would effectively kill off international travel, just as it was about to start to recover.

Two striking Milestones today

UK Government figures confirm deaths pass 40,000.

WHO finally announces that we should wear face masks.

Both of these milestones demonstrate how incompetent both of these organisations have been. If they had acted earlier, tens of thousands of lives could have been saved.

The UK now tops the world rankings for Death

Sunday June 7th - LD 76

Only one of the Sunday papers directly talks about the pandemic on its front page with an article about a potential second wave. The others have stories on the economic havoc being wreaked, Boris' inattention to detail in his negotiation of the January Brexit deal, the anti-racism riots in London and the Madeleine McCann story. Have we reached a breaking point?

It seems to me that we have pretty much moved on to a world where the shops have re-opened, people are back at work and only the extremes such as events and larger gatherings are still forbidden. Focus is now on trying to salvage the economy and as many jobs as possible. Face masks and physical distancing are becoming part of the new normal.

Cafés are open again in France

Perhaps mid June is the watershed moment. Other countries are rapidly opening up and returning to a new normal. In Paris, cafés and hairdressers are open.

Andrew Marr refers to this period as 'The Great Unlocking'. He interviewed a very eminent scientist who said that if we had started the lockdown earlier, there would have been fewer deaths. This is precisely what Laurent Lafforgue, the brilliant French mathematician was explaining in relation to the exponential spread of a virus. Every day's delay in lockdown has a big impact. He estimated that once the first 100 deaths have happened a ten day delay leads to a tenfold increase in the number of deaths.

Andrew Marr interviewed Matt Hancock, the Health Minister, and asked if the thought the delay had cost lives. He was categoric in his response that it did not. Is he:

1. A blatant liar
2. Very stupid
3. Waiting to blame the scientists?

Monday June 8th - LD 77

Black Lives Matter

The anti-racism demonstrations and riots continue. In Bristol a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was trashed and dumped in the harbour. In Oxford, discussions around the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College have been re-ignited following the most recent controversy in 2015. 

Colston was a philanthropist from Bristol and became its MP. He made much of his money from the slave trade. 

Rhodes was from Hampshire and re-located to South Africa due to bad health. He created the De Beers diamond company and became Prime Minister of the Cape Colony and Rhodesia was named after him. He believed in the supremacy of the British race and that native South Africans should be governed as a 'subject race'. His legacy includes the Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford.

This is what Wikipedia says about both men:


During Colston's involvement with the Royal African company (1680 to 1692), it is estimated that the company transported around 84,000 African men, women and children, who had been traded as slaves in West Africa, of whom 19,000 died on their journey to the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas.

David Hughson writing in 1808 described Colston as "the great benefactor of the city of Bristol, who, in his lifetime, expended more than £10,000 in charitable institutions".

Rhodes House, Oxford


In his last will, he provided for the establishment of the Rhodes Scholarship. The scholarship enabled students from territories under British rule or formerly under British rule and from Germany to study at Rhodes's alma mater, the University of Oxford. Rhodes' aims were to promote leadership marked by public spirit and good character, and to "render war impossible" by promoting friendship between the great powers.

Here's what I think

As much as I hate the involvement many of these people had in the slave trade or in other abominations that took place during the spread of the British Empire, I do believe that normally people should be judged by the rules and values of the time in which they lived.

If we ourselves were to be judged by the values of the year 3000, I suspect many of us would go straight to prison! Just think of our crimes against the environment!

The statue of Colston was destroyed illegally and there should have been a democratic process to move it to a museum or somewhere more appropriate. 

The statue of Rhodes should stay where it is but perhaps there should be a plaque to explain the circumstances. Or perhaps it should be housed in a museum or in Rhodes house.

Both men were profoundly racist by today's standards. At the same time they both left a legacy that has benefited many less privileged people and we should take advantage of that as reparations for the damage they did in their day.

The people of Bristol have benefitted from Colston's legacy - he funded schools and hospitals. People across the world have become Rhodes Scholars thanks to Rhodes' legacy. This is includes Bill Clinton and many other now famous people. Maybe they would never have been able to fulfil their potential if it were not for Cecil Rhodes. Many students from South Africa, Zimbabwe and other African countries have been awarded the scholarship to Oxford University.

When you apply today's standards to yesterday's leaders, this is what you get:

The Great Man's statue in Parliament Square was defaced yesterday by 'anti-racist' thugs.

I rest my case!

Tuesday June 9th - LD 78

This evening there was a very peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in Oxford. The crowds were in the High Street, mainly keeping 2m apart, mainly wearing masks and as far as I could see they were well behaved. There were what looked like thousands of people, completely filling up the High Street.  

Oxford City Council has written to Oriel College requesting they apply for planning permission to have the statue of Cecil Rhodes removed. It is a smallish statue that is located high up on the College facade that faces the High Street. I must admit I have never noticed it despite the fact I have clearly walked past it hundreds of times in the last 25 years. What will happen to Rhodes House and the Rhodes Scholarship?

Cecil Rhodes is the statue at the very top of the facade

Wednesday June 10th - LD 79

Lack of leadership and strategy on schools

Another government U-turn today, this time on schools. Now it appears most children won't go back to school until September, making for a 6 month gap in their schooling. These kids will be know as the C-Generation.

I heard a headmaster of a school near Croydon explain he couldn't understand why he was unable to make his computer lab available to children with no computers at home so they could follow the online courses.

Thursday June 11th - LD 80

Further easing of the lockdown

The Prime Minister announced last night that single people will now be allowed to visit and stay with another household.

More bad economic news

The UK economy forecast to contract more than any other big Western economy according to the OECD. Britain's economy is likely to slump by 11.5% this year, slightly outstripping falls in countries such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy, it said. And that's provided there's no second wave.

  • British Gas to lay off 5,000 employees.
  • The Restaurant Group to shut 125 restaurants and lay off 3,000 staff, mainly at Frankie & Bennies (not one of my favourites)
  • Monsoon Accessorise goes into administration and is being re-structured
  • British Airways and Easyjet have already announced over 10,000 job cuts between them
  • Extensive cuts also announced by Rolls Royce, Debenhams and Lookers (car sales)

This is not a rosy picture. It's a disaster, with much worse to come probably.

The CBI is warning that British Business can't cope with the pandemic and a no-deal Brexit. Is the government really going to inflict further pain on business?

Government Scientist says we could have reduced the death toll by half

Professor Neil Ferguson, who advised the government during the first half of the pandemic until he resigned following breaking the lockdown rules, says if we had locked down a week earlier it would have saved 50% of the lives lost.

This assessment is entirely in line with Laurent Lafforgue's analysis which I quoted on June 2nd. Extend from a week to 10 days and your are looking at 90% less deaths. It's just maths.

Excess UK deaths compared to the 5 year average now stand at about 65,000 for this year.

Friday June 12th - LD 81

The attack on the government's handling of the crisis seems to be getting worse. Key issues currently are:

Lack of planning and poor stocks of PPE
25,000 people returned from hospitals to Care Homes before testing was not routine
Very late start to the Lockdown which may have cost many lives

Saturday June 13th - LD 82

Last night we watched Sam Mendes' highly successful film 1917. I had heard it was based on his grandfather's experiences during the first world war. The filming, the camerawork, the acting, the scenery were all absolutely first class.

It's the story of two young soldiers in the trenched on the Western Front who are sent to warn a neighbouring regiment of a German trap they are about to fall into that would cost thousands of lives. It's a great adventure story. Unfortunately it appears that it's largely fiction. None of the characters actually existed. This is a shame as I thought it was a true story and probably would not have watched it otherwise.

Sunday June 14th - LD 83

Coronavirus comes second

For the first time in months, the majority of the Sunday papers are not leading on a coronavirus story. In 5 out of 8 of the Sundays, it has been usurped by the riots that took place yesterday. Right wing thugs and fascists clashed with police. The extremists are trying to take over and manipulate a legitimate set of protests fired up by George Floyd's death. One of these men is pictured urinating next to PC Keith Palmer's memorial, the officer who was stabbed to death during the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack in 2017.

Monday June 15th - LD 84

Next stage in The Great Unlocking


President Macron appeared on TV last night to announce the entire country is moving to Green. This means that all shops, restaurants, cafés, etc. can open provided they respect the 1m distancing rule. Borders are open with other EU countries. This is getting fairly close to life back to normal.


As of today all non essential shops such as clothes shops can open. Face mask become compulsory in public transport. The 2m distancing rule is under review but remains for now. We still have a long way to go to get back to anything like normal. Visitors arriving in UK still have to quarantine for 2 weeks (stupid rule given that most of Europe is less infectious than the UK).

Queues outside shops that open today after 3 months

Queues outside the shops look pretty irresponsible to me. Massive queues outside various shops include Primark. What is people's psychology that makes them want to queue at Primark? Are they really suffering withdrawal symptoms for cheap foreign disposal clothing? Looks like nothing much has changed and we will be going back to the old ways.

Tuesday June 16th - LD 85

Drug Breakthrough

Researchers at Oxford University have completed the trial of a steroid from the 1950s that has been proven to save the lives of one in eight people on a ventilator who would otherwise have died. It is the first drug to have been confirmed to help fight covid-19. This makes it very significant. If we had used it 3 months ago, over 5,000 deaths would have been prevented.

Katherine was interviewed by the BBC

Dexamethasone is cheap and in plentiful supply. It costs £5 per patient. The BBC interviewed one of the first patients to survive thanks to the drug. She is Katherine Millbank with whom I worked at Grass Roots, She told me not to get the disease as it is terrible and she is still recovering at home in 'baby steps'.

Wednesday June 17th - LD 86

Nothing too remarkable today.

Thursday June 18th - LD 87

President Macron in London to commemorate 80 year anniversary of Charles De Gaulle's broadcast 

Here is the BBC report:

"Boris Johnson has met French President Emmanuel Macron in Downing Street to mark the 80th anniversary of a famous wartime broadcast. In 1940, French Resistance leader Charles de Gaulle used the BBC to send a radio message to Nazi-occupied France, urging people not to give up the struggle against Hitler. Mr Johnson praised the "courage and sacrifice" of those who fought on. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall welcomed Mr Macron to the UK. And the Red Arrows and their French counterparts, La Patrouille, performed a flypast above London to mark the occasion."

The planes fly over Churchill's statue in Parliament Square

They discussed Brexit and easing the 14 day quarantine period for people arriving in the UK. Tourism can't resume so long as it stays and both countries need each other's tourists. They exchanged gifts and President Macron was permitted to leave without the 14 day quarantine (bien sûr).

La Patrouille and the Red Arrows

Friday June 19th - LD 88

Another Government U-Turn

After the Prime Minister and his government repeatedly told us we would have a world-class, world-beating Track & Trace system, and following a long trial of the app in the Isle of Wight, they announced yesterday that they would abandon the app because it doesn't work.

Instead they will be using the free software provided by Apple and Google that many other countries are already using. Germany has over 5 million users of this app. By the time they have set it up and integrated it with the required NHS systems, it will be Autumn at the earliest.

Once again, we can see the incompetence of this government; track, trace, test is the key to unlocking and freeing us from the virus. The WHO says we should not unlock without it. Here in the UK we are only just starting to set it up, four months into the crisis.

Saturday June 20th - LD 89

Following on from the UK government's announcement that they are now working with Apple and Google with the intention of using their app, Apple made an announcement that they had not had conversations with the government and referring to some issues with the app mentioned by Matt Hancock, the Health Minister, Apple said they didn't know what he was talking about.

Someone must be wrong here? Who is lying? Who do you believe?

Sunday June 21st - LD 90

We wake up to what looks like another terrorist attack, this time in Reading killing 3 people and injuring several more. Sad, sad, sad.

It's the longest day of the year.

Matt Lucas does a brilliant impression of Boris Johnson to emphasise his indecision and constant u-turns:

Monday June 22nd - LD 91

Bad start to the coronavirus week 

  • Apple shutting stores in 4 US states as infections rise again. Apple was the first retailer to shut stores at the start of the pandemic.
  • In Germany, the R rate has risen to over 1 which means the number of people catching the virus is back on the increase.
  • New outbreaks in Australia and in China are being fought off.

If the authorities act fast and have sufficient data to act intelligently, these small outbreaks can be fought off rapidly. Let's hope they can and then when we get them closer to hope, we also have the insight, will and data to nip them in the bud.

Cover picture: The Economist this week

It seems I'm not the only one who thinks the UK government led by Boris Johnson have done a terrible job trying to contain the pandemic. The leading article in this week's Economist is:

"Britain has the wrong government for the covid crisis: it has played a bad hand badly

and it goes on to demonstrate with facts just how incompetent: 

"There was a lot going on in Britain in early March. London staged an England-Wales rugby match on March 7th, which the prime minister attended along with a crowd of 81,000; on March 11th Liverpool played Atletico Madrid, in front of a crowd of 52,000 fans, including 3,000 from Spain; 252,000 punters went to the Cheltenham Festival, one of the country’s poshest steeplechase meetings, which ended on March 13th.

As Britons were getting together to amuse themselves and infect each other, Europe was shutting down. Borders were closing, public gatherings being banned. Italy went into full lockdown on March 9th, Denmark on March 11th, Spain on March 14th and France on March 17th. Britain followed only on March 23rd."

Bear in mind that left unchecked, the number of cases doubles every two days. The government is responsible for tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Tuesday June 23rd - LD 92

Boris announces the next step in the Great Unlocking

From July 4th, cafés, restaurants and pubs can open.
Any two households can now meet indoors.
All are still subject to a reduced physical distancing rule of just 1 metre.

Hong Kong's deaths from covid-19 rise 50% to a total of 6 deaths and a new cluster of imported cases is traced to Pakistan.

Wednesday June 24th - LD 93

Hottest day of the year so far. It was 31C here in Oxford. Crowded beaches around the country.

Thursday June 25th - LD 94

Virus outbreaks in Meat Processing plants and Abattoirs across Europe and USA

In UK, Germany, France, USA and elsewhere, it is thought that the cold temperatures and working practices are responsible for a series of outbreaks of the virus. Authorities are working hard to attempt to contain them. Large groups of migrant workers at these plants may also be responsible for spreading the disease.

The way these outbreaks are handled is the ultimate test as to whether our authorities are capable of taking control. If they can't, the virus has won and we may be living with it for a long time.

The Great British Public flocks to the seaside as temperatures soar to well over 30C

"The council said services were left “completely overstretched” as visitors arrived in huge volumes resulting in widespread illegal parking, gridlock on roads, excessive waste, antisocial behaviour including excessive drinking and fights and prohibited overnight camping.

Some motorists had to queue for two hours to get into Bournemouth and car parks were full by 9am on Thursday. BCP council issued 558 parking enforcement fines within a few hours – the highest ever.

Families had travelled from as far afield as London and Birmingham to the beaches in Dorset.

The council said refuse crews suffered abuse and intimidation as they attempted to empty overflowing bins on the seafront. Security was put in place to protect them as they collected more than 40 tonnes of rubbish."

The Guardian

Friday June 26th - LD 95

Yesterday I went to Specsavers for an eye test. It seems that my poor vision is a result of my myopia having reduced in recent months so now I need a weaker prescription to be able to see clearly.

Apart from an eight minute queue outside the store in the 33C heat with the sun pounding down on me, the experience was extremely professional. Inside was air conditioned, spacious and everything I touched was sanitised beforehand. All staff and customers have to wear masks.

This is a reference to Dominic Cummings who drove to Barnard Castle during lockdown.
He claimed he was testing his eyesight was fit enough to drive back to London.

Latest Leaders' YouGov Poll

Just over a month ago Boris Johnson was on +22%. Now he is down to -7%
Sir Keir Starmer is currently on +27% and has just sacked his deputy, Rebecca Long Bailey for endorsing a tweet containing anti-semitic remarks.

Saturday June 27th - LD 96

As Boris Johnson warns people who are breaking the physical distancing rules (such as the half million people who converged on Bournemouth beach) that he might have to close the beaches, Singapore shows us how to do it properly.

In Bournemouth, with hundreds of thousands crowding the beach from all over England, 500 people were issued with parking tickets (with a fine I imagine of around £30).

In Singapore, 140 people were arrested for being in breach of the 'circuit-breaker' rules. They were eating and drinking in larger groups than were permitted. Of these, 98 foreigners had their work visas rescinded and were fined the equivalent of £5,000.

Take a guess as to which response will change future behaviour?

Sunday June 28th - LD 97

Traffic this Sunday going into city centre was back to early March levels.... Many shops and some cafés are open. Quite a few look as if they have gone bust and the units will remain empty. Surprisingly, there appeared to be some foreign tourists in town.

As beautiful as it looks, we need it filled back up with tourists and bicycles

Monday June 29th - LD 98

The first localised re-lockdown has finally been announced in an area of Leicester where there has been a big spike in cases over the last fortnight. Authorities must not hesitate and should act fast as this is the only way to prevent the virus from spreading again.

Let's see if our leaders have what it takes to strike this down before it's too late again.

Tuesday June 30th - LD 99

As we reach LD 100 tomorrow and most places are opening up from July 4th as restrictions are relaxed, 100 represents a big shift in the pandemic.  I hope there will be no second wave - it can certainly be avoided if we behave appropriately - but there will be outbreaks and clusters in many places. If we bear down on them rapidly and efficiently, we can avoid further big lockdowns and start to live a 'new normal' existence. 

I said I would stop my daily blog when we can travel to France and that time has arrived and soon we can hug our family. We have booked air tickets to France and the government is expected to announce the lifting of the quarantine restrictions to many safe countries in the next few days.

My blog will revert to my usual monthly thoughts from tomorrow, although no doubt coronavirus will continue to feature heavily.

With a heavy heart, I finish with the 'Deaths Per Million' graph as global reported deaths pass 500,000 and continue to rise. I am deeply saddened and indeed ashamed that the UK's performance is so poor, even if our reporting is perhaps more accurate that certain other countries.

Selected countries, latest data

"They say memory is the second thing to go. What's the first? Can't remember." Unknown.

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