Honestly, that’s the only time you’ll see the ‘correct’ term being used for this virus so if you’re easily offended stop reading now. From here on it will be Kung Flu, Hong Kong Fluey and Flu Manchu all the way! Why? A quick look into the British sense of humour will reveal all. Nicknames and recycling words for new use has a long tradition in British humour, see The Two Ronnies, Morcambe & Wise, Monty Python, Not The Nine O Clock News, and the Carry On films among our fine, fine range of comedies. It’s quite tempting just to leave a load of links and say ‘go find out for yourself’ but from what I see online many (too many) people find that quite difficult. This was revealed when someone, with the internet at their fingertips, informed me quite seriously that Spanish Flu came from Spain, German Measles came from Germany, and chicken pox – yes, you guessed it, from close contact with chickens! This person didn’t even take a few seconds to look online to check their info. This person, who I’m sure would consider themself intelligent and informed, was wrong on all 3 counts. Hey I know we all make mistakes, I’ve certainly made my share, but 3 in one sentence must be worthy of some sort of trophy.
Another source of confusion appears to be the incessant Global Averages. Global Averages of anything are bunkum. There is no Global Average level of poverty, no Global Average temperature, no Global Average life expectancy, and there is no Global Average incidence of Kung Flu! All of these things differ country to country, continent to continent, and hemisphere to hemisphere. A Global Average Flu Manchu critical care rate of 5% does not mean all countries will have a 5% critical care rate. Some will have much lower rates, some will sadly have much higher and because of this the average is useless. Let’s say 9 countries have a 1% critical care rate and another has 10%, that’s 10 countries with a total critical care rate of 19%, the average is 1.9%. How is that statistic helpful in describing what has happened? Does it reflect reality at all? So do yourself a favour and just ignore any and all Global Averages no matter what field it may be in. This invariably leads to “but people are DYING”. I’ve been called callous and cold for saying this but… and? People die every day. But the VIRUS! We must SAVE the NHS!, and that got me thinking…
What if the NHS is no longer fit for purpose.
Yes I know what you’re all saying. It’s austerity! Deliberate under-funding! The Tories have always wanted to sell it off! But, but, let’s be honest – this isn’t just a Conservative thing. Labour under Blair didn’t do much to build up infrastructure anywhere AND they started the whole ‘let’s open the UK to a greater variety of immigrants’. In the last 20 years we’ve had massive population growth and NO-ONE thought to reinforce the infrastructure needed to support it. So, if you want to lay blame anywhere – blame Blair. You can also lay the blame on him for allowing companies that lost a bid for an NHS contract to sue the NHS for loss of earnings. Before you start yelling that Blair was a Tory with a red tie may I ask you to check out what cronyism actually is and in what political system it wreaks the most havoc. Chavez, the ‘poor’ President of Venezuela may well have donated 90% of his wages to charity, but his daughter was a multi-millionaire when he died. Cronyism isn’t a facet of capitalism, it’s a facet of statism. In this Conservatives and Labour are as bad as each other and, as has been proven time and again, when you have the Government in control of everything (socialism), cronyism gets much, much worse.
But I digress,
The UK has 3.5 ICU beds per 100,000 of the population (here). That’s not many. For comparison, private healthcare has more than TWICE as many ICU beds just for their paying patients (here). Private healthcare is in a better position to provide care in the face of a virulent epidemic than the NHS. Small wonder the catchphrase for Hong Kong Fluey is Save the NHS. Every winter we are told whenever possible we should visit our GP or see a pharmacist for advice and treatment, they don’t quite beg us not to go to hospital in a normal year, but give us one nasty flu bug or a bad year for pneumonia and we very quickly hear that the NHS is at breaking point (here here here and here). Quite why such a fuss is being made of Flu Manchu this year I honestly don’t know. I, and many others, have been looking at the numbers and none of us can see what the big deal is.
So let’s look at who is most affected https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-age-sex-demographics/ and we see it’s mainly the elderly, 70+ years old with one or more serious pre-existent health conditions. Who is most affected by seasonal flu and pneumonia? People 70+ years old with a serious pre-existent health conditions. Yes there will be some younger people, mostly with underlying health problems, that will become seriously ill and a few of them will die, but it will mainly be the older generations that will suffer the most. This needs to be remembered when looking at where people are most affected https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries (refresh the page to ensure updated statistics and click on a country for more details). Countries with a high incidence of people in a serious condition with Hong Kong Fluey also happen to be countries with a high number of old people who are already ill. I know, shocker right?! To get some perspective on the numbers remember around 1400 people die every day in the UK. To bring that number into focus look here. Did you see that? Almost 500,000 people die every year in the UK, with over 74,000 deaths caused by a respiratory illness. If we assume the vast majority of these deaths will happen over the winter and spring months, that’s 400 a day. Now do you understand why so many are saying this panic simply doesn’t seem to be justified? Don’t be freaked out by the numbers on the chart, take your time and look at what it’s telling you. In the UK on 8th April, over 280,000 tested revealing 60,000+ cases, with just over 1,500 in a serious condition. For some reason the UK no longer gives recovery rates, but general trends appear to show 99%. Here’s a little riddle for you to play with too, why do some countries have much higher case numbers but relatively low death rates? Are some (UK, Italy, France, etc) ascribing deaths WITH Hong Kong Fluey as deaths FROM it? There is a very important distinction to be made there as Italy tried to show everyone here
So being as half a million people die every year here anyway, that rather takes the air out of the Imperial College’s report and we see that the Oxford report, which suggests an extra 20,000 people may die due to Kung Flu is the more reasonable one. Our mortality rate so far shows the number of deaths from a respiratory illness is perfectly inline with what would normally be expected. If an extra 20,000 will die we’ll be looking at 510 deaths a day rather than 400 in this flu season, but remember this won’t actually show as 400-500 deaths a day (some days will have low numbers, some will have high ones and ‘peaks’ happen every year). Is that enough of a reason to shut the whole country down? Seriously? To top it off Prof Neil Ferguson has form for exaggerating risks and reaching ridiculous conclusions three time loser
A major source of complaint at the moment is how slowly the Government is responding, but we forget that Parliament has been designed to be slow. You actually want a system that moves slowly as usually they don’t fuck up quite so spectacularly as others (read: dictators). Of course that’s not much help in an emergency if/ when one arises. So let’s see this current debacle as a dummy run and stop and think – is having the Government at the head of the NHS the best way to serve We the People? Obviously not. Most countries that have socialised health care run it as a devolved system. Can you imagine how much money that would free up for nurse’s wages and medical care? Instead of funding a huge health department and all the meetings, dinners, reports, inquiries, and god only knows what else, we could pay for it through, say, Council Tax. Independent Primary Health Care Trusts freed of burdensome Governmental regulations (tick this box, waiting time checks, specific budgets, and so on) would be responsible to the people that they treat. They could manage their resources according to local demographics and plan properly for the future instead of having to incorporate the Govt’s latest daft idea. Also, most of these other healthcare systems have insurance running alongside it – and you have no idea what a difference that could make!
Thanks to lobbying, private health care companies have been able to limit treatment options available to the NHS. Gov’t regulations define what medicines and treatments can be used for which conditions and illnesses, what surgeries and surgical techniques are allowed and even the scope of research. In other words the Government strangles the NHS in red tape and actively prevents innovation and alternative treatments. The bonus for private health is not only are they free from most of this bureaucracy it also keeps their prices artificially high. Allowing the NHS to sell it’s own insurance levels the field ensuring the best outcomes for everyone. There could even be an arrangement where every PCT keeps 8% of their funds (accumulating every year) for emergencies, whether that be the next epi or pandemic, or for rural communities to draw upon in times of need.
When the NHS was first created the most technical equipment it used was X-rays. Medicine has come a long way since then and we simply cannot expect to have world class treatments available to everyone while the funding is so chronically mismanaged and its restraints are so tight. If Flu Manchu has revealed anything it has been that to SAVE the NHS we need to take it out of Governments’ hands
Some interesting info about Kung Flu…
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31607599 flu vaccines increase susceptibility to corona and other viruses
https://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2020/03/an-expert-says-the-current-response-to-the-coronavirus-is-grotesque-absurd-and-very-dangerous.html an enlightening interview with a virologist
https://braveneweurope.com/emma-clancy-austerity-kills-eu-commission-demanded-cuts-to-public-healthcare-spending-63-times-from-2011-2018 the EU being anything but helpful and compassionate
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/eight-signs-you-coronavirus-covid-21768052 failing all else it will make you laugh