The New Observer All categrories Epidemic 2 – coming soon to an Island near you

Epidemic 2 – coming soon to an Island near you

This government certainly knows how to start a mass epidemic.

Scientists in Denmark have identified a new strain of Coronavirus which shows some degree of resistance to standard Coronavirus antibodies. Bad news for vaccine makers.

The new strain evolved on mink farms in Denmark. The virus apparently jumped from humans to mink and back again, mutating in the process. That will teach you to keep intelligent mammals in tiny cages to kill them for their fur we might say.

Anyway the UK government seems to be taking the matter seriously. They have demanded a sample of the new strain from Denmark. And they are setting in place special treatment arrangements for anyone returning from Denmark with suspected Covid. [1] According to the Telegraph people returning from Denmark must quarantine for 14 days along with their household. If true this is a variation in the standard rule which only requires the returning person to quarantine. I don’t know if it is true because at the time of writing there is nothing about this on the main government web page explaining the quarantine rules. [2] Maybe it hasn’t occurred to anyone to update it. After all it’s only a new strain which could potentially undermine all the vaccine efforts. Hey ho.

But let’s be clear. Even if these people are subject to a whole household quarantine requirement that is still a token gesture. They may travel from the airport to their home by public transport. They may breathe on the border guard who checks their passport at Heathrow. Let’s hope none of them are in the 82% of people who do not follow self-isolation rules. They may accidentally give it to the delivery guy or their neighbour whom they talk to over the fence. If this really is a new strain which does not respond to standard antibodies and – based on the article – this is precisely what the authorities think why on earth are these people not being kept at Heathrow in a controlled and secure quarantine environment? This is not draconian. “Liberal democracies” like New Zealand do this. Denmark is a small country; there can’t be that many Brits returning. This is sheer madness. As it is there is a token gesture and every chance that one of these people will seed this new strain of the virus into the UK.

According to the report in the Telegraph there are special regulations about how to treat these people in hospital, if they come down with Covid. And a memo has been sent to hospitals to the effect that their positive sample should be sent for genome analysis. That’s all fine. The scientists will get their sample and do their genome analysis. But, by then, it may well be too late.

The Telegraph writes: “The measures are similar to those taken in early March, when the Government tried to prevent Covid from spreading into the UK from China and mainland Europe.” Sadly the measures are indeed similar to those in early March when the government ‘tried’ to stop Covid spreading from Europe and China. They did nothing serious then and they are doing nothing serious now. As I say this is sheer fucking madness.

Oh – and this is reassuring: “The Department for Health and Social Care estimates that between 300 and 500 people have arrived in the UK from Denmark in the last 14 days.” Notice the “estimates”. There is supposed to be a ‘Passenger Locator Form’ system for anyone arriving in the UK. They should know precisely how many people have come in from Denmark. They should be rounding them up and corralling them in a managed quarantine facility. (Incidentally, the author of this site is not surprised they can only manage an ‘estimate’; he came back from Russia recently and despite having completed the required form it was not scanned into the system at Heathrow which, according to the Home Office, is how they log you as having arrived in the country. 6 months into the epidemic and they can’t even manage this).

I really feel like crying. To lose one handbag is a mistake. To lose two is carelessness.