What the papers said in the week ending 19 December 2020
As we enter the week before Christmas, negotiations continue to determine whether agreement can be reached on conditions when the UK detaches itself from the Common Market. A new strain of Covid-19 has been identified and is spreading quickly. Plans to relax social restrictions over the Christmas period have been reversed for fear of more infections, pressure on hospitals, and deaths.
For many of us this feels like ‘The Worst Year of My Life’. But we are reminded that there have been many years in history which were as bad or worse: ‘Spanish ‘flu’ followed World War 1, infecting a quarter of the population and killing 225,000 (67,000 Covid-related deaths in the UK to date) A Christmas pandemic like no other? They thought that in 1918 | Flu pandemic | The Guardian
What the pandemic has revealed
We are reminded that Covid-related infections and deaths have been greatest among those of the population already made vulnerable by inequality of wealth, opportunity and health by factors which can be controlled. After two decades of monitoring and warning, Michael Marmot finds it impossible to believe that changes will not occur as a consequence of this latest human tragedy: Covid exposed massive inequality. Britain cannot return to ‘normal’ | Health | The Guardian
- He and his team have produced a comprehensive review of the facts, with a blueprint for change which will make for a fairer, healthier and safer future. Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review – IHE (instituteofhealthequity.org)
- The full report runs to over 220 pages. The ‘Executive Summary’ is 77 pages.
- An interesting and puzzling nugget (page 66) tells us that ‘Most major religious groups have higher rates of mortality from Covid 19 than people who do not follow a faith’. It is mooted this may be a function of racial mix, health profile, wealth and attendance at gatherings, but we should try to tease this out. The figures the assertion is based on are drawn from early in the pandemic. The picture may have changed as lessons were learned Religious affiliation and the risk of COVID 19 related mortality; a retrospective analysis of variation in pre and post lockdown risk by religious group in England and Wales (medrxiv.org)
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) related deaths by religious group, England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)
Hungry and poor
The current profile of food poverty among school age children in this country has moved UNICEF to provide a grant of £25,000 to a charity to feed children in Southwark and South London Unicef to feed hungry children in UK for first time in 70-year history | Food poverty | The Guardian
- Some super-rich individuals are donating billions of pounds from their wealth to try to balance such wrongs MacKenzie Scott gives 4.1 billion dollars to charity in four months | East London and West Essex Guardian Series (guardian-series.co.uk)
Yet wrongs remain in the infrastructure, leading to a fear that matters will not be systematically improved as a result of learning.
- A minister responsible for ensuring equality, has found she is responsible for an organisation where equality of opportunity by gender and race is far from being achieved: The Tories created the very class inequality they pretend to rail against | Conservatives | The Guardian
It does seem that the long-running disgrace of the Windrush Scandal and delay of awards, is to be brought to a satisfactory conclusion: people are promised quick settlement of £10,000 per person – or more Windrush payments to be fast-tracked and made more generous | Windrush scandal | The Guardian
People will be keen to see that this actually happens.
Anxieties about Brexit have slowed or stopped trade with other countries: Hornby pauses non-UK toy orders because of Brexit | Hornby | The Guardian
Covid Lockdown has pushed the UK’s diet toward the suicidal – with alcoholic drinks, sausage and hamburgers being consumed in frightening quantities. Attention to appearance via cosmetics has fallen down personal priorities Lockdown drives up lager sales but wipes £180m off makeup | Business | The Guardian
It is not easy to know why starlings in Scotland have taken to dancing on power lines. The consequence is nightly interruption of electricity supplies: Starlings’ aerial antics behind mystery of Scots’ power outages | Environment | The Guardian
Much more is being understood about the working of the immunity system. We are being introduced to the mysterious world of lymphocytes, B cells, T cells, as well as antibodies and cytokines. It is humbling as we acknowledge the roles of small parts of us in the battle against invading micro-organisms How does Covid immunity work and what does it mean for vaccines? | Immunology | The Guardian
People of all ages are harnessing a mix of skills to place this year into a context where we can smile and live on: James Graham on his uplifting 2020 musical: ‘We want to look forward’ | Stage | The Guardian
The Black Country Museum is being celebrated internationally on line as a source of strength and reassurance from old fashioned values and philosophy How a Dudley museum became a TikTok sensation | Museums | The Guardian