A Journal of the Plague Year (17)

April 2, 2020

Lead on, Emperor Trump.

But I want to focus on events in Britain today, more than usual.

The political class, the trendies, and the usual shower of the wokerati, love to trash the Daily Mail, a right-wing (somewhat) paper in the UK. Actually, the Mail has been doing some pretty good reporting of late concerning the developing public health fiasco in Britain. If the Grauniad morons are obsessing about the impact of coronavirus on transsexuals, or some other absurdity, at least the Mail is looking at some of the events that are happening on the ground.

The UK Government has been saying all day (for the past few days) that testing will be ramped up to x thousand per day (it doesn’t matter what x is, it’s nowhere close). Only a few thousand health service personnel have been tested for the virus today, after weeks of expanding case load. Meanwhile, Germany has been testing half a million a week already. How so? What’s the hold up?

Apparently, Public Health England, a soviet-style bureaucratic behemoth, is solely responsible for conducting biosample testing in the UK, and a new facility was supposed to be up and running to deal with problems like this. Actually it hasn’t even been finished yet.

Further, there were no contingency plans to deal with such a situation in the event of a catastrophe like coronavirus. Further, there are hundreds of small biotech companies, university laboratories and scientific institutions that are capable of conducting testing at the local level with rapid turnaround times, thereby dispensing with the need to send test samples to some centralized Ministry of Bugs in Little Berserkly, England.

As the Mail reports:

It is, therefore, scandalous to discover yesterday that officials at Public Health England have repeatedly failed to take up multiple offers from some of the country’s leading scientific organisations willing to help expand the testing programme.
One came from Oxford University’s Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, whose head, Professor Matthew Freeman, complained yesterday that repeated offers to provide specialised testing equipment and expert laboratory staff to PHE had been ignored.
The virus test requires a PCR machine (polymerase chain reaction) to detect the presence of the virus. Apparently, these machines are widely available, but are being little used.
One came from Oxford University’s Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, whose head, Professor Matthew Freeman, complained yesterday that repeated offers to provide specialised testing equipment and expert laboratory staff to PHE had been ignored.
Of our machines there was only one of that type, and the army came and collected it and took it off to Milton Keynes. But we have another 118 machines that can broadly do the same job, but they don’t appear to be part of PHE’s plans.’
The Francis Crick Institute in London has supplied five PCR machines to Public Health England, but is understood to have dozens more sitting idle inside its labs. The Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham is testing 200 samples a day but its director said yesterday ‘we could probably treble that’ if only someone bothered to ask.
Many medical experts blame PHE’s reluctance to accept help on a mixture of control freakery and incompetence among senior staff.
For example, whereas other countries weeks ago took the sensible decision to relax the rules on which laboratories can carry out coronavirus tests, in order to get as many as possible done, PHE chose to follow a tightly controlled approach.

In a national, nay, international emergency, it beggars belief to see bureaucrats behaving in this way.

Tim Colbourn, associate professor of global health epidemiology at University College London, has called for PHE to now hand over control to local authorities and private sector providers. ‘All the national capacity needs to be used for this effort,’ he said. ‘You could ramp it up a hundredfold… This is a national emergency.’ PHE seems, however, to be more interested in ticking boxes. A vast testing facility in Milton Keynes, supposedly operational since last week, is in fact still in a ‘trial’ period.
There are also claims that PHE decided to destroy thousands of swabs sent by GPs who suspected their patients had contracted the disease, before they could be analysed, because they did not meet strict criteria.
‘If they had looked at those swabs earlier instead of throwing them away, we could have got a handle on this thing much earlier,’ one GP told The Daily Telegraph.
Meanwhile at least some of PHE’s reluctance to requisition university and commercial laboratories appears to stem from a politically-motivated hostility towards private sector involvement in the healthcare system.
‘Their top staff of course like their fatcat salaries, but on other issues their world view is basically Corbynite,’ complains one healthcare expert.

The entire decision-making structure in Public Health England (PHE) is built on a centralized soviet-style model of central control. Fossilized management, incompetent bureaucrats very likely unqualified in medicine, biology or any scientific discipline, have been promoted into a civil service nomenklatura where they are responsible to no-one, least of all the people they are supposed to serve.

Completely ignorant of how any emergency response operation must work, where decision-making and response capabilities have to be delegated to the responders on the ground as far as possible, they have created an organization unfit for purpose and, what is worse, is paralyzed and apparently incapable of responding even in a national emergency.

Public Health England is a national disgrace as are the people who head it. When this thing is over, the papers, investigations and PhD theses written on it will be essays of an organizational disaster.

Rebel Yell