Sure, 30 ventilators is on the way to 30,000 – in the same way the Co-op is on the way to Kenya

It’s actually quite thoughtful of the government to have only 30 out of the required 30,000; it makes the calculations easy. This way, hospitals staff can tell patients: ‘You’ll need to share one between each thousand’

Mark Steel
Thursday 02 April 2020 17:29
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Corbyn says Labour would have dealt with Coronavirus more quickly

Michael Gove has reassured the country that we are on the way to securing “thousands” of ventilators. The UK currently needs 30,000.

Asked how many we had already secured, he said 30. And he’s right, 30 is on the way to 30,000 – in the same way that if I set off from my house, the Co-op is on the way to Kenya.

It’s actually quite thoughtful of the government to have only 30 of the required 30,000 ventilators; it makes the calculations easy. This way, hospitals staff can tell patients: “You’ll need to share one between each thousand.”

Patients can have a little puff and then pass it on, and a few hours later will get another go. They should think of it as the only joint going round at a huge party.

Other targets are even closer to being reached, with 2,000 out of 500,000 NHS staff having been tested for the coronavirus. Luckily the peak of the pandemic is still four or five days away, so there’s no rush.

In any case, one easy way this figure could be increased is if all NHS staff were given temporary membership of the royal family, who seem to manage to get tested relatively easily.

Or maybe the government is waiting until there are only 2,000 NHS staff left alive, so they can claim they’ve tested 100 per cent of them.

Medical opinion agrees that a vital part of dealing with this situation is getting people tested. Currently, we’re at the point that you get tested as long as you’ve got the coronavirus symptoms badly enough to be taken to hospital. Maybe this is because the most efficient way of testing for a disease is to wait until someone’s at death’s door from it. Instead of faffing about with awkward equipment, a doctor can just look at the patient and go: “Blimey, they’re in a right state – they must have it.”

All professions should try this method. If you ring a plumber about a leaky radiator, they should tell you to stay indoors until it stops, unless the house floods, and then they’ll test to see if you’ve got a leaky radiator.

Everybody knows people who have almost certainly had it and not been anywhere near getting a test. So the infection figures given at the daily press conference are meaningless. They might as well say: “Today’s pandemic colour is turquoise. And the viral record of the day is ‘This Ole House’ by Shakin’ Stevens.”

There was an EU deal that would have included Britain in a scheme to bulk-buy equipment such as ventilators. But our government decided not to take part in that – because if there’s one thing we won’t allow this virus to do, it’s weasel us back into the EU.

It’s our patriotic duty to refuse EU ventilators; their oxygen is full of regulations, anyway. All true Britons in intensive care would gladly use their fading strength to push an EU ventilator away, gasping, “I’ve taken back control.”

The government now claims it didn’t get the memo about the ventilator scheme, although they were at the meetings where it was discussed. Even so, if the EU can’t be bothered to send us the right official email, why should we help them out by taking thousands of ventilators off their hands?

We had a slight advantage over several European countries, as the spread of the virus came to us later than it did in Italy, France or Spain. And to be fair, the government has been keen to learn from failures in other countries, in that they’ve seen all the mistakes, and said: “We’ll do that, but even more.”

Ex-chief scientific adviser David King slams handling of coronavirus crisis

So even now, with most of the country in this lockdown, millions of people are still obliged to be out all day in ways that will keep the virus spreading.

For example, postal workers are demanding they should work at reduced levels, rather than be made to work normally. You can see why the government insists they do the same shifts as before, because all their work is essential. Yesterday, I received a leaflet from a pizza company asking me to enjoy a pizza in the park, and I don’t know what I’d have done without it. For many older people, a flyer about a new garden centre is all that keeps them going.

The Royal Mail has reportedly told its staff that they’re safe to do office work without protective equipment. This could be the breakthrough we’re looking for. Because there must be a reason why postal workers can travel to work and be at work safely, when everyone else is told they absolutely can’t go out. Maybe envelopes are an antidote. Perhaps the one thing that stops the virus is carrying a sack while whistling and wearing shorts when it’s freezing.

The one other strategy the government has used, and quite effectively, is to blame the problems that the coronavirus presents on these idiots who won’t do as they’re told. They were told quite clearly to shake hands, then not to shake hands, and to create herd immunity, except in no way try to create herd immunity – but the idiots won’t do it.

Maybe the cabinet would be more useful if, rather than pretending they have any clue what’s going on, they just wrestle each other – at least that way, there’d be a bit of sport back on the telly.

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