News and comment from
Roy Lilley

A big job for someone...

Prof Van Tam has an ominous presence on web-cam.

He engulfs his laptop screen. The foreshortening effect of his web-cam threatens a snort of fire and brimstone. 

V-T makes the mistake a lot of us make. He peers down, into his camera. 

Tip; raise the lap-top up, on a pile of books. Get the camera in line with your eye-line and you'll look human.

  • For advice on how to avoid basic video conferencing mistakes, there’s a free download, here.

The Prof was on the Beeb, trashing HMG’s hopes of covid-calm. The numbers are going north.

V-T was telling us, we’ve relaxed and we will all go to hell in a hand-cart if we don’t shape up. 

V-T is a Territorial Army Soldier. My mind wandered to a windswept parade ground at Sandhurst. V-T peering down at me, from beneath the slashed peek on his regimental cap. Screaming; ‘You horrible little covid-spreader, you’re confined to barracks!’

In fact, I have ventured out only three times. 

Here’s my report; 

  • Social distancing is a distant memory, masks are little more than a fashion accessory, shops have variable compliance; poor to none. Pubs are mostly covid-traps for the trusting.

So, I’m not going out any more. I’ve come this far and I’m not going to gamble seven months lock-down against numpties, ‘wot’s been clubbin’.

Anyway, we’ll all be banged up by Christmas.

Remember this...

Covid started with one person bringing it here. When and where from... dunno. Probably a returning holiday maker from Italy. 

We didn’t do the one thing most other countries can’t do. 

We are an island and we should and could, have pulled up the drawbridge.

BoJo dithered, didn’t take it seriously and now, from one person we’ve had thousands of deaths, a wrecked economy and chaos in the jobs market.

The Covid graph is accelerating upwards. Local circling-the-wagons, is not the answer. It takes one person to be careless, leave the circle, go to work on pubic transport and Covid will pop up someplace else.

Local lock-downs will become regional lock downs and from there…

... my advice; get yer Xmas shopping done now. Make sure you can get a turkey from Tesco, delivered. And, don’t forget a bottle of Advocaat for Gran’s snowball. 

This is a mess and it's time to do what all good managers do when they are facing complexity. 

Stop, take stock. 

What we are doing now was ok when we first did it. Most of what we are doing now is not going to work for the future.

HMG's Covid response is like a coral reef. Somehow it went from a little thing into a huge pile. Layer on layer. Guidance heaped on guidance. Now, the reef is starting to bleach, get brittle and fall apart because the climate has changed.

Where we are now is simply not where we were. All new policy is predicated on the success of Test and Trace. It is not a success. We either fix it, or change the policies. 

I cannot be critical of the people running T&T. It's simply a model based on out-of-date assumptions, techoligies and become a confusion; staff come and go, revolving leadership, unrealistic targets, unplanned expansion and demand. Now, the distraction of an entirely unnecessary merger.

  • People can't all get to an Ikea car park,
  • Amazon haven't delivered, flawlessly. 
  • Lab’s haven't turned stuff around fast enough. 
  • Capacity doesn't match the geography of demand. 
  • The public are not playing the game. 

This is unravelling.

Now, the imperative is to test schools, NHS staff, shop-workers, pubs, clubs, shoppers, care workers, transport staff, every week...

There are four things to fix…

  • The Downs–Thomson paradox; increasing supply increases demand. Increasing test availability will give more positives. How are we supposed to react? Is the policy to test to enable more policies? If so, what are they?

  • Labs will always be a pinch point. Especially if we are to test millions. It's urgent to switch to tests that don’t need a lab and can be self administered. Flex to match the moving geography of demand... put testing in vans. Hundreds of them. 

  • Make employers responsible for testing their own people, weekly. Schools, hospitals, uni’s, shops, factories. Provide the tests, free. At the first sign of trouble, send people home and tell the local PH team.

  • Create proper, covid safe premises. Health and Safety Executive; recruit an army of inspectors, advisors, retirees and volunteers. Award Covid-Safe stickers. Display them in shop windows. Give certificates for employers to display in the workplace. Create confidence that places are trained, organised and accountably safe.

Managing complexity means managing a system. We don't have a system. We are immersed in confusion... muddling through, inelegantly.

Well-meaning attempts to fix the problems with targets and bravado have made things worse.

Stop and think...

The technical problems are easily fixed. Now, it's the public relations bit. Everyone being part of the solution, trust, confidence and compliance... because they can, want to and know they are doing the right thing for us, them and their families.

It's a big job for someone...
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