Tuesday, 21st April, 2020

[Day 36]

Another fine day, I am pleased to report. Meg and I had an extended walk around the park today, discovering new bits of it that we must explore later such as a small patch of woodland we did not know anything about. We encountered one of our acquaintances who walks a little Jack Russell terrier dog and enquired after a mutual friend who we have not seen for about 4 weeks. The news was not particularly good as our mutual friend had not been very well recently. We suspect that he may not be getting some of his regular courses of chemotherapy he has been receiving recently, so we trust that he is having a temporary setback.

I am a little intrigued by the various sets of figures that are being bandied about by the government, concerning the supply of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) which seems to be in critically short supply at the front line. The government strategy seems to be to quote a very large figure and hope that we will all be so impressed that we give the government the benefit of the doubt that any shortages of equipment are not their fault. These figures seem to be plucked out of the air. For example, according to some of my Google searches, some 240 million pieces of PPE had been despatched by 30th March. On 3rd April, this figure had magically increased to 397 million – had an extra 157 million extra pieces of PPE suddenly materialised, representing an increase of 65% in just 4 days? And to extend this wonderful way of pulling big figures out of the air, the government claimed that two weeks later (by the 18th-19th April to be exact) the figure of 240 million had become 1 billion (1000 million) In other words, the supply had magically increased four-fold in a fortnight which is a remarkable feat by any standards!

I am reminded of the fact that during America’s conflict with Vietnam, it was very important that the American public who were becoming increasingly disillusioned with the war effort, be fed a constant trickle of any enemy combatants that had been killed in order to convince them that the conflict was worth fighting and the USA was actually winning the war. But how many people had actually been killed when you were estimating it from a B-52 bomber? The military hit upon the following strategy. We are going to bomb this village which, according to the 1954 (French conducted) census contained 450 inhabitants. Let us now assume that with little access to contraception, the population would increase at 5% a year. Compounded up, this would make a figure of 848. Now after the bombing raid, we caught sight of 8 people fleeing the village – by definition, we must have killed 840. So that will be our kill ratio for that particular day. Two assiduous journalists trawled through all of the figures supplied day-by-day by the American military over the years and published in the press daily and concluded that the entire population of Vietnam had been killed four times over! I perceive something of the same process going on with PPE. However, if you are a doctor or a nurse on the front line who doesn’t have a sufficient supply of PPE before treating a patient and you are putting your life and members of your family at risk, you know that the government cannot possibly be blamed if they supplied 1 billion? (1 trillion?) worth of gear.

In the afternoon, I finished off a particularly difficult section of weeding in the front garden that had to be wrested back inch by inch and foot by foot (I think creeping buttercup was the principal culprit) Then we enjoyed another good FaceTime chat with our good friends – the audio was clear but as the connection was poor, we only had fleeting looks at each other’s faces. We discussed cooking, supermarket access and the proximity of COVOD-19 in the neighbourhood to cheer ourselves up.