Monday, 21st September, 2020

[Day 189]

This morning, I decided that I would re-visit an email client which I have used in the past and use now for mailing-list type entries that I do not wish to clutter up my normal email account. The email client is very secure (ProtonMail) and is hosted on servers on Switzerland which, in theory, keeps any communications out of the hands of the NSA. Wikipedia informs us that, the NSA (= American National Security Agency), according to leaked documents, intercepts and stores the communications of over a billion people worldwide, including United States citizens. The documents also revealed the NSA tracks hundreds of millions of people’s movements using cellphones’ metadata. ProtonMail is a paid service and, as such, does not take money from advertisers or collect user data for nefarious purposes. My subscription had actually lapsed and when I tried to renew it, the card was not accepted so I chose another method of payment and resumed normal service. But all of this proved to have consequences. Whilst we were having our coffee in the park,I received a message from my bank informing me that there may have been fraudulent activity on my account and therefore to contact them. I surmised that what had happened was that th email client had tried to take a payment on an out-of-date card which was then declined and this then triggered a security alert. I needed to speak with my bank in order to let them know that (a) there was no fraudulent attempt but that (b) I did not want the payment to be processed as it had already been paid another way, This ought to have been straightforward but it took the best part of half an hour going through my bank’s security protocols and then waiting endlessly to be connected with the fraud department who then took me through even more protocols before what should have been a fairly simple procedure was effected. I suppose one cannot be too careful but I suspect that what happened to me this morning must happen all the time as credit card expiry dates get exceeded. It then took me longer than I care to mention this afternoon to get my email client de-cluttered and put to rights and I have now determined not to subscribe to the mailing list of WebMD which seems designed to convince the average member of the public that they are suffering from multiple diseases (and are probably in the clutches of ‘big pharma’ in any case.

This morning the governments chief scientific adviser and chief medical adviser transmitted a briefing from Downing Street at 11.00 am (repeated throughout the day) that the country was heading for 49,000 new cases per day by mid-October if no further actions were taken and deaths would exceed 200 a day by November. Meanwhile, the alert level was raised to 4 (5 being the highest) meaning that the coronavirus was an exponential growth path. Tomorrow morning, Boris Johnson will announce what new restrictions or policies are to come into effect. In effect, the Prime Minister is torn between actions which will defeat the virus (meaning a near-return to lockdown) but can only be done at the risk of trashing the economy. If he adopts a ‘middle course’ tomorrow, it is, of course possible that we arrive at a situation in which the virus is not being pushed back whilst, at the same time, the economy teeters on the brink. (Then of course we have Brexit on top of all this!)

Finally, in Bolton (the town mot affected by the virus with about 200 cases per 10,000 inhabitants, a survey by the Manchester Evening News revealed that some 94% of Boltonians did not believe their fellow citizens would follow the semi-lockdown rules.To make matters even worse, Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South East, said many people in the area believed the virus was a fake, government-constructed concept and as a result were refusing to adhere to social distancing guidelines. ‘There is a lot of confusion about the virus in the area and there are a lot of people now who do not believe it is true’ she said. Qureshi added: ‘They genuinely believe it’s some kind of conspiracy. A lot of them don’t understand the rules either and so there are many who just aren’t following them – they think it is a way of controlling them somehow. It is very dangerous.

It seems hard to believe that such a high level of public ignorance could become common place. It does appear that social media (bolstered by #thinkingforyourself) had encouraged many young people to break all the rules and assume that COVID-19 was just a conspiracy! I am speechless!