Thursday, 27th May, 2021

[Day 437]

As predicted by the weather forecasters, today was a beautiful fine day – and not before time as we have to endure so much rainy weather over most of the month of May. So we collected our newspapers and then made our way to the park where we enjoyed the sunshine. We were joined by one of our park ‘regulars’ in the seat which has a commanding view of the parkland and chatted over matters political, cultural and cosmological (as is our wont) Then we progressed gently home, not meeting any more of our regulars on the way home. We made ourselves a meal which finished off the chicken which we have enjoyed over the past few days.

There is quite a big political story, following the attacks by Dominic Cummings on the Health Secretary in yesterday’s committee hearings. We know that a year ago last March when the first wave of the virus was really hitting our society, the hospital authorities were desperate to clear beds – so any elderly resident of a hospital bed who could be was immediately discharged back to the care home from whence they came in order to release the bed. The nub of the political argument is this – apparently, Matt Hancock had promised the PM that anybody discharged from a hospital to a residential home would be tested for the virus before discharge – but did this actually happen? There were lots of anecdotal stories at the time that actually hospital patients were being discharged but without being tested as Hancock promised the PM they would be. But when questioned in the House of Commons today and, even more so, at the Downing Street press conference held at 5.0pm onwards, journalist after journalist quizzed Hancock as to whether hospital patients had actually been tested before discharge. No clear answer to a very clear and specific question was at all forthcoming and indeed, to quote Sky News: ‘In his responses he suggested testing could only be introduced for people being discharged to care homes once testing capacity had been built. He said his “recollection” was that he had committed to building up testing so it could be in place in the future, but avoided an explicit denial of Mr Cumming’s accusation, saying ‘there’ll be a time we can go through all of this in greater detail’….One of the key claims made by Mr Cummings was that Mr Hancock lied about COVID-testing people before they returned to care homes from hospitals in the early part of the pandemic. Mr Cummings told MPs on Wednesday that the Prime Minister was furious to discover in April 2020 that untested hospital patients had been discharged to care homes, adding Mr Hancock had told the PM a month earlier they would be tested.

The importance of all of this is hard to overestimate as it does look as though the elderly residents discharged back to residential homes might have been a massive source of infection which spread like wildfire through the residential homes sector. One estimate of this tangled statistical story by the Nuffield Trust indicates that perhaps as many as 35,000 excess deaths may have been due to COVID-19. So the results of a panicked government response, desperate to clear hospital beds but in effect transferring the problem to an under-resourced residential home sector led to deaths in the tens of thousands. In the face of all of this, one can see why the politicians are being evasive the whole of the time – imagine Matt Hancock saying ‘Yes we made a massive mistake as a result of which over 30,000 deaths have occurred’ One can only hope that some journalists will not let this one rest but will pursue the politicians relentlessly – I think that Newsnight on BBC2 might be quite incisive in tonight’s edition but we shall have to wait and see.

If we are going to have a spell of fine weather, then I really do not have excuse not to get out into the garden and do some tidying up which is badly needed. Of course, when we had so much rain recently, there was plenty of excuse not to get out out and about but now after a lot of rain followed by bursts of sunshine, the weeds might be going mad in various areas. I have an area of the garden which I call ‘Mog’s Den‘ down into which one has to descend via some steps where the land slopes away sharply at the end of our plot of land. I have some fruit trees in this area and on the slopes under the trees I am trying to grow the kind of shade loving plants like Skimmia and periwinkle. These plans have generally worked out but there are some areas that badly need an hour or so of hard gardening to get things back into shape. I know from hard experience that if a garden ‘gets away’ from you in May, then you have a struggle for the rest of the year – and vice versa.