There has been question about our government’s response to COVID-19 and its impact on various nations’ health, sustenance and wellbeing. After 11th September 2001, tightening airport security measures and baggage restriction fluxes provide a fitting picture of the resulting clamping down on our movements and spending in the wake of governments rushing through new laws. Airport security has reduce hijackings but transferred a huge amount of spending from independent retailers on holiday to Boots, Superdrug for essential cosmetics in UK airports and World of “Duty Free”, which are often more pricey than buying in local shops abroad.
The London School of Economics looks at how NHS staff have been made to sign gagging orders. This blog was published while government was on recess on 23 April 2020 and says that during wars or pandemics, there is a chilling affect on freedom of speech, which “is therefore likely to result in suppression of information and decreased levels of accountability.”
NHS workers, like all workers, have a right to free speech. Restrictions on their rights through intimidation, monitoring of their social media, and disciplinary action may violate the ECHR directly, since the NHS is a public sector institution
In the European Parliament in Brussels, every meeting with lobbyists is accounted for by the minute. The American system also rules that secret meetings cannot happen between politicians and commodity stakeholders.
Governments cannot be beyond the scrutiny of the people – supposedly through the press or observation – as they are human beings and people abuse power, position, influence and money. Governments are funded by taxes earned by people and we need to hold them to account. We need transparency, to know what influences rules, policymaking or official guidelines on health matters. The New York Times published this report on governments using extra powers under cover of COVID-19.
While natural healthcare, good nutrition, vitamins and minerals and contact tracing are all but ignored by the UK gover
nment, clear guidance on staying healthy, shielding vulnerable people and reducing the spread of viruses and avoiding infection for flu and colds is exactly the same as for COVID-19. In Fred Hutch’s news story here, from 2016, all the same measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including staying at home if you are infected to avoid spreading colds and flu to immuno-compromised people.
Meanwhile, the government advice was withdrawn on 1st May, and is vague and simplified at best, with ‘stay home, save lives’ being the overall instruction, which leaves out so many people including those who have to go into work, particularly healthcare workers.
While London parks were shut for the whole 4 day Easter break, when the sun shone, you may wonder who is making these rules and what their priorities are. The BBC shows how important nature is to our mental health:
Even a brief nature fix – 10 minutes of wind brushing across our cheek, or the sun on our skin – can lower stress, explains Dr Mathew White, from the University of Exeter.
This is the kind of advice required all the time for people with colds or flu. This would stop the spread of viruses that kill elderly, sick or immuno-comprised people prematurely, stop it spreading to everyone else.
Meanwhile, all the usual health tips have been left out: get plenty of exercise, spend time with other people, take vitamin D supplements in the winter, eat a nutritious diet full of natural vitamins and minerals, avoid smoking and drink less alcohol. Many businesses demand people go to the office, even when they have a cold and can spread it around everyone else.
“Stay at home:
- Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)
- If you go out, stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people at all times
- Wash your hands as soon as you get home
Do not meet others, even friends or family.
You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.”
Conflict in interests are rife in public health policy making. Public Health England has blatantly engaged with unhealthy commodity stakeholders, whose interests are protected in health advice, policy, law and official health guidance. The resulting misinformation has a huge cost impact on healthcare. Lack of funding pushes healthcare professionals towards ring-fenced sources of funding such as over-prescription of medications, bias against holistic, natural, alternative, or talking therapies and the provision of advice, which results in negative health outcomes.
For example, the Eatwell Guide advises everyone to base their meals on starchy carbohydrates. In the Eatwell pie-chart, all the foods pictures in this section are processed foods, which are calorie packed and lack any essential vitamins or micronutrients. Public Health England’s dietary advice serves the interests of unhealthy commodity stakeholders at the expense of public health, despite the strain this puts of healthcare from ill-health resulting from a bad diet.
Despite the existence of findings on the NHS website, that in the UK we are deficient in vitamin D from sunlight between September and April, with darker skin needing more time in the sun to get enough vitamin D, there has been no official reminder about this or recommendation to take dietary supplements in the face of a virus pandemic, as this PubMed piece shows. This would be an easy way for government to contribute to better health and protection from communicable diseases.
The UK government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been characteristic of this self-serving political agenda.
Underfunding healthcare providers
Suppressing independent health practitioners
Excluding natural healthcare
Omission of important health advice
Controlled and biased health information
Focusing on cure rather than prevention
Manipulation of Message
Enforcing new laws to exploit people
Conflict of interest
Putting onus on public for ill-health
Severe repercussions from inequality
Social Media filter bubbles to control messages and stop diversity of information
Cyber Troops and information suppression
Our nation has become increasingly sick, putting a huge strain on the NHS, which has resulted in billions of pounds spent treating non-communicable diseases, which are avoidable and preventable with health literacy and genuine self-care advice. Meanwhile, the blame for unhealthy outcomes is routinely dumped on the public, through the press. Austerity has been exploited to justify lack of funding and the need for engagement with unhealthy commodity stakeholders. Both lead directly to increasing costs treating the nations health.
Meanwhile, we continue to spend on health activities. Worldwide, the health industry is worth a total $22.5bn in 2020. Governments in cahoots with a sickness industry such as alcohol, tobacco, ultra processed foods and pharmaceuticals, rather than wellness only increases our consumer spend on health and absolves governments from the responsibility for improving their nation’s health.
COVID-19 arrived in the UK at the end of January and for a few weeks, the UK government traced and contact tracked the virus, advising those infected to quarantine themselves. 5,000 contact tracers were readily available for exactly such a circumstance, but Public Health England elected to use it’s own people, which stretched to just 300 personnel. On 22nd April, the FT reported on how huge armies of volunteer civilians acting as contact tracers is an important part of lifting lockdown restrictions.
The government made the wrong call on 12 March, according to the Guardian
Prof Anthony Costello, the head of the Institute for Global Health at University College London, pointed out that Yorkshire had fewer than 10 cases identified in 300,000-400,000 people around the time that contact tracing and community testing were halted and, as such, could have avoided a complete lockdown. – 17 April 2020.
General pieces of well-known advice for avoiding colds and flu have been slowly dished out, while independent pieces of harmless self-care advise has been censored.
A symptom tracking app, launched at the beginning of lockdown, which revealed early stage symptoms such as lack of taste and smell and warned people about the spread in their areas, was created by independent nutritional science analysts ZOE alongside King’s College London, St Thomas’ and Guy’s. The C-19 Symptom Tracker’s credentials could not be better. They release up to date information quickly on their website, with all information gathered released under the creative commons, for free use where no fee is charged. Organisations, which have been pushed to the side-line on social media, such as the Royal College of Physicians, NHS Scotland and Wales and their parliaments plus many scientists and journalists have shared their daily reports on the app.
The UK government, unlike Wales, Scotland, Sweden and USA, ignored the symptom tracker app completely. In a similar way to the lack of information given to justify the need for austerity, the government forged ahead to launch their own app, working with tech companies such as Faculty AI, Google, Amazon, NHSX. Evidence of the tech giants, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, working with politicians is evident in the social media manipulation going as reported by Naked Security here
According to the University of Oxford’s Computational Propaganda Research Project, the use of algorithms, automation, and big data to shape public opinion – i.e. computational propaganda – is becoming “a pervasive and ubiquitous part of everyday life.”
“For its third annual report, the project examined what it calls “cyber troop” activity in 70 countries. Cyber troops is the collective term for government or political party actors that use social media to manipulate public opinion, harass dissidents, attack political opponents or spread polarizing messages meant to divide societies, among other things.”
“…dIvide societies”, it reads. Nothing distracts people from government like a good cyber-battle on Twitter. A support group for the area of Cornwall I live in, was buried on Facebook, so even an exact word search resulted only in official pages about COVID-19, none of which were for local people in quarantine at home needing essentials.
Alcohol has been deemed an ‘essential’, while all natural or alternative therapies have been banned, under lockdown restrictions.
With hindsight, the tightened airport security measures have brought about a ‘new normal’ in airports, which we now accept but these tightened measures, which do protect us from hijacking have themselves been hijacked by commercial interests.
Items were confiscated. At the beginning, before see-pouches were introduced, all liquids, including lipsticks, in hand-luggage were confiscated.
100ml liquid bottle restrictions meant that unopened bottles of wine, water or contact-lens solution could not be carried in hand luggage.
The restriction to liquids in hand-luggage meant buying more in souvenir airport departure lounges than on holiday. This meant that small independent shops abroad lost revenue to big retailers in airports.
Strict limits to hold cases. With a 20KG case being a tight squeeze for a week’s clothing and other holiday essentials, including books and other essential items, again the revenue flows away from holiday destinations and into airport retail. The costs of taking a hold case at over £50 for a cheap flight further reduces the capacity and flexibility for bringing home items bought on holiday, driving cigarette, alcohol, perfume and food item purchases away from small independent businesses and to falsely named ‘World of Duty Free’ shops in airports.
This mass hijacking of tourism revenue from businesses abroad has redirected its huge surge of income into renovating airports with long walkways through World of Duty Free retailers, now marked up considerably, compared holiday to exploit luggage restrictions. Tourism spend, a large part of holiday destination revenue, has been redirected to big companies using aggressive tactics to put their products in front of every traveller.
Unclear communication has also been used to exploit people for gain. Airports ramp up their policing of luggage restrictions, such as a limit on 100ml liquid bottles to one bag. Again, confiscations of essential items such as make-up for older women lead to more purchases for big retailers, such as Boots or Superdrug, strategically placed in departure lounges. The queues for essential cosmetics, washing and hygiene products that we cannot guarantee we will find on holiday is testifies for this unnecessary further clamp down on our holiday luggage.
Non-Communicable Diseases and Unhealth Commodity Stakeholders
It is my conclusion that government ceases its involvement in advising any advice to do with healthcare. This includes stop smoking campaigns, guidance on drinking, healthy eating or stopping pandemic spreads of viruses. The SAGE meetings with parliament have shown all sorts of conflicts of interest, with pharmaceuticals, technology companies, social media and other interested parties. Funding for all matters regarding health need to come from healthcare professionals, particularly those working in the relevant areas.
Meanwhile, official advice on diet from PHE does not tally up with expert advice on nutrition:
The World Health Organization defines food security as ‘when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life’
Corporate sponsorship and funding of patient groups and health consumer organisations creates a dangerous bias and yet the government actively engages in this for public health research.
The British Medical journal have also published research into pharmaceutical and medical device funding of patient groups.
Moreover, a report was published on profits and pandemics, referring to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which are preventable with good health advice and without misleading guidelines promoting unhealthy commodity interests.
The costs to the NHS from preventable diseases is huge. The government interferes with healthcare, even using false promises in the Cambridge Analytica powered Leave campaign for funding the much loved NHS. This poor practice in conflicts of interest is destroying our trust in healthcare advice, as the BMJ reports.
A few years ago, the House of Lords published a paper on reducing the costs of preventable diseases, which included suggestions on how personal responsibility could play a part, with better health literacy and self care. This paper is called Public Health, prevention and patient responsibility. This is a partnership between healthcare providers and individuals to relieve the NHS of the incredible burden of avoidable illnesses.
It is estimated that 40% of the burden on health services in England may be preventable through action on the determinants of avoidable chronic conditions.
This kind of prevention cannot be attained by a system focused entirely on cures, many of which stem from the tainted health research funded by industry interests.
In their COVID-19 response, the government have ignored qualified scientists, a symptom tracker created by independent analysts with King’s College, St Thomas’ and Guys, existing advice for avoiding a cold or flu and shielding vulnerable people, contact tracers at the ready for pandemics, protective equipment by British manufacturers and best health advice such as good nutrition, not drinking or smoking, dietary supplements, sunlight, exercise and social contact.
While people of colour and BAME communities have been worse hit, due to many needing to go to work, take public transport and not speak up about unsafe working practices, as well as reduced absorption of Vitamin D, inequality has been the real pandemic. Not one I see our current government ever tackling. With austerity and their duplicitous Leave Campaign (after 2016 pamphlet claiming they want to remain in the EU), the nation’s best interest if far from their focus, with unhealthy commodity stakeholder’s interests put before the billions spent treating avoidable illnesses. Not to mention the much greater cost from loss of productivity.
The onus is put onto individuals with no responsibility taken by government for the rules and guidelines that they actually issue. These only reduce our trust in healthcare and therefore block us from the health literacy we so yearn for, as proven by all the spending on human health activities, which increases year on year.