British food factories coronavirus danger

This video from Harvard University in the USA says about itself:

Food Insecurity, Inequality and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing crises of food insecurity and health disparities. In the United States, mass protests continue to spotlight deep-seated inequities — including access to affordable, nutritious food — faced by communities of color. Black Americans in particular have been disproportionately burdened by the pandemic. Globally, issues about potential disruptions in local food supply chains and prices have caused concern. Drawing on new U.S. Census and other data, this Forum explored public policy and actions needed to preserve access to federal nutritional assistance programs, including SNAP, WIC, and National School Lunch Programs. The panelists also discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the global food supply and nutritional quality, especially in low and middle-income countries, as well as strategies to minimize food system disruptions and ensure food access and nutrition during and after the pandemic.

Presented jointly with The World from PRX & WGBH on June 30, 2020.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Food factories could be Christmas super-spreaders, warns TUC

FOOD factories could be “super-spreaders” of Covid-19 in the run-up to Christmas, the TUC warns today.

The trade union organisation says that workers in food plants already face a higher chance of contracting coronavirus due to the lack of airflow, poor social distancing and low temperatures.

And a huge influx of temporary staff over the festive period could see cases “rocket”, it predicts.

Food processing has the third-highest rate of outbreaks of any sector across Europe, after care homes and hospitals, according to data from the European Centre for Disease Control.

Since March, several British food factories have been forced to close during the pandemic after reporting hundreds of cases of coronavirus, among them suppliers to major supermarkets.

Last month, turkey meat manufacturer Bernard Matthews reported 147 positive cases across two sites.

But food manufacturing companies across Britain are currently advertising for temporary workers as they gear up for the busy Christmas period.

They include Dessert factory Bakkavor, which had 115 staff test positive for Covid-19 over the summer, with at least one fatality.

The company is seeking hundreds of seasonal staff to meet demand for Christmas.

Meat supplier Cranswick, hit by outbreaks that led to three workers losing their lives, is recruiting for at least 130 Christmas jobs in one factory.

The TUC warns that current workplace safety guidance for food production is “out-of-date” and called on ministers to “stop dragging their feet” and make it a legal requirement for employers to publish their risk assessments.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “There is a real danger that food factories could become ‘super spreaders’ of Covid-19 as they produce turkeys and other seasonal fare for Christmas.

“Out-of-date guidelines on food production, combined with the seasonal increase in staff, will put factory workers at an even higher risk of infection.

“Ministers urgently need to update the guidance for food production. They must require employers to publish their risk assessments.

“And they must resource the HSE properly, so it can get into food factories and crack down on unsafe working.

“That’s how to make sure everyone is safe at work this Christmas.”

The Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been approached for comment.

Pollution helps United States COVID-19 pandemic

This 24 November 2029 video says about itself:

Has capitalism turned the COVID-19 emergency into a disaster? | All Hail The Lockdown

We were in a crisis before COVID-19 – a crisis of capitalism. Join Ali Rae in this first episode of “All Hail The Lockdown” – a 5 part series exploring the complexities of our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this episode, Ali speaks with filmmaker and activist Astra Taylor, economist Aditya Chakrabortty and economic sociologist Linsey McGoey about disaster capitalism, philanthrocapitalism and how the structures of capitalism have left us ill-equipped to deal with the fallout of COVID-19.

From Washington University in St. Louis in the USA:

Pollution and pandemics: A dangerous mix

Research finds that as one goes, so goes the other — to a point

November 12, 2020

The United States may have set itself up for the spread of a pandemic without even knowing it.

According to new research from the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, pollution may bear part of the blame for the rapid proliferation in the United States of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the spread of COVID-19.

The research, from the lab of Rajan Chakrabarty, associate professor in the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering, was published online ahead of print in the journal Science of The Total Environment.

When it comes to how ill someone gets after contracting COVID-19, medical professionals believe that a person’s health — having certain medical conditions, for example — can play a vital role. When it comes to how fast the virus can spread through the community, it turns out the health of the environment is directly correlated to the basic reproduction ratio R0, which denotes the expected number of people each sick person can infect.

The reproduction ratio R0 of COVID-19 associates directly with the long-term ambient PM2.5 exposure levels. And the presence of secondary inorganic components in PM2.5 only makes things worse, according to Chakrabarty.

“We checked for more than 40 confounding factors,” Chakrabarty said. Of all of those factors, “There was a strong, linear association between long-term PM2.5 exposure and R0.”

PM2.5 refers to ambient particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less; at that size, they can enter a person’s lungs and cause damage. For this reason, PM2.5 can be detrimental to respiratory health. But how this relates to the spread of COVID-19 through a population had yet to be explored.

Chakrabarty and his graduate student Payton Beeler, both aerosol researchers who have done previous coronavirus modeling, became interested in the relationship after two papers were published in quick succession. First, a July paper in the journal Science found that levels of susceptibility to COVID-19 is a driving factor for the pandemic; it is more important than temperature, which researchers initially thought might play an outsized role.

British Conservative coronavirus PPE scandal

This 12 August 2020 video about Britain is called Conservative Backers Given Billions of PPE Contracts? Was There Corruption in PPE? – TLDR News.

From daily News Line in Britain today:

While NHS workers scrabble for PPE Tories pay £1 million a day to keep supplies stored in containers

A MASSIVE mountain of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is currently sitting on Felixstowe docks while frontline healthcare workers are still being forced to work in dangerous conditions without any adequate protection.

According to the Telegraph newspaper nearly 10,000 shipping containers full of surgical masks, aprons and gloves are stuck at the port, with the Tory government paying a staggering £1 million a day storage charges to keep them there.

Trade unions representing health workers have condemned this complete failure to deliver the urgently needed PPE to the NHS, with Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, the Unite national officer for health, saying: ‘The long-running problems with the delivery of PPE are a national scandal that have shocked the public.’

He added: ‘Our members on the NHS and social care frontline, such as speech and language therapists, paramedics and health visitors, are still reporting difficulties getting the necessary PPE nine months after the first lockdown.’

Christina McAnea, Unison assistant general secretary, said: ‘Health and care workers can’t avoid close contact with patients and vulnerable people to carry out their jobs. Having plentiful access to the right PPE is vital and we have to make sure all key workers are well equipped.’

This news is just the latest in the scandal surrounding the provision of vital PPE to the NHS, and Felixstowe port authorities aren’t the only ones to be making vast amounts of money out of PPE.

Last week, a review by Britain’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, of 8,600 contracts for PPE revealed that the government has signed agreements for hundreds of thousands of facemasks which turned out to be unusable.

As the coronavirus pandemic raged across the UK, from April £12.3billion was handed out to any firm claiming to be able to provide the NHS with protective equipment as hospitals and care homes ran out.

Many of these companies turned out to have no experience of supplying PPE – but this didn’t stop them winning multi-million deals with the government.

According to the Audit Office, suppliers with political contacts with the Tories were ten times more likely to be awarded these contracts.

The Audit Office announced an urgent investigation of one of the most extraordinary deals – worth £21 million – for surgical gloves and gowns with a Florida-based jewellery designer.

When questioned in Parliament last week about these findings Boris Johnson refused to apologise and claimed he was ‘very proud’ of the government’s record of paying a fortune to these companies for equipment that is mostly unusable.

On Sunday, Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak, interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show, also refused to apologise for PPE contracts given to companies with links to Tory MPs and ministers during the first wave of coronavirus, and defended the government buying 50 million face masks from Ayanda Capital – an investment firm – that were later found to be unusable for NHS workers. ‘It was right to try to do everything we can, and I’m not going to apologise for us reacting in that way,’ Sunak said.

In August it was reported that over 600 health and social care workers had died from Covid-19 while the Department for Health and Social Care confirmed that deaths of NHS staff are to be kept secret. No wonder they are so desperate to keep the number of deaths among NHS and care workers quiet.

The Tories gifted millions to private companies for useless PPE and now are spending £1 million a day to keep tons of vital equipment sitting on a quay while health workers scrabble around for the protection they need.

COVID-19, wildlife trade consequence

This 17 November 2020 video says about itself:

Covid Outbreaks On Mink Farms Stir Controversy Among Scientists | NBC News NOW

Controversy has risen in Denmark over the choice to kill millions of minks. Scientists have found a coronavirus mutation that is believed to spread from minks to humans. NBC News’ Molly Hunter reports.

Many diseases, such as COVID-19, have made the jump from animals to people with serious consequences for the human host. An international research team, including researchers from the University of Göttingen, says that more epidemics resulting from animal hosts are inevitable unless urgent action is taken. In order to protect against future pandemics which might be even more serious, they call for governments to establish effective legislation addressing wildlife trade, protection of habitats and reduction of interaction between people, wildlife and livestock. Their review was published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution: here.

Conservation of tropical peatlands could reduce the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the likelihood of new diseases jumping from animals to humans, researchers say: here.

French Macron covers up police brutality

This 18 November 2020 video says about itself:

The French parliament is debating proposed legislation that would ban images of police officers‘ faces from being spread online, or broadcast on television.

Supporters say it will help protect police but critics see it as an attack on free speech.

Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler reports from Paris, France.

See also here. And here.

Macron government opposes full lock-down as coronavirus deaths climb: here.

COVID-19 disaster update

This 17 November 2020 video says about itself:

With more than 11 million confirmed cases, the US has the highest number of infections in the world and the virus shows no sign of slowing down.

Read more here.

Situation critical as COVID-19 spreads through US auto plants: here.

New York Governor Cuomo keeps schools open despite rising COVD-19 positivity rate: here.

VIRUS EXPLODES, LOCKDOWNS RETURN The city of Philadelphia and New Jersey, California, and Ohio announced strict new limits on social gatherings and commercial activity to combat a coronavirus explosion. The holiday season and colder weather will exponentially accelerate already record infection rates, as people are more likely to congregate indoors. North Dakota had the highest virus mortality rate of any state or even any other country in the world last week, with South Dakota ranked third-worst in the world. Both states also have the lowest rates of face mask use in the U.S. [Reuters]

USA: Harvey Weinstein is in isolation with 101-degree temperature, and doctors believe he has COVIDTMZ has learned.

Headaches and migraines can be a sign of COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.

Britain: Boris Johnson is trapped at home at the worst possible time.

Hundreds of United States prisoners get COVID-19

This 19 October 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

USA: COVID-19 vaccine “coming out very soon” – Trump at Carson City rally

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today, about the USA:

In a prison in Carson City, Nevada, hundreds of inmates have been infected with the coronavirus. It concerns 424 people, about 80 percent of the total number of prisoners. 25 guards have also contracted the virus.

Record-breaking surge of the pandemic pushing US health care workers to the edge. The mounting surge in new infections is placing immense strain on health care workers and the health systems as they scramble to manage a rapidly growing number of new admissions to hospitals across the nation: here.

Again, slaughterhouse COVID-19 epicentre

This 27 May 2020 video from the USA is called Meat-processing plants remain source of concern for new COVID-19 outbreaks.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio, 10 November 2020:

Almost half of the 225 workers of the Limburg province meat processor Verhey Vlees from Nuth are infected with the coronavirus. This is reported by the South Limburg security region. Last week, the meat processor already stopped production after 41 employees had tested positive. After that, that number has increased considerably. The exact number of infections is unknown, says 1Limburg.

More than half of the employees of Verhey Vlees are labor migrants. These labor migrants work for the meat processor through various temporary employment agencies, which is why the source and contact investigation was “a complicated job”, according to the safety region. …

In May, there were also several coronavirus outbreaks in meat processors, including in Apeldoorn and Helmond.

Coronavirus and politics in the USA

This 9 November 2020 video from the USA is called No Heir Apparent To Republican Party.

U.S. BECOMES FIRST NATION TO SURPASS 10 MILLION VIRUS CASES The United States became the first nation worldwide since the pandemic began to surpass 10 million coronavirus infections, according to a Reuters tally. The grim milestone came on the same day as global coronavirus cases exceeded 50 million. The United States has reported about 1 million cases in the past 10 days, the highest rate of infections since the nation reported its first novel coronavirus case in Washington state 293 days ago. Meanwhile, Biden will reportedly begin to phone local leaders this week to encourage mask mandates that help stem the spread of COVID-19. [Reuters]

OCASIO-CORTEZ STRIKES CAUTIOUS TONE Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who won reelection with more than 68% of the vote in New York’s 14th District, criticized leaders and other elements of her party for being distrustful of her and other more progressive members — who, she argued, have been pivotal in winning votes and candidates for the party. She also accused Democrats of historically forgetting about grassroots movements and activists once elections are over, adding it’s to be seen whether the Biden administration will behave any differently. [HuffPost]

Trump is attempting a coup in plain sight.

ARKANSAS POLICE CHIEF RESIGNS AFTER CALLING FOR DEATH TO ‘MARXIST DEMOCRATS’ The police chief of a small Arkansas town has resigned after writing social media posts calling for “death to all Marxist Democrats” and saying he hoped certain Democratic leaders, including former President Barack Obama, would be “drawn and quartered”, Marshall Police Chief Lang Holland resigned after it was revealed that he had posted offensive comments on right-wing social media site Parler, Mayor Kevin Elliott announced. [HuffPost]

Over 50 million coronavirus patients worldwide

This 6 November 2020 video says about itself:

Denmark finds 214 people with mink-related coronavirus

Denmark is culling millions of minks after a new strain of coronavirus was discovered on hundreds of fur farms in the country.

The government has confirmed the mutated virus has infected more than 200 people, prompting urgent action.

Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker reports.

By Bryan Dyne in the USA today:

On Saturday, the number of confirmed global cases of the coronavirus pandemic will rocket past the grim milestone of 50 million. One in every 156 people on the planet has so far caught the disease, with no end in sight. Of those who contracted it, more than 1.2 million have lost their lives to the deadly contagion, including more 9,000 Friday alone.

It was barely two months ago that the world witnessed its 25 millionth case, on August 28. Daily new cases regularly exceed 500,000 and are well on their way to three-quarters of a million. New deaths have exceeded their April highs despite the advances made in treating COVID-19 these past 10 months, a further indication of how entrenched the pandemic has become.

Such figures are only a prelude of what is to come. If these trends are allowed to continue, there may be 100 million cases by the end of the year, surging at a rate of 1 million cases each day. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently told the Washington Post, “It’s not a good situation. All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”

One of the sharpest dangers is that hospitals become too overwhelmed to treat all of their patients, such as in El Paso, Texas and in various locations across Europe. As was witnessed in Wuhan, China, Lombardy, Italy and, to a lesser extent, New York City in the early days of the pandemic, the death rate skyrockets when there are not enough supplies and medical personnel to properly treat every patient. While the rate of new deaths to new cases is currently at just above 1 percent, it is possible and likely for that number to spike if the coronavirus continues its essentially uncontrolled spread.

The United States alone has recorded more than 10 million instances of infection, along with 242,000 deaths. The state of Texas surpassed the 1 million mark on Friday, placing it after the nation of Colombia as the tenth most infected region in the world. It is closely followed by California, which has more than 960,000 cases. Combined they have more than 37,000 deaths, more than all but eight other countries (excluding the US as a whole).

Amid such calamitous numbers in the US and internationally, President Donald Trump’s fascistic former adviser Steve Bannon called for Dr. Fauci’s beheading. During his podcast Thursday, which has since been taken down by Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, Bannon declared that Trump should start his second term, “firing Wray, firing Fauci” (Wray, referring to FBI Director Christopher Wray).

He continued, in openly medieval fashion, “I’d actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England. I’d put their heads on pikes, right, I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats, you either get with the program or you’re gone.”

Fauci is widely recognized as one of the foremost authorities on infectious diseases, who rose to national prominence in the 1980s for his work combating the HIV/AIDS outbreaks in the United States. He has come under increasingly right-wing attacks over the past several weeks over his criticisms of Trump’s policy, or rather lack thereof, in handling the pandemic in the lead up to the recent and as of yet still undecided presidential election.

In particular, Fauci recently advocated for a nationwide mask mandate in the face of surging cases. At the time, there were 8.8 million cases in the US, more than 1 million less than now. This sparked another round of calls by right-wing figures such as Alex Jones to “fire Fauci” on Twitter and at Trump’s in-person rallies. Trump himself has called Fauci a “disaster” and other leading medical officials “idiots” for suggesting even basic measures to combat and contain the deadly pandemic.

The necessity of both basic and far-reaching actions to end the ongoing surge in coronavirus infections was highlighted in a recent study published in the Lancet, showing that the rate at which the disease spreads increases by an average of 24 percent when schools reopen. The research, led by You Li at the University of Edinburgh, also noted that the only other increase more significant occurred after bans on in-person gatherings, including in workplaces, were lifted.

The study used reopening data from 131 countries, including the United States and several countries in Western Europe. They found that “following the relaxation of school closure, bans on public events, bans on public gatherings of more than ten people, requirements to stay at home, and internal movement limits,” new cases increased consistent with models of how the coronavirus spreads when there are no such restrictions, peaking four weeks after restrictions are lifted. While they did not comment on the rate of deaths in the wake of rising cases, that is known to rise two to four weeks after infections increase.

Conversely, the researchers found that broad restrictions on mobility, including banning public events, closing down workplaces, shutting down schools and general stay-at-home orders reduced COVID-19 transmission by an average of 52 percent within four weeks. The reduction in transmission is even more pronounced when combined with other public health measures, including robust coronavirus testing, contact tracing and any necessary isolation of infected individuals.

A further threat from the pandemic was highlighted in Denmark this past week. Danish health authorities reported 12 people infected by a mutated strain of coronavirus that came from the country’s 17 million-strong mink population. In response, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen ordered all mink killed in an effort to stop the spread of a new strain of the pandemic virus.

“Due to the discovery of a mutated infection in mink, which weakens the ability to form antibodies, resolute action is needed,” Frederiksen said on Wednesday. She continued, “The mutated virus carries the risk that a future vaccine will not work as it should.” These comments were echoed by Kaare Molbak, Denmark’s top epidemiologist, who warned that in the “worst-case scenario, the pandemic will restart, this time in Denmark.”

That such a possibility is even posed speaks to the inability of the current social order to deal with the pandemic. It is an unanswerable indictment of capitalism that the worst outbreaks of the pandemic have occurred in the most “advanced” capitalist countries, supposedly with the most resources to fight the disease. Instead, their ruling elites have closed ranks to protect the profits of banks and corporations, not human lives. Such actions make clear that the solution to the coronavirus pandemic will not merely be medical and scientific but political as the working class fights to overthrow this outmoded and disastrous system and replace it with socialism.