November 12th summary of the discussion.
Covid was still top of the news “agenda” with the promise of vaccines soon to be available. The costs of some (eg Pfizer) are likely to be high (Astra Zeneca is likely to be cheaper and does not need minus 80 degrees Celsius for storage). Drug companies may reap large profits, while the costs of research are often met by government grants, paid for by taxpayers. Should drug companies be public utilities, rather than privately owned?
There needs to be debate about priorities in vaccination- the elderly, the NHS, care homes etc., and information to refute false (eg the effect of vaccines on DNA). But why is it that only about 60 to 70 percent of health care workers volunteer for vaccination?
Mona Siddiqui on Radio 4 (the 25th anniversary of the Disability Act) argued that “disability” was less about impairment than about the way society is organised “for” the non-disabled majority: 18 to 34 year-olds with learning disabilities are thirty times more likely to die of Covid. The way society is “organised” also effects other groups- Asians are one and a half times more likely and black people twice as likely to catch Covid. This is related to the growing inequalities in society, stemming from the political choices that were made in the 1980s.
Countries such as South Korea, with more centralised and “authoritarian” governments, appear to have coped with Covid better: South Korea’s population is 52 million (the UK 67 million), but has fewer than 28,000 cases (UK 1 and a quarter million) and less than 500 deaths (more than 50,000). Difference in methods of counting may account for some of this, but Government briefings have stopped mentioning that argument. Germany has had 726,000 cases and 12,000 deaths for an 80 million population.
Our reading was Daniel chapter 6, the “Lions’ Den”. King Darius was misled by his advisors into banning prayer to anyone except himself (verses 6 to 9). Bad advice to governments from advisors who have ideological political motives is a feature of much modern government, and a tendency of governments to follow this rather than listen to the widest factual advice contributes to a lack of trust and respect for government. When governments have been “caught out” distorting or deliberately covering up the truth, this leads to increasing suspicion and unwillingness to follow regulations, and an assertion of individual “liberty” irrespective of its impact on other people. The responsibilities of government, individuals and communities is something that perhaps needs to be defined and promoted far more clearly in the modern world.