RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Covid-19? They’ve got an app for that (if only they had enough testing kits or a vaccine!)
When I read that the NHS was preparing to release a mobile phone app which would alert users who come into contact with coronavirus sufferers, I automatically assumed it was an elaborate April Fool spoof.
It had to be a wind up. Didn’t it?
The app is reported to use similar technology to that which allows men to send unsolicited pictures of their private parts to women sitting on the same bus.
Presumably, it would work like those popular dating apps designed to hook up people for casual sex, only in reverse.
For instance, if someone who had tested positive for Covid-19 is heading your way while you are taking your permitted daily constitutional, you could take evasive action and dive to safety into the nearest bushes.
That’s always provided a couple of Grindr aficionados aren’t ignoring the new social distancing regulations in the same stretch of shrubbery.
When I read that the NHS was preparing to release a mobile phone app which would alert users who come into contact with coronavirus sufferers, I automatically assumed it was an elaborate April Fool spoof
The app would serve as the non-judgmental modern equivalent of the medieval leper’s bell.
The healthy could steer clear of the afflicted, without any stigma attached to those with the virus. Perhaps they could call it unClean.
On further investigation, however, it became clear this wasn’t a joke. Such an app really is under development and could be released in as little as six weeks.
My immediate reaction was that this must be another of those hare-brained schemes dreamed up by our old friends at Public Health England (PHE).
After all, they’ve got an app for just about everything else — from breastfeeding to totting up the number of calories you’re allowed to eat every day.
It’s exactly the kind of nannying nonsense this useless, bloated, self-serving quango specialises in.
I first became aware of PHE when it published a fatuous guide called ‘Heatwave 2014′, a patronising statement of the bleedin’ obvious giving advice about what to do in hot weather — which was attributed, obviously, to ‘climate change’.
Drink water, eat salads, take a cool shower and, if you must go outside, wear sunscreen and a hat to prevent skin cancer. Duh!
Oh, and don’t forget to ‘close curtains that receive morning and afternoon sun. However, care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains, as these can absorb heat. Consider replacing or putting reflective material in between them and the window space.’
As I observed at the time, covering your windows with Bacofoil is the kind of madness we associate with paranoid lunatics convinced that they are being targeted by invisible death rays from alien space ships.
The following year PHE banned supermarkets from selling daffodils alongside fruit and veg. This was because one family in Bristol, whose first language is not English, became ill after eating daffodils, which they confused for Chinese spring onions.
Since then, it has become ever more interfering, blowing untold millions on campaigns telling us that smoking cigarettes is harmful — surely not — and ordering restaurants to cut portion sizes to combat obesity.
PHE surpassed itself when it decided to hand out free condoms at food banks to sexually active ‘Silver Singles’.
When William Beveridge laid the foundations of the NHS, he could never have imagined that it would one day prioritise the distribution of complementary rubber johnnies to the over-60s.
Or, for that matter, that doctors would be prescribing free dance classes, painting lessons, golf tuition and cycling classes, all paid for by the British taxpayer.
Some, not all, of this lunacy was down to Public Health England, and it appears the geniuses at PHE are not responsible for this particular app. But that’s probably only because someone else thought of it first.
I’ve long questioned why we even need a separate organisation called Public Health England when we already spend billions on the NHS.
This superfluous outfit costs us £4.5 billion a year. At last count it employed over 5,500 people. As Guy Adams revealed in yesterday’s Mail, 242 of them are paid six-figure salaries, with London Director Yvonne Doyle on £257,500.
According to its annual report: ‘We exist to protect people from infectious diseases (and) public health emergencies…’
They’re playing a blinder right now, aren’t they? PHE, like the rest of the NHS, didn’t see Covid-19 coming and were woefully under-prepared for dealing with it. Not only were they slow to respond, but they have by all accounts deliberately or otherwise obstructed the private sector’s attempts to help fight the virus.
They’re playing a blinder right now, aren’t they? PHE, like the rest of the NHS, didn’t see Covid-19 coming and were woefully under-prepared for dealing with it. Pictured, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England (PHE), Prof. John Newton
A statist, risk-averse culture of obsessive box-ticking and a determination to control every dot and comma of the response process has hampered everything from speeding up tests and developing a vaccine, to buying vital protective gear and life-saving ventilators. The testing process for NHS employees is a shambolic disgrace. Fewer than one per cent of the 550,000 front-line doctors, nurses and ancillary staff had been tested up until yesterday.
As a result, the NHS is running on empty, while perfectly healthy medics sit at home twiddling their thumbs in ‘self-isolation’.
None of this should come as any great surprise. Public sector bureaucracy is notoriously inefficient. Procurement, in particular, is a nightmare. In the NHS ‘Computer Says No’ isn’t a Little Britain sketch, it’s a way of life.
While the magnificent men and women on the front-line toil tirelessly to combat Covid-19, the back office is a cesspit of incompetence.
Ministers insist publicly, at their ridiculous teatime Press conferences, that there’s plenty of protective gear in the pipeline and testing is being stepped up.
Either they’re lying to us, or the bureaucrats are lying to them. My best guess is the latter.
If not, how to explain the inability of the NHS to get surgical masks from an unspecified warehouse to hospitals, particularly when they have the Army’s transport division at their disposal?
Especially when you can order a box of fruit and vegetables from an online greengrocer and get it delivered the following morning — as I did this week.
Meanwhile, those highly paid bureaucrats charged with providing the doctors and nurses with the tools they need to save lives have been found wanting, at the very least, if not criminally negligent.
All they can do is offer up half-truths and excuses, while indulging in displacement activity and gimmicks, such as the all-singing, all-dancing Covid-19 app.
The drawback is that it depends on knowing who has contracted coronavirus and who hasn’t. As of now, until widespread testing is available, they don’t have a clue.
And, sadly, they haven’t got an app for that.
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