Coronavirus aka Covid-19 virus aka Chinese virus

Horrendous historic times

Town & Country Gardening

It seems that the American news media does not want to do their home work and tell you the whole story about previous pandemics occurring in the past 100 years.

1968 – 1969 * Hong Kong flu also known as 1968 flu pandemic was a flu pandemic whose outbreak in 1968 and 1969 killed an estimated one to four million people globally.
This outbreak actually began in mainland China before spreading to Hong Kong.

1957 – 1958 * Asian flu, originated in Guizhou, China.
This pandemic caused two to four million deaths worldwide.

1918 – 1919 * Spanish flu, The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.
Historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify with certainty the pandemic’s country of origin.

It should be noted…

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Coronavirus: What Boris Johnson’s Greek hero teaches us about epidemics

  • 3 hours ago
Boris Johnson at the Parthenon in
Pericles, giving one of his orations
Bust of Pericles

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionBoris Johnson at the Parthenon in May 2012, shortly before the London Olympics

As Boris Johnson recovers from Covid-19, he will undoubtedly be thinking of an earlier epidemic, says Oxford classicist Armand D’Angour – the plague that hit Athens in 430 BC, and killed the prime minister’s hero, Pericles. It’s an episode, D’Angour argues, that holds many lessons for today.

Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is well versed the history and culture of ancient Greece. He knows that Western literature begins with a plague, the epidemic described in the opening book of Homer’s Iliad – of which Boris can happily declaim scores of verses from memory. And his political hero has long been the ancient Athenian leader, Pericles, whose bust sits in his office in 10 Downing Street.

The prime minister has often quoted admiringly the stirring oration given by Pericles to honour the dead after the first year of a destructive war against Sparta. And he will be well aware that Pericles gave a second famous speech a year later, after a devastating plague, probably a form of typhus, had killed around one third of Athens’ citizens.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionPericles, giving one of his orations

Both orations were reported by the contemporary historian Thucydides, whose searing description of the Great Plague is worth reading for its literary virtuosity alone. Commentators today have drawn parallels between the responses of Athenians – ranging from the heroic to the contemptible – and those of valiant NHS staff and scared panic-buyers today. 

But surprisingly, none has drawn attention to the lesson Thucydides himself intended. What doesn’t change, wrote the historian, is human nature; you can expect people to react in similar ways when they encounter events like those that have occurred in the past. He embarked on his work, he says, because a clear grasp of the events he was living through could guide responses to similar events in future.Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionA bust of Pericles

He modelled his method on that of the most innovative medical practitioner of the day, the physician Hippocrates. Rather than prescribing prayers and religious rituals, spells and incantations, or exotic herbs and quack remedies, Hippocrates and his contemporaries were visiting sick patients, meticulously noting their symptoms, and keeping track of how they responded to prescribed treatments such as sleep, exercise, and the regulation of diet. Boris Johnson was a patient at St Thomas’ hospital, and is likely to have been participating in a medical trial that compares treatments for Covid-19 – so it may be that Hippocrates will come to his mind, as well as Pericles and Thucydides.

“One of the worst aspects of the plague was the despair into which people fell on finding they had the disease. Those who were convinced they had no hope were much quicker to give up and die,” observed Thucydides. “Another was the rate of infection among those who flocked to care for and doctor to others: they died in droves, and had the highest incidence of mortality… In addition, the plague led to greater crime, since criminals calculated on escaping detection and penalties.”


Clever plot to stop hoarding


Plastic pollution: Snowdon research is a ‘wake-up call

By Matt LloydBBC News

Llyn Glaslyn
The lake is said to have once contained King Arthur’s sword Excalibur – but now harbours plastic

The discovery of microplastic pollution near the top of the highest mountain in England and Wales is a “scary wake-up call”, environmentalists have said.

Traces of plastic have been found in samples collected from Llyn Glaslyn – a remote lake near the summit of Snowdon.

The tiny particles are “most likely” to have been deposited by rain, wetland science expert Dr Christian Dunn said. 

A teacher who gathered the samples will now visit all the UK’s 15 national parks to learn more.

Activist Laura Sanderson swam 16 miles (26km) from the source of River Glaslyn – 2,000ft (610m) above sea level – to the sea, last April, collecting water samples along the way.

Results showed an average of three pieces of microplastic per litre from the lake made famous by Arthurian legend. The levels rose to eight per litre at the river’s estuary at Porthmadog, Gwynedd.

However the full extent of the pollution is expected to be far worse.

Laura Sanderson
Laura gathered samples in glass bottles from locations along the length of River

The analysis, carried out at the School of Natural Sciences at Bangor University, was deliberately basic with scientists keen to find an easy-to-use method that is affordable for schools and colleges.

“The results are scary when you think that this is at the top of a mountain and a very remote location,” said Dr Dunn, from Bangor University.

“However a more detailed analysis would almost certainly find more plastic.

“I should be surprised because it is so horrific, but sadly I’m not.”

Dr Christian Dunn
Dr Christian Dunn fears the pollution levels are worse than initial research shows

Scientists believe the microplastics – anything less than 5mm in size – and nano-plastics that are only visible under a microscope, are present in the air and rainfall

Dr Dunn said this was the most likely cause of microplastic pollution on Snowdon, although particles released from litter breaking down could also be a factor.

“We don’t know the full situation but this work will help address that,” he said.

“However we have to wake up to the problem of how much plastic we use on a day-to-day basis.

“It’s a valuable resource, especially for health care, but there are so many situations where plastic is completely unnecessary.”

Snowdonia National Park Authority said litter – particularly plastic bottles and wrappers – is a “real issue” and said teams of volunteer wardens collect nearly 400 bags of litter off the mountain each year.

Having highlighted the issue on Snowdon after braving snow and icy water temperatures, 38-year-old Laura, from Criccieth, Gwynedd, will now embark on a UK-wide 620-mile (1,000km) expedition.

map of UK national parks
Map of the UK’s 15 national parks

Starting later this month, she will collect samples by swimming through rivers, lakes or coastlines of all 15 national parks, from the mountainous Cairngorms in the eastern Highlands of Scotland to the open plains of Dartmoor in Devon. 

The challenge is expected to take up to a year to complete before scientists report on the results. 

“We were horrified when we were told the water we’d collected [in Snowdonia] had microplastics in it,” she said.

“So now we want to see just how widespread the problem is and look at waterways in all our national parks.”

The research is backed by environmental organisation Surfers Against Sewage (SAS).

Charity chief executive Hugo Tagholm said Laura, by swimming, would provide a “unique opportunity” to collect water samples from hard-to-reach locations.

News weather

Storm Jorge: Flood-hit towns battle wettest February on record

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A man walks through flood water in East Cowick
East Cowick in Yorkshire is one of the areas hit by flooding

Rainfall data from the Met Office has shown that this month has been the wettest February since records began.

An average of 202.1mm rainfall has fallen this month, surpassing records for February 1990, when 193.4mm fell.

More than 89 flood warnings remain in place in England, with 10 in Wales and one in Scotland as the UK faces its third consecutive weekend of storms.

Storm Jorge is bringing heavy rain and strong winds to the UK causing yet more disruption to flood-hit areas.

This time the focus of the severe weather lies in the South West and Yorkshire, as well as parts of Wales.

The Environment Agency deployed another four pumps, to the existing 18 pumps, to help fight flooding in Snaith, around 20 miles south of York where floodwaters remain catastrophically high.

Several flooded roads were closed in Wiltshire, people were rescued from cars stranded in water in Devon and Somerset, and the Ouse Bridge in Humberside was temporarily closed to high-sided vehicles as gusts reached up to 70mph. 

Cardiff Council said emergency teams worked on flood defences, road closures and clearing debris throughout Thursday night, and its roads team responded to around 100 incidents.

Police called a “critical incident” in parts of south Wales on Saturday, including Pontypridd and the Ely area of Cardiff, as emergency services coordinated their response to the weather. But the incident was stood down mid-morning.

Humberside Fire and Rescue service search along a flooded street for residents after the River Aire bursts its banks
Humberside Fire and Rescue service searched for residents along a flooded street after the River Aire burst its banks
High river levels in Pontypridd
High levels were seen on the River Taff in south Wales overnight on Friday

Northern Ireland was among those areas hit by a yellow weather warning on Saturday, with disruption stretching from Cornwall to the north of Scotland, where forecasters said there could be up to 30cm (12in) of snow.

Showers have since eased, but wind warnings remain in place until Sunday – with the possibility of power cuts and transport delays, as well as dangerous waves in coastal areas.

High winds have also been recorded across the island of Ireland where thousands of homes were left without power on Saturday morning as the storm made landfall.

A number of flights have been diverted to Northern Ireland from the Irish Republic because of high winds across the island of Ireland.

‘Phenomenal effort’

Some 15 rivers in the Midlands, Yorkshire and Lancashire have recorded their highest levels on record this winter.

After the deluge brought by Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis earlier this month, the Environment Agency engineers have been working to repair temporary flood barriers in Ironbridge, Shropshire, and Bewdley in Worcestershire – both of which have suffered devastating flooding.

The agency’s head of floods and coastal management, John Curtin, called it a “phenomenal effort”.

A severe flood warning – meaning a danger to life – for the River Severn at Ironbridge was downgraded on Friday.

Twitter post by @MarkBowersEA: I get to see some amazing things in this job, some great, some not so great. What I've seen today is simply amazin. Both  temporary barriers at #Ironbridge and #BealesCorner have been assessed, repaired and are back ready for #StormJorge #MultiAgency response at its best. #JESIP

More than 3,300 properties in England are thought to have been flooded as a result of the combined effects of storms Ciara and Dennis, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs said.

But the department said that figure, which includes homes and businesses, is only an estimate due to difficulties in gathering reliable data.

Why has the latest UK storm been named “Jorge”?

Anak Krakatau: Lightning frenzy points to scale of volcanic plume

By Jonathan AmosBBC Science Correspondent

Anak Krakatau volcano. Photo: 23 December 2018
A phreatomagmatic eruption occurs when water comes into direct contact with magma

The 2018 eruption of Anak Krakatau in Indonesia was remarkable in many ways.

It will be remembered, obviously, for the sudden flank collapse that triggered the tsunami which killed over 400 people on the nearby coastlines of Sumatra and Java.

But the event also has been the source of many scientific insights that could inform future hazard assessments.

And a new possibility is the potential for the frequency of lightning seen at an eruption to give a simple guide to the height of a volcano’s towering plume.

It’s information that could be of interest to airlines trying to find safe routes for their planes.

BBC map

Anak Krakatau had a huge eruption cloud that climbed 16-18km into the sky and which then levelled out into the classic anvil shape familiar from meteorological thunderstorms in the tropics. 

Driving this tall convection column was the particular circumstances of the eruption. 

When the wall of the volcano failed, it allowed seawater to come into direct contact with magma.

The result was a series of spectacular explosions that sent steam and ash rushing upwards.

Satellite observations indicate the “wet ash” fell back relatively quickly, but that much of the water vapour continued skyward, where it formed the anvil-topped plume that persisted for six days. 

And, of course, as the water went higher and higher it eventually turned to ice in the sub-zero temperatures at altitude.

Lightning strikes as a column of ash surrounds the crater of Taal Volcano
Image captionUsing lightning to better understand eruptions is an emerging technique

Dr Andrew Prata, from the Barcelona Supercomputing Center in Spain, and colleagues have calculated the mass of all this ice – and the numbers involved are really quite impressive.

On average, there was three million tonnes hanging above Anak Krakatau. Up to 10 millions tonnes at the peak of ice production. 

What’s more, the movement through the plume of all this frozen material – some of it going up, some coming down – appears to have initiated a frenzy of lightning. 

Approximately 100,000 strikes were recorded by sensors in those six days following the onset of the explosive phase of the eruption. 

Over 70 flashes per minute at one point, says Dr Prata, whose team has just published its findings in the journal Scientific Reports

“And what was interesting about that is that we started to see a relationship between the flash rate in the eruption plume and the height of the plume,” he told BBC News.

“So, essentially, the greater the flash rate, the higher the plume. This is something that could be important and useful for aviation.”

Anak Krakatau
Image captionAnak Krakatau (centre island) lost its western flank on 22 December 2018

Planes need to be wary of flying through or near the eruption columns of volcanoes because of the damage fine ash can do to jet engines.

Airliners have experienced “flame-outs” in flight after their engines have ingested too much ash.

Dr Rebecca Williams from Hull University, UK, has been conducting her own research into the Anak Krakatau event.

She described the Spanish-led study as “fascinating”, and agreed that it could assist volcano monitoring.

“Using lightning to detect volcanic eruptions is an emerging technique,” she said. 

“This study is a very important contribution to this – it correlates volcanic lightning data with volcanic cloud height in an ash-poor, ice-rich plume. 

“This will be important in monitoring volcanic eruptions, particularly in remote areas which may impact aviation routes.”


UK Weather 26 Feb ‘20

UK Summary
Sunny spells and wintry showers again today, though mainly dry in the south later.

Homelessness News

Homelessness: Councils record 28,000 on the streets over a year

By Daniel WainwrightBBC News

Media caption’Homelessness could happen to anybody’

More than 28,000 people in the UK were recorded sleeping rough in 12 months, research by the BBC has suggested.

In England five times as many rough sleepers were seen by councils in the year than reported in official figures, which are a one-night snapshot.

Homelessness charity Crisis said the snapshot could not “hope to accurately reflect the real scale” of the problem.

The government said it was providing £500m this year to homelessness and rough sleeping services.

New official figures will be released on Thursday but the data for 2018 showed 4,677 people slept rough in England on the one night the snapshot survey was taken, down 2% on the year before but 165% up on 2010.

However council responses to the BBC showed nearly 25,000 people were recorded sleeping rough at least once in England during the latest year on record.

The BBC asked councils for the number of individuals amid concerns raised last year that the official one-night snapshot did not give the full picture.

What’s it like on the streets?

Nancy Webb
Image captionNancy Webb has been in and out of hostels for 10 years

In Oxford there were 430 rough sleepers recorded during 2019, compared with 43 during the single night count. This meant the city had one of the highest rates of rough sleeping per household population outside London.

For the past 10 years Nancy Webb has been in and out of hostels.

“It’s dehumanising,” the 33-year-old said. “It chips away at you and, once you become homeless, you start to feel trapped and you’re going round in circles.”

Miss Webb said she had been attacked by other homeless people.

“I have been spat on and had drinks thrown over me and it is terrifying,” she said. “I always try and go somewhere hidden if I am sleeping out, but even then it’s scary because you don’t want to be isolated because that’s terrifying and you don’t want to be somewhere where people are going to be walking past you, because that’s terrifying too.”

Stephen Dare
Image captionStephen Dare was homeless for nine years

Stephen Dare has recently been housed in a flat but said he spent most of the past decade homeless.

“I was soaking wet in my sleeping bag for nine years,” he said.

He wants to see quicker access to council housing for homeless people.

There are currently 2,645 households on the waiting list for council homes in Oxford, 1,023 of whom are existing tenants.

Jane Cranston, chairwoman of the Oxford Homeless Movement, said: “One of the things that shocked me is a lot of these guys coming in have got jobs, so they are homeless because properties are too expensive,” she said.

Councillor Linda Smith, deputy leader of Oxford City Council, said the number sleeping out on a single night had fallen 30% since 2017.

“There are obviously still too many people sleeping rough in Oxford, but the reduction shows the hard work that we and our partners have put in over the years,” she said.

The council is increasing spending on tackling homelessness from £6m a year to £7.4m covering beds, showers and meals as well as support for people negotiating with landlords and finding work.

It also plans to build 600 new council houses.

Why are the figures so high?

The government publishes figures for rough sleeping based on the numbers of people seen or estimated to be sleeping rough in each local authority in England on one night in autumn. 

The BBC asked councils how many individuals they recorded sleeping rough at any stage in 2019 – whether they slept rough once or multiple times – and three quarters replied with figures.

Map showing rough sleeping across Britain

Some councils, including Wigan and Doncaster, were unable to provide figures for the number of individuals over the year.

Even among those who did it was not possible to say how many of those recorded may have also slept rough in another area. This means some people may have been counted more than once.

In Wales the total was 599 rough sleepers but most councils referred to Welsh government statistics rather than providing full-year figures.

In Scotland the 2,800 recorded came mainly from housing applications in which people said they slept rough during the previous three months. 

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive only provided an estimate based on a single night snapshot, when it found 38.

In London councils referred to CHAIN, a database managed by the charity St Mungo’s with the latest full year figures covering 2018-19.

In 2019 the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) said it expected the government to “plan for better statistics on rough sleeping”.

A spokeswoman said the OSR “hopes to see the inclusion of improved guidance which clearly sets out the limitations of the current annual snapshot approach in England”.

Where were the most rough sleepers recorded?

Central London has consistently had the highest number of rough sleepers. Outside the capital, Hastings recorded the highest rates of individuals per household population.

Hastings Council said it had halved the number of people sleeping rough on one night since 2018, down from 48 to 24. It said it had used government funding alongside its own money for initiatives including a team of health, mental health, substance dependency, social care and housing specialists providing support for rough sleepers.

Nottingham City Council said it knew of 795 individuals who slept rough between April and December 2019, compared with 30 on a typical single night.

Councillor Linda Woodings said the number of homeless people had “undoubtedly risen significantly” following funding cuts and welfare reforms, but rough sleeping in Nottingham was falling.

Chart showing rough sleeping rates

“Challenges remain around people unwilling to engage with us to access support available to them, increasing numbers of people arriving from elsewhere and with insufficient affordable housing,” Councillor Woodings said. “Also, while we are very successful at bidding for Government grants, it is still not enough to properly address the issue as it continues to grow.”

In Greater Manchester the number of rough sleepers fell by a third in 2019 but the region’s mayor, Andy Burnham, said despite “real progress” there were still too many people on the streets.

What are charities and councils calling for?

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “Rough sleeping is the most brutal form of homelessness but we still do not have a clear picture of how many people are forced to sleep on our streets throughout the year. 

“While the current government statistics on rough sleeping are a useful snapshot, based on counting people seen on one night, this cannot hope to accurately reflect the real scale of the problem.” 

The Local Government Association has called for the government to restore local housing allowance rates to cover at least the lowest third of market rents.

Housing spokesman Councillor David Renard said local authorities needed the power to start a “renaissance in council house-building”, adding: “Money allocated to councils is increasingly being spent on providing temporary accommodation, meaning there is less for other homelessness services.”

A Government spokesman said: “We’re committed to eliminating rough sleeping by the end of the Parliament and our efforts have already led to the first nationwide fall in a decade.”

“We’re confident our independently verified snapshot provides a good estimate of the numbers of people sleeping rough on a given night. This year we will give nearly half a billion pounds to councils and charities to support homelessness and rough sleeping services and get people off the streets for good.”

Additional reporting by Michael Race


Coronavirus: Outbreak spreads in Europe from Italy

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Police wearing masks at a hotel in Innsbruck, Austria
Image captionCases have emerged for the first time in countries such as Austria following the Italian outbreak

Several European countries have announced their first coronavirus cases, with all appearing to be linked to the growing outbreak in Italy.

Austria, Croatia and Switzerland said the cases involved people who had been to Italy, as did Algeria in Africa.

The first positive virus test has been recorded in Latin America – a Brazilian resident just returned from Italy. 

Italy has in recent days become Europe’s worst-affected country, with more than 300 cases and 11 deaths. 

But its neighbours have decided closing borders would be “disproportionate”.

Health ministers from France, Germany, Italy and the EU Commission committed to keeping frontiers open at a meeting on Tuesday as new cases of the virus emerged throughout Europe and in central and southern Italy. 

“We’re talking about a virus that doesn’t respect borders,” said Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

His German counterpart Jens Spahn said the neighbours were taking the situation “very, very seriously” but acknowledged “it could get worse before it gets better”. 

Media captionMark Lowen was on the ground at the edge of Italy’s coronavirus lockdown area

In the UK, schoolchildren returning from holidays in northern Italy have been sent home, with the government issuing new guidance to travellers. 

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there were no plans to stop flights from Italy, which attracts about three million British visitors each year.

“If you look at Italy, they stopped all flights from China and they’re now the worst-affected country in Europe,” he said.