No evidence that 'new' UK variant transmits any more easily or spreads any faster - and it's not 'new', WHO has been studying it for a while
|Whitty, PM, Vallance|
'Boris Johnson has blamed his Christmas U-turn on a 'new' 'mutant strain' of the coronavirus, claiming that it spreads more rapidly than the previous variants present in the UK.
But according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) this week, there is nothing to suggest it actually does spread faster - and it isn't new either:
Not only is there no indication, as far as the WHO is concerned, that the new variant of the coronavirus cantransmit more easily - and the WHO has been studying it for a while, so it is best-placed to know.
Boris Johnson delayed the second England-wide lockdown - and by insisting that schools must stay open during it (making the UK the last nation in the world not to admit that schools are driving the pandemic) he ensured that its success was reduced to nothing more than a small downturn. And now, with the lockdown lifted, the virus is spreading rapidly. Is the WHO misleading the world - or is Boris Johnson trying to cover his Tory backside again?
Phew, that's a tough call...'
And for good measure, here's another exclusive from SKWAWKBOX:
Message board screengrabs show staff anger at withdrawal of shift rota that won't be re-issued until four days before Christmas and at alleged pressure to train for new responsibilities, as company refers to DHSC statement
|Sitel - working for us?|
As the government clamps down on parts of the UK with the new 'Tier 4' restrictions in London and elsewhere, one of the UK's main outsourced coronavirus contact tracing providers is at risk of chaos. Staff at Sitel are threatening industrial action because of the company's decision to withdraw Christmas shift rotas at short notice - and not to inform staff of their new shifts until the day the new rota is due to start - just four days before Christmas.
The SKWAWKBOX has obtained screenshots of the company message board that give an indication of the anger among staff at the sudden change, with one outraged worker commenting sarcastically that if the company was caught by surprise by the Christmas period this year, it should perhaps make a note that it happens at the same time every year - 'if there's a company diary or a bit of scrap paper'.
Thousands of staff have been told they will need to log in for their new rota on Monday morning, just four days before the festive day - but some were supposed to be working on Monday and don't know whether to turn up.
A small selection from the thread of responses to the company's announcement shows the on staff and their families - and accusations that staff have been told to put up with it because they're 'lucky to have a job'.
Staff have also told the SKWAWKBOX that they are being told to undertake training for 'Tier 2' calls that are supposed to be done by call-handlers with clinical training:
The company released a rota then took it away again. We've been besieged with IT problems for the last six months and now this! It's total incompetence.
We've also got loads of call handlers being trained for Tier 2 calling which should have clinical background but we don't! It's so unprofessional and call handlers saying they don't want to do it but Sitel is saying it's mandatory!!
According to staff, tracers without a clinical background earn around £10 per hour, while jobs for clinically-trained operatives are advertised for £17-25.
Sitel and other contact-tracing companies have recently been hit by system problems and reports of untrained staff handling calls.
Sitel responded to an enquiry about the new issues raised by staff with a comment from a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson, rather than a company one:
All calls that require clinical input are carried out by appropriately trained healthcare professionals. All call handlers have received appropriate training for their role and are fully supported in their vital work, following procedures and guidance designed by experts at Public Health England.
NHS Test and Trace is helping to stop the spread of the virus, with more than 40 million tests carried out and over 3 million people who may otherwise have unknowingly spread coronavirus contacted and told to isolate.
No response was received over the shift rota issues or threatened strike action.
Millions are now in the new 'Tier 4' lockdown and Whitehall sources say that a new UK-wide lockdown is planned after Christmas.
Oh to be in England, now we've had a coup! And no one saw it happen.